Rebel Soul: Musings, Music and Magic – Bebe Buell’s rock and roll memories from backstage and onstage
Rebel Soul isn’t so much a “sequel” to Bebe Buell’s 2001 New York Times best-selling memoir Rebel Heart, but more of an impressionistic scrapbook about becoming and being Bebe Buell, tracing her trajectory from being a rock “It Girl” to a pop culture icon, through a collection of essays that explore what it was like to be at the centre of the pop universe during a golden era, and how she invented herself as a muse and a musician.
In this book, Bebe recollects, in vivid and previously unexplored detail, the people and places of her past. From her well-known romances with members of rock royalty, to her influences and friendships, her family and her career. Along with her reflections and observations of the cultural and sexual climate of the ‘70s. Two decades after the publication of Rebel Heart, Bebe looks back from a different perspective, with candor, humor, and wisdom.
Rebel Soul isn’t a straight-forward autobiographical narrative: it’s as though Bebe has taken a large box off her shelf, filled with ticket stubs, backstage passes, magazine covers and clippings, and gig flyers, each one triggering memories of who she was at the time. The book is illustrated with dozens of rare or unseen photos from Bebe’s personal archives, going back to her early days as a top fashion model, through her whirlwind years in New York and Los Angeles, times spent in London, Woodstock and now Nashville, where she makes her home.
Available from Hozac Records.
It is almost impossible to capture the remarkable life and career of Bebe Buell in a few paragraphs.
Her lengthy and respected musical career has shown her to be an important artist with razor sharp musical instincts; a singer, songwriter and performer with a power and command rarely seen in entertainers. Bebe has the unequaled gift of being able to delve into a song and spark it to life with immediacy and poignant raw emotion; whether performing her own works or her always groundbreaking choices of songs by other writers.
Bebe’s unique, multi-faceted talent manifested itself at an early age. At ten years old she began singing in the Villa Maria Academy choir sporting a unique “alto” that caught everyone’s ear.
After her high school graduation at age seventeen, she was discovered by super agent Eileen Ford relocating from her hometown of Virginia Beach, Virginia, to New York City. Hitting the Manhattan music scene as soon as she arrived, Bebe’s passion, charisma and stellar looks propelled her into the limelight. Shortly thereafter, she met musical genius Todd Rundgren. At the time, she was living in a women’s residence run by nuns.
After posing nude for Playboy in 1974, becoming the first fashion model to become a Playboy Playmate (Miss November), her controversial layout caused her to be fired by the prestigious Ford modeling agency. It was also the first Playmate pictorial with a model and rock star boyfriend on the pages of the magazine. Bebe continued to model in Europe, signing once again with the equally prestigious Wilhelmina Agency in the USA and Model’s One in the UK frequently appearing on the pages of British, Italian & French Vogue, Harper’s Queen & Cosmopolitan to name a few.
Affectionately called “Friend To The Stars,” Bebe earned that title because of her closeness to everyone from Jack Nicholson to Andy Warhol, and her carte blanche access to rock’s elite royalty. She was frequently dubbed a “legendary beauty” by photographers and peers alike. Mick Jagger was once quoted as saying that he could bring Bebe “when I dine with royalty.”
Bebe’s musical career jumpstarted with her first release, “Covers Girl” (1981) produced by Ric Ocasek and Rick Derringer. It was a four song EP of obscure cover songs featuring legendary group The Cars backing her on two of the tracks. Bebe’s pure love of music and natural sense of cool come through on these recordings.
After this Bebe formed a new group, the B-Sides who released a pure pop 12 inch picture disc “A Side of the B-Sides” (1983) produced by Bebe’s former beau Todd Rundgren. Following this Bebe formed a new, tougher group, The Gargoyles; the female fronted hard rock unit was somewhat ahead of its time. They released the influential underground singles “Jacuzzi Jungle” and “Gargoyle” (1987) and toured heavily in the U.S. and Europe. These performances cemented Bebe’s reputation as a front person to be reckoned with. After spending some time in Portland Maine during the 80’s she moved back to her beloved New York City 1989.
The Gargoyles caught the eye of Joey Ramone. He had the band open for The Ramones on occasion and offers of record deals followed. But at this time, someone in Bebe’s personal life was about to take center stage.
When Bebe’s daughter Liv found out her father was really Steven Tyler, not Todd Rundgren, 1991 became a year of big changes. Well documented in the media, Bebe has said in interviews that she didn’t want to tell Liv who her real father was because of Steven’s heavy drug addiction at the time. Todd had known that he was not the biological father of Liv but had kept the secret in order to give both Bebe and Liv some semblance of a stable home. Steven got sober and the news of Liv’s parentage was no longer a secret. Bebe withdrew from the public eye at this time to focus on her daughter during the ensuing media frenzy.
Utilizing her unparalleled entertainment business savvy, she became Liv’s manager, and helped launch and mentor her daughter’s international modeling and acting career. She also worked as the “creative consultant” on the movie “Heavy” directed by James Mangold and for a short time co-managed her good friend Deborah Harry.
In 1994 she blazed back into the music world, released a CD and coined a new word with “Retrosexual” a punk/hard rock underground classic. The record was a forceful, fun, rocking return to form for Bebe with a mix of hip, impeccable cover choices and catchy original songs.
As 1998 began a series of live shows at famed downtown mecca Don Hill’s brought Bebe a new crop of musicians and The Bebe Buell Band was born. They then recorded the four song EP “Free To Rock” with famed producer Don Fleming. She received rave reviews for her powerful performances in both New York and Los Angeles.
Around the start of the 21st century, Cameron Crowe released the film “Almost Famous” which is heavily based on certain elements of Bebe’s life. Some of the film’s dialogue is taken from direct quotes of Bebe’s that Crowe had remembered from their friendship which began in 1973 on the road with Todd Rundgren.
She also completed her autobiography, the New York Times Bestseller “Rebel Heart; An American Rock And Roll Journey” (St, Martin’s Press) with Victor Bockris in 2001 and in 2002 married Jim Wallerstein of Das Damen and Vacationland fame. In 2008 they bought a house in the New York City area and began the concept for Bebe’s next album.
This year is shaping up to be one of Bebe Buell’s most exciting yet. In addition to her new forthcoming full length album, expect projects in film, fashion and a return to the literary world. Bebe has never allowed herself to be stereotyped or pigeonholed. A musician, mother, muse, model, celebrated lover, manager, best selling author, and pop culture icon, music has always held her deepest passion.
Many artists’ early work is their most powerful and resonating, while Bebe is just gearing up for the release of her most personal, autobiographical and cathartic work yet. Artistically bold and fearless while expressing true joy and sensitivity of the soul, singing her entire life, Bebe’s memorable journey is just beginning to take full flight.
About the Author
Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist based in Toronto with a focus on tourism, lifestyle, entertainment and community issues. He has written several travel articles and has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He’s willing to take on any assignments of interest, attend parties with free booze, listen to rants, and travel the world in search of the great unknown. He’s eager to discover the new, remember the past, and look into the future.