THIS MIGHT STIR UP A DEBATE……

Another scroll down through the list of bands who have featured previously on T(n)VV reveals that this will be a debut for The Go-Gos.

It’s no real surprise as they were a band that never really appealed to me all that much in my late teens when they were at their peak.

The Go-Gos formed in Los Angeles in 1978 but were initially better known in the UK thanks to them spending much of 1980 over here, releasing this single on Stiff Records.

mp3 : The Go-Gos – We Got The Beat

This would have been my first exposure to their sound, but I was quite lukewarm about it, not buying into any suggestion that they were a new wave act….they seemed far too pop orientated for that.

The Stiff single didn’t do all that much and the band moved back to LA, going through a personnel change on bass guitar, and finding themselves being courted by I.R.S. Records for whom they signed in April 1981 and subsequently going into the studio to record the debut album.

The five piece now consisted of Belinda Carlisle (lead vocals), Jane Wiedlin (rhythm guitar and backing vocals), Charlotte Caffey (lead guitar, keyboards, backing vocals), Gina Schock (drums, percussion) and Kathy Valentine (bass, backing vocals). The first fruits of their labour became their debut single in the USA:-

mp3 : The Go-Gos – Our Lips Are Sealed

It went Top 20 in the States but was a relative flop in the UK where the most interesting thing stemmed from it being written jointly by Jane Wiedlin and Terry Hall. The duo were quite coy about it all, merely saying they had been able to work together when The Go-Gos had supported The Specials on an American tour in 1980. It later transpired that they had a brief affair but nothing was said at the time as Hall had a girlfriend back home. It’s a fine enough record, certainly with much more to offer than the plodding and basic We Got The Beat, but it was later blown away when Hall did his own version with Fun Boy Three, taking it all the way into the Top 10 in the UK and giving us one of the defining moments of his illustrious career.

What happened next to The Go-Gos was a huge surprise in that a re-recorded and very light version of We Got The Beat, having been released as a single by I.R.S. some six months after the debut album Beauty and The Beat hit the shops, became a huge hit in the States, getting to #2 on the Billboard charts, only being kept off the top spot by I Love Rock n Roll, the clichéd almost cartoon rock number by Joan Jett and The Blackhearts.

I had to laugh at the way the USA went mad for The Go-Gos. The video for We Got The Beat was a big player in the success, enjoying heavy rotation on the fledgling MTV station. It was one of the few promo films to feature home-made talent and of course it was tailor made for the teen audience with girls wanting to be as cool as the band members and boys, well let’s not go there…….; the fact that the song was so dull, insipid and limp was quietly ignored as the LA-based music moguls splashed around in desperation trying to find something that could be promoted to those whose prejudices were such that anything coming out of the UK was by weirdos and for weirdos,

And yes, I know it’s a bit of a two-faced position that I’m taking for seeming to suggest that all American new wave was dull and worthless when that’s clearly not the case. But it’s certainly my take that anything badged ‘new wave American’ which sold in decent amounts was corporately bland and nothing as innovative, exciting or challenging as what was happening here on my wee island.

It’s also interesting to look back and see that the initial reception afforded to the release of Beauty and The Beat wasn’t all that great, but history has been re-written somewhat to take account of the millions upon millions of sales it realised and the fact that it did show an all-female group, playing their own songs, could actually make a fist of things and not rely on the tunes of others.

The Go-Gos released two more albums – Vacation (1982) and Talk Show (1984), both of which went Top 20 in the USA. Interesting to note that other than Vacation managing one week at #75, none of their albums dented the UK charts….they were very much a band whose appeal didn’t cross the Atlantic all that well.

The band split in 1985 since when they have reformed, broken-up and reformed again on a number of occasions, with 2018 allegedly having been of the farewell tour, with summer dates across their home land.

Belinda Carlisle became a household name in the UK in 1987, thanks to the huge success of the awful power-pop effort Heaven Is A Place On Earth, thus ensuring she will always find a place somewhere on the bill on the festivals which make up the nostalgia circuit (sadly, many of my own favourites from the 80s are often alongside her). Of the others who were in the 80s version of the band, Jane Wiedlin was the only one to enjoy any solo success in the UK, with a one-off hit pop single in 1988….a song which is, by a fair distance, my favourite thing Go-Gos related:-

mp3 : Jane Wiedlin – Rush Hour

But having just listened to it for the first time in decades, it’s fair to say that it hasn’t aged well!!

I’ll admit this is an unusual posting from me, in that it’s not the most glowing or positive of things. Some of you out there might agree with my sentiments, but I’m thinking many of you will not. I’d be more than happy to redress the balance with another posting if someone wants to put together a few words in support of The Go-Gos. If not, then this is likely to be their first and last appearance on these pages.

JC

11 thoughts on “THIS MIGHT STIR UP A DEBATE……

  1. I never really liked the go gos but did find myself fancying Belinda Carlisle whilst intensely disliking her music causing a bit of indie angst

  2. Can’t really disagree with anything said here. The Go-Go’s, for me, were more fun to follow for their off stage antics than their music. In NYC, we had a great suspicion of “West Coast New Wave” bands. There was still a stigma of West Coast meaning The Eagles, Crosby Stills and Nash, Linda Ronstadt and the like. It took bands like X and Dead Kennedys to really break down that stigma.

  3. I think you’re entirely spot on and the legacy gets talked up a lot around the Go-Go’s when they had a couple of charming hits and some good haircuts at best.

  4. I like Our Lips Are Sealed a lot, compared to the FB3 version its poppiness is a good contrast. I like the Go Gos too- decent guitar pop but not life changing.

    Friend of RW sums up the 1987 Belinda Carlisle dilemma.

  5. I still have my vinyl copy of their debut, but I confess that I haven’t played it in years. To my mind, the best songs on it, by far, are not the big hits, but deeper cuts like “How Much More” and “Can’t Stop the World”. Same is true of the Bangles — their best songs were definitely NOT the big hits.

    Marc

  6. A buddy of mine asked me to play in a band for his new-wave themed birthday party. He picked lots of great tunes (Clash, Costello, Blondie, Squeeze, Talking Heads) but when he called ‘Vacation’ by the Go-Gos the whole band groaned. We did it anyway and crowd went nuts for it. Just goes to show, etc.

  7. I never did get The Go Gos. For me the best thing about them remains the name.

    The pre-performance media attention of their appearance on The Old Grey Whistle Test with We Got the Beat eluded to a spirit of New Wave music meets Post Punk attitude but all I heard was pop. I’m not at all averse to pop but I do wonder if the media hadn’t hyped the band, as something they clearly are not, then perhaps I might have been a little more forgiving of them at the time.

    I’ll never be a fan but listening to the band now I can appreciate them a good deal more than I did during the presaged hype, particularly the live performances and, ironically enough, that TOGWT performance.

  8. I only know the ‘Vacation’ LP – and I am fond of it, especially the title track. There’s not much Go-Go’s love (go)-going on here, but I really enjoyed this post and will play my CD tonight.

  9. Hi Lisa

    For some reason your comment got caught up in the Spam section. Rectified it as soon as it was spotted.

    JC

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