Yes, the frontwoman-bass player’s real name was Lizzie Borden. She was originally a guitarist, playing in a variety of punk bands before she was old enough to legally get in any clubs. She became friends with Joan Jett, and in the early 1980s helped get her a gig at the Rat in Kenmore Square. It was there that Borden met guitarist Rita Lavacchia, and soon it was Borden switching to bass, Lavacchia on guitar, Cyndie Barone on drums, and singer Daria Smith, who was chosen partly due to her two-tone black and blonde hair. Lizzie Borden & the Axes started playing as a quartet at Cantones, the Rat, the Space, eventually bringing in Kathy Perry on keyboards. Then Smith left, with Heather Rice taking her place at the microphone.
But it wasn’t easy being an all-female band at the time, and there were cases of the band members being beaten up. Borden recalls one night at the Rat when a security bouncer started squirting something at them that caused a stinging in her eye, and how her punk attitude came in handy. “All I remember is leaping off stage, onto the bouncer, grabbing a chair, trying to bash him over the head, with him hitting back.” Labels took an interest in their music, and they released one album apiece with Capitol and A&M. But major changes were made. The band was forced to soften their look, from hair to makeup to outfits, because they were told they weren’t -– Borden’s words — “girlie” enough. Then they were told to change their name to Mata Hari. A few videos were released, but Rice wasn’t happy with the new direction of the band, and quit, as did Barone.
Borden remembers: “We were in the studio recording, and I was miserable. Rita looked at me in the middle of the session, then put her guitar down and said, ‘That’s it. I’m done. This is not what I want to do.’ And she walked out. I knew I had to finish the recording but then I walked out, too.” The band’s final gigs were in 1990, but there have been a number of reunions over the years, with Lisa Addario on guitar. The most recent was in May, 2010 at Spit. Borden and Lavacchia went on to form Lava Beat and a side project, The Adventure Girls. Borden’s next band was The Finch Family, in which she switched back to guitar. She currently leads The Liz Borden Band.
(by Ed Symkus)