The thing about even the best ‘60s garage bands is that you never get to find out whether or not they ever improved upon the thrills of three-chord teenage kicks, since most of them didn’t make it past graduation day. Any lasting legacy they enjoy beyond that is usually confined to having one banger exhumed for a Back From the Grave-type comp long after the rock and roll dreams of their youth has ended. The Female Species, a band formed in Whittier, California, in 1966 by teenage sisters Vicki and Ronni Gossett, managed to do the former without the visibility boost of the latter, rendering their music so obscure as to be unheard in the ensuing decades. Numero Group rectifies this oversight by arranging and contextualizing the Female Species’ oeuvre on retrospective compilation Tale of My Lost Love.
The Gossetts started out, like so many of their peers, as a doe-eyed teen pop band penning jejune songs about love during a prosperous decade awash with affordable musical equipment and the Beatles on every American television set to show how it’s done. Promo photos from the era show a group of girls in beehive hairdos and matching mini-dresses posing with their instruments, and the early cuts on Tale of My Lost Love bear out this air of mid-century innocence—though it’s underlined by an ambitious musicality that often surpasses much of what can be found on the Girls in the Garage series (on which, somewhat shockingly, the Female Species never appeared.) That was just the beginning for the Gossetts, however; the sisters would go on to forge careers in the music business, working on their craft while bouncing around the country and eventually landing as staff songwriters for music publishing companies in Nashville in the ‘80s and ‘90s. With songs sequenced chronologically, Tale of My Lost Love offers a chance to follow the Gossetts on their journey through one of the most fertile stretches in American popular music.
Sonically, the compilation is split into two parts, with the first half squarely planted in the mid-‘60s as it began to melt into the ‘70s. It’s here you’ll find the Gossetts experimenting with dreamy girl group pop (“Bye-Bye-Bye”) and organ-driven soft psychedelia (“You Need Me”) before segueing into a peppier lounge sound that presages their eventual turn to satiny country-pop. As the sisters mature as people and songwriters, the music grows more sophisticated and the emotional stories it tells become more complex, the beehives and mini-dresses swapped for jumpsuits and feathered hair. An apex is reached with “Till The Moon Don’t Shine,” a distressingly good piece of AM radio gold shot through with smooth harmonica and punctuated by a sticky series of “ooh ooh ooh’s” that in a just world would’ve been pouring out of car stereos all over the country in the early ‘80s. Though it’s taken a while for the Female Species to get their due, better late than never, and Tale of My Lost Love is a collection that’s as much a celebration of the Gossetts’ talent and persistence as it is about their love for music itself—a tale of a love that was never lost at all.