Back in 1975, Enid Williams (vocals, bass guitar) and Kim McAuliffe (rhythmn guitar, vocals), started an all female rock band called Painted Lady, named after a track on Elton John’s ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ album. Rehearsals began in the shed at the bottom of Kim’s garden and graduated to the pigeon hut at Fred Williams’ favourite drinking hole, The Leather Bottle. Soon the girls were going down a storm on the local pub scene, with a weekly slot at The Castle in Tooting and The Two Brewers in Clapham and attracted national press. The group went through went through many lineup changes from Deirdre Cartwright on Fender Strat to Texan Kathy Valentine on rhythm guitar – soon to be bassist of the Go-Go’s. With Val Lloyd on drums, Kelly Johnson completed the lineup alongside Enid and Kim, joining the band in late ’77. In February ’78 they went into the studio to record two songs – a cover version of ‘Let’s Spend the Night Together’ and a new original song, ‘Just Don’t Care’.
‘Denise Dufort used to come and see us and that’s how we met. Enid Williams and I decided we wanted to take the band further. Deirdre Cartright (lead guitarist of Painted Lady) wanted to go off in another direction so we needed a guitarist and drummer; of course, Denise was perfect! We met up at my mum and dad’s place where I was living. Enid lives 10 doors down on the same road; she never left and Girlschool was born!!’ – Kim McAuliffe
Denise Dufort, who Enid and Kim know from the punk scene, replaced Val in the April and the band became ‘Girlschool’, inspired by the B-side of Paul McCartney’s Wings’ million selling single, ‘Mull of Kintyre’. They hit the road soon after playing venues around France, Ireland and the UK and in December ’78 released their first single, ‘Take it All Away’. The independent City Records label was started on the back of the punk rock explosion of the ’70s by Phil Scott. Enid and Kim had befriended him at their very first gig at ‘The Rock’ youth club down at their local church hall back in ’75.
‘A friend of ours started up his own record company City Records and asked if we wanted to do a single. Of course we said yes and there we were one afternoon in Soho in a dingy basement that smelled damp, recording our first single! I remember it was a really sunny day and as we came out of the dark cellar blinking in the sunlight there was John Peel, the great DJ, standing there chatting to someone from the studio who then introduced us to him! He then went on to play our single on his Radio 1 Show!’ – Kim McAuliffe
The track, inspired by the Rolling Stones, was written by Kim with Enid taking the lead on vocals. It was picked up by Motorhead’s manager Doug Smith, leading to the support slot on Lemmy and the boys’ ‘Overkill’ tour in the spring of ’79
‘Not only were Girlschool an excellent band, they were really feisty … Girlschool’s guitarist, Kelly Johnson, was as good as any guitarist I’ve ever seen in my life … So I went down to see them at a rehearsal they were having. I thought they were great, and I went back and told the others, ‘They’re coming on tour.’ The boys were a bit weird about it at first, but after the first night they played with us, they shut up.’ – Lemmy
‘At that time we were touring all over the place in our old Bedford van (which we stole from my mum and dad!!) sleeping on our gear and having a riot!! One day we heard that Lemmy of Motorhead had heard our single and liked it and wanted to meet us! … we had their first single, ‘Motorhead’, and they looked a bit scary in their photos to say the least!! Lemmy came down to a rehearsal and we clicked straight away, he wasn’t as scary as he looked!! They asked us to support them on their first major British tour – Overkill – and the rest is history!! – Kim McAuliffe
A major European tour followed, and soon after Girlschool signed to Gerry Bron’s Bronze Records label alongside Motorhead and Uriah Heep, with whom they would also go on to tour with in 1980. The album ‘Demolition’ was to be the groups first outing and featured the timeless classics associated with the band, ‘Emergency’ and ‘Race with the Devil’. Soon the Girls were on a European tour with Rush and enjoying four sellout nights supporting Black Sabbath (featuring Dio’s debut) at Hammersmith Odeon.
Lemmy: ‘Girlschool were at Rickmansworth, making a record with Vic Maile. It was Vic’s idea to have Motorhead and Girlschool record a single together. The song we did was ‘Please Don’t Touch’, which was originally recorded by one of my favourite groups of days past, Johnny Kidd and the Pirates. This cover wound up being part of a record called The St. Valentines Day Massacre EP, which was released on 14 February. The flipside had us doing the Girlschool tune, ‘Emergency’ (Eddie’s second vocal), and also the girls covering ‘Bomber.’ Denise Dufort played drums on all those tracks, since Phil couldn’t. That single turned out to be the biggest hit either Motorhead or Girlschool ever had in the British singles chart. It went to number 5, and we went on Top of the Pops, billed as ‘Headgirl’. Although Denise played the drums on the show, Philthy made an appearance, dancing around and adding a back-up vocal or two.
About a week before that Top of the Pops appearance, both Motorhead and Girlschool were filmed in concert for a Nottingham TV show called Rockstage. It was held at the Theatre Royale.’
The next album, ‘Hit and Run’, went on to be Girlschool’s most successful. In Canada the two first albums were combined under the ‘Hit and Run’ title and led to the release going Gold. 1981 was also the year when Girlschool headlined the Friday Night at Reading Festival to the band’s largest audience yet.
to be continued … !!!