Heavy Metal Heroines: Motörhead’s fellow UK gal pals Girlschool were “Running Wild” in 1985

By on October 15, 2019

We’re paying another visit to this installment of “Heavy Metal Heroes” — it originally aired on October 25, 1985, and you’ll now find it streaming on Night Flight Plus — which featured Motörhead‘s fellow UK gal pals Girlschool, who were “Running Wild” as a hard rockin’ quintet after the departure of their lead guitarist Kelly Johnson.

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“Running Wild” was a single from their album of the same name, released on February 1, 1985, in the U.S. only.

Running Wild — which also featured a cover of KISS‘s “Do You Love Me?,” from Destroyer — was produced by Nick Tauber, who’d previously worked with Thin Lizzy, Marillion and Toyah.

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Girlschool — Kim McAuliffe (vocals/guitar), Kelly Johnson (guitar), Enid Williams (bass) and Denise Dufort (drums) — originally formed in London, England, in the mid-70s as Painted Lady before opting for their far-more suggestive moniker.

Right from the start, Girlschool set out to prove that women could rock as hard as the predominantly male heavy metal bands — like Iron Maiden, Def Leppard and Saxon — in the UK’s New Wave of British Heavy Metal scene.

Unlike these other bands, Girlschool were even mocked openly for their gender, which certainly wouldn’t fly had they formed in 2019 instead of 1977.

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In Lemmy Kilmister‘s autobiography, written with Janiss Garza — White Line Fever: The Autobiography — Motörhead’s main man claimed he’d never been given the credit he felt he deserved for helping to advance women in rock ‘n’ roll, citing Girlschool as an example:

“They were never that well known in the States, but in England they were quite popular for awhile. In March 1979, when we began our Overkill tour, our first big outing, really, they were our opening act. A lot of their early success came from their association with us, and they would up being quite an asset for us too.”

“It was one of the guys in our office, Dave ‘Giggles’ Gilligan, who found Girlschool originally. The band was from Tooting, south London. I listened to a single called ‘Take It All Away’ that they’d put out on some little label and thought they were fucking excellent.”

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“Plus, I liked the idea of of girls being in a band — I wanted to stick it up these pompous bastard guitarists’ asses, because Girlschool’s guitarist, Kelly Johnson, was as good as any guitarist I’ve eve seen in my life. The nights when she was really on, she was as good as Jeff Beck.”

“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 would end up getting the all-female kick-ass band signed to his band’s label, Bronze, and their management company, and soon they too were making regular appearances on BBC TV’s “Top Of The Pops,” and in the pages of Sounds and Kerrang! magazine.

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During Christmas of 1980, Motörhead and Girlschool recorded their St. Valentine’s Day Massacre EP.

All three songs — “Please Don’t Touch” b/w “Emergency”/”Bomber” — were credited to MotörheadGirlschool, or “Headgirl.” The photo on the front of the 7-inch sleeve featured both bands dressed up like 1920s-era gangsters and their molls. On the back, the girls have mowed down Lemmy, “Fast” Eddie and Philthy Animal, who is credited with “Insults & Inspiration.”

Lemmy also says that a couple of the members of Girlschool were “real handfuls.” He singles out Kelly Johnson, who he says “could behave almost like Keith Moon.”

“She used to get drunk so she couldn’t even seen and then try to take baths and fall over in the tub, shit like that.”

Girlschool & Motörhead cover Johnny Kidd & The Pirates’ “Please Do Not Touch” on TV in 1981

Read more about Girlschool below.

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Girlschool’s Hit and Run (1981) — the second of four albums released on the Bronze Records label — is generally considered their definitive release.

It was followed by Screaming Blue Murder (1982) and Play DIrty (1983), which had the distinction of being produced by Noddy Holder and Jim Lea of the classic UK glam-rockers Slade.

Speaking of glam, in the mid-’80s, the band teamed up with one-time ’70s glam icon Gary Glitter for a re-make of his classic hit, “I’m the Leader of the Gang (I Am).”

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By this time, Girlschool were playing major UK concert festivals like the Reading Festival, and touring America for the first time, which led to them signing to Mercury Records, the U.S. arm of Polydor.

The band struggled on after the departure of original bassist Williams, to be replaced by Ghislaine “Gil” Weston-Jones (and then Traci or maybe Tracey Lamb and Jackie Carrera over the years).

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Then again, in 1985, the band struggled to remain intact after the departure of lead guitarist Kelly Johnson.

Lemmy, writing in his memoir, reveals that Johnson had had fallen in love with the Runaways’ Vicki Blue and moved to the States to be with her.

The reshuffled lineup now featured vocalist/keyboardist Jackie Bodimead and guitarist Cris Bonacci, both from the band She.

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Bodimead and McAuliffe shared the lead vocals on the keyboard-heavy album Running Wild, not generally considered on of the band’s best efforts.

Sadly, guitarist Kelly Johnson died in 2007 of cancer.

Watch “Heavy Metal Heroes” — which also features mind-melting mid-80s video classics from the likes of April Wine (“Rock Myself To Sleep”), Helix “The Kids Are All Shakin'”), Alcatrazz and W.A.S.P. — on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.