Always a Girlschool
Enid Williams – Kelly Johnson – Kim McAuliffe – Denise Dufort
“I went to an early rehearsal and was surprised how well (Girlschool) played their instruments – how terribly chauvinistic of me. None of them were particularly good looking, although from a distance Kelly Johnson looked like that Charlie’s Angels’ actress, Farrah Fawcett, but there was something about them…” –Gerry Bron
In 1975, school friends and neighbours from Wandsworth, South London, Kim McAuliffe (rhythm guitar, vocals) and Dinah ‘Enid’ Williams (bass, vocals) formed an all-girl rock cover band called Painted Lady, together with Tina Gayle on drums. Deirdre Cartwright joined the new band on lead guitar, Val Lloyd replaced Gayle on drums and they started playing the local pub scene.
“The reason we were all girls was we couldn’t find any blokes who wanted to play with us! This was the natural thing to do”, McAuliffe explained to Gary Graff in 1997 about the all-female composition of the band.
McAuliffe and Williams were still willing to pursue a musical career to escape their day jobs in a bank and a bakery and reformed the band, recruiting lead guitarist Kelly Johnson and drummer Denise Dufort in April 1978. The new line-up changed their name to Girlschool, taking it from the B-side of the hit single “Mull of Kintyre” (1977) by Paul McCartney & Wings and immediately hit the road, touring small venues in France, Ireland and Great Britain.
In December 1978, Girlschool released their first single, “Take It All Away”, on the independent record label City Records, owned by Phil Scott, a friend of the band.
“One day you’re up, next day you’re down,
Nothing you can do but just stay around
Trying to do your best,hoping they’re impressed,
But can you hurry up
‘cause you wanna know who’s next”
Oooo, they’re gonna take it all away
The single had some radio airplay and circulated in the underground scene, coming to the ear of Ian Kilmister, commonly known as Lemmy, leader of the British rock band Motörhead, who wanted to meet the band. Lemmy, together with Motörhead and Hawkwind manager Doug Smith, went to see the band performing live and offered them a support slot on Motörhead’s Overkill tour in the spring of 1979.
This 1981 cover song was a collaboration between Girlschool and Motörhead and the most successful release for both bands at the time.
The band entered the recording studio with experienced producer Vic Maile in April 1980. Girlschool released their debut album, Demolition, in June 1980,alongside the singles “Emergency”, “Nothing to Lose” and “Race with the Devil“. Demolition reached No.28 in the UK Album Chart in July 1980.
“We’re a bunch of fun-loving, ordinary people and that’s the image we always like to present.” – Kim McAuliffe
Demolition (1980) – Hit and Run (1981) – Screaming Blue Murder (1982) – Play Dirty (1983) – Running Wild (1985) – Nightmare at Maple Cross (1986) – Take a Bite (1988) – Girlschool (1992) – 21st Anniversary: Not That Innocent (2002) – Believe (2004) – Legacy (2008) – Hit and Run – Revisited (2011)
Bernadette Jean “Kelly” Johnson (20 June 1958 – 15 July 2007)
Johnson died on Sunday 15 July 2007, aged 49, after a six-year battle against spinal cancer. The fact she had this disease was not widely known outside her close circle of friends and family. At Kelly’s memorial, her friend and former bandmate Tracey Lamb read the eulogy she had written for her:
“ It doesn’t shock or surprise me that there are so many of you here today for Kelly because Kelly touched all of our hearts with her love, friendship, her amazing persona and the way she inspired so many of us to take up or continue to play music. She was a true rock star, her agility on stage and when recording, her prolific song writing and strong delivery in every performance will always be remembered.