On December 7, Queen Divas of the Universe hosts a CD-release show at Humphrey’s Backstage Lounge, for their debut album All Wrapped Up in Christmas.
The band consists of three music vets: bassist Shaaron Hancock-Schuemaker (Tim Flannery, Koko Loco), keyboardist Laurie Lewis (the New Mamas and Papas), and guitarist Roni Lee (Venus and the Razorblades).
Comprising ten holiday evergreens, such as Chuck Berry’s “Run Run Rudolph,” All Wrapped Up in Christmas marks the first new music from Clairemont-based guitarist Lee in almost three decades. It’s the first in a series of releases due over the next 12 months. Plans include a return to touring and a debut solo album as the Roni Lee Group; also, re-recordings of her early punk tunes are going up on iTunes by the end of the year.
Lee arrived in San Diego in 1984 to settle down with her family at the tail-end of a career that had seen her perform in latter-day versions of Steppenwolf and Spirit, as well as record an as-yet-unreleased album under the band name Touch, backed by the original Heart rhythm section.
However, it’s Lee’s earliest group, the Kim Fowley–constructed Venus and the Razorblades, that had the biggest impact. Although the band wouldn’t have any chart success, they released one of the earliest U.S. punk singles, “Punkerama,” in 1977. Meanwhile, one of their songs, “I Want to Be Where the Boys Are,” cowritten by Lee and Fowley, became a regular part of the Runaways’ live set. It likely helped that Lee was then roommates with Runaways Joan Jett and Sandy West. The song was included on their 1977 Live in Japan album, while more recently it was sung by actress Kristen Stewart in the 2010 Runaways biopic. Earlier this year, it was covered by punk band F-13 on a Runaways tribute disc.
Now a mother of three, Lee is anxious to get back into music but acknowledges that while the energy level in her music is still high, things are less boisterous today than during her time rocking on the Sunset Strip.
“Venus and the Razor Blades were the first punk band to reopen the Whisky A Go-Go for music after the club had been used as a theater for some time,” she recalled. Van Halen was a regular opening act for her band at the club and recorded another of Venus and the Razor Blades’ songs, “Young and Wild.”
“All shows started with a wrestling match to get pumped up, usually instigated by Joan Jett and myself,” Lee said. “She and I would ride the shoulders of the Van Halen boys and have ‘fights.’ I remember getting rolled down the stairs of the Whisky in a barrel by David Lee Roth,” she laughed. “I believe Joan and my boot heels’ holes are still part of the famous ‘Whisky wall’ backstage.”