Steppenwolf’s sixth album, 1971’s For Ladies Only, was intended as a concept album reaching out in support of women and feminism, but this was misunderstood as nothing but typical hard rock sexism.
In retrospect, the album’s packaging did Steppenwolf no favors; the back cover has its members smirking while reading books like Please Breast Feed Your Baby and The Sensuous Woman and the gatefold is a picture of a car shaped and styled like a giant erect penis.
Rolling Stone wrote, “After listening to the album, I’m still not certain whether the fellows are for or against, but the songs within do little to dispel that feeling of steaming hostility toward women.” It’s hard to see how the reviewer could remain unsure after the album’s opening title track, the chorus of which declares, “For ladies only, too much waiting for too many years…half the world has been built on their tears.”
But misunderstood lyrics or not, For Ladies Only was another characteristic slab of idiosyncratic rock from Steppenwolf, the chief talent of which was its ability to pull off big moments so casually it didn’t appear to lose its cool. This was a great approach overall, but one that stumbled when trying to handle a topic as nuanced as women’s liberation.