Last weekend's passing of former Girlschool guitarist Kelly Johnson made me realize that I'm way overdue to give tribute to one of my all-time favorite heavy metal bands, so as the late Janis Joplin once said, "I must make a-mends."
G-School was formed circa. 1975 as Painted Lady, an all-girl London cover band, by original bassist Enid Williams (not pictured here) and rhythm guitarist Kim McAuliffe (far left in pic). The band also at one time included future Go-Go's bassist Kathy Valentine, and by 1978, they adopted the name "Girlschool" as drummer Denise Dufort and lead guitarist Kelly Johnson (3rd and 4th from left in pic, respectively) joined, and the band toured with the mighty Motorhead in 1979, subsequently landing on the Bronze Record label shortly afterwards. Their first album, Demolition, was released in 1980, and their hybrid collaboration with Lemmy and the boys, dubbed "Headgirl" produced the EP St. Valentine's Day Massacre and the hit single (in England) "Please Don't Touch", a cover of the early '60s Johnny Kidd & The Pirates hit.
Several of the tracks from Demolition later resurfaced on Girlschool's 1981 LP Hit And Run, thus resulting in one of the finest heavy metal albums my 43-year-old ears have ever heard. H&R is a killer record from start-to-finish, and there ain't a bad track on it! It features a balls-to-the-wall cover of Adrian Gurvitz' "Race With The Devil", as well as some very agressive guitar work from Kelly Johnson throughout and outstanding drumming from Denise Dufort—her double-bass drum work actually made Alex Van Halen sound like a pussy! Not too shabby for a bunch of girls, eh?
Shortly after the Hit And Run album and subsequent tour, Enid Williams left the band to be a mom, and was replaced by bassist Gil Weston-Jones (second from left in photo). The group underwent numerous lineup (and sonic) changes during the rest of the '80s (even operating as a five-piece for a time), and adopted a more polished commercial sound that rankled some hardcore fans, but wasn't totally wretched. Kim, Enid and Denise continue to record and tour to this day with guitarist Jackie Chambers, who replaced founding member Kelly Johnson, who retired in 2000 and soon after was afflicted with spinal cancer, which she inevitably succumbed to last week. A sad loss for Heavy Metal, indeed...
My All-Time Girlschool Top 10:
10) "Do You Love Me?" (1985) Yes, the beloved Kiss tune, and a mighty fine remake of it, to boot.
9) "Take It All Away" (1978) G-School's first single, which later wound up on Hit And Run.
8) "Please Don't Touch" (1981) A lovely romantic ballad featuring Brother Lemmy teaming up with the Goyl-School girls...
7) "Can't You See?" (1985) A song from the "slick" period that most hardcore fans hated, but I really liked the power chords here.
6) "Yeah Right!" (1981) Rebellious fucking Rock 'N' Roll—again, played by a bunch of fucking girls!
5) "Kick It Down (1981) Ditto.
4) "C'Mon, Let's Go" (1981) Ditto again. Not to be confused with the Ritchie Valens' tune of a similar spelling.
3) "Watch Your Step" (1981) Ditto one more time...
2) "Hit And Run" (1981) Title track and excellent lead-off hitter for both an album and a concert.
1) "Race With The Devil" (1981) The very Girlschool song that first caught my attention at the old Village Records shop in Raytown, as recommended by lost-but-not-forgotten fellow Rock 'N' Roll traveler Bob Mora. I was already familiar with this tune via the 1977 Black Oak (Arkansas) version, but Denise's stellar drumming and Kim 'n' Kelly's outstanding guitar work took this fucker into the Stratosphere here. Mr. Mora, wherever the heck you are now, I heartily thank you for clue-ing me in to this outstanding slab of vinyl!