GIRLSCHOOL & MOTÖRHEAD - EQUALITY IN METAL
Updated: Apr 20
From the beginning - the late sixties and early seventies - heavy metal has been a hyper-masculine world starring bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Rainbow, among others. Although today there is no precise consensus as to which was the first heavy metal band, some consider these three English bands as pioneers of the genre. Since that time, the space for female voices was ideologically narrow, if not impossible. Women have always had to shout a little louder to be heard. Finally, the screams were heard - if only it a decade after the "birth" of the genre. That cry was called "Girlschool", and fortunately, much has changed in heavy metal since that time.
"We made a girl band simply because no boy wanted to play with us."
In 1978, the English band formed by Kim McAuliffe, Enid Williams, Kelly Johnson, and Denise Dufort, began to be part of the NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) movement, to differentiate themselves from the "old" wave of heavy metal bands like the ones mentioned above. "We made a girl band simply because no boy wanted to play with us", Kim Mcauliffe said in the booklet of one of her albums.
That same year the Girlschool released their first single "Take it all away", which immediately circulated in the English underground scene, reaching the ears of Ian Kilmister, better known as "Lemmy", leader of British group Motörhead, a band that at that time was already cataloged as one of the most important and recognized of the genre. From the first moment he heard them, he was fascinated, and in an interview, he confessed to Crypt Magazine how excellent they seemed to him: "All of these [female] bands, people treat them like second-class citizens because they're chicks. There's all this, 'Show us your tits, and we'll give you a gig.' And all of that shit. It's really like, poor."
Both bands came together under the pseudonym "Headgirl".
In 1979 the group led by Lemmy Kilmister invited the Girlschool to play with them in the tour of their successful album Overkill (1979). Sometime later, precisely in December 1980, both bands joined under the pseudonym "Headgirl" to record three tracks as part of an EP entitled "St. Valentine's Day Massacre". Within this album were songs like "Please Don't Touch", a single that took the four English girls to the top of the British charts for the first time, reaching number five in the UK Singles Charts.
"When I find good women rockers, I'll lend them a hand. I'll never get any kind of credit for helping advance women in rock 'n' roll, but I have."
Lemmy about Girlschool
We are talking about a time and a musical genre, which - although we want to paint it in a lighter color - we cannot deny it having been very stereotypically masculine. However, Motörhead was a band that in that context lend a hand to a "new" group, consisting entirely of "womxn". Two aspects to a band that at that time were criticized heavily, in fact, the collaboration between these two bands was described by the press as "the beginning of a worrying trend by Motörhead to get involved in projects that were under them". Additionally, they were called "sexist", something that many years later, Lemmy answered in his autobiography "White Line Fever": "When I find good women rockers, I'll lend them a hand. I'll never get any kind of credit for helping advance women in rock 'n' roll, but I have."
That respect and confidence among colleagues was the impetus that Girlschool needed at the time to start a successful career, later taking them on tour with great bands of the genre as Black Sabbath, Rush, among many others, besides achieving a very big commercial success with their first album "Demolition" (1980). Since the early eighties, the four English women began to occupy a very respected place within that world that was formerly only known for having male references. To this day, Girlschool continues to play together, despite having had some changes since the original formation. On the other hand, Motörhead's career on stage was extinguished in December 2015, after the death of its leader, just 17 days after its last concert in Berlin.
Without a doubt, Motörhead's support became an essential part in the Girlschool's career, not only helping them but also pushing them to go on stage in a music genre where womxn were not a part of (let's be honest), giving way to what undoubtedly became the first act of equality of peers in this very passionate music genre.