Girlschool - Reissues album review

Trio of no-fuss rock’n’roll records from the female Motörhead

Cover art for Girlschool - Reissues album

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It begins unpromisingly with the wail of an air-raid siren. Well, more of a knackered klaxon, actually. But after that misstep, Girlschool barely put a scuffed stiletto-clad foot wrong, their debut album Demolition (910) sounding as fresh-faced and snot-nosed (if that’s not a contradiction) today as it did in 1980.

With their roots dating back to 1977 and a Sarf Lahndun band called Painted Lady, Girlschool – famously dubbed the female Motörhead – were always closer to punk rock than the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. Indeed, while Diamond Head were still playingshitholes in Stourbridge, Kim McAuliffe, Kelly Johnson (RIP), Di ‘Enid’ Williams and Denise Dufort were touring with everyone from Budgie to Black Sabbath, their burgeoning career under the hazy but watchful eye of Doug Smith, manager of themselves and the selfsame ’Head.

The male-dominated British metal community embraced Girlschool’s dreggy charms wholeheartedly and unreservedly, even if – or most likely because – their hair stank of a beguiling mixture of stale cigarette smoke and Newkie Brown.

The band had no feminist agenda. Unlike American contemporaries The Runaways, they didn’t set out to tease’n’please. (Blonde Bomber-shell Johnson’s stage presence could admittedly be described as smouldering, but only in a ‘fag burn on the inner arm’ sense.)

Girlschool had no fear and, some might argue, no class – a notorious interview with Sounds’ Garry Bushell had them freely discussing subjects such as cystitis. But did this matter? Not a jot. They were St Trinian’s with switchblades; the girls next door – as long as a barbed-wire fence separated your house from theirs.

Second album Hit And Run (810) continued the red-raw approach of the first and was a UK Top Five hit thanks in no small part to a collaboration with Motörhead on Johnny Kidd And The Pirates’ Please Don’t Touch, surely one of the greatest cover versions of all time and included here as a bonus track. Lemmy is on prime form on this aptly named Headgirl combo.

Third full-length record Screaming Blue Murder (610) paled by comparison with its predecessors. The songwriting ran out of steam and Williams was mysteriously replaced on bass by Gil Weston from punksters The Killjoys.

Music aside, these reissues come encased in flimsy cardboard sleeves, and the sleevenotes detailing Girlschool’s “almost meteoric rise” read like they were tossed off in five minutes, or in front of a dog-eared photo of Kelly Johnson.

Geoff Barton

Geoff Barton is a British journalist who founded the heavy metal magazine Kerrang! and was an editor of Sounds music magazine. He specialised in covering rock music and helped popularise the new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) after using the term for the first time (after editor Alan Lewis coined it) in the May 1979 issue of Sounds.