Leather-clad, whip-wielding, cleavage-baring heavy metal firestarter Betsy Bitch rolled in like a hurricane in 1981. The artist formerly known as Betsy Weiss was living in Los Angeles, fresh off a stint as the singer in a ska band called the Box Boys, when she joined forces with guitarist David Carruth and drummer Robby Settles (and eventually bassist Mark Anthony Webb) to form an S&M-themed metal band called Bitch. After their song “Live For The Whip” landed a coveted spot on the first Metal Massacre compilation alongside Metallica, Ratt, and Cirith Ungol, Bitch became the first band officially signed to Metal Blade Records. To put their early ’80s status in perspective, Metallica and Slayer opened for them.
Of course, that was back in an era when women in metal were given even less support than they are today. And Betsy was the vanguard, fronting an otherwise all-male band for audiences composed mostly of men there to headbang and pound beer. In the studio, Bitch solidified their risqué reputation with 1982’s Damnation Alley EP and 1983’s Be My Slave. (The latter was infamously touted by noted killjoy Tipper Gore as a scourge on America’s youth, during Gore’s ridiculous Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) campaign of 1985.)
Nearly four decades later, Betsy is back in the spotlight via the new box set Bound For Hell: On The Sunset Strip. Released via the Numero Group—a label mostly known for its excellent soul reissues—the set features the early Bitch track “Damnation Alley” alongside killer ’80s flash metal cuts from Black ’N Blue (featuring future KISS guitarist Tommy Thayer), Armored Saint, Lizzy Borden, Hellion, Jaded Lady, and Leather Angel.
“There weren’t that many of us ladies back then, so our first instinct was to be competitive,” Betsy Bitch tells CREEM over the phone. “But after we thought about it, our next instinct was to bond.”
CREEM: What do you remember about the very first Bitch gig?
BESTY BITCH: It was at midnight at the Troubadour [in Los Angeles], on a Sunday. I believe it was May 3, 1981. Dante Fox opened up for us, who went on to become Great White. They would not leave the dressing room while I was getting changed, so my sister had to shield my body from them. [Great White singer] Jack Russell was leading the brigade on those antics.
But I remember loving being up there with the guys and thinking we had something really special. It wasn’t quite there yet, but it was the nucleus of something really good. I even have it on video. It's all grainy and dark, but we look good, and we look like we know what we wanna do. It just needed to be honed a little bit.
Do you think of Betsy Bitch as a character? Is there a difference between Betsy Bitch and Betsy Weiss?
Of course. If there wasn’t, there would be no reason to even have a band or a stage persona, because where would the line be drawn? Betsy Bitch is a hard rockin’, dominant woman who breaks out the whips and chains and sings about bondage and discipline. But it took a while to evolve. I see those early videos of us, and I don’t know what the hell I’m doing up there yet. When the songs started to get written about more risqué subject matter, that’s what really defined the character.