Born Holly Golightly Smith in 1966 in London, England. Addresses: Record company--Damaged Goods, P.O. Box 671, London E17 9GH, England, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, website: http://www.damagedgoods.co.uk. Management--Tag Team Media, 648 Broadway, Ste. 600A, New York, NY 10012, phone: (212) 375-9285, fax: (212) 375-9288, website: http://www.tagteammedia.com. Website--Holly Golightly Official Website: http://www.hollygolightly.com.
Sharing a name with Audrey Hepburn's character in the acclaimed film Breakfast at Tiffany's Holly Golightly Smith was first introduced to the garage rock scene in 1991 by way of her boyfriend at the time, Bruce Brand. Brand was a member of Thee Headcoats, one of British musician Billy Childish's numerous vehicles for his prolific songwriting habit. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Childish was the most visible figure on the Medway scene, a group of south London musicians and enthusiasts centered on reviving the garage rock style of the 1950s and 1960s.
From the Medway gang, Childish had handpicked a group of female musicians--the Delmonas--who performed the songs that didn't fit into the Milkshakes or Thee Headcoats' repertoire. After Brand invited Golightly onstage to sing with Thee Headcoats, Childish found her to be the perfect fit to lead the Delmonas. Soon Ludella Black, Kyra LaRubia, Bongo Debbie, and Golightly became Thee Headcoatees.
They immediately recorded and released their Billy Childish-written debut, Girlsville, in 1991 to much acclaim, followed soon after by Have Love Will Travel. In addition to spending many hours in the studio, the all-girl outfit also toured much of the year, often opening shows for their male counterparts, Thee Headcoats (thus ensuring that all stage time would be devoted to Childish's music). Some of these shows were recorded and released as Wild Billy Childish and His Famous Headcoats Live! At the Wild Western Room London, Featuring Thee Headcoatees!
Happy with Thee Headcoatees' success, Golightly continued to record and perform with them. By 1995, however, she needed an artistic change of scenery. Her debut solo album, Good Things, came out on Damaged Goods, the label on which Childish also recorded. As much of a departure from Childish's sound as it was, Good Things still bore the mark of Thee Headcoats' Brand, who played guitar, bass, and drums on a number of the tracks. Regardless, Golightly's own style of melding pre-rock electric blues and folk with her heavy Cockney brogue shone through, and at a noticeably less frantic speed than that of Thee Headcoatees' signature upbeat pace.
In 1997 Golightly released her solo effort Painted On as well as Thee Headcoatees' Bozstik Haze and Punk Girls. The latter consisted mostly of covers of the Ramones, the Undertones, the Damned, and other Childish numbers like his twisted interpretation of the Beatles' "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" (entitled "Don't Wanna Hold Your Hand").
Of Punk Girls, Kathleen C. Fenessy of All Music Guide wrote "When a recording is as energetic and high-spirited as this one, it's hard to give a toss whether the band is breaking any new ground or not (they aren't). If Punk Girls has a more egregious fault, it's simply that at 28 minutes and eight seconds, it's too short. But it sure is fun while it lasts."
In 1998 Golightly released her brilliant live disc Up the Empire and solo LP Serial Girlfriend. ("[T]hat's what I've been called," she told Rollerderby.) Fenessy called Serial Girlfriend "another winner from start to finish. If the production is a little rougher and more garagey than on subsequent efforts, her earthy charm, sardonic--sometimes feisty--attitude, and sure way with a catchy chorus are in full effect." This, like many of her and Thee Headcoatees' other records, included an obscure cover tune, a duet with Childish on Ike Turner's "Your Love Is Mine." "Ironically, I usually decide to cover a song because there's something on it like a guitar part or harmony that I know I won't even try to replicate," Golightly told Maya Singer of the Dallas Observer.
The success of this pairing anticipated Golightly's next release, a full-on collaboration with Childish in 1999 entitled In Blood, "a concept album based around a message--that three chords is too many," said Skip Jansenn of All Music Guide. The album featured the Medway Delta Review as a backing band--more or less Thee Headcoats plus Johnny Gibb of the Wildebeest. The result was "a kind of post-punk Lee Hazlewood/Nancy Sinatra affair," noted Jansenn. That same year Golightly also released Laugh It All Up and Thee Headcoatees' final record, Here Comes Cessation. After eight years together, the group's mutual desire to pursue solo careers outweighed their interest in being Childish's creative outlet.
"I don't have a regular band," she told Singer, "which I prefer, you know. I enjoyed being a Headcoatee but it was a band, and a band has to be collaborative in a way that stopped being really interesting to me after a while. I wanted to have my own sound and for that to happen I had to have more control. I'd probably record every part myself if I were musician enough. But as it is, I have a stable of musician friends who I can count on to make things happen the way I hear it in my head."
Of those friends, she includes Dan Melchior, her collaborator on 2001's Desperate Little Town, and the White Stripes, with whom she became close when the band came to the United Kingdom to tour and record. As Golightly and the White Stripes were both producing new albums at London's famed Toe Rag studios, she and Jack White cowrote "It's True That We Love One Another." The song was tacked onto the end of the White Stripes' Elephant, which was released around the same time as Golightly's Truly She Is None Other, and it garnered Golightly much more attention in bigger press outlets than she was used to. Up to this point, she had sustained a respectable indie rock career but for the most part stayed under the radar of the mainstream press.
"[W]hen I opened for the White Stripes I definitely got exposed to a much larger audience that ever before," she explained to Singer, "but who's to say if those people actually went to the trouble afterwards of buying one of my records?" Following the 2003 release of Truly, Golightly went on the road with the Greenhornes, a Cincinnati/Detroit-based band with whom she recorded a special Christmas single in 2002, as her backing band.
"Playing live is maybe where I get the most creative with things," she told Singer. "There are some old songs I always do--they're like slipping on an old sweater, you know. I break myself in that way. And then there are songs that, when I play shows, they're barely recognizable. And that's what I love most. Concerts, that's really the closest I come to having a band, and it is refreshing to have that energy."
by Ken Taylor
Holly Golightly's Career
Discovered by Billy Childish, 1991; lead singer of Thee Headcoatees, 1991-98; group released debut Girlsville, 1991; began solo career with release of album Good Things, 1995; recorded with White Stripes, 2002; released Truly She Is None Other, 2003.
- Selected discography
- Good Things Damaged Goods, 1995.
- Painted On Sympathy for the Record Industry, 1997.
- Serial Girlfriend Damaged Goods, 1998.
- Up the Empire Sympathy for the Record Industry, 1998.
- Laugh It All Up Vinyl Japan, 1999.
- God Don't Like It Damaged Goods, 2000.
- Main Attraction Damaged Goods, 2001.
- Singles Round Up Damaged Goods, 2001.
- Live in America Majestic, 2003.
- Truly She Is None Other Damaged Goods, 2003.
- With Thee Headcoatees
- Girlsville Get Hip, 1991.
- Have Love Will Travel Vinyl Japan, 1992.
- Ballad of an Insolent Pup Vinyl Japan, 1994.
- Bozstik Haze Vinyl Japan, 1997.
- Punk Girls Sympathy for the Record Industry, 1997.
- Here Comes Cessation Vinyl Japan, 1999.
- Sisters of Suave Damaged Goods, 2000.
- Dallas Observer, October 2, 2003.
- "Billy Childish," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (September 26, 2003).
- "Holly Golightly," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (September 25, 2003).
- "Holly Golightly," Rollerderby, http://www.supersphere.com/Zinetropa/Print.html?ID=Rollerderby&name=holly, (September 30, 2003).
- "Thee Headcoatees," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (September 25, 2003).
- Additional information was provided by Damaged Goods publicity materials, 2003.