Sunday Old School: Girlschool
Nowadays, heavy metal fans are pretty used to seeing women in bands. Arch Enemy, Lacuna Coil, Within Temptation to name some of the most successful. But in the late 1970s and early 1980s, heavy metal was seen as dominated by white males and bands were accused of scaring away potential female fans by having a macho image and misogynistic lyrics. However, this perception was changed, or at least altered somewhat by four women from London who called themselves, Girlschool. The band was originally a covers outfit named, Painted Lady but eventually decided to begin writing original material, taking their new name from the B-side of the hit song, "Mull Of Kintyre" by Wings. They released their first single, "Take It All Away" in 1978 and received some radio play, as well as a strengthened sense of enthusiasm from the British metal underground. Not least of the people to take an interest in the group was Motorhead main man Lemmy, who offered Girlschool a supporting slot on their "Overkill" tour. After supporting Welsh rock favourites, Budgie, the band auditioned for, and received, a record deal with Bronze Records.
The band then recorded their debut album, "Demolition," which was released in 1980. The album was well timed, as several other British heavy metal bands such as Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Motorhead all released albums which were wildly successful and helped the fledgling New Wave Of British Heavy Metal explode in popularity. "Demolition" was successful in and of itself too, reaching number 28 in the British album charts and featured some of the band’s best known work and saw Girlschool becoming one of the most popular bands in the movement. Their popularity continued to grow when they teamed up with Motorhead for an EP entitled, "St. Valentine’s Day Massacre" under the collective pseudonym, Headgirl, which reached number five in the British charts and featured the hit single, “Please Don’t Touch.” The band soon got back to their own work and released the album, "Hit And Run" in 1981, which was even more successful than it’s predecessor, reaching number five in the charts and earned the group supporting slots with the likes of Black Sabbath, Rainbow and Rush.
The success soon began to take it’s toll however, and bass player Enid Williams left the band after they released an EP named, "Wildlife." The departure of Williams and the somewhat watered down sound of their next album, "Screaming Blue Murder" damaged the band’s success to a degree, but they still remained an in demand live band. The band then attempted to break through in America like their fellow countrymen Def Leppard and Judas Priest had done, but ultimately proved to be unsuccessful in their efforts and saw poor figures in record sales afterwards, eventually leading the group to effectively disband for a years, though they never announced that they had broken up.
Girlschool eventually did begin touring again and decided to shift their focus onto such, with their 1992 self-titled album being their last studio release for ten years. They supported and toured with other bands from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement and performed at festivals such as Wacken Open Air for a decade before releasing a new album in 2002 entitled, "21st Anniversary: Not That Innocent," with another studio album, "Believe" following two years later. The band continued to tour in support of the release, despite it’s initial poor distribution and promotion, leading the band to re-release it in 2005 through their official website. The toured along with Vixen and later with Motorhead, as well as appearing at numerous festivals in Europe. The band were then dealt a blow in 2007, when original guitarist Kelly Johnson passed away after a six year battle with spinal cancer. The band then recorded a new album, "Legacy," which was largely a tribute to their fallen comrade, as well as a celebration of their thirtieth anniversary and since then have continued to tour across Europe, including yet another tour with Motorhead in 2009, which also featured punk legends The Damned. The band are currently working on a re-recording of their "Hit And Run" album, to celebrate it’s thirtieth anniversary.
Girlschool - "Yeah Right"
Girlschool - "Demolition Boys"
Girlschool - "Please Don't Touch" with Motorhead
Girlschool - "Play Dirty"
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.
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