Forest Nations. Brussels 1983 NEIL JEFFFRIES
HAVING secured this warm-up slot on the continental leg of Rainbow’s 1982 World Tour our heroines stood poised to climb another rung up the ladder of fame. Here in this marvelous circular hall they probably did just that but still something seemed to be missing. In their performance Girlschool seemed to be only halfway there. It was probably down to set pacing. Perhaps they’ll never be a great band but live they are nearly always entertaining. If the set were organised a little better then everything could be different.
‘Screaming Blue Murder’ was a powerful enough starter with Gil Weston stretching up to sing into her mike like a smaller and far prettier version of Lemmy. But then they lost ground for a couple of numbers until ‘When Your Blood Runs Cold’ and its neat harmony vocals on the chorus. The excellent ‘You Got Me’ was powerfully followed by ‘Hit And Run’ with Kim pounding out that grinding riff in mean style and Gil grinning broadly at some nutter on his mate’s shoulders waving a Union Jack at her. (There was about 300 British present after making the long journey by coach.)
As musicians the band have clearly improved 100-fold in the past four years or so and Kelly in particular has blossomed into a very fine guitarist with a touch of class to complement that racy live-wire aggression. In ‘Future Flash’ she fumed up trumps with an inspired lead break. Yet elsewhere inspiration was sadly lacking. “Take It All Away” is a good song but the extended sing-along just threw cold water on the impetus Girlschool had built. ‘Race With the Devil’ and ‘Tush’ are both great songs but why still cover them?
Fortunately they got it right in the end by closing with their riotous anthem ‘Emergency’ (still sounding terrific) and so tipped the balance. The matches and lighters routine and sufficient foot stomping managed to call them back for ‘Come On Let’s Go’. But too often they were teetering on a fine line and making things unnecessarily hard for themselves.
Live Review – Country Club, Los Angeles, Feb. 1983. Review by Laura Canyon
Don’t know what the current attitude of the press is towards Girlschool (hey, I don’t read this stuff: I just look at the pictures, preferably Michael Schenker in leather pictures, but that’s a whole other review), but seeing as how they’ve been going and doing okay for quite a while now, I imagine that at least some of the attitude’s unfavourable. Time to bitch. Time to knock them off their critic’s favourite pedestal to make room for new heroines (though lord only knows which new heroines: in HM they’re still, unfortunately, in short supply). All I know is what my ears and eyes and bar bill at the end of an evening at the Country Club told me: Girlschool haven’t last any of it – They’re a knockout!
Pandemonium, a local four-piece with some good hooks (not to mention good looks! You should have seen the army of teenage girls they brought with them) are finishing up when I arrive and, after a short interval while the girls change into something a little more uncomfortable, like tight, shiny black leather stuff aimed at wreaking havoc on impressionable young Californian male minds, on they trot to the strains of Julie Andrews crooning ‘The Sound Of Music’. The Country Club explodes in an uproar as a thousand people with exceptional taste in music squeeze past the neat black tables and down to the stand-up section at the front to get a better view.
‘Screaming Blue Murder’, starts it off, with the accompanying howls of delight from the front rows, solid hefty stuff with a tasteful guitar lick – none of this mindless blur axe diddling! – from the still lovely Kelly Johnston. Gil, Kim and Kelly line up together for a grinding guitar bash, then it’s straight into ‘Play Dirty’, tough but with nice harmonies, and a “love song”, ‘Hit And Run’ and that gets a few of the album tracks out of the way!
Kim’s in fine voice – nothing fancy, just straight-down-the-line and effective, as always – and Kelly does a nice job on the songs she gets to sing on. Gil generally cavorts around, winding the boys up in her little Pocohontas outfit, and Denise is an animal back there on the drums.
It’s the usual basic, controlled mayhem you expect from a Girlschool gig – drink gets spilled onstage, guitars go out of tune, boys get hauled off by bouncers as they get carried away down the front, but nothing seems to stop the girls’ good-natured stance and strong playing. No lie, it sounded like more than four people up there more than once.
Most of the songs are short, direct, almost like HM-ed pop songs though the biggest response of the evening probably went to their notorious cover of ZZ Top’s ‘Tush’, with Kim making sure that everybody clapped, punched and ‘Tush’-ed along.
Their constant slogging around the US seems to be paying off – they’re playing bigger clubs over here now with more people in them – and if they’re still not exactly a household name, they’re certainly getting there.
Live Review – Marquee, London July 1983. Review by Malcome Dome
PLUS CA chance, plus c’est la meme chose. No, fear not mayhemsters, Girlschool haven’t been bitten by a culture bug. It’s just my way of telling all of ‘you lot out there’, that nothing has changed with this band in the year or so since I last clapped eyes and ears on them at Newcastle City Hall.
As on that occasion, the same strenghts shone on through and the same weaknesses blundered unmistakably forth.
Let’s begin with the positive. As a club level performance, this was superb entertainment. Even Xavier Russell’s noted ‘King Lears’ were seen to give a metaphorical thumbs up sign. Wonderfully tacky (the band not Russell!), sparkingly inept, da goils immediately had the measure of the sauna-style conditions, giving the sweating throng what they wanted with a safe, solid set of oldies such as ‘Sceaming Blue Murder’, ‘Take It All Away’, ‘Hit And Run’, ‘Nothin’ To Lose’, ‘Demolition Boys’ and the inevitable ‘Emergency.’ All good stuff heartily received by a crowd who were made to realise that Kim, Kelly, Denise and Gil are still a potential force to be reckoned with.
But – yeah there has to be a but – the band delivered in a manner that suggested that they’ve not yet learnt to make the jump from a small pond into a big ocean. Sure, this was a ‘Special Marquee Anniversary Appearance’, but the gals did not adapt their approach to suit the ‘intimate’ conditions so much as run through their usual style. There was little indication that there was more to them than was dished out tonight. I got the feeling that here were Girlschool in their entirety and consequently lacking true status.
It showed particularly during Kim’s between song raps. Punctuating each sentence with a dedication to ‘you lot down there’ used to be fun and amusing, but it’s rapidly becoming tedious. And the one new song played ‘Running For Cover’ was worryingly ordinary. Uf that’s an example of what we can expect vinylly from them later on this year, then I can’t honestly see the longed for commercial breakthrough coming to fruition.
Girlschool have reached the crossroads. Either the carry on ploughing the same furrow and drift into an eventual break-up, or else they get themselves together and go for th ‘big one’. I know they’re capable of enormous things, the question is do they!!
Live review, Dingwalls, London August 1984. Review by Mick Wall
MOST HARD-CORE Girlschool fans swallowed a bitter pill when the pristine ‘Play Dirty’ album surfaced last year. Despite its glossy upmarket sleeve and smoothed musical advancement many, including myself, detected a definite air of disenchantment with the final product.
The trouble with progression is that you can often leap too far. Fortunately Girlschool have realised that mistake and, judging by this low key (actually more of a showcase) performance, they seem keen to remedy matters as fast as they can.
Between a densely packed mass of bobbing shoulders, banging heads and flying hair (in stifling heat), the new look Girlschool strutted their stuff in pioneering fashion. Whilst never having been a converted fan (I couldn’t handle the screeches!), this gig brought a response out of me that under normal conditions I would have found disturbing. But hell, I wasn’t even drunk!
Immediate reactions were focussed almost exclusively on new front lady Jackie Bodimead. Apart from her captivating looks and sexual appeal, this young wench has definitely got the goods and she knows how to deliver them. Alternating between stage centre (teasing) and a bank of keyboards (practically inaudible from where I was standing), she not only proved that her appointment was wildly successful, but also necessary.
Kelly’s replacement (a horrible description I know), the sultry looking Chris Bonacci, scored high on marks too. She’s hot, she’s young and she’s already on her way to becoming a fine axe heroine.
Obviously nervous at first, the big sisters – that’s Kim, Denise and Gil – loosened up mid-set to coast home in traditional fashion by pulling out a selection of their best oldies, soaked in Aerosmith-style swank. Pick of the bunch were; ’20th Century Boy’, Surrender’, ‘Take It All Away’, ‘Emergency’ and ‘Burning In The Heat’. Girlschool are back re-acquainting themselves with old friends and making a lot of new ones. Count me in.
Album And Single Reviews
‘1-2-3-4 Rock’N’Roll’ (Bronze)
You’ll either love this or loathe it because it sounds like Joan Jett/Gary Glitter – unashamedly commercial and featuring one of the crassest choruses I’ve ever heard, but it’s so corny I love it! It s also just daft enough to be a monster hit. Altogether now. let’s hear you singing along to this one.
GIRLSCHOOL: ’20th Century Boy’ (Bronze) Steve Joule 1983
I really love some of Girlschool’s own songs but rather than cover dead pop stars’ numbers they should make a big effort and cover their own. God, these girls have written better classics than this stood on their heads. I’m really sorry; I wanted to like this record so much, and I have tried, but it just doesn’t cut it.
GIRLSCHOOL ‘Burning In The Neat’ (Bronze) 1983
This has a great production and is very cleverly done. I think it’s the most commercial record they’ve ever made. The beginning is rather like Bach but it quickly switches into a guitar riff similar to ‘You Really Got Me’ from the Kinks.
The vocals aren’t especially great, but then that’s never been a strong point with Girlschool.
Enid William 1981
Chris Bonacci 1985