Sunday, February 26, 2006

Girls Rock

There are some things you can't cover up / With lipstick and powder / Well, I heard you mention my name / Can't you talk any louder?
-- Nick Lowe, "Girls Talk"

Girlschool, The Very Best of Girlschool, Sanctuary

I've been in love with Suzi Quatro and Joan Jett for awhile now, so it was inevitable that I'd get around to Girlschool (1978-1992). Granted, there's a fine line between hard rock and heavy metal. Much as I may dig Ms. Jett, I was never a big fan of sexed-up ex-bandmate Lita Ford. Except for "Kiss Me Deadly" (Ford's take on Generation X), that metal chick thing wasn't for me. Jett only looked metal, but she was--and is--straight-up rock and roll. Her covers make that clear: "Woolly Bully," "Hanky Panky," et al. ("I love rock and roll" indeed.) I put off listening to Girlschool as I assumed they were metal. But I was curious, especially after reading Lemmy's great auto-bio White Line Fever, in which he had nothing but nice things to say about the female foursome.

To judge by The Very Best, Girlschool had more of a hard rock thing going on--with a glam-rock edge to it, much like Quatro (aka "Leather Tuscadero"), Jett, and the Runaways. This collection, for instance, contains a fun cover of Gary Glitter's "I'm the Leader of the Gang" featuring the man himself (although more people are probably familiar with Jett's romping-stomping Glitter re-do, "Do You Wanna Touch?"). In Joe Geesin's liner notes, he also mentions that Slade's Noddy Holder and Jimmy Lea produced their fourth album, 1983's Play Dirty, which features T-Rex's "20th Century Boy." In addition, they tackled Sweet's "Fox on the Run" for 1988's Take a Bite, but it is, unfortunately, a no-show.

To be fair, Girlschool's love of the guitar solo could be considered a metal trait, and there are a few solos here. They're not bad, but I wouldn't miss 'em if they went away. The British quartet's look, on the other hand--much like Motörhead and the Ramones--straddled that other fine line between hard rock and punk. (Okay, they had a thing for spandex, but dig those leather jackets.) Naturally, their musicianship was superior to that of the teenaged Runaways, but nor were they as hard or as fast as Lemmy's crew. (If it sounds like I'm knocking the Runaways, I am, but there'll always be a place in my heart for "Cherry Bomb.") And speaking of Lemmy, he once dated the Runaways' Vickie Blue, so it's all relative with these rockin' combos, although he was pretty bummed when she left him for a woman...and just as bummed when she married a man. But I digress!

While I realize it isn't fair to judge a band's career based on a "best of," it's all I've got at the moment, so I'll just say that fans of any of the artists I've mentioned would do wise to check it out. At the very least, Motörhead aficionados may want to give a listen as the disc features "Please Don't Touch," an appealing collaboration between the two, appropriately released as Headgirl. According to Geesin, the track hit the top five in the UK. Girlschool recorded Motörhead's "Bomber" for the B-side (Motörhead, in turn, covered "Emergency"), while Take a Bite features the Lemmy co-written "Head Over Heels." Alas, neither number is featured on The Very Best of Girlschool. Nor is their version of ZZ Top's "Tush," from 1981's Hit and Run. Clearly, a two-CD set would have served Girlschool better, but for now, this will do.

You stick around long enough / And I'll give you some lip /
And it'll stick.
-- Suzi Quatro, "Lipstick"

Endnote: I suppose I'm expected to say something about Glitter's sex crimes, but I'd rather not. Anyone can Google all the unsavory details. It's sad and it's sordid, but I'm all about the Glam and I'd prefer to remember the tight-trousered one for ravers like "Rock & Roll, Pt. Two." Girlschool and Runaways images from the AMG. Quatro lyrics from Oldies Lyrics, Lowe lyrics from memory.

No comments: