The Go-Gos: Lips Unsealed

Once again, director Alison Ellwood has hit it out of the park with her newest documentary The Go-Gos on Showtime. Told in their own voices, the girls are raw and candid, with no holds barred on every subject.

The Go-Gos are a Los Angeles based punk/new wave band formed in the late 70s, around 1978. They started off as more of a hardcore punk band; in their earliest stages, no one knew how to play any instruments, and they had to quickly learn in order to play gigs. In fact, at their first gig they only knew 2 songs, had a 3 song set by playing one of the songs twice. But they persevered, and practiced, and honed their skills.

Early bassist Margot Olavarria and early drummer Elissa Bello left the band, or as they state, were “forced out” due to creative differences after the band made the decision to go in a more pop direction. The line-up that finally hit the big time was Belinda Carlisle (vocals), Jane Wiedlin (guitar, vocals), Charlotte Caffey (lead guitar, keyboards), Kathy Valentine (bass) and Gina Schock (drums).

They rose to fame in the early 1980s and were THE FIRST all-female band that both wrote their own music and played their own instruments on those songs, and their debut album went to #1 on the Billboard album charts.After signing with Miles Copeland’s newly formed I.R.S. Records, their 1981 debut album, Beauty & The Beat, was their ticket to stardom, giving us hits like We Got the Beat and Our Lips Are Sealed. Both their fans and the critics alike found the perky bunch a fresh and very welcome change.

The band would release two more albums before personality conflicts and massive creative differences within the group would take a toll, along with major drug addiction problems for some band members. Charlotte Caffrey in particular had developed a heroin habit that was slowly killing her. After the new management informed the band that all writing royalties would be split equally, Wiedlin vehemently disagreed, and announced her departure from the group in October 1984. The band sought a replacement, selecting Paula Jean Brown as their new bass guitarist, with Valentine moving to rhythm guitar.

This lineup debuted at the 1985 Rock in Rio festival, and played two shows, but both Carlisle and Caffey soon realized their hearts were no longer in the group. At this point, with a raging heroin habit slowly killing her, Caffrey made the decision to go into rehab with Brown’s guidance and achieved sobriety. Carlisle and Caffrey decided to disband the Go-Gos in May 1985.

Post tour and breakup, both Kathy Valentine and Gina Schock felt left out in the cold, and hard feelings prevailed for several years until the girls could clear the air.

During this period, Jane Wiedlin released several solo albums, however, while her albums did relatively well commercially, and to a degree with the critics, she was not as successful as Carlisle in mainstream rock.

Belinda Carlisle went on to a very lucrative solo career and became the most commercially successful solo artist of the band’s alumnae, scoring a string of mainstream pop singles in the mid and late ‘80s. She partnered with Charlotte Caffrey as her songwriter.

After taking some time apart, the band reformed several times for festivals, and benefits, and have recently reformed once again, and recorded new music for the first time in nearly 20 years. Their new song, Club Zero, is highly reminiscent of their earlier offerings, but with the maturity of lessons learned.

I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Kathy Valentine when her band The Delphines played at the now closed Hard Rock Cafe on Beverly Blvd in Los Angeles. She was friendly, funny and very down to earth. I greatly admired that fact that when asked about the Go-Gos, she declined to answer negatively. A very classy move on her part, and one that showed her growth as a person.

My biggest question is … WHY are the Go-Gos not yet in the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame? What does it take for this band to finally be recognized for their achievements?

Tami Danielson is the main in-house blogger and Director of Operations for Pop-Daze. She was raised in California and Florida and currently resides in Oregon. Tami has written for a variety of periodicals and has provided digital marketing services for a number of artists. She can be reached at [email protected]