BETTY: Girlband The Podcast
Listen up! The BETTY podcast is live now!
Amy Ziff and Elizabeth Ziff of BETTY
You know them from the theme song to The L Word, but do you really know the story behind the girl band BETTY?
Together for over 30 years, sisters Amy and Elizabeth Ziff and their best friend Alyson Palmer are sharing their story — and a hefty slice of herstory — in a 12-episode podcast documenting the adventures of their formation against the turbulent and vibrant backdrop of the 1980s and ’90s.
Amy, Elizabeth and Alyson, with Essex Hemphill, Chris Pine and Wayson Jones | Photo: Sharon Farmer
It’s a coming of age story of three passionate, talented and politically-minded girls who were brought together to play music and embark on a lifelong odyssey of rock and roll, activism, queer identity, and feminist trailblazing.
Told by Amy, Elizabeth, and Alyson with refreshing honesty, humor, and no-holds-barred insight the podcast takes listeners on a journey through the oppressive Reagan era, the advent of punk, New Wave, and electronica — and all the sex, drugs and discovery that came with it.
Elizabeth Ziff, 1985 | Photo: Henry Hirsch
Professionally produced and engineered by Elizabeth Ziff, the series opens with the story of how they met against a context of female oppression and racial intolerance and formed an unbreakable bond and DIY aesthetic that took them through a couple of bands, countless Prides, world travel and into their current indelible incarnation as BETTY. Experimenting with the band dynamics of Quiver, then On Beyond Zebra, they traversed musical genres like punk, classical, New Wave and rock, discovering the unifying power of harmonizing and a cappella, and the avant-garde impact of spoken word, Art Rock and girl-group grooves.
Alyson, Elizabeth and Amy in on Beyond Zebra, 1985
It’s a story of finding political community, and finding themselves. The women share powerful tales of consciousness-raising, coming out, finding love, and finding wokeness. Radicalized through the early days of “gay cancer” and their early years in Washington DC where they played their first Gay Pride march in 1982, BETTY not only formed an enduring band — they used music to tackle prejudice and oppression: sexism, racism, and anti-Semitism. What they and their audiences discovered was that the power of three was an enduring feminist force and they have garnered a strong lesbian and female following ever since in all corners of the globe.
Alyson Palmer, 1984 | Photo: Henry Hirsch
One touching story is how Amy and Elizabeth came out to each other in the mid-1980s and then brought that dynamic into the band, talking frankly on stage about the power of loving women and the importance of LGBT rights.
But the series is full of many such gems that are the byproduct of three adventurous women who have lived their lives with commitment and authenticity. It’s a roller coaster ride through altercations with male band members, inspired writing in cafes, working in record stores, lesbian nightclubbing, iconic concerts, transformative performances — and the discovery of freedom through female bonding and creative expression.
As far as podcasts go, it’s right up there with the best but it's also a rarity: A multi-layered, multi-textured soundscape with three smart and evolved women’s voices harmonizing in a way we’ve come to love. Plus the audio clips and samples embedded to brilliant illustrative effect are nothing short of pure history. Each episode has an intro from BETTY friend Gloria Steinem, which helps situate the band exactly where they belong: at the forefront of long-lived feminism.
Amy Ziff with her legendary cello.
Tune in bi-weekly to BETTY: Girlband The Podcast: