KERRANG! ISSUE 4 – OCT 1981
THE GIRL ARE BACK IN TOWN an interview with Phil Lewis by Pete Makowski
GIRL ARE BACK!
After a much too long hiatus from this crazy business where at times it seemed almost certain that the groups days were numbered – with tales of the band being dropped by their management – Girl made a surprise comeback by playing two nights at the Marquee (their first live shows this year).
And judging by the crazed, enthusiastic response from the audience, they are back with a vengeance. With and album and single due to be released sometime in October the boys are definitely back in the saddle, and about time too!
Sure, initially it seemed like this group had conned their way into this business, with stories of them singing a contract on the strength of a video, when they barely knew how to stick a guitar lead into a socket.
There’s no doubt that their company did pull every string to make sure they were noticed. Ask lead singer Phil Lewis, he’ll admit that and more.
But the fact is, what once may have stunk of high powered hyping has now become a fully fledged band and the two sold out nights at the Marquee proved that without a shadow of a doubt.
They played some of the meanest, hard edged heavy rock that you’re likely to hear this side of Van Halen. It was rock and roll played with the sass and class sophistication of groups like Aerosmith in their heyday and without makeup too!
With a new drummer in tow, replacing the illustrious Brillo, in the form of Pete Barnacle (ex Gillan, Broken Home) they stunned their fans with a repertoire which in no way indicated that they hadn’t been on stage together for almost a year.
Both guitarists Phil Collen and Gerry Laffy have become much tighter, more fluid and dymanic, while bassist Simon Laffy along with Barnacle provided a solid rocksteady backdrop for an overall sound that proves once and for all that Girl have learnt to play their instruments.
Out front Lewis looks less limp, more powerful. He is still brash and as cocksure as ever but his performance relies more on vocals than sheer visuals.
The new material is years ahead of their first album ‘Sheer Greed’. The group now seem to know what they want to play, they have a direction, which they seemed to lack before.
Judging by the response of the audience, some of whom had come from as far as Manchester and Newcastle, they’ve made the right moves even though it’s taken so long.
“I really missed gigging at times, but it was really for a good reason, we were either recording or sorting out something else. But I must admit that it’s great to be working again,” announced a jubilant Lewis.
IN FACT since you last saw or read about Girl, they have by all accounts, gone through the Dante’s Inferno of the music business.
They lost their management, had altercations, with their label (which have now been settled more than amicably) and at one time there were a lot of people wandering around with a bitter taste of cynicism in their mouth.
Crippled by lack of funds some members were forced to move back home while others resorted to various hustles in order to exist for a living. But through it all Girl stuck together, which is quite admirable for a band so young in age and experience.
To a degree Phil now feels that he has benefited from his experience, in as much that it has strengthened his belief in the group and it’s given him a much clearer perspective of the business he’s working in. Mind you, I don’t think he would relish the thought of going through it all over again.
“I don’t believe that any band has had such a hard time as us. In a way I suppose we set ourselves up for it.” Lewis admitted when I interviewed him round at his less than modest abode.
“There are some people that we will never win back, because they didn’t want to know in the first place. That’s OK. I’m looking for a completely fresh audience along with the people from the old era. Whoever’s into it, great. I’m not trying to convert anybody. The change in the band was down to us, not because we were forced to change.”
The band were obviously pleased by the response they received at the Marquee, and the fact that they managed to pack the place proved the group still have quite a strong, almost cultlike following.
“Well we have got people who are into the band and we haven’t played for so long I don’t think they knew what to expect, but they still turned up. The interesting thing was that not one person came up to me after and said “well, what happened to the make up?” They didn’t even notice we weren’t wearing it.
“The whole make up/hype thing has gone. I think a lot of bands when they want to go on and do something they can’t do very well hide behind masks, behind clothes and I guess we wore make up, but we got into a lot of trouble for it, too much trouble, ’cause it really isn’t that serious. But that’s all gone now.”
Phil admits that the group are still very image conscious.
“We have become quite fit. We want to come over strong and healthy….not straight. Image is important. We like rock and roll, hard rock, even Heavy Metal. But I don’t want to be the singer in the tight leather jeans and denim jacket. It’s important to come up with something new. I really want rock and roll to become fashionable again.”
Do you think that rock and roll is unfashionable at the moment?
“I don’t think it ever has been fashionable. You have the cult following but I want it to be as big as the Adam and the Ant thing and I want us to be the rock band that’s brought rock and roll back into fashion.”
What other bands do you categorise as R&R then?
“Van Halen, to a certain extent, they’ve done it in America, although they only have a strong cult following over here… it all comes down to singles”
Which is what Girl plan to release by the end of September. Called ‘Thru The Twilight’. Putting Philip’s comments about R&R aside for the moment, this number is about as heavy as they come, although its hook and melody (strongly reminiscent of Van Halen’s ‘Mean Streets’, as it happens) is strong enough to get commercial radio airplay.
The single is going to be a picture disc and I wondered if this wasn’t the sort of hype Girl were trying to avoid.
“I don’t know. Jet are only producing a certain amount of picture discs…yes that’s a hype but it’s better than a free patch. Actually I wanted to give away a free Durex with every single. I think picture discs are okay if someone is into the band, they can collect them whereas normal singles tend to get thrown away.
The new album is called “Wasted Youth” and depending on the reaction to both a series of British dates will follow. Both album and single were produced by Nigel Thomas, whose name you have probably seen on the last couple of Saxon releases.
“During our period in limbo we went to Japan, got some money and came back and recorded some demos. Originally we went to Nigel Thomas for some advice on management but when he heard the tapes he was so impressed that he managed to persuade Don (Arden, boss of Jet Records) to do something with the band.
“We had developed and matured. I think people thought we would break up when we were having a hard time. When everything went quiet a lot of people thought ‘that’s the end of them’. No chance. Jet could see our standard of writing had improved, we had been influenced by all kind of things.
“While we weren’t gigging we were seeing a lot of shows, meeting up with a lot of bands and doing sessions, and we learnt a lot of things from it, musically. We also had plenty of time to do demos as we weren’t having pressure put on us to bring product out.
“Phil was playing with a few bands, new bands that wanted him to play guitar and produce. Gerry was working with his brother who is a jazz musician. I was just writing, meeting writers. There’s this person called Fran Landesman, she’s a poet, well a lyricist. She has written a lot of really good stuff. We’ve been getting into some of that.
“I’ve also been selling cars! I love selling cars, it’s kept me going.”
Would you buy a used car from this man?
Apart from some forthcoming shows with the mighty Ozzy Osbourne, the band would also like to stop doing support gigs and not for the obvious egotistical reasons…
“It’s usually a waste of time and money because people usually go to shows to see the main band. I would rather play to a much smaller audience that were into the band, than play a huge hall where they don’t like us, the way we look and the way we sound. I can’t think of a classification for us.”
‘We Are A Rock And Roll Band’ is the title of one track off the new album. ‘Nice And Nasty’ is another.
And that just about sums girl up.
Kerrang! No. 9 Feb 1982
Girl “Wasted Youth” (Jet LP 238)
1. “Thru the Twilight” (P. Collen, P. Lewis) – 3:25
2. “Old Dogs” (G. Laffy, P. Lewis) – 3:40
3. “Ice in the Blood” (N. Graham) – 3:00
4. “Wasted Youth” (G. Laffy, P. Lewis) – 4:42
5. “Standard Romance” (G. Laffy, P. Lewis) – 3:58
6. “Nice ‘n’ Nasty” (N. Jack) – 3:07
7. “McKitty’s Back” (P. Collen, P. Lewis) – 4:04
8. “19” (P. Collen, G. Laffy, P. Lewis) – 4:49
9. “Overnight Angels” (P. Collen, G. Laffy, P. Lewis) – 4:06
10. “Sweet Kids” (P. Collen, P. Lewis) – 2:33
TWO YEARS ago Girl Emerged onto the British music scene with an auspicious debut in “Sheer Greed”. They gained nationwide exposure opening for UFO, but reaction to the band was somewhat indifferent. They were too often dismissed for their penchant for make-up and Britt Eckland associations.
Subsequently they were to endure constant hassles with management and their record company, resulting in a protracted absence of fresh vinyl product.
Here we are at the start of 1982 and once again Girl have been touring the country as support to UFO.
Their second album has finally surfaced but to be quite frank it’s rather disappointing. Although there are some good songs such as ‘Old Dogs’, ‘Ice In The Blood’ and the title track itself, these are hardly justified by the production.
In fact many of the sings could be heard better in demo form. It’s a pity because Girl always had the potential to score well. Their major problem has been establishing a direction for themselves – ‘Wasted Youth’ has done little to help them. Perhaps they’ll fins joy in the States where they’ll soon be playing, but I like to think they’d sort themselves out by the third album provided the record company bears with them. Don’t dismiss them yet!
Girl: St Georges Hall, Bradford 22/1/82 Karen Harvey:
GIRL – BIG in Japan, but then who isn’t? So far this band just haven’t been able to gain the respect of the British fans, even though they’ve had plenty of live exposure and have two respectable albums behind them. It seems that their image has failed them, and they’ve desperately tried to undo the damage their ‘mascara’ look has inflicted.
But this show was a different story. To say that their reception was warm would be like saying UFO were pedestrian! From the moment Phil Lewis (no sporting the rugged look, including leg warmers for street credibility) clambered and embraced himself on stage the hall became almost menacing! Was this the same Girl that died a death at Bristol? Well, it seems the British rock fan is still undecided whether it’s ‘hip’ to like these rather controversial but likeable characters.
Guitarists Gerry Laffy and Phil Collen deftly carried out some intricate fretwork in a set full of underrated songs from their two LP’s. ‘Hollywood Tease’, ‘Doctor, Doctor’ (no, not that one!) and ‘My Number’ held the interest as the crowd at least seemed familiar with the material. But the best of the new ‘Wasted Youth’ material was received with the same enthusiasm.
Does this now qualify Girl for being ‘Big In Bradford’ as well?
KERRANG! ISSUE 17 June 3-16, 1982
GIRL – Marquee, London – DAVE DICKSON.
SOME THREE years ago I was dragged in front of a speaker and played ‘My Number’, a song by an unknown group called Girl. I fell instantly for the swirling Mick Ronson-style guitar and have counted myself a fan ever since. Progress in the Girl camp, however, has not run smoothly.
The band give living proof to the lie mat any publicity is good publicity. They’ve suffered immensely at the hands of an unsympathetic press; the activities of vocalist Phil Lewis and their original abortive image projection has hung like the proverbial albatross. Some people just never forgive.
Which is why, after two albums, numerous singles and assorted tours, Girl can still only headline places like the Marquee. They play hard, fast and loud, the three essential elements of good Metal with guitarists Gerry Laffy and Phil Cohen making energetic use of every pose in the book, but shamefully this does nothing to alter their image problem.
If Girl were to emerge now looking like they did in 1979 they would probably be a smash-hit. Timing is crucial in a volatile world like rock and Girl have simply never had it. While they can still fill the Marquee on a Thursday night and deliver a set oozing with power and aggression, they can’t claim the ability to repeat that in other major cities.
At this stage in their career the band need to re-evaluate their position and define their market If they ever want to expand beyond the club circuit. I just hope their EP sells..