Girlschool: "We weren’t trying to fit in with the guys, we were being ourselves"
They rocked hard on record, caused mayhem with Motörhead on the road, and cared about only one thing: the music. Welcome to the world of Girlschool
There had been other all-girl groups, but none of them meant shit compared to Girlschool, one of the all-time great British rock bands, male or female. Sure, Janis Joplin had broken the mould: not good-looking enough to be dismissed as just another cute doll, Joplin, with her lion’s mane voice and fuck-you Texas attitude, was seen as ‘one of the boys’ – not quite the huge compliment it was intended to be in the Cro-Magnon late-60s music scene.
Then there was Jefferson Airplane singer Grace Slick, the first person to use the word ‘motherfucker’ on US television, in 1969, and the year before that, the first woman to raise a Black Power fist at the end of another TV performance. But Grace was a former model, and even the beard-strokers of the North Beach poetry-beat-hippie crowd had a hard-on for her. She’d been married to the drummer of her previous band and was now shacked up with the guitarist in the Airplane, Paul Kantner. Grace was cool but she was still someone’s ‘old lady’.
Girlschool, whom I first met in 1980, weren’t like that. They came across as a genuine gang – they were nobody’s girlfriends. They were never ‘one of the boys’, although if you hung out with them, you might, if you were cool enough, become one of the girls.
“We had a lot of great men friends, like the guys in the UK Subs,” singer/guitarist and co-founder Kim McAuliffe says now. “But we weren’t trying to be them, we weren’t trying to fit in with the guys. Other than we were all musicians. It was about trying to be ourselves.”
That wasn’t as easy as it sounds in that pre-Aids, pre-‘alternative’ era of the late 70s, when the band first formed. There was the all-female American group Fanny, who were for real, but despite critical support, they never made the charts. Only punk, which gave birth to several very cool female artists, including one of the most groundbreaking female groups of all time in The Slits, came close to breaking the stereotypical mould.
So when Girlschool came along in 1980, hopes for their success were not high, despite giving as good as they got on Motörhead’s Overkill tour of 1979. That is until you got a load of their fabulously fun and riotously rocking debut album, Demolition – like Thin Lizzy meets Motörhead meets the craziest girl in school that all the boys are a bit scared of. On hot-groove tracks such as Emergency and Demolition Boys, they didn’t so much sound like they might scratch your eyes out as boot you in the balls and nick your beer.
“We wore jeans and leathers – real ones, not made-up costumes. Our actual street gear. It was all about the music. If you couldn’t relate to us on that level, you could fuck off, basically,” McAuliffe laughs.