This Week Female Friday presents The Go-Go’s. Born and raised in Los Angeles, formed in 1978, The Go-Go’s are one of the biggest Girl Bands in the New Wave/Punk scene of the 80’s. They one of my favorites during my High School years when Girl Groups were an obsession (still are) of mine.
The Go-Go’s Got the Beat
I would listen to Beauty and the Beat, Vacation, and Talk Show over and over, dreaming about being in an all-girl band someday, and not so secretly wanting to be some mix of Belinda Carlisle and Jane Wiedlin.
I mean, how fabulous are the two of them? I had the same short hair and changing dyed color, and I was clumsily learning the make-up. I’d sing-a-long to every Song, hairbrush mic in hand, pretending it was me. They were aspirational, but they didn’t seem impossibly out of reach. They were from LA after all, not so far from where I was growing up, and they didn’t seem all that different than my friends and I – just a little older, and a lot cooler.
“This Town” (live, 1984)
The Go-Go’s rose to fame during the early 1980s as an all-female band that both wrote their own songs and played their own instruments, rising to the top of the Billboard album charts. (from Wikipedia)
Their debut, Beauty and the Beat, has been considered one of the “cornerstone albums of US new wave.” (from AllMusic) They broke barriers for other American acts in the New Wave genre, as well as pushed forward more possibility and opportunities for Women in Music. They weren’t the first Girl Group or Girl Band, but they were continuing with what Bands like The Runaways, Girlschool, The Raincoats, The Slits, and others.
Beauty and the Beat hit #1 on the Billboard 200 and stayed there for six weeks. The Album sold over 2 million copies and went double platinum making it one of the most successful debut albums of all time. (from Wikipedia)
I.R.S. Records released Beauty and the Beat in 1981. Prior to its release the Single “We Got the Beat” was released worldwide and became a huge club hit in Europe, then made its way back to the US and hit it big, too.
All four members of The Go-Go’s share writing credit on most of the Songs on Beauty and the Beat. Other notable writers credited are Terry Hall (“Our Lips Are Sealed”, with Jane Wiedlin) and Peter Case (“Tonite”).
Kathy Valentine (bass, backing vocals) wrote: “Can’t Stop the World”. Jane Wiedlin (guitar, vocals) wrote “Our Lips Are Sealed” with Terry Hall of The Specials, The Colourfield, and Fun Boy Three fame. She also wrote “Automatic”.
“We Got the Beat”
Vacation was the second studio Album released by I.R.S. Records. It was released in 1982 and hit #8 on the Billboard 200. The Album was certified Gold. The title Track, “Vacation” was the first Single released and it was a huge Summer Hit in the US, reaching #8 on the Pop Singles Chart. This looked to be as big of a hit, if not bigger, as Beauty and the Beat. (from Wikipedia)
There was an internal “Sophomore slump” going on though. Drugs and fighting between band members are said to have been escalating.
The iconic video shows The Go-Go’s water skiing, although it’s pretty obvious that the girls themselves are not in the water. They look a little spaced-out at times in the video, and Wiedlin told Songfacts why:
“Well, we were at the A&M sound stage, and it was a big budget video, because of course by that time we were really popular, because it was our second album, and our first album had sold like, I don’t know, over two million copies or something. So we had a lot of money to do the video, which was the first time for us, because the other videos we just spent, like $5,000 on or something.
And it was fun, but it was a way of working that we weren’t accustomed to. And I remember it being a really long day, like a 14-hour day, and about eight hours into it we all were getting really bored and restless, so we started drinking. But by the time they actually shot the scene where we’re on the water skis, skiing one-handed and waving and stuff, we were all really looped. It’s so funny, if you look at us, look in our eyes in those parts, we’re all like cross-eyed drunk.
Go-Go’s always made fun of everything. So of course, we were making fun of the whole thing all along. And we were very resistant to following orders, or to acting, because we weren’t actors. But yeah, even thought we had become America’s sweethearts, we were still basically punk rockers at heart.”
Talk Show was the third studio Album released by I.R.S. They released it in 1984, and this Album of the three is the one that had the biggest impact on me. I was fifteen and this Album was everything to me. Though I absolutely love the other three and actually consider Beauty and the Beat the most quintessential, it is Talk Show that has the most memories and personal significance, to me.
“Head Over Heels” was the only Hit, and the Album was considered somewhat of a disappointment, peaking at #8 and selling fewer than 500,000 Albums. It would be the last all-original Album by the Band until 2001’s God Bless the Go-Go’s. (from Wikipedia)
The personality conflicts that started to simmer during Vacation grew and creative differences added to the stress and tension. Drug addiction, too. It took a toll on all five of the Band. Jane Wiedlin left the band in October of 1984 and was replaced by Paula Jean Brown of Giant Sand. She became the Go-Go’s bassist, and Kathy Valentine moved on to lead guitar.
The band played two shows with the new line-up, but couldn’t make it stick. Belinda Carlisle and Charlotte Caffey did not want to go on, so they broke the band up in May of 1985.
Though they broke-up, their music lived on and on for me. Their 3 Albums from the 80’s, especially Talk Show and Beauty and the Beat, became well-played and well-loved standards in my music collection. I still put their Songs on Mixes and Playlists, spin their Albums, and as of recently, play their debut on 8-Track (thank you, 8-Track Paradise).
What are your favorite Songs from The Go-Go’s? Which Album do you love the most?