Cult Heroes No. 28: Rock Goddess
Without wishing to come across all pompous and highbrow on you, the time has come for a serious reappraisal of Rock Goddess, three (occasionally four) hard-rockin’ girls who sashayed out of the seething musical hotbed of Wandsworth, south London, in the early 1980s.
Words: Geoff Barton
Hang on a sec: to be more accurate, I better rephrase that. Perhaps I should say that this is more of a serious personal reappraisal.
Inspired by seminal gal rockers The Runaways, Rock Goddess first got together as schoolgirls in 1977 (drummer Julie Turner was a mere nine years old at the time, believe it or not; her elder sister, guitarist/vocalist Jody, was 13).
They started off with a keyboard player, Donnica Camon, but eventually came to prominence as a classic power trio four years later, thanks in no small part to the intervention of the late, lamented Sounds music weekly.
Rock Goddess appeared on the cover of Sounds’ December 12, 1981 edition (I was deputy editor of the mag at the time). Dressed all in black, sporting simple centre-parted hairdos and wearing studded Judas Priest-style belts, the photo of the formative femmes posing in front of Julie’s drumkit was accompanied by the cringe-worthy headline: ‘Myth-tery Girls’.
But Rock Goddess didn’t remain a secret for long. They quickly became a familiar fixture on the London rock-club scene and, as their career began to take off, they always seemed to be out on the road with some bunch of burgeoning Brit rockers or other – Def Leppard or Fastway or Iron Maiden or Saxon… or Spider, even.
But somehow, for whatever reason, I didn’t find myself paying very close attention. Maybe it was because Rock Goddess were kinda omnipresent; they were such recognisable faces, so eager to please, enthusiastic and approachable. Unlike, say, preening power-dressers like US contemporaries Vixen, the Goddess were the epitome of your friendly neighbourhood all-girl band. Despite their name they were less divine and more down to earth; an everyday kind of deity.
When I moved from Sounds to become editor of Kerrang! in the mid-80s, Rock Goddess were always on hand, and only too ready to co-operate, when we needed a ‘horny girls with guitars’ type of picture – which, as you can imagine (bearing in mind our 99 per cent male readership) occurred with alarming frequency.
Photographer Ray Palmer – who sadly died in December 2002 – was a drinking partner of the band’s manager, John Turner. Ray, God bless him, would regularly arrive in Kerrang! office with hundreds of pix of the Goddesses cradling a collection of the latest Fenders, or whatever, to illustrate our page for musicians, subtly titled Killerwatt. As Ray’s sessions progressed, the girls (who started out in drab denim) began to adopt more provocative poses, sport extravagant fluffed-up 80s hairstyles, smother their eyes with kohl make-up and wear ever-more skimpy outfits: leather, micro-skirts, sexy patterned tights… even skin-tight rubber dresses in one memorable instance. The Kerrang! readers loved it, but in retrospect all this served to detract attention away from the band’s music.
On another renowned occasion, Kerrang! secretary Janice Issitt let it slip that she was thinking of joining Rock Goddess on bass; she even rehearsed with the band a couple of times. We frowned and successfully dissuaded Janice from making this ruinous career move, as we were convinced that Rock Goddess weren’t going anywhere… except maybe alongside a review of the latest Gibson SG in next week’s issue.
Ha! More fool us. I recently listened to Rock Goddess’s self-titled 1983 debut album for the first time in years, I was amazed to discover that’s it’s a fabulous record, full of catchy, compulsive, classically British rock songs and blessed with Jody’s raucous, high-powered vocal delivery.
But let’s backtrack to that 1981 Sounds cover story for a moment. By now, the girls had already been dabbling in rock music for several years, and were aged 18, 18 and 14 – that’s Jody, bassist Tracy Lamb and Julie respectively. Despite their tender ages, Rock Goddess had already set out their stall: they were out to give their all-female rockin’ peers Girlschool one hell of a run for their popularity.
Rock Goddess got their first serious break through a label called Girlfriend Records. The band were spotted at one of their earliest gigs and were promptly enlisted to provide a track (Make My Night) for an all-women compilation album called Making Waves. Out of the record was born a tour, and thus the Goddesses found themselves taking the boards with a weird and wonderful band called The Androids Of Mu (featuring a friend of theirs, Karine, on vocals) and the no-nonsense, pop-based Gymslips.
Sounds caught up with the tour when it arrived, weirdly, at a reggae venue called the Caribbean Club in Oxford. Here, the aforementioned John Turner – father of Jody and Julie – was quick to regale writer Robbi Millar with stories of how “the band were mobbed at Camberley, they really were. It was just like those concerts with the little girls screaming at the band… only it was little boys this time and they went nuts for Rock Goddess, especially Julie”.
That long-ago Oxford show sounds like a stormer. ‘No one can deny that these girls mean business,’ wrote the lovely Ms Millar. ‘Rock Goddess tackle each song, each riff, each axe attack with cool, powerful precision.’
Millar continued: ‘Jody Turner’s vocals are sweet, savage and gutter rich, but the real star in minuscule drummer Julie. Technically straightforward, physically unyielding, she batters around her double bass-drum kit like a herd of enraged elephants.’
It all happened pretty fast after that. Producer Vic Maile (of Motörhead/Girlschool fame) got interested and produced a four-track demo tape. On the strength of a performance at the 1982 Reading Festival, A&M Records signed the girls. Their first single was the preposterously titled Heavy Metal Rock’N’Roll in 1982, and they followed it up with the My Angel 45 and their debut album, a year later.
(It’s amazing to recall that Rock Goddess were forced to cancel a tour with UFO around the release of their debut single, because drummer Julie still had to go to school. According to the law she was only allowed to play six gigs in a row – and the UFO tour lasted for eight consecutive days.)
Whatever, the girls’ first album has stood the test of time extremely well. It was originally going to be titled The Goddessa File after the headline in their first Sounds feature, but the rather more prosaic Rock Goddess was eventually chosen.
Two more albums followed – Hell Hath No Fury (1983) and Young And Free (1987) – before Jody Turner took off on a solo career. Apparently there was a short-lived Rock Goddess reunion in the mid 90s, but I must’ve missed it. The girls threatened to get back together for last year’s Hard Rock Hell festival but for some reason it never happened.
Sheesh – why aren’t Rock Goddess more appreciated these days?
To revive an age-old pun (and to quote Toyah Willcox): it’s a myth-tery.