Chapter 1

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The lead singer in a rock band is obvious in their importance; get bored with them, get bored with all of it pretty quickly. In mainstream music, a rock persona can adopt an iconic status, and Linda held that kind of power over the audience. I think that the reckless in your face attitude in rock music is appealing to regular folk because they want to visit your life.  But they don’t have the means to live there.

One evening Shaunna and I wandered into the Nightbreak and caught Linda playing a solo set. We were blown away by her raw power and emotion. She was singing a song called “Down on Your Face” – an over the top display of rip-out-your-heart honesty; brutal and raw. Linda held a force over the crowd that was obvious, and I could only imagine how powerful it would be to blend strong instrumentation with such a stunning personality.

We immediately asked Linda to be in our band, and she agreed. Our first rehearsal was scheduled for October 17, 1989 – which turned out to be the same day as a major San Francisco earthquake. We managed to get together within the next day or so, and within a few months we were playing out in clubs.

4 Non Blondes “Whole Lotta Love” January 15 1990 from christa hillhouse on Vimeo.
 

Initially Linda had some trouble adhering to any kind of schedule; admittedly she was used to doing what she wanted when she wanted.

In an early interview by Gary Indiana, Linda said:

“For the first couple of months I had a hard time getting to practice because I was so used to being solo. I could practice whenever I wanted, pick up my guitar and go do whatever I wanted. I had to snap out of it and think Linda, this is a band now, this is not your own time at your own convenience – you have to get it together. I’m not used to people relying on me. Yeah it was hard at the beginning.”

We all had plenty of angst, that’s for sure. Linda was a force to be reckoned with. At our early shows she used to scream a lot and she lost her voice after pretty much every show. To me, her over-the-top delivery made clear that she had a lot inside of her fighting for a way out. Singing was an opportunity to just get in someone’s face and yell her truths – as she was still young and hadn’t developed her methodology yet.

The first song we probably ever played together was Whole Lotta Love by Led Zeppelin because it’s a song that everyone knew. Shaunna had written a collection of uptempo rock songs that we quickly learned, and we also began collaborating on songs together. Sometimes Wanda and I would jam on a groove and a song would be built from that. Soon Linda began introducing her songs to us and we worked them out together at practice, experimenting with tempos and arrangements.

4NB-early daze-comp01 from christa hillhouse on Vimeo.

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We practiced almost every night of the week. Our studio at Turko-Persian was in the Balboa Park district of San Francisco. Lots of our friends’ bands practiced there, my memories of the eclectic music meandering through the halls are as vivid as those of the musicians themselves.

The music community we found ourselves immeshed in was instrumental in pushing us forward. No one rested for a minute; all the conversations echoing through the halls included where and when your next gig was, we should play a show together, etc. We went out to see bands almost every night of the week: Stone Fox, Spokepoker, The Jackson Saints, Honeypot, Sister Double Happiness and the Sextants were some of the bands with whom we shared friendships and stages.

 

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Shaunna promoted the band and booked the shows. I designed our logo and made flyers. We all blanketed the poles of San Francisco with them, night after night, especially the week before a show. We would divide up the neighborhoods: SOMA (south of Market), upper Haight, lower Haight, Castro, Polk street. Those were the hotspots. The poles were covered and recovered with paper. You could put a flyer up and there would be someone 30 seconds behind you with another flyer from another band, armed with a staple gun and ready to cover up whatever your shit was. We would climb on top of the hoods of cars or newspaper stands to get our posters high on the poles so they would be harder to cover up. We were relentless and ruthless when it came to our flyers; we didn’t have a lot of money but we had lots of time, creativity and energy. We put them in the windows of shops along Haight street and plastered them all over bus stops.

 

nightbreak-flyer-march
The crowds had grew larger with practically every show and within six months we had a loyal following,. The Nightbreak was our home base; we hung out there, played there, and supported the other bands who did the same. Our (very talented) friend Jessica Tanzer took photos for the band. We had friends at Haight Asbury Music who would loan us gear. We had friends at Wasteland (the local thrift store) where we used to borrow clothes for our shows since we were all broke. Our friend Lucie Faulknor signed on as our publicist. We did a lot with a little.

Early shows of the band were parties, with the band easily consuming as much alcohol as the audience. After a few incidents of drunken mayhem we decided to refrain from alcohol consumption during our shows, and it paid off in spades.

 

 

4 Non Blondes Plan of Action 041990 from christa hillhouse on Vimeo.

4 Non Blondes Nobody Knows Me 041990 from christa hillhouse on Vimeo.

4 Non Blondes Hard on Me 041990 from christa hillhouse on Vimeo.