Punk Rock Queen With A Rebel Heart!
By: Ms. Ligaya & The Floydian Device
Bebe Buell spent her early years as an army brat
growing up in the beach towns of Virginia; but when
she was discovered by modeling super agent Eileen
Ford at the age of 17, she hit the scene running in
New York City and has never looked back. During
these early years, she quickly became a fixture on
the New York underground scene while it was
becoming the coolest place on the planet. Bebe was
the ‘it girl’ who did it all: She was a model; a
Playboy Playmate; a rock ‘n’ roll muse… Hanging
out in the studio with the Rolling Stones; with the
New York Dolls when they recorded their debut
album; partying at Max’s with Andy Warhol; having
tea with Salvador Dali. She’s been a New York
Times bestselling author. There are songs written
about her; movie characters based on her life.
She’s been by the side of many of the most inspired
artists of our times… Todd Rundgren, Jimmy Page,
Jack Nicholson, Mick Jagger, Elvis Costello, Iggy
Pop… and the father of her famous daughter Liv,
Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler. Bebe helped manage Liv’s
career beginning in 1992; and over the past decade
has seen her daughter become one of the most
respected young actors of her generation. And
through all of these different incarnations, Bebe
Buell has made cool, raw music that comes crawling
at you like a snake out of the Bowery. Beginning
in the 1980’s with a four song demo on which The
Cars played as her backing band, she has never
stopped writing songs. Covers Girl, The B-Sides,
The Gargoyles, The Bebe Buell Band… Winding through
the years; telling stories about her life and
everything she has seen. In the early days, she
played parties in the Bowery with The Ramones.
Today, she still packs clubs in New York and L.A.,
and has built a strong following across Europe. The
closest description of Bebe’s sound might be
Marianne Faithful had she grown up on Lower East
Side of New York listening to the Velvet
Underground and The New York Dolls. She is a true
punk rock renaissance girl. To say that Bebe Buell
has done it all would be a considerable
We caught up with Bebe recently while she was
putting the finishing touches on her newest
collection of songs called ‘Hard Love’ just
released this week…
“I was raised at CBGBs… Cut my teeth at Max’s
Kansas City!” ~ Normal Girl, HARD LOVE
Punk Globe: Bebe, thanks so much for taking some
time to talk with Punk Globe when you’ve got so
much going on! You’ve got a new CD - HARD LOVE -
that just hit the streets on September 27. How did
this album come about?
Bebe Buell: I met my manager Wendy Dio last Oct.
26th, 2010 at Bob Gruen's birthday party in NYC. I
was performing at the Bash and it was after that
show that I met Wendy-she became my manager pretty
much right away. She felt I needed to get right
back into the studio and put the energy she saw in
us live on disc. My last album "SUGAR" was a semi
protools creation but that's because it was just
three of us. "HARD LOVE" is very much about who I
really am with a band that understands what I do.
They get it. I wanted the listener to get the live
experience with the record.
Punk Globe: Where did the name ‘Hard Love’ come
Bebe Buell: The title "HARD LOVE" came to me
because the music is hard but it's also filled with
every inch of my soul. It's an honest record.
Straight from the heart. I really do love what I
do. And I really do feel that truth for my
Punk Globe: After an almost decade break from
recording music, you came out in 2010 with ‘SUGAR’
and the single ‘Air Kisses For The Masses’. You’ve
said that this record was the most autobiographical
work of your life - dark songs about love and
betrayal, desire, friends lost… What kind of stuff
do you get into on this newest collection? Are the
songs as personal as the subject matter you were
writing about on your last album?
Yes- all of the above, HA! I rerecorded
4 of the songs that were on "SUGAR"- "Black Angel",
"Timeline", "I Will Wait" and the song "Sugar", for
"HARD LOVE". Wendy felt the songs were strong and
wanted to hopefully get them to a larger audience.
"Normal Girl " and "Baby Baby" are tunes I've
played live for years but they were never released
on a label. "SUGAR" is a very personal album and
there are things about the machine sound that works
with the emotion. But on "HARD LOVE" it's all come
full circle- I'm ready to lay my soul bare.
Hard Love Teaser: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j72trRHhYhk
Punk Globe: Let’s get into something a little more
serious! The Virginia state motto is a Latin
phrase - Sic Semper Tyrannis - which in English
means ‘Death to Tyrants’, while the State slogan is
‘Virginia is for Lovers’. I always thought that
was kind of strange. You grew up in Virginia. I
lived there until I was a teenager and moved to
Canada... Question: What is it about Virginia that
makes people from there so awesome?
Bebe Buell: I grew up on the ocean. Virginia Beach
was a great place to be a kid. I spent the entire
day at the beach and the pool during the summers. I
was a bit of a dolphin, HA! Edgar Cayce lived in
Va. Beach. There is some kind of wondeful kookoo
mojo floating around Virginia. Not something you
can put your finger on. Magic.
Punk Globe: You’ve said that when you were younger
and hanging out with bands like the Stones and the
New York Dolls in the studio, making music was
basically just a big party that eventually ended up
on tape. But then during your time with Todd
Rundgren, you saw a different side that was all
about serious hard work and discipline and
introspection. What is the writing and recording
process like for you? Is it more of a big party;
or is it serious hard work time?
Bebe Buell: I've recorded under several different
circumstances in my career. But making records is
not for sissies. It's a lot of hard work. The
process of building a building brick by brick.
There are the rehearsals too that go into all of it
- the recording and the live show- lots of
rehearsing. So you do have to be focused and sharp.
Sometimes you have the most fun at rehearsals while
you watch the songs come to life. Or if you're
doing a cool cover, watching it take on a fresh
perspective. I love the entire process but it is a
lot of work. But the kind of work I adore.
Punk Globe: You’re husband (and guitarist) is the
very cool Jim Wallerstein aka "Jimmy Walls"- who
has played with some great bands: Twin Engines,
D-Generation, Das Damen (Imagine Hawkwind fronted
by Tom Verlaine); and Vacationland (who Roger
Friedman from FOX once called the ‘best unsigned
band in the U.S’)… What is your writing process
like with Jim? Do you find that when you’re
sleeping in the same bed with the guy that writes
your music, it gives you a bit of an unfair
advantage when it comes to getting things done
exactly the way you want??
Bebe Buell: We just click. It's all about the
chemistry. I can give Jim my lyrics, melodies and
ideas and he turns them into songs. Or sometimes I
will hear the music- a track and hear the lyrics in
my head. At times a song just comes to you all at
once. Normal Girl was one of those- I was walking
down the street and it came in one big swoosh. I've
gotten ideas and not had a pen or paper and have
had to resort to alternative methods. I was on a
beach in St. Barths when the lyrics to "Love Is"
from "SUGAR" came to me. I had no phone, pen or
paper but I did have a camera so I wrote the words
in the sand and took a picture of them. But music
is like most things- either you click or you don't.
Jim understands me and knows how to speak "Bebe",
HA!, as he calls it. We speak the same musical
language and so does the band as a whole. It's
really magical when everything just gels. Special.
Punk Globe: When your husband is your creative
partner - does that ever affects how you go about
working on lyrics? Do you ever censor your
creative process when writing about past
Bebe Buell: Never. Jim even encourages me to let it
fly. To get it out. To let it pass through me and
then out of me. It then becomes something hopefully
someone else can relate too and find their own
story in. Jim knows everything about me now after
twelve years together. We have no secrets. He is
definitely a secure, cool guy. I'm lucky. He
doesn't easily scare- he's also not at all
Punk Globe: Along with Jim, your backing band on
this album is comprised of Guns N' Roses drummer
Frank Ferrer, former Iggy Pop/Danzig bassist Pete
Marshall, and former U Melt keyboardist Zac Lasher.
That’s a pretty heavy-duty lineup. Your last album
had a slow-groove Velvet
Underground/Portishead/Bowie kind of ambience that
really fit with the stuff you were writing about at
the time. With the musicians you’re working with
now, is this album going to have a heavier sound?
Bebe Buell: "HARD LOVE" is a heavy album. It's a
rock record. It's one of those records that you'll
want to listen to from beginning to end because the
songs kind of move in a storytelling sequence. You
anticipate the next story- the next emotion. I
wanted this to be my best album. All of us saw eye
to eye on how important it was. I loved working
with these musicians but I also added a new
background singer- Louisa ‘Mysteria’ Bradshaw. She
sings so well with me- she rides me... in just that
Punk Globe: Will you be playing with this band
Bebe Buell: For the live show things will change a
little. Pete will move over to second guitar with
Jim, and Enzo Penizzotto will be on bass- he played
with me in the late 90's and went on to spend ten
years playing with Joan Jett. He's back with us
again now. Because Frank is going to be so busy
with G&R we are now playing with Sarah Tomak. She's
a monster behind the drums. I can't wait to tour
with her and record with her too. A real talent and
I'm so thrilled to have her in the band now. And
Zac is the keys- his talent is such a huge part of
our sound. It adds a warmth yet rawness to the
core. Not to mention the flora.
Punk Globe: On a side note, did Frank Ferrer ever
tell you what the heck is wrong with Axl Rose??
Bebe Buell: He actually admires him and says that
there's a special genius there. Frank understands
the fragile make-up of the lead singer, HA!
“Well I stopped for directions at a tar paper
shack, and then I knew there was no way back.” ~ 13
Wrong Turns, RETROSEXUAL
Punk Globe: What’s the first single from the new
disc going to be?
Bebe Buell: We are testing a couple of them -
"Devil You Know", "Mother Of Rock & Roll" and "I
Love A Man In A Uniform"…
Punk Globe: Will you be doing a video for the song
that gets picked?
Bebe Buell: Yes, there will be a video. But the
album will be released before the single or video-
yes, we're doing it backwards, HA! but we kind of
have to with this project. Got to think outside the
box. I'm going to let the fans and the listener
decide. I'm not an artist you can really market in
a normal way.
Punk Globe: On the last album ‘SUGAR’, you did a
cover of ‘Untouchable’ by Johnny Thunders. On this
new release, you do a couple covers: Gang of Four’s
‘I Love A Man in A Uniform’ and The Vibrators’
‘Baby Baby’… Had you been doing these songs in your
live set for a while? And did you mess with the
arrangements much or did you do them fairly close
to the original versions?
Bebe Buell: I always respect the original song, but
I do tend to choose songs that I can make my own or
that I feel completes my own thoughts. I do put my
own spin on a cover choice. I lean towards the more
obscure too - I've wanted to do "I Love A Man In A
Uniform" for years! "Baby Baby" is brought back by
popular demand. My audiences love it and asked me
to record it so I did. I did a version of it back
in 1999 with Don Fleming producing but it never
came out. Actually, Enzo played on that version. I
will always want to do one or two covers - I love
the art of the tribute.
Punk Globe: You did a really cool version of
‘Heartbeat’ on the just released Runaways tribute
album - ‘Take It Or Leave It - A Tribute To The
Queens Of Noise’ - along with some other great
artists like Shonen Knife, David Johansen, and the
Dandy Warhols. How did you get involved with this
Bebe Buell: It was Keith Roth from Main Man Records
that suggested I do that song. It was his idea to
create the charity record too.
Punk Globe: Your version of the song actually
sounds more punk than the original Runaways
version. Were you a big Runaways fan when they
Bebe Buell: I knew right away if I was going to do
"Heartbeat" I would want to rock it out more- it's
originally a bit of a ballad. I loved the lyrics
and felt I had lived them when I was younger. It
felt like a story when I sang it- a story I knew
very well. I've played it live a couple of times
now and each time it brings the house down. People
are digging that one! And yes, I did dig The
Runaways in the 1970s. I was lucky to see them
Punk Globe: Over the years, you have developed a
strong following in Europe. What’s the crowd
response like over there compared to playing at
home in New York or L.A.?
Bebe Buell: I haven't played over there in eons!
It's been way too long and yes, I will be
performing in the UK and hopefully all over Europe.
I have my die-hard fans who have been with me for
years so I hope the album does well enough to get
me over there soon. That's Wendy's plan- to get me
on the road- to do it all. My NYC fans will always
hold a special place in my heart because they have
been through it all with me. Every phase. It's
interesting to me how my following has grown in
Europe without any live shows, so I can't wait to
change that- to play for them!!
Punk Globe: Will you be touring America and Europe
in support of this album?
Bebe Buell: Yes, all of that is in the planning and
discussion phase as we speak. I can't wait either!!
Punk Globe: When SUGAR was released in 2010, you
played The Roxy in Los Angeles and had a crazy mix
of Rock Royalty out to see your show: One club
filled with Rodney Bingenheimer, Lori Maddox, Billy
Corgan; members of Blondie, Hole; Ginger Coyote,
actress Pauley Perrette, your daughter Liv Tyler…
The show got great reviews. It must be really
gratifying to have such great response and support
from so many of your peers…
Bebe Buell: It's all come full circle and it's a
wonderful feeling after working so hard for so
long. But I wouldn't change a thing. I love what I
do and being onstage is what I live for. Call me
corny, but that's what rocks my world- that and my
friends, fans and family- the triple "F"s...
“All my vital parts have been eaten, have been
taken…” ~ Claw Bite, RETROSEXUAL
Punk Globe: Marilyn Monroe once said: “When
you're famous, you run into human nature in a raw
kind of way.” You’ve punctuated the scene as rock
muse and sex symbol for many years now; living out
so many of your passionate relationships in public.
How do you feel about this observation on fame?
Is it something you connect with?
Bebe Buell: I try not to focus on it too much. I
find if I let my feelings get in the way, it stunts
my progress. You can't let haters or the internet -
none of that stuff - slow your journey down. We all
want to be loved and embraced. We all want our
peers to respect our work. When you've been in the
public eye as long as I have it just becomes a way
of life - dealing with the intrusions or lack of
privacy. You have to expect a certain amount of
nonsense and incorrect gossip. I just want to let
the music do the talking.
Punk Globe: You exploded into the punk scene by
being the first ever fashion model to grace the
cover of Playboy Magazine; and sealed your
reputation as a true “punk” for having pushed the
limits of liberation at the time. You’ve been
quoted as saying: “If I were to pose again, it
would be for the same reasons: To make a statement
and to break down some doors.” What do you think
today when you see so many fashion models and
famous actresses posing nude and vying for the
cover of men’s magazines as a way to promote
themselves and actually help their careers? Does
it feel like your Playboy shoot paved the way for
women to be able to express themselves like this
without having the stigma attached?
Bebe Buell: Yes, I do. I took a lot of the slings
and arrows but that's fine. It was so long ago that
I don't really think of it a lot but if I were to
ponder it I'd just say I'm proud of the pictures
and glad I did it. I have no regrets whatsoever.
Punk Globe: Going back a few years… When talking
about the Max’s Kansas City/CBGBs scene in New York
in the early punk days, you said it was like a
smorgasbord of art: Actors, rock stars, painters,
poets… everybody hanging out in one group; and it
wasn’t that important what you did, but just that
you did it passionately. Everything seems a lot
more compartmentalized these days. Do you still
see this kind of eclectic scene anywhere?
Bebe Buell: Not as much- no. With the internet and
cell phones- all that stuff, things are very
different. The way people communicate and express
themselves is less innocent. It will never be the
same but I'm not afraid of the future or progress.
I prefer the way things were as far as connecting
with people but I also face that those days are
long gone and not coming back- EVER! I try to
create that feel of an eclectic scene when I play
NYC- I try to bring it all back. So yes, I do see
that kind of scene- at my shows, HA!
“Walkin’ down the street that bears your name, my
house is next to your grave…” ~ Black Angel, SUGAR
Punk Globe: Joey Ramone became a close friend of
yours over the years. He loved your band ‘The
Gargoyles’, and would put you on a lot of bills
playing parties he threw around New York City.
You’ve said about him… “He just had a really big
heart and he really enjoyed helping people. Helping
people get recognition for their music if he
thought the band was talented, that kind of thing.
He really enjoyed seeing people do well. Instead of
getting jealous like some people.” It’s just in
the last 10 years that The Ramones have started to
get the recognition for really being one of the
most influential bands of all time: One of Rolling
Stone’s ‘50 Greatest Artists of All Time’; and
ranked by Spin Magazine right behind the Beatles as
the second greatest band of all time. It’s really
interesting that while they were together, The
Ramones never had great commercial success; yet it
sounds like Joey was going out of his way to help
underground bands to be seen and showcase around
New York with his ‘stamp of approval’. It’s been
10 years since Joey passed away. You used to live
down the street from him; play gigs with his band;
have dinner at his place… What can you tell us
about Joey Ramone that we might not know? In his
last years, how did he feel seeing so many people
capitalizing on a scene that he helped create?
Bebe Buell: I never once heard him react to that in
a negative way. I know he would have been so proud
to be inducted into the R&R Hall Of Fame. He loved
the pomp and pageantry of our business, believe it
or not. He was as much of a fan as he was an icon.
He was also a great mentor. He liked it when a
young band looked up to him.
Sadly, he never really got to see how much he was
appreciated in it's full glory. But his legacy is
still alive and well in my world.
Punk Globe: It was really sad seeing the legendary
bassist Arthur Kane in ‘New York Doll’ - living
out his last days broke in a small apartment in
L.A. surrounded by posters of The ’Dolls. Do a lot
of people from that scene you were a part of feel
ripped off by newer bands copying their style and
music and getting rich off of it?
Bebe Buell: Of course… but we were all just kids-
we didn't think about it all so hard. We just lived
it. We were there and it felt natural and meant to
be. You waste your energy fretting over who copied
who. Everyone copied each other, HA! Some just did
it better than the rest.
Punk Globe: I remember being on a trip with my
parents when I was a kid, listening to a long
stream of horrible pop songs for hours on a.m.
radio; and then ‘Last Child’ by Aerosmith came on,
and everything changed right there at that moment..
There was something so down and dirty; sleazy and
cool and delicious about that song that it was like
opening up a door to a whole different world. It
was like a first shot of heroin, you know, and I’ve
spent the last 30 years of my life chasing that
song. You’ve said that from an early age, rock ‘n’
roll was in your DNA. There was no real choice…
It was just something that you had to do. What kind
of stuff did you listen to growing up that had such
a strong impact? Was there a moment or a song that
stopped you in your tracks like that?
Bebe Buell: The Rolling Stones, The Animals- the
British Invasion... Motown. But what really grabbed
me were the MC5, The Stooges, early Alice Cooper...
the dangerous stuff. I was just plugged into the
Electric Church of Rock & Roll.
Punk Globe: Speaking of your baby daddy… About
Steven Tyler joining American Idol, Kid Rock
recently said: “I think it’s the stupidest thing
he’s ever done in his life. He’s a sacred American
institution of rock ‘n’ roll, and he just threw it
all out the window. Just stomped on it and set it
on fire.” Question: Do you think Kid Rock should
spend less time worrying about what Steven Tyler is
doing and more time trying to write his first good
song? And how did you think Mr. Tyler did working
his first ‘desk job’?
Bebe Buell: Kid Rock spoke too soon. Steven did a
fantastic job and now all of America knows about
the person we have known for all these years. You
get to meet the real guy on Idol. He's a complex
person with a lot of depth and dimension- charm and
wit. There's a lot there. Steven Tyler is nobody's
fool and becoming a judge on Idol just shows that
he can do almost anything. I say kudos to him.
Punk Globe: You’re such a multi-faceted artist… a
performer, writer, singer, model, activist…
Definitely a rolling stone that is gathering no
moss! How do you balance the energy you put into
such diverse mediums?
Bebe Buell: Doing what I love- living my dreams. I
try not to carry any negative energy inside me. I
release it. Let it go. Let it go and LIVE! I love
expensive face creams, too. HA!
Punk Globe: You’ve mentioned Jack White, The
Killers, Marilyn Manson, and The Living Things as
some of your favorite current artists… You’ve made
music with a lot of amazing musicians over the
years. Is there anyone on the planet that you
would still really like to collaborate with?
Bebe Buell: Oh my- let's see... maybe a duet with
Punk Globe: You’ve been good friends with our
editor and founder of Punk Globe Magazine Ginger
Coyote for a lot of years now. How did you two
meet? And where do you think Ginger’s most awesome
talents could best be utilized on television: Big
Brother, Dancing With The Stars, or maybe a sexy
new neighbor on Weeds??
Bebe Buell: To me Ginger is one of the most unique
people I know. Also one of the smartest. I think
her talents would work in any of those formats to
be honest, HA!
Punk Globe: One reviewer said of your 1995 album
‘Retrosexual’ that it was a “solid piece of rock
action from a tough girl who deserves more props
than she gets”. Do you think that in the last few
years, this ‘tough girl’ is finally getting the
‘props’ she deserves?
Bebe Buell: I've only ever done this out of the
love I have for it- if at this point I get some
kudos, I'm thrilled. But I'm not so tough. I'm
strong. I don't give up or quit.
Punk Globe: Where can people find Bebe Buell
online? And where can they buy the new disc ‘HARD
You will be able to buy HARD LOVE in
record/cd stores- places like Best Buy, etc..., Mom
& Pop stores. You can order it from Amazon. There
will be all of the usual outlets. My website is:
In USA + Canada there will be CDs and throughout
Europe it will be available digitally. But in
France, Germany, UK, etc..., Amazon will have it on
import at first and then it will come out
worldwide. It will be available for download
Punk Globe: Thanks so much Bebe for taking the
time to talk with Punk Globe. Any final words for
the punks, artists, poets, and thieves of tomorrow?
Bebe Buell: Don't let anyone ever tell you can't do
something you want to do. If they try and stop you,
it's because of something lacking in them- not YOU.
Don't be afraid to be the one with the original
thought or idea. It's OK to step out of the box.
Also, LOVE all animals and treat them with respect
Keep the art flowing. Keep the music loud and most
of all, don't let the ROCK die.