Please Don’t Touch! Motörhead & Girlschool’s St. Valentines Day Massacre

Please Don’t Touch! Motörhead & Girlschool’s St. Valentines Day Massacre

motrhead, girlschool
L: Lemmy Kilmister. Photo by Steve Rapport/Getty Images. R: Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns/Getty Images. 

Forty years ago this month, a match made in hard rock heaven – the pairing of Motörhead and Girlschool and a song originally recorded more than 20 years earlier by Johnny Kidd & the Pirates – resulted in one of the most breathlessly exciting rock'n'roll singles ever made and a Top 10 UK hit.

1981. Motörhead are riding high on the back of "Ace of Spades" – a single that set new land speed records for raw power rock'n'roll thanks to Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor's sprinting double kick – and Ace of Spades – an album that took the end result of a decade of streetwise Ladbroke Grove underground rock'n'roll into the UK Top 10. Motörhead's young female protegés, Girlschool (and indeed, unlike many others in the male-dominated world of hard rock, Motörhead are genuinely supportive of women musicians) are themselves on the ascent, coming off the back of a Top 30 debut album Demolition and airplay for a catchy new single called "Yeah Right.” The scene is set for the sort of perfect match that would've no doubt given Greg Evans heart failure.

Motorhead & Girlschool 

Although the likes of Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin (and, in Australia, the likes of the Aztecs and the Coloured Balls) were noted for their love of '50s rock'n'roll, it was, by the end of the '70s, uncommon for hard rock/heavy metal bands to look so far back for inspiration. But Motörhead, despite their innovations, were old school and Lemmy Kilmister was a true rock'n'roll connoisseur. Indeed, young Lemmy had cut his teeth on Little Richard and Elvis and grown up enthralled by the early Beatles; he'd made records with a beat R&B group named the Rockin' Vickers and roadied for Jimi Hendrix before coming to national prominence with power-driving space rockers, Hawkwind in the early '70s. His original template for Motörhead – before they ended up a trio – was high energy Detroit rockers the MC5, and he also loved punk for its energy and was pals with the Damned and the Sex Pistols.

One of Lemmy's faves was another powerhouse three-piece called the Pirates. The Pirates were also old school – they had originally backed pioneering English vocalist Johnny Kidd in the late 50s and early 60s. Kidd had died in a road accident in 1966, but his and the Pirates' music lived on; their signature tune "Shakin' All Over" had achieved classic status thanks in part to The Who's cover of it. More recently Wilko Johnson, the much-loved guitarist of lethal R&B pub-rock punk precursors Dr Feelgood was dropping the name of Pirates guitarist Mick Green at every opportunity.

Soon after they reformed in 1976, the Pirates made an album entitled Skull Wars. The reincarnated Pirates were produced by Vic Maile, a man making his name with Dr Feelgood, who would soon work with both Motörhead and Girlschool. Skull Wars included a live version of a song they'd first recorded with Johnny Kidd back in 1959. An early Brit-rock classic, "Please Don't Touch" took on new levels of power in the hands of the resurgent trio, and it's pretty clear that Lemmy was paying attention. Indeed, if you're familiar with the subsequent Motörhead and Girlschool version, you can compare the two Pirates versions below and hear just how faithful Lemmy and gang remained to the Pirates' upgrade.  

Johnny Kidd & the Pirates  

The Pirates  

Motörhead and Girlschool's pairing – also produced by Vi Maile – was meant as a bit of fun, but "Please Don't Touch" was so vibrant and so much fun that it became a smash UK hit. The vocal combination of Lemmy and Girlschool's Kelly Johnson was unexpected pop perfection, and not even the addition of a hilariously sleazy couplet (Lemmy – "I Remember the time I took you to a cheap motel"; Kelly – "I woke up drunk, you know I felt like Eskimo Nell") could spoil its commercial potential. And not even a severe injury could stop Philthy showing his own approval – he'd broken his neck (as you do) just before the session, so Girlschool's Denise Dufort had the kit to herself for the whole session – on the joyous performance on Top Of The Pops.

Top of the Pops  

The EP – which likely gained its title St. Valentine's Day Massacre when someone projected its Feb 13 release date – was released in both 7" and limited edition picture-sleeved 10" formats. It was rounded out by a Motörhead recording of Girlschool's "Emergency" and a Girlschool version of Motorhead's "Bomber" which added to the strong camaraderie between the two bands. But it was "Please Don't Touch" which truly transcended, and which primed both bands for peak individual success in the immediate future; Girlschool with their Top 5 LP Hit & Run in April and Motörhead with their #1 live album No Sleep til Hammersmith in June.  

For more on Girlschool check out our overview here.

Listen to Motörhead & Girlschool on Spotify:

Listen to Motörhead & Girlschool on Apple Music: 

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