Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Girlschool - Hella Cool

Way back in 1980, Girlschool actually got airplay on MTV, usually late at night during the heavy metal moments. I confess, I was intimidated by these British lasses. Their videos were dimly lit, local-dive atmospheric affairs. In that mysterious hard-to-explain way that music can give you an emotional punch in the gut, I always felt that if I pissed these girls off they might hit me with pool cues. Like when you hear Smoke On The Water and can't help feeling like a badass; Girlschool made me feel like a potential victim of some unnamable violence.

I think several factors kept them from making it big in the States. For one thing, they were an all-girl metal band: unusual. But they didn't play really satanic, sludgy metal--they were more in the classic, hard-rock category. So they got kind of lost in all the other hard rock of that era (although not in Europe as far as I can tell). They shared lead vocal duties, which was democratic, but probably lost them media attention that traditionally tends to focus on singular charismatic singers. Weirdest of all, Girlschool didn't glam it up. Ever. They were tough-looking chicks who weren't playing up their femininity one bit. If you didn't like that: tough shit. I suspect that in 1980, we tended not to like that.

With her sleeveless T's, stretch pants, and fantastic rocker-chick hair, lead guitarist Kelly Johnson was the girl your eye went to every time, although she didn't overtly do anything to cause this to happen. That's the power of charisma. Tragically, she died last year of cancer. Her song C'mon Let's Go is my favorite--straight-up anthemic punk. She didn't need to glam it up--she was glam, naturally.

Girlschool is still going and has been with various line-ups for 30 years. I guess they're not going to quit it, 'til they hit it.

C'mon Let's Go - German TV, 1980 (bad sound quality but awesome, nonetheless)

Screaming Blue Murder - The Improv, Westwood, CA, 1982

Race With The Devil, 1980 (cover of a 1968 song by The Gun)

20th Century Boy - performing on some UK children's show; sorry, LOUD (T. Rex cover)

No comments: