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The Go-Go’s

Whilst the latter half of the all-encompassing 80s belonged to the BANGLES, the first half of the decade rested with fellow West Coast all-girl group, The GO-GO’S. An integral part of the post-new wave/punk scene centered around Hollywood’s Masque club and nearby Canterbury Arms apartment building, the stunning Belinda Carlisle and Co succumbed to success almost overnight on the back of Top 20 breakthrough hit, `Our Lips Are Sealed’.
Formed between October ‘77 and May ’78 in Los Angeles, California, the original line-up consisted of bassist Margot Olavarria and drummer Elissa Bello, who gave up The Misfits – no, not that band – so that a fresh-faced 5-piece could accommodate the talents of aforesaid singer Belinda (aka “Dottie Danger” from punks The GERMS), guitarist Jane Wiedlin and, in turn, second guitarist Charlotte Caffey. Fired by new manager Ginger Canzoneri, the incompatible Elissa was superseded by Gina Schock (ex-Edie & The Eggs), the following summer.
Although they’d later project a more wholesome image, the earliest incarnation of The GO-GO’S lived the drug-taking punk lifestyle to the full; one of their shows even ending in an infamous riot. Yet their sound gradually lost its early rawness and mutated into a more commercial power-pop style at the turn of the decade; British ska revivalists MADNESS were sufficiently impressed to offer the girls a support slot on their 1980 tour.
The resultant exposure led to interest from UK’s premier indie imprint, Stiff, who unleashed the ladettes’ debut single, `We Got The Beat’. Back in the States, astute POLICE manager Miles Copeland signed the girls to his burgeoning I.R.S. roster, and helped put them in the Top 20 with pink-vinyl classic `Our Lips Are Sealed’; co-scribed, interestingly enough, by Wiedlin and FUN BOY THREE-bound singer TERRY HALL. Prior to recording said single (in December 1980), Margot had fallen ill with a bout of hepatitis A, and although her greenhorn replacement Kathy Valentine (ex-Textones) was initially presumed temporary, a full-on switcheroo transpired a few months down the line when their one-time doyen got her marching orders.
The GO-GO’S debut album, BEAUTY AND THE BEAT (1981) {*8}, followed hot on its heels; a frothy, surf-inflected parent set which couched occasionally hard-bitten lyrics in a buoyant, typically Californian veneer. The record topped the charts and suddenly the all-girl group was hot property. A resurgent `We Got The Beat’ raced into the Top 3 via MTV, early the following year, whilst pop/rock fans were treated to a salvo of sunny-day songs such as `This Town’, `How Much More’ and `Lust To Love’; all three written by Caffey and Wiedlin.
A more overtly-polished follow-up, VACATION (1982) {*6}, also reached the higher echelons of the US charts, and spawned a similarly-placed, cheesy summer single in its title track. But when the spirited `Get Up And Go’ and `This Old Feeling’ 45s failed to pursue their radio-friendly patina, the retrograde quintet looked to have peaked too soon; maybe their cover of The CAPITOLS’ `Cool Jerk’ (and belated minor UK hit) might’ve been a better choice in hindsight.
Yet the band’s fast-living ethos had taken its toll, and after a third Top 20 album, TALK SHOW (1984) {*6}, and a final Top 20 fling, `Head Over Heels’; not forgetting other minor hits `Turn To You’ and `Yes Or No’, the group were treading water. First to opt out was the underrated JANE WIEDLIN, who went on to have her biggest and best hit a la `Rush Hour’. Jane’s replacement Paula Jean Brown had hardly time to unpack her suitcase when the group split up in order to do their own things. Whilst Schock and Caffey founded their own respective combos (the latter with The GRACES), it was the cutesy CARLISLE who’d emerge as a typically airbrushed 80s pop icon; with big hair and even bigger songs such as `Heaven Is A Place On Earth’.
Having already reunited in 1990 to promote a retrospective collection; during which time they played a naked but discreet anti-fur campaign benefit, The GO-GO’S got back together again in late ‘94. This time around they cut a ternary of fresh tracks for an anthology of earlier material entitled “Return To The Valley Of The Go-Go’s”; incredibly they scored their first ever UK Top 30 hit with the attendant `The Whole World Lost Its Head’.
Presumably prompted by a bad case of millennial fever, the definitive GO-GO’S duly unveiled their first set of new material in yonks by way of the edgier GOD BLESS THE GO-GO’S (2001) {*6}; though basically it was all over bar the shouting. And despite the punk-y presence of GREEN DAY’s Billie Joe Armstrong (on `Unforgiven’) and a handful of power-pop tracks that have since stood the test of time (`Throw Me A Curve’ and `Apology’), there was little to re-kindle the exuberance and panache they’d so gloriously gleaned in the 80s.
Numerous “farewell” reunions, spats, and a lawsuit from Kathy Valentine to the group, kept the Hall of Fame GO-GO’s in column inches. However, after having settled their differences out of court, the group continued to tour; Kathy rejoined in February 2018. Whether a fifth studio set was in the pipeline – or even a fresh live album – that was anybody’s guess. “Our Lips Are Sealed”… for now.
© MC Strong/MCS 1994-2003/GRD // rev-up MCS Aug2019

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