Go-Go’s, The, the first all-woman band to make major inroads in rock, formed 1978. MEMBERSHIP: Belinda Carlisle, voc. (b. Los Angeles, Aug. 17, 1958); Jane Wiedlin, gtr., voc. (b. Oconomowoc, Wise., May 20, 1958); Charlotte Caffey, lead gtr., kybd. (b. Los Angeles, Oct. 21, 1953); Gina Schock, drm. (b. Baltimore, Aug. 31); Kathy Valentine, bs. (b. Austin, Jan. 7).
Singer Belinda Carlisle, guitarist Jane Wiedlin, and lead guitarist Charlotte Caffey originally came together as The Misfits in the momentous days of late 1970s L.A. punk. At the time, Carlisle was known as Dottie Danger and Wiedlin as Jane Drano. Perhaps because the band’s name already belonged to a group in N.Y. (featuring Glenn Danzig) or perhaps because as they played together more and more they sounded less and less punk, they changed their name to The Go- Go’s. Part of that change had to do with adding drummer Gina Schock to the group. Unlike the rest of the band, she (and to an extent Caffey) had some previous playing experience, having toured the country with John Waters’s starlet Edith Massey and her band Edie and the Eggs.
This Go-Go’s lineup (with bassist Paula Olaverra) went to England. Two-tone ska stalwarts Madness took a shine to the band, and they opened for Madness all across England. They earned a following in England, to the extent that they recorded a single for Stiff Records called “We Got the Beat” The song became a minor hit as an import in the pop music underground. They parlayed that into gigs across the U.S. IRS Records signed them in 1981.
The group went into the studio with veteran producer Richard Gotterer, who had also produced Blondie’s early albums (among others). The album, Beauty and the Beat, turned into one of the surprise hits of 1981, topping the charts for six weeks and selling double platinum. The initial single, “Our Lips Are Sealed,” written by Wiedlin and Specials leader Terry Hall, rose to #20. The big hit was a recut version of “We Got the Beat” that spent three weeks at #2 and went gold. Far from their punk roots, the band sounded like a stripped-down version of a 1960s girl group; producer Gotterer had been around in those days, having also worked with Rick Derringer and the McCoys.
The Go-Go’s followed this big hit up with Vacation. The title track went to #8, as did the album on its way to selling gold. It was not as strong an album, but clever marketing (especially through music videos) helped propel its sales.
The group took most of 1983 off while Caffey recovered from a broken wrist. Their 1984 release, Talk Show, sold poorly, reaching only #18. Still the record generated two more hits: “Head Over Heels” rose to #11 and “Turn to You” hit #32. Wiedlin left the band shortly after, kicking off her solo career by dueting with her longtime favorite band Sparks on the tune “Cool Places” in 1983. The Go-Go’s broke up officially in May of 1985, although they did have several reunions.
Wiedlin released an eponymous solo album that was widely ignored, though it had nice moments like the vaguely Celtic “My Traveling Heart.” Her next album, Fur, did better and spawned the #9 hit “Rush Hour.” Her 1990 project, Tangled, lived up to its name. It did include a collaboration with Cyndi Lauper, though even that was done “by mail.” A couple of years later, she put together the band FroSTed, but that also went nowhere. She did, however, start acting. Wiedlin portrayed Joan of Arc in the film Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and supplied voices to the cartoons Pinky and the Brain and King of the Hill among others.
Valentine worked with several bands after The GoGo’s breakup, including one with Clem Burke from Blondie; a group called The World’s Cutest Killers with Kelly Johnson of the hard rock band Girlschool; The Blue Bonnets, a more bluesy band; and a pop band called The Delphines. None did any major recording. Gina Schock’s post Go-Go’s band House of Schock put out an album in 1988 that didn’t attract much attention. She also wrote for various television commercials and worked with Valentine in the Delphines.
Caffey formed The Graces with Meredith Brooks and Gia Ciambotti in 1987. The band released one album, Perfect View, that didn’t do well. She collaborated with artists including former Bangle Susannah Hoffs, Courtney Love, and Jewel, all of them recording at least one of the songs. She also worked on all of Carlisle’s solo albums in some way.
Carlisle had a great deal of post-Go-Go’s success as a solo artist. She struck gold with her #13 album Belinda. Giving up all pretense of her punk past, this album cast Carlisle as an MOR vocalist, illustrated by the album’s hit, the #3 “Mad About You.” This direction became even more evident on her next album, the platinum Heaven on Earth. The track “Heaven Is a Place on Earth” topped the charts and the follow-up “I Get Weak” hit #2. “Circle in the Sand” went to #7. This should have solidified her stature in pop, but 1989’s Runaway Horses didn’t keep up the momentum, spawning the #11 single “Leave a Light On” and the #30 single “Summer Rain” on its way to reaching only #37 on the charts. It did sell gold, however. Her next two albums, Live Your Life, Be Free and Real, did not even make the charts.
In 1990, Wiedlin convinced the group to get back together temporarily to play some charity shows for her pet charity, PETA. They recorded a cover of “Cool Jerk” for their Greatest Hits Record. When Rhino put together the two CD compilation Return to the Valley of the Go-Go’s in 1994, the group recorded three more songs. They enjoyed it so much, they started working together again and touring. In the year 2000 the band toured the county with two other 1980s bands, The B-52’s and The Psychedelic Furs, and to record a new album.
Beauty & the Beat (1981); Vacation (1982); Talk Show (1984); Return to the Valley of the Go-Go’s (1994). BELIND A CARLISLE : Belinda (1986); Heaven on Earth (1988); Runaway Horses (1989); Live Your Life Be Free (1991); Real (1993); A Woman and a Man (1996). JAN E WIEDLIN : Jane Wiedlin (1985); Fur (1988); Tangled (1990); Cold (with FroSTed; 1992). HOUSE OF SCHOCK: House of Schock (1988). THE GRACES: Perfect View (1989).