When it first landed on shelves in 1994, Vanessa Daou’s conversation-shifting Zipless: Songs From the Works of Erica Jong was veritably like nothing before it. Inspired by the writings of the controversial author of Fear of Flying and Shylock’s Daughter (amongst others) it was at once fearlessly erotic and boldly feminist – as well as startling in its musical scope.
Arguably more relevant than ever, it will be released on 180-gram black vinyl by DRKR Records in association with KID Recordings this December 7…the perfect stocking stuffer for your favorite socio-cultural provocateur.
And to be sure, tracks like “The Long Tunnel of Wanting You,” with its sensual acid-jazz grooves, as well as the soulful “Becoming a Nun” (particularly provocative in its salacious lyrical phrasing), and the languidly sexy, spoken word “Smoke,” all made for intoxicating, lascivious listening – while also provoking intellectually. It was particularly incendiary, of course, at a time when a testosterone-fueled Lollapalooza music culture prevailed, three years before the advent of Lilith Fair.
“Releasing Zipless on vinyl is like releasing imagination to a whole new generation,” Jong enthuses, “We always presume that technology must be the latest in innovation, but sometimes we are fortunate to be re-introduced to the familiar. And Zipless is freedom, Zipless is fearlessness, Zipless is getting past the fear of your own identity.”
Daou is also quick to remind that it was one of the first albums to be stickered in Tipper Gore’s zeitgeist-stirring but dire PMRC crusade. 24 years later, obviously, we face aggressive censorship efforts by both the conservatives and liberals.
“Zipless is an idea whose shape and form changes, shifting and morphing with each generation,” explains Daou. “It has guided me creatively, sonically, and philosophically. In many interviews at the time, I was asked if I considered myself a feminist. Invariably, my answer ‘of course’ was met with a scoff, rolling eyes, and a grimace. It seemed that the struggle of our mothers was not one that the ‘90s generation felt still needed to be fought.”
“Ideas of culture, sexuality, identity, creativity, are malleable, flexible things,” she reckons. “Perhaps it comes from growing up on an island (St. Thomas), surrounded by water, where the references that shaped me were the sun, sky, sand and ocean. The lens through which I’ve looked has always been kaleidoscopic, allowing for many shimmering, complex facets.”
Curiously, in the midst of the #MeToo movement, Zipless is particularly compelling, perhaps able to raise questions about exactly what sexual freedom means to women now. And even though there is obviously no one answer to that, agitating the discussion seems as exigent as ever.