- For Carl, from the KC Pitch Weekly:
Originally published by The Pitch Oct 02, 2003
©2003 New Times, Inc. All rights reserved.
Holly Golightly isn't exactly happy-go-lucky.
BY GEOFF HARKNESS
Details: With KO and the Knockouts
Music Date: Tuesday, October 7
Where: The Bottleneck
The slurry affront comes from the back, somewhere near the bar,
stopping both the band and the audience dead in their tracks: "Go
back to England, you fake motherfucker!"
Holly Golightly is a few songs into a ninety-minute set at the
Subterranean, a two-tiered nightclub in Chicago's bustling Bucktown
district, when the brickbat is hurled her way. It's only the second
date of an exhaustive six-week U.S. tour, and Golightly is in no mood
for hecklers, particularly of the besotted frat-boy variety.
"Bring it on," she bristles, all attitude and British accent and jet-
black hair. "I'm ready for you. Come up here and get your cock out. "
The crowd titters, but Golightly's invitation is accepted. Moments
later, the willowy frontwoman and her three-piece band are sharing
the stage with an inebriated doofus whose attempts to unfasten his
zipper aren't going well. He grabs a nearby microphone and mumbles
something about biting off more than he can chew.
"We don't want to hear you," Golightly mocks. "Get your cock out.
He leans toward the singer and fumbles with his crotch.
"Don't show it to me," she chides, shoving him away. "Don't touch
The audience, tired of the interruption, begins to chant: Off the
stage, off the stage.
Golightly strums a chord on her vintage Hofner hollow-body. "This is
a fake song from England," she announces as the heckler finally
retreats from sight.
"I just love a big mouth," Golightly says, rolling her eyes as the
song ends. "So much going for him."
She then diverts from the prescribed set list, giving the band a
break and pulling out the moody "Comedy Time." Golightly spits out
the words like rat poison, closing the number with an impromptu
lyrical twist: The gang's all here/The girls and boys/And that bloke
with the stupid cock.
Looks like it's going to be one of those nights.
"I don't want to be touring indefinitely," Golightly says. It's a few
hours earlier in a nearby restaurant, and she's sipping lemonade and
jonesing for a smoke. "I mean, if you're like the Rolling Stones and
you just get flown everywhere, I suppose it's a whole different
thing. But on the level that I do it, it's the nearest thing to a
traveling circus, really. Turn up, unload your gear, play, load your
gear, drive out of town. To do it like that is just soul-destroying."
When Golightly hits you with her big, brown eyes and says something
like this -- all the while bedecked in a snug, charcoal-colored
halter and blue jeans that could've been spray painted on her
diminutive frame -- she's at her charming best, spinning yarns and
tossing off one-liners with a droll flair for wordplay. She's casual,
unassuming and strikingly beautiful. You're hooked.
Golightly is charming the pants off America these days, largely
thanks to a star turn on the White Stripes' Elephant earlier this
year. Golightly sings on the album's final tune, "It's True That We
Love One Another," a folksy quirkfest that finds Golightly trading
knee-slapping lines with Jack and Meg White. The pairing wasn't
terribly surprising (Golightly and the Stripes are former labelmates
who have performed live together), but the high-profile cameo
transformed Golightly into an unlikely overnight sensation -- more
than a decade into her career.
"We've known each other a long time," Golightly says. "We had talked
about doing stuff before, but it never worked out at the time. I'd
played with them quite a bit. It just so happened that that time, I
was there and they were there, and Jack came running 'round with this
piece of paper, saying, 'Oh, we're gonna try this song.' It wasn't an
epiphany. He just knocked on the door."
The tune's pain-pill-popping lyrics (I gave that horse a carrot/So
he'd break your foot, Jack croons) are biographical. Before becoming
a working musician at age 21, Golightly was an internationally known
horse trainer and pro rider. She's never given up the occupation
completely, and last year her ankle was mangled while directing a
massive steed from a trailer. It wasn't the first time Golightly, who
sports an imposing horseshoe tattoo on her right shoulder and an
oversized silver, U-shaped ring, had been injured in the name of
horseplay; a serious riding-related injury in her late teens led to
Golightly's stiff yet effective guitar style.
"I have a plate in my arm," she chirps, offering her left appendage
for inspection. "And I can't play a barre chord -- I don't have the
strength in my index finger. But [longtime partner and drummer Bruce
Brand] showed me a way to play a barre chord, and that was it. As
soon as I could make the noise, it inspired me. 'Cause before that, I
was only playing open chords. And I was a punk-rock girl -- I wanted
to do songs I liked and not just do slow Beatles songs."
She needn't have worried. With the newly acquired arsenal of power
chords at her disposal, Golightly established a reputation as a
prolific singer and songwriter. Under the tutelage of eccentric
British journeyman Billy Childish, she caused a stir with Thee
Headcoatees, a brash punk-girl quartet that took the UK underground
by storm. In 1995, Golightly issued her solo debut, though she
continued to tour and record with Thee Headcoatees for another four
years. Her latest effort, Truly She Is None Other, is her eleventh
solo outing, not including a number of one-off projects and guest
appearances. Critics and fans are taken by Golightly's piercing
caterwaul, which invokes the spirits of America's musical past.
"I quite like the idea that there was a time when there wasn't radio,
when there wasn't records," Golightly says. "People on one side of
the mountain didn't know what people on the other side of the
mountain sounded like. Everyone sounded fuckin' brilliant 'cause no
one was rippin' anybody else off. They just had their own thing goin'
on. So my affinity is more for the spirit of the thing than the music
itself. It's a shame, because I should really feel the same about
traditional British music. But if I'm walking into a bar and Irish
music is playing, it grates on me. The sound of bagpipes is just
You won't find any bagpipes on Golightly's latest, but her authentic
approach to music-making is apparent. Not one to laze around the
house writing songs all day, Golightly continues to keep a day job.
(She manages housing for low-income residents.) She has no plans to
leave what she calls the real world, though Golightly makes more than
enough to support herself through CD sales.
"I don't know who they are," she says of her audience. "I have no
idea who buys the records at all. I don't really have a strategy, so
I haven't really targeted my market. I don't care. I just get on with
the thing I do. In commercial terms, I'm not particularly ambitious.
I don't cling to the idea that one day everybody will know who I
am, 'cause I'd rather they didn't."
The real question, then, is: What exactly does Holly Golightly care
"I care about playing music with my friends, and I care about how
happy I am with it," she says. "I've been doing what I do for a very
long time without any compromise, and that's something I'm proud of.
Saying that I don't care who buys my records, that's really not my
attitude. I don't have a bad attitude towards it. I think a lot of
people find me really hard and unapproachable. But that's them, not
Some fans might disagree. Hours later, toward the end of her
Subterranean set, an audience member calls out a request for an
obscure Mummies song.
"Why would you even come here tonight if you want to hear a Mummies
song?" Golightly retorts. "I'll tell you what -- I'm gonna ruin your
evening and play one of my songs."
Maybe it was just one of those nights.