I have all the Girlschool releases from the 80s and I can say without reservation that “Hit and Run” was the best thing they ever did. Every song is killer metal with innovative lead breaks and wonderful singing from Enid, Kim and Kelly. This is the best material that Kelly would contribute to Girlschool before her departure from the band.
I saw a lot of these tracks played in a TV concert on a late night rock TV show and the next day I was in the record store buying the vinyl album. I had been waiting for an all girl band to kick some serious butt with distorted guitars and melodic singing; it was the ideal band in my teen years. I had grown up with the raucous legend Suzi Quatro and the less heavy The Runaways who were pioneers of girl metal. Girlschool took it to the next level with intense riffs and shout out loud choruses. Kelly was a master on guitar and her voice was sultry but defiant. It was love at first sight for me when I saw her on that mini special with leopard skin top and low slung axe around her hips. The band were in their best line up on this second album; Enid Williams was a bassist but had a turn at the softer vocals when needed; Kim McAuliffe was the rhythm guitar who sung some songs but took over later as lead vocalist when Kelly departed; Denise Dufort stayed hidden behind her drums but was a real rebel off stage; and the incomparable lead vocalist, lead guitarist, Kelly Johnson, was always at her best during these early years of the band.
The album begins with the glorious chugging guitar that sounds like a car engine starting up and then revving into high gear and then the drums pound in and we are on our way with a grinding Motorhead style riff. Kelly is extraordinary, singing with attitude and with clean female vocals that hit you like a ton of bricks; “Speeding down the motorway, Let slow life pass us by, Another mile another day, some action in our lives, We're on our way, Living for today, C'mon let's go (Let’s go!)” The chorus, as was the trademark for the band, was raucous shouting designed to rev up any crowd. There is a crunching scratchy guitar rhythm that mimics the drum patterns as the guitars continue to rev like motorcars. The second verse is pure 80s metal, aggressive and focussed on pressing the pedal to the metal; “Engines screaming red hot rage, We're gonna reach an all time high, Speed crazed racer rip my mind, 'Cause you know you're gonna hit the sky” Kelly’s vocals are divine when she tears out these rockers. Denise is drumming her heart out throughout this metal banging classic. Brilliant.
Kelly was also capable of softer vocals such as on ‘The Hunter’ that was always a highlight on this album. It features a ‘Born to be Wild’ style riff and tempo. The lyrics are suggestive and sultry; “Tracking her down, with a dream kind of smile, Moving up closer....but something doesn’t feel right, touching her skin... you wonder if it’s all right and how did this begin, The Hunter...” The chorus is sung in whispers with an echo. The lead break is Kelly burning it up with very bluesy lead licks and some driving bass rhythms.
Other highlights are ‘Following the Crowd’ with a very strong drum beat and hypnotic groove. The title track is the powerful hit single with some awesome verses that stay in the head; “I was out in the cold, Alone in the night, How could I carry on? Felt so empty inside, All you gave me were promises, Nothing better than lies, Hit and run!” The single charted fairly well but they were never a singles band, though it did better than a lot of their previous singles it is fair to say.
I was always a fan of ‘Back to Start’ which is the slowest track but it has some fabulous guitar licks and one of the best lead breaks on the album. The lyrics are more thoughtful and sung with clean vocals from Enid; “Looking forward for my future, never could refuse, trying to find my motivation... nothing left for me, all I’m able to see, is I need some time, because I made up my mind, I’m back to start”. Love the way she sings this with depth and feeling.
‘Kick it Down’ is a fun song that just rocks along at a moderate pace with very distorted guitars crashing keeping a driving beat. The lyrics are again about standing up to the system and people who are against you; “Tired of people telling you what to do, Kick down the door still I gotta prove to you, I got the safe on my own, but I must get off my pride, You must keep on going till you reach the other side, Tell you what I'm going to do Kick it down!” The lead break is very good again with some fret melting licks.
‘Tush’ is a fun rocking cover version of the classic that many bands have covered and this sounds like the ZZ Top version. 'Im Your Victim' has some good melodic metal passages. 'Watch Your Step' has a memorable chorus and very cool metal guitars in the lead breaks. There is not a bad song on this.
One of the most popular Girlschool tracks is the raucous crazy ‘Yeah Right’ that always appeared in concert. The filmclip even featured Motorhead’s drummer appearing in ladies clothing, waving a rolling pin in the spoken section that mocks parental advice, with the standard teenage answer, and goes like this; “And don't forget, don't stop out too late again tonight... (yeah right)... I'm warning ya’...(yeah right)...And don't drink too much....(Yeah Right!)” The shout on the last part obviously means Girlschool are planning to do the opposite of the motherly advice. It is fun and has some very heavy guitars. Enid sings it very well and she is great on bass on this too. The verses basically explain the theme of rebelling against parents; “Hanging round the bar never getting very far, gonna let my sorrows drown, Leaning on the wall, 'till I start to fall, gonna get the vodka down, Better understand, gotta get it while I can, gonna have some fun tonight, I've done it all before but I still want more, gonna carry on til it's light, And they're always telling me, You can't do that, you can't do that...” This would be a running theme of Girlschool echoing the distrust and misery of their childhood years driving them to the rock scene, similar to The Runaways in many respects who also sung about leaving home despite parents pleading not to (listen to them on ‘Born to be Bad’ for a heart wrenching look at teenage runaways). I think Girlschool just wanted to have fun and rock hard and they did it without listening to what they should or should not be doing.
The last track on the vinyl version is the brilliant ‘Future Flash’ with a relentless guitar riff and Kelly beautifully elegant on vocals; “like a fish out of water, a scaly skin... don’t believe what they tell you, it’s only a lie, but you shouldn’t have to fight, live and let die, out to get you, they’re coming our way, out to get you!” I always loved these lyrics and I think many teens like me in the 80s, could relate to them. The lead break is scorching where Kelly performs hammer ons and speed licks to perfection. The refrain is interesting with Kelly whispering, “rock and roll rat race... they lower their voices to make us feel sad...” The ending of the song is backmasked vocals and it sounds bizarre and compelled me to play the vinyl backwards to try and hear what they are saying; and they are singing to Disney’s ‘The Aristocats’ song; “we are Siamese if you please, We are Siamese if you don’t please.” As the ending continues with strange screaming guitars and choral harmonies there is another backmasked message. I checked it out and it’s Kelly saying, “and there’s only one thing I can say about all this and that’s bollocks!” well, I tend to disagree, Kelly, this album is far from that.
It is a lot of fun to listen to on a Friday night cranked up to 10. Every track is fantastic with some of the best girl metal I have ever heard. The Cd version now has a plethora of extra tracks that are part of the greatest collecton found on most compilations including the quintessential "Girlschool Collection" anthology, such as 'Take It All Away', 'Midnight Ride', 'Race With the Devil' and 'Emergency'; all hugely popular for the band. In conclusion, it is brilliant 80s metal from the NWOBHM. Girlschool did everything right on this classic.