Girlschool

Girlschool is an English rock band that gained prominence as part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. On Bronze Records (Uriah Heep‘s label), Girlschool charted with the 1980–82 albums Demolition, Hit and Run, and Screaming Blue Murder. They collaborated with Motörhead on the 1981 EP St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, a UK Top 5 hit.

Members: Kim McAuliffe (vocals, guitar), Enid Williams (bass, vocals, 1975-82, 1990-present), Val Lloyd (drums, 1977), Kathy Valentine (guitar, 1977), Deirdre Cartwright (guitar, 1977), Denise Dufort (drums, 1978-present), Kelly Johnson (guitar, vocals, 1978-83, 1993-2000), Gil Weston-Jones (bass, 1982-87), Cris Bonacci (guitar, 1983-92), Jackie Bodimead (keyboards, vocals, 1983-86)


Background

Girlschool had its roots in Painted Lady, a cover band formed in 1975 by Wandsworth classmates Kim McAuliffe (rhythm guitar; born May 13, 1959) and Enid Williams (bass; b. April 28, 1960). They performed at local pubs with drummer Val Lloyd and lead guitarist Deirdre Cartwright, and aspiring virtuoso.

Painted Lady’s setlist included songs by Chuck Berry (“Johnny B. Goode”), The Beatles (“I Saw You Standing There”), The Rolling Stones (“Honky Tonk Women”), The Supremes (“You Keep Me Hanging On”), Spencer Davis Group (“Gimme Some Loving”), Jimi Hendrix (“Hey Joe”), Bob Dylan (“Knocking On Heaven’s Door”), and Deep Purple (“Smoke On the Water”).

In 1977, Deirdre left and formed Tour de Force, another all-female rock quartet that cut three 1980–81 singles. She then co-founded The Guest Stars, a distaff jazz-funk sextet that self-released two 1984–85 albums and a German concert title.

Painted Lady continued for a brief period with American guitarist Kathy Valentine, a Texan on a London stay with her mother. She connected with Kim and Enid through an ad in Melody Maker. The band collapsed upon Kathy’s departure for Los Angeles, where she co-founded The Textones and then joined The Go-Go’s (as bassist) in time for their platinum 1981 debut Beauty and the Beat.

In April 1978, Kim and Enid regrouped with two new recruits: guitarist Kelly Johnson (b. June 20, 1958) and drummer Denise Dufort (b. October 18, 1958). Kelly took up guitar at age twelve and also played bass and piano with schoolmates in her native Edmonton. The new lineup named their act Girlschool after the 1977 b-side (“Girls’ School”) to the Wings mega-hit “Mull of Kintyre.”


“Take It All Away”

On November 10, 1978, Girlschool released their debut single: “Take It All Away,” a Kim McAuliffe original backed with the group-written “It Could Be Better.”

A. “Take It All Away”
B. “It Could Be Better”

Girlschool self-produced both songs for City Records, a Kingston-Upon-Thames indie started by Phil Scott, a friend of the band. “Take It All Away” was the sixth City release (NIK 6) between singles by the UK Subs and Liverpool hard rockers Spider. City pressed “Take It All Away” on red vinyl (red-frame picture sleeve) and blue vinyl (pink-framed picture sleeve).

“Take It All Away” impressed Motörhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister. He attended a Girlschool concert with rock manager Doug Smith, who represented Motörhead and Lemmy’s prior band, Hawkwind. Kilmister offered Girlschool the opening slot on Motörhead’s spring 1979 Overkill tour. Once the tour wrapped, Smith took Girlschool under his wing and secured them an audition for Gerry Bron, the founder of Bronze Records and the longtime manager of Uriah Heep. Floored by their charisma and virtuosity, Bron signed them to his label.

In April 1980, Girlschool linked with soundman Vic Maile, a veteran concert producer (The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Kinks, Jimi Hendrix) who engineered post-psych albums by Heron, Man, and Nektar and produced recent titles by 999, Dr. Feelgood, The Inmates, The Pirates, The Vibrators, and Urchin, a forerunner in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM).


Demolition

Girlschool released their debut album, Demolition, on June 30, 1980, on Bronze. It features a re-recorded “Take It All Away” and four new originals co-written by Kim McAuliffe in combination with Kelly Johnson (“Demolition Boys,” “Nothing to Lose,” “Breakdown,” “Deadline”) and third writer Enid Williams (“Midnight Ride”).

Demolition contains three group-written songs: “Not for Sale,” “Baby Doll,” and the second Girlschool single, “Emergency.” Side One contains a cover of “Race with the Devil,” a 1968 hit for Gun.

Enid sings lead on everything apart from “Breakdown” (Kelly) and the Side One bookends “Demolition Boys” and “Nothing to Lose” (both Kim).

1. “Demolition Boys” (3:39)
2. “Not for Sale” (3:31)
3. “Race with the Devil” (2:51) originated on the 1968 self-titled album by the psychedelic powertrio Gun, written by their then-teenage guitarist Adrian Gurvitz.
4. “Take It All Away” (3:43)
5. “Nothing to Lose” (4:30)

6. “Breakdown” (3:05)
7. “Midnight Ride” (3:16)
8. “Emergency” (2:50)
9. “Baby Doll” (4:13)
10. “Deadline” (2:54)

Sessions took place in April–May 1980 at Jackson’s Studios in Rickmansworth, where Vic Maile produced and engineered Demolition in sequence with albums by Motörhead (Ace of Spades) and 999 (The Biggest Prize In Sport).

“Emergency / Furniture Fire”
Released: January 1980

“Nothing to Lose / Baby Doll”
Released: May 1980

“Race with the Devil / Take It All Away”
Released: July 1980

Demolition reached No. 28 on the UK Albums Chart.


St. Valentine’s Day Massacre

On February 13, 1981, Girlschool released St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, a three-song collaborative EP with Motörhead (joint billed as Motör Headgirl School). The two bands duet on a cover of a rock ‘n’ roll oldie (“Please Don’t Touch”) and cover one song by each other.

Girlschool and Motörhead recorded the EP at the suggestion of mutual soundman Vic Maile. The session occurred without  Motörhead drummer Phil Taylor, who was sidelined with a neck injury.

1. “Please Don’t Touch” (2:49) originated as a 1959 a-side by the English rock ‘n’ roll band Johnny Kidd & The Pirates; co-written by Kidd and Guy Robinson and released on HMV (His Master’s Voice).
2. “Bomber” (3:30) originated as the title track to Motörhead’s October 1979 third album Bomber, performed here by Girlschool.
3. “Emergency” (3:03) is the 1980 lead single from Demolition, performed here by two-thirds of Motörhead with Denise Dufort in lieu of the sidelined Phil Taylor.

St. Valentine’s Day Massacre appeared in a picture sleeve with Motorhead dressed as 1920s Chicago gangsters and Girlschool as their “moles” (slang for gangster companions). The title comes from an incident on Valentine’s Day 1929 when seven associated of Chicago’s North Side Gang were slain at a Lincoln Park warehouse in a hit allegedly orchestrated by mob boss Al Capone.

St. Valentine’s Day Massacre reached No. 5 on the UK Singles Chart. The two bands (under the collective portmanteau Headgirl) plugged “Please Don’t Touch” on the February 19, 1981, broadcast of the BBC music program Top of the Pops, which also featured performances by Adam & The Ants (“Kings of the Wild Frontier”), The Stray Cats (“Rock This Town”), Teardrop Explodes (“Reward”), Toyah (“It’s a Mystery”), and videos by Rainbow (“I Surrender”) and Visage (“Fade to Grey”).> Headgirl also appeared on the April 4 broadcast of the German show Musikladen.

Stay Clean (EP, 1981 • Motörhead / Girlschool)


Hit and Run

Girlschool released their second album, Hit and Run, on April 20, 1981, on Bronze. It features ten originals and a cover of the ZZ Top classic “Tush.”

Kim McAuliffe and Kelly Johnson co-wrote five songs: “Kick It Down,” “Future Flash” and the single sides “C’mon Let’s Go,” “The Hunter,” and “Hit and Run.”

Two songs (“Following the Crowd,” “Watch Your Step”) are three-way writes with Enid Williams, who co-wrote “Back to Start” with Kelly, who co-wrote “Yeah Right” with Denise Dufort and Kim, the pair responsible for “(I’m Your) Victim.”

Kelly sings “C’mon Let’s Go,” “The Hunter,” “Hit and Run,” and “Hit and Run.” Enid sings everything else apart from “Kick It Down” (Kim).

1. “C’mon Let’s Go” (3:35)
2. “The Hunter” (3:15)
3. “(I’m Your) Victim” (2:42)
4. “Kick It Down” (3:03)
5. “Following the Crowd” (3:08)
6. “Tush” (2:16)

7. “Hit and Run” (3:08)
8. “Watch Your Step” (3:22)
9. “Back to Start” (3:32)
10. “Yeah Right” (3:21)
11. “Future Flash” (4:27)

Sessions occurred between December 1980 and January 1981 at Jackson’s Studios with Vic Maile.

“Yeah Right” / “The Hunter”
Released: 7 November 1980

“Hit and Run” / “Tonight”
Released: April 1981

“C’mon Let’s Go” / “Tonight (live)”
Released: July 1981

Hit and Run reached No. 5 on the UK Albums Chart and went Top 50 in Canada and New Zealand.

On Friday, August 28, Girlschool co-headlined the 1981 Reading Rock Festival, a three-day weekend event with sets by Afraid of Mice, Atomic Rooster, Chicken Shack, The Enid, Gillan, Greg Lake, Reluctant Stereotypes, Samson, Wishbone Ash, and the American acts 38 Special and Billy Squier. Girlschool closed Day 1, which also featured Budgie, Nightwing, Saga, and Steve Hackett.>


Wildlife 

On March 29, 1982, Girlschool released Wildlife, composed of two songs from their album in-progress (“Don’t Call It Love,” “Wildlife”) and a group-written exclusive (“Don’t Stop”). This was the last Girlschool release for twenty years with bassist Enid Williams, who left early into the sessions.

1. “Don’t Call It Love” (3:08)
2. “Wildlife” (2:18)
3. “Don’t Stop”

Recorded February-March 1982
Studio Surrey Sound Studios, England
Producer Nigel Gray

Girlschool with bassist Ghislaine ‘Gil’ Weston (b. February 15, 1958), a onetime member of The Killjoys, a Birmingham punk band led by (future Dexys Midnight Runners frontman) Kevin Rowland.


Screaming Blue Murder

Girlschool released their third album, Screaming Blue Murder, on June 7, 1982, on Bronze. This is their first of two albums with founding members Kim McAuliffe, Kelly Johnson, Denise Dufort, and new bassist Gil Weston.

Screaming Blue Murder contains nine originals, which Kim co-wrote in combination with Kelly (“Turns Your Head Around,” “Don’t Call It Love,” “You Got Me”) and third-writer Gil (“When Your Blood Runs Cold,” the title track). One track (the pre-released “Wildlife”) co-credits the now-absent Enid Williams. The remaining tracks are group-credited to the current lineup apart from “Live with Me,” a Rolling Stones cover.

Kelly sings lead on “Wildlife” and “You Got Me” and harmonizes on the two side openers with Kim, who sings lead on everything else apart from “Hellrazor” and “Flesh & Blood” (Gil).

1. “Screaming Blue Murder” (3:34)
2. “Live with Me” (3:20) originated as a deep cut on the 1969 Rolling Stones album Let It Bleed; written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richard.
3. “Take It from Me” (2:51)
4. “Wildlife” (2:48)
5. “Turns Your Head Around” (3:08)

6. “Don’t Call It Love” (3:42)
7. “Hellrazor” (2:38)
8. “When Your Blood Runs Cold” (3:23)
9. “You Got Me” (3:16)
10. “Flesh & Blood” (2:27)

Sessions took place in February–March 1982 at Surrey Sound Studio, a facility in Leatherhead co-owned by longtime Police soundman Nigel Gray, who produced and engineered Screaming Blue Murder amid titles by The Danse Society, Fay Ray, Siouxsie & The Banshees, and Tank.


Play Dirty

Girlschool released their fourth album, Play Dirty, on November 8, 1983, on Bronze.


Discography:

  • Demolition (1980)
  • Hit and Run (1981)
  • Stay Clean (EP, 1981 • Motörhead / Girlschool)
  • St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (EP, 1981 • Motörhead / Girlschool)
  • Screaming Blue Murder (1982)
  • Play Dirty (1983)
  • Running Wild (1985)
  • Nightmare at Maple Cross (1986)
  • Race With the Devil Live (1986)
  • Take a Bite (1988)

Sources:

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