Fifth Column

Fifth Column was an all-women experimental post-punk band from Toronto, Ontario. Kathleen Pirrie-Adams and Janet Martin, then young art students, founded the group in the early 1980s; GB Jones and Caroline Azar joined after. The band is widely regarded as a significant predecessor to the queercore scene and rrriot girl bands like Bikini Kill, L7, and Huggy Bear.

At the time there were no other bands like Fifth Column in the Toronto music scene. The women didn’t fit into the “assimilationist and bourgeoisie” mainstream queer scene, and punk was predominantly straight and male. Fifth Column, with its feminist agenda and badass attitude, carved out a new genre of queer feminist post-punk music.

Their first album To Sir With Hate (1985) was anti-patriarchal and espoused anti-homophobic messages. It included “The Fairview Mall Story,” a song about the arrest of thirty-two men who were caught having sex in the bathroom at Fairview Mall in St. Catharines. The band released two more albums, All Time Queen of the World (1990) and 36C (1994), along with a few singles, including All Women Are Bitches (1992). They were subsequently banned from MuchMusic for performing the song on the network for a live, nationally broadcasted benefit concert.

In addition to helping prep the music landscape for queercore and rrriot girl, band member GB Jones teamed with filmmaker Bruce LaBruce to start a fanzine called J.D.’s. Within the pages of the zine, Jones and LaBruce further materialized the burgeoning queercore scene, which drew a lot of artists and young folks to Toronto in the 80s.

Though under-acknowledged in discourses of their time, Fifth Column was an independent, rule-breaking band that significantly shaped the do-it-yourself countercultural movement in the 1980s in Toronto and beyond.

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