❉ Greed is good in this two-fer from the cult glam-metal band, writes the Kingcrows’ Lee Terry.
Cherry Red’s endless quest to reissue every great but overlooked or forgotten album in the alternative genres continues apace with this lovely package by cult London glam-metal mob Girl. Ostensibly part of the NWOBHM movement (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, acronym fans), Girl were something of an anomaly on that scene, being somewhat removed from the beery machismo and Hammer Horror imagery of many of those bands; their sound was a mixture of American-style flashy hard rock in the tradition of Kiss, Cheap Trick and Van Halen, mixed in with a dollop of London punk rock attitude, while their image and demeanour suggested a gang of council estate kids who had kicked the crap out of The Sweet late in their career and stolen their clothes. They signed to the notorious management monster Don Arden’s Jet Records, also home to ELO and Ozzy Osbourne, in ’79, knocking out two singles before Sheer Greed appeared at the very beginning of the ’80s (January 1980, in fact), and singer Phil Lewis was already budding tabloid fodder by then, being that he was at the time in a relationship with Britt Ekland (15 years his senior).
The album kicks in in belligerent fashion with the rambunctious Hollywood Tease, two minutes forty seconds of unabashed narcissism with an irresistible riff, and the pelvic grind of The Things You Say. Lovely Lorraine is a strutting mid-pocket rocker, while Strawberries is a more sedate and reflective track, calling to mind some of Van Halen’s more laid-back efforts. Little Miss Ann grooves slinkily along before Doctor Doctor (no relation to either UFO or the Thompson Twins) returns to the rock ‘n’ roll.
A cover of the Kiss track Do You Love Me, frankly, adds nothing to the original, with the then-23-year-old Lewis being no match for Paul Stanley in the rock campery stakes. Take Me Dancing is appropriately a bit of a boogie-shuffle number, while What’s Up ratchets the tempo up considerably, with some particularly tasty bass work from Simon Laffy.
The cod-reggae Passing Clouds is a very tasty change of approach, before the album’s centrepiece My Number arrives. A slow-burning, tension-filled slab of sleaze, with some very effective and economical guitar work from twin axemen Gerry Laffy and Phil Collen, it’s hard to think of another hard rock track quite like it. The anthemic Heartbreak America closes the album in its original form, but this edition includes three bonus tracks – a cover of the Kinks’ You Really Got Me, in a similar vein to Van Halen’s version of the same song (with an amusing little interlude at the beginning where an Eruption-esque lead break is rudely interrupted by Lewis’s exasperated taunts), Love Is A Game, which reworks the Jean Genie riff to good effect, and a demo version of Little Miss Ann.
Overall, Sheer Greed is an exceptionally well put together album, not overly polished but with great depth in the songwriting. It may even have made them a big name if their touring strategy hadn’t gone disastrously wrong. Girl had been booked as special guests for Kiss’s 1980 UK tour, which would have exposed the band to a huge potential audience; unfortunately they took the decision to include Do You Love Me in the set for the first show. Gene Simmons, not usually a man noted for his sense of humour, thought they were taking the piss and fired them on the spot, thus derailing the whole operation in one move.
The second disc in this set, the informatively but rather clunkily titled Live At Exposition Hall, Osaka, Japan, May 1982, is a concert recording from two years later, after the release of their second album Wasted Youth. As such, much of the included material is from that record rather than Sheer Greed, and the progression in the writing is interesting to hear (a reissue of Wasted Youth is apparently in the pipeline, so keep an eye out for that too). There’s also a fun, if slightly clumsy, cover of ZZ Top’s boogie standard Tush. The recording quality, as often occurs with semi-legit live albums, is a bit hit and miss – I suspect it’s a direct soundboard recording – but adequately captures the band’s performance, if not quite the somewhat distant and muffled audience.
The presentation of the package, yet again, is meticulous. A fully fold-out digipak featuring the artwork from the original albums, along with a glossy insert featuring lyrics, liner notes and further artwork. A beautiful set.
Ultimately, Girl became better known for what their former members did after the band’s dissolution. Phil Lewis, after stints with the New Torpedoes and Torme, decamped to Los Angeles to join up with former Guns N Roses guitarist Tracii Guns to form LA Guns, who became one of the most successful of the Sunset Strip sleaze-rock acts of the late 80s. After leaving and rejoining an indeterminate number of times, Lewis is as of 2019 currently an LA Guns member. Guitarist Phil Collen, meanwhile, accepted an offer in 1983 to replace the alcoholically-inconvenienced Pete Willis in Sheffield’s great NWOBHM hopes Def Leppard just prior to the recording of their third album Pyromania. Pyromania sold ten million copies in the US alone, its follow-up Hysteria selling even more, and Collen has been a Leppard member ever since – although he also has a side band called Man Raze, with former Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook and his old Girl bandmate Simon Laffy on bass, which brings us round in a nice big circle…
❉ Girl: ‘Sheer Greed/Live In Osaka ’82’ (HNECD125D) is out now from HNE Recordings/Cherry Red Records, RRP £11.99. Click here to order directly from Cherry Red.
❉ Lee Terry is a regular We Are Cult contributor and a member of The Kingcrows, Leeds’ scuzziest sleaze-punk-n-roll maniacs.