“We were like twisted, crazy, drug addict sex fiends, but we were cute and bubbly and that’s what people responded to,” Jane Wiedlin told VH1 about her band The Go-Go’s.
To watch these five women drive around in their vintage Buick, smiles beaming in the LA sunshine, in the video for their huge hit ‘Our Lips Are Sealed’, one would never have suspected them of depraved behavior.
“There was a real desire on the part of the media and society for us to be nonthreatening and wholesome,” bassist Kathy Valentine noted in Gerri Hirshey’s book We Gotta Get Out of This Place.
“We could have done more to try to control the way our image was thrust on us, but for some reason, that had to be part of the package in order for us to be accepted.”
The roots of The Go-Go’s lies in the 70s LA punk scene. Guitarist/songwriter Jane Wiedlin was living in an apartment building called The Canterbury which hosted “…an endless stream of boozing, barfing, dancing and fucking,” according to the book Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of LA Punk.
Nights out consisted of trudging up to nearby dank and seedy venues, particularly The Masque, which was in the basement of a porno theatre. Belinda Carlisle lived across the road from Wiedlin with her best friend Lorna Doom of The Germs. Wiedlin says they were the only kids left who weren’t in a band.
“We were perfectly capable of being just as incompetent as everyone else. We were going for it!” she said.
With the addition of Charlotte Caffey on guitar, Gina Schock on drums and Valentine on bass, they started to find cohesion, transforming their ramshackle punk sound.
It was enough to impress British band Madness, who were saw them play whilst on a US tour at the time. They asked The Go-Go’s to support them on their English tour which proved to be a punishing ordeal for the LA group.
“They were a skinhead audience and they hated us!” Gina Schock told VH1. “I’d be dodging bottles that’d be whizzing past my head all night. Poor Belinda, she’d walk off stage every night with spit just hanging all over her.”
“We were constantly being gobbed at, yelled at and abused, and it was scary,” Carlisle added.
Their time in the UK had one benefit, they got to record ‘We Got The Beat’, which remains one of the group’s signature songs.
Even with the success of the single, they couldn’t get any record labels to bite.
“Joe Smith, the head of Capitol Records, personally told us that even though he adored us, he couldn’t sign The Go-Go’s because no female band had a track record worth investing in,” Carlisle writes in her memoir Lips Unsealed.
Eventually, Miles Copeland of IRS Records came knocking giving the band the chance to record their debut. He also set his new signees up on an extensive tour with The Police, whose drummer Stewart, was his brother.
The tour, as well as the ridiculously infectious first single, ‘Our Lips Are Sealed’ ensured their mainstream breakthrough, spending an amazing 30 weeks on the US Billboard charts.
The influence of The Go-Go’s is still strongly felt in bands like garage pop group Bloods. Guitarist/singer MC says she grew up with Belinda Carlisle’s solo hit songs, singing the huge hooks into her hairbrush before she knew about The Go-Go’s.
As a teenager she heard Spiderbait’s gritty rendition of The Go-Go’s first single which they’d dubbed ‘Alex The Seal’.
MC subsequently found out that it was a cover of a whole other band and was excited to find a new group to dig into. Little did she know that this would lead her to an affirming discovery.
“When I found out the lead singer was Belinda Carlisle it blew my teenage mind!” she tells Double J.
“I think it made a huge musical contribution,” MC says of the significance of Beauty and The Beat. “They were a truly great band who influenced so many of the bands I love.
“The entire Riott Grrrl and pop-punk movements owe a huge dept to the band and the path they blazed. I don't think we'd have Sleater-Kinney or Green Day if it wasn't for The Go-Go’s.
“I think what I really loved about them was that it was a band, they were girls, playing guitars singing pop songs with a so much attitude. Their music can be both playful and cutting, tough and sweet at the same time, something we have always tried to inject into every Bloods song.”
And her band’s efforts seem to be hitting some decisive targets.
“I had Belinda Carlisle's tour manager tell me that he thought I sounded just like her and I wonder if it's because she was my first vocal coach?” MC says. “So, I guess you can say that they've been a pretty huge influence to our band.”