It’s a big week for rocker Bebe Buell, the release of a new album, “Baring It All: Greetings from Nashbury Park,” and a show this Sunday night (April 29th) at Joe’s Pub. Last time she made the New York scene at this premiere downtown venue it was packed to the rafters. She gives a great show, with a sweetly throaty Grace Slick-esque voice, a dream rock band, and a muscular performance that plays to her ardent fans.
And she has stories (read her wonderful memoir, “Rebel Heart” for details) a Ford model at age 18, launched in to the world of Andy Warhol and Max’s Kansas City, a long relationship with rocker Todd Rundgren, a baby who became a movie star (Liv Tyler) with Steven Tyler, and her lifelong fight to move from muse to rock star.
As Bebe told me in this interview a week before the album release, the music on “Baring it All” is close to the bone, the album an autobiography –and that coming from a woman has who had had a front seat, often center stage, to rock history. Joe’s Pub will be an event. You never know who will show up! (Last time, it was Stevie van Zandt and his wife Maureen, among other notables).
How is the music different from your earlier records?
In 1994, I put out my first record in France, “Retrosexual.” Now, at 64, I’ve made the best album of my life, this is a record for everybody. Each song is a chapter like a book.
What do the songs on Baring It All mean to you?
I hope “By a Woman” will become a feminist anthem. The songs are
personal. I was raised by a strong woman—you’ll meet my mother at
Joe’s Pub—when I sing the lyric “You’re finally starting to feel the
power of a woman,” I think of this moment: we’ve got all these Me Too
stories, how tragedy brought this fight to the forefront. The only
cover on the album is “Yesterday When I Was Young,” from Dusty
Springfield. “Can You Forgive?” is for Todd Rundgren. I wanted to be
truthful. In “Frenemy Mine,” well, I’ve decided to deal with some of
my issues privately.
The back of Baring It All reads “Greetings from Nashbury,” which
suggests a mashup of locations. How are places significant?
I grew up in Virginia Beach, and lived in Maine. I went to Asbury Park
with Todd—I was impressed by Convention Hall. There was something
about the air and vibe, especially when I went for the summers. Now
I’ve moved to Nashville, where songwriting is an art, and I am
learning from this company. My next door neighbor (highly regarded producer) Jon Tiven has a set
up. I go over there. We sit around a table. I’ll have a hook, and a
community of artists helps me develop a song. I never went to college;
now I’m getting my doctorate in everything.
What image of you would you like to change, or keep?
I’ve been a rebel and a punk rocker. People need to focus on my animal
activism; I raised a successful daughter. While I deal with my Me Too
moments privately, I say, Stormy Daniels for President. I’m happily
married for 16 years, to Jimmy “Walls” Wallerstein, a virtuoso
guitarist and record producer.
What is your message?
Open your eyes a little. I like to show people another way to go, humanism. I’m on my “isms.” I want it to be like when you heard “Tapestry” or “Sticky Fingers” for the first time, you wanted to listen from beginning to end.