The Go-Go's at the Wilbur Theatre in Boston (2012)
|Origin||Los Angeles, California, U.S.|
|Past members||Margot Olavarria|
Paula Jean Brown
The Go-Go's are an American new wave band formed in Los Angeles, California in 1978. Except for short periods when other musicians joined briefly, the band has had a relatively stable line-up consisting of Charlotte Caffey on lead guitar and keyboards, Belinda Carlisle on lead vocals, Gina Schock on drums, Kathy Valentine on bass guitar, and Jane Wiedlin on rhythm guitar. The Go-Go's rose to fame during the early 1980s. The band is the first all-female band that both wrote their own songs and played their own instruments to top the Billboard album charts.
The band's 1981 debut album, Beauty and the Beat, is considered one of the "cornerstone albums of US new wave" (AllMusic), breaking barriers and paving the way for a host of other new American acts. When the album was released, it steadily climbed the Billboard 200 chart, ultimately reaching No. 1 and remaining there for six consecutive weeks. The album sold over two million copies, making it one of the most successful debut albums of all time, and the group was nominated for the Best New Artist award at the 24th Annual Grammy Awards. Four of the band's singles—"Our Lips Are Sealed", "We Got the Beat", "Vacation", and "Head over Heels"—have reached the Top 20 in the U.S. charts. The Go-Go's have sold over seven million records worldwide.
The Go-Go's broke up in 1985 but reconvened several times through the 1990s and beyond, recording new material and touring. They received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2011. Though the band's 2016 performances were billed as a farewell tour, the band remains active on an ad hoc basis. Head Over Heels, a musical featuring the songs of the Go-Go's, ran on Broadway at the Hudson Theatre from 2018 to 2019. The band was nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2021.
Original incarnation (1978–1980)
They were formed as a punk band and had roots in the L.A. punk community. They shared a rehearsal space with the Motels and Carlisle, under the name "Dottie Danger", had briefly been a member of punk rock band the Germs. After she became temporarily ill, she left the Germs before playing a gig.
The band began playing gigs at punk venues such as The Masque and the Whisky a Go Go in Los Angeles and the Mabuhay Gardens in San Francisco alongside bands such as X, Fear, the Plugz and the Controllers. Charlotte Caffey (lead guitar, keyboards, background vocals) was added later in 1978, and in the summer of 1979, Gina Schock replaced Bello on drums. With these lineup changes, the group began moving towards their more-familiar power pop sound.
During late 1979, the band recorded a five-song demo at Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles, and in 1980, they supported the British ska revival groups Madness and The Specials in both Los Angeles and England. The Go-Go's subsequently spent half of 1980 touring England, earning a sizable following and releasing the demo version of "We Got the Beat" on Stiff Records, which became a minor UK hit.
In December 1980, original bassist Olavarria fell ill with hepatitis A and was replaced with Kathy Valentine, who had played guitar in bands such as Girlschool and the Textones. Valentine had not previously played bass guitar. Carlisle also related in her autobiography, Lips Unsealed, that according to the band's view, another reason for Olavarria's dismissal from the Go-Go's was that she frequently missed rehearsals, due largely to her dissatisfaction with the band's move away from punk and toward pop. In late 1982, Olavarria sued the remaining members of the band for wrongful removal. The suit was settled in 1984. Olavarria later joined Martin Atkins' band Brian Brain.
Career peak (1981–1983)
The Go-Go's signed to I.R.S. Records in April 1981. The following year, they toured with The Police on the Ghost in the Machine Tour. Their debut album, Beauty and the Beat, was a surprise hit: it topped the U.S. charts for six weeks in 1982 and eventually received a double platinum certification. The album was also a success outside the U.S. charting at No. 2 in Canada, where it received a platinum certification, and No. 27 in Australia. In 2003, the album was ranked No. 413 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. "Our Lips Are Sealed" and a new version of "We Got the Beat" were popular singles in North America in early 1982. During this period, the Go-Go's started building a fanbase.
The follow-up album, Vacation, received mixed reviews and sold less than Beauty and the Beat. However, the album was certified gold in the U.S. and spawned another Top 10 U.S. hit with the title track. Other singles released from the album were "Get Up and Go" and "This Old Feeling", neither of which made it into the Top 40. In 1983, Vacation was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Packaging. During the album's promotion, the group went on hiatus when Schock underwent surgery for a congenital heart defect.
Talk Show and initial breakup (1984–1985)
In 1984, the group returned with the Martin Rushent-produced album Talk Show. The album tracks "Head over Heels" and "Turn to You" were both Top 40 hits in the US. Despite the favorable reception, the album sold less than the previous two, not reaching the top 10 and not receiving any certification.
Personality conflicts and creative differences within the group were also taking a toll, as were drug addiction problems for some band members. Wiedlin announced her departure from the group in October 1984. The band sought a replacement, selecting Paula Jean Brown (of Giant Sand) as their new bass guitarist, with Valentine moving to rhythm guitar. This lineup debuted at the 1985 Rock in Rio festival, playing two shows, but Carlisle and Caffey soon realized their hearts were no longer in the group and decided to disband the Go-Go's in May 1985.
In 1990, the Go-Go's classic lineup (Caffey, Carlisle, Schock, Valentine and Wiedlin) reunited to play a benefit concert for the California Environmental Protection Act, a 1990 ballot initiative. The band also entered the studio with producer David Z to re-record a cover of "Cool Jerk" for a greatest hits compilation.
In 1994, the same lineup got together again to release a two-disc retrospective entitled Return to the Valley of The Go-Go's, featuring three new recordings. The single "The Whole World Lost Its Head" peaked at No. 21 on the Billboard Modern Rock charts and "bubbled under" on the US charts at No. 108, but became the band's first and only Top 40 hit in the UK, peaking at No. 29. The band toured again to promote the release; ex-Bangle Vicki Peterson stood in on several dates for Caffey, who was pregnant.
Schock lawsuit (1997–1999)
In 1997, Schock sued the other members of the group, claiming that she had not been properly paid for her contributions since 1986 and that a songwriting agreement with Caffey had been breached. The suit was resolved by 1999 when the band reunited for a brief tour.
Touring and God Bless the Go-Go's (1999–2009)
The Go-Go's toured regularly from 1999 onward. In 2001, the band (still with the "classic" lineup) released an album of new material, God Bless the Go-Go's. Green Day's lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong co-wrote the only released single, "Unforgiven", which peaked at No. 22 on Billboard's Adult Top 40 chart. The album was well received by critics and peaked at number No. 57 in the Billboard 200 chart.
Also in 2001, the Go-Go's, along with artists Elton John, Billy Joel, David Crosby and Paul Simon, performed at the concert "An All-Star Tribute to Brian Wilson" at Radio City Music Hall, hosted by the TNT network.
Farewell tour and additional tours (2010–2012)
In February 2010, Carlisle announced that the 2010 tour would be billed as the "Farewell Tour", but this tour was cancelled when Wiedlin injured her knee while hiking near her home in Northern California, requiring surgery and up to a year of recovery time.
After 2010, the idea of a farewell tour seemed to have been abandoned, with the Go-Go's touring frequently. In 2011, the Go-Go's announced the "Ladies Gone Wild" tour to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the release of Beauty and the Beat.
They toured the US in 2012, with Abby Travis subbing for an injured Valentine during the latter part of the tour.
Departure of Kathy Valentine and lawsuit (2013–2015)
On March 8, 2013, the group's official website said "irreconcilable differences" had led to the departure of bassist Valentine. On May 24, Valentine sued her former bandmates for "breach of fiduciary duty and abuse of control...in an attempt to deprive [her] of her position and interest in the group, including her right to receive her full one-fifth, 20% share of the benefits and revenues generated by the group substantial reputation, fame, and goodwill."
Another farewell tour, return of Valentine (2016–present)
We’re not breaking up, per se — we’re just not going to be doing the touring like we’ve been doing for many, many years. We might still do a date here or there, or do a benefit or something like that, but not do the big touring anymore. So that’s what that’s about.— Charlotte Caffey
On March 21, 2016, plans for a Go-Go's farewell tour (minus Valentine) were officially announced. A band statement said: "After a 38-year run, we are gearing up for one last blast of a summer tour".
Valentine rejoined the band to perform their first show together as a quintet in six years at New York's Bowery Ballroom on January 31, 2018, to announce the Broadway dates of their new musical, Head Over Heels. The new musical—which premiered at New York's Hudson Theatre in the summer of 2018—features the band's hits (including "Get Up and Go" and "Lust to Love") as well as Carlisle's solo hits "Mad About You" and "Heaven Is a Place on Earth." The musical had a preview at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2015.
In 2020, a documentary movie about the band premiered at Sundance, directed by Allison Ellwood after the band saw her work on the 2013 History of the Eagles documentary. In the US, the movie was seen on television on Showtime. The documentary features the formation and rise of the band through the 1980s breakup, skipping the lawsuits and reunions through the 1990s-2010s, ending with a 2019 reunion. On July 31, 2020, the Go-Go's released their first new song in 19 years, "Club Zero," which is featured in the documentary.
- Belinda Carlisle 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, including the No. 3 US hit "Mad About You" (co-written by Paula Jean Brown) and "Heaven Is a Place on Earth", a No. 1 hit in the U.S., the U.K. and elsewhere which became her signature song. She followed up "Heaven Is a Place on Earth" with "I Get Weak", which peaked at No. 2 in the U.S. In the UK and Europe, Carlisle became even more successful, continuing to score top 10 hits through the mid '90s; she racked up 19 top 40 hits in the UK between 1987 and 1997. In August 2001, Carlisle appeared in a nude layout, including a cover photo, in that month's issue of Playboy magazine. In 2007, she released a French-language album titled Voila. She also appeared as a judge on the MTV show Rock the Cradle and toured during the summer of 2008 as part of the Regeneration Tour with the Human League, A Flock of Seagulls, ABC and Naked Eyes. Carlisle appeared on Dancing with the Stars on ABC in 2009, and starred in London's West End production of the musical Hairspray. She wrote a memoir, Lips Unsealed, that was published in June 2010. In March 2013, Carlisle released her first U.S. single in 17 years, titled "Sun". Carlisle's eighth studio album, a selection of Gurmukhi chants titled Wilder Shores, was released in September 2017.
- Jane Wiedlin released several solo albums including Fur, which featured a successful single, "Rush Hour". Wiedlin also took acting roles in movies, including Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, Clue and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, as well as doing cartoon voiceovers and a 2005 appearance on the VH1 show Surreal Life. In 1995, Wiedlin formed a band called froSTed (the capital ST paid homage to Star Trek), which released an album, Cold, before disbanding in 1998. In 2000, Wiedlin started her own label, Painful Discs, to release her solo album Kissproof World.
- Charlotte Caffey worked as a songwriter and session musician for Carlisle. In 1988, she formed a band called the Graces that released the album Perfect View. After the Graces disbanded, she briefly formed a group called Astrid's Mother. Anna Waronker and Caffey co-wrote "Ordinary Girl", the theme song to the television series Clueless (61 episodes, 1996–1999). Caffey and Wiedlin co-wrote "But for the Grace of God" (2000) for Keith Urban, which was their first No. 1 single on the charts. Caffey and Waronker also wrote the music for the rock opera Lovelace: A Rock Opera based on the life of porn star Linda Lovelace, which premiered in Los Angeles in October 2008.
- Gina Schock released a self-titled album in 1988 with her band House of Schock, and she later formed the short-lived group K-Five. Schock co-wrote the title track for Miley Cyrus's sophomore CD, Breakout, which debuted at No. 1 on the US Billboard 200 Charts in the summer of 2008. Schock also co-wrote several tracks on the 2009 debut album Kiss & Tell by Selena Gomez & the Scene.
- Kathy Valentine returned to her blues-rock roots playing lead guitar with the BlueBonnets, which morphed into the Delphines with Dominique Davalos on lead vocals and bass. The Delphines released two CDs, The Delphines (1996) and Cosmic Speed (2001). Valentine released a debut solo CD, titled Light Years, in September 2005. In 2006, she relocated to Austin, Texas, and produced a local female trio, Adrian and the Sickness, whose album BFD was released in 2009. Valentine reformed the BlueBonnets, releasing two albums with them, Boom Boom Boom Boom (2010) and Play Loud (2014). In 2018 Valentine reunited with the Textones, her pre-Go-Go's band, and played guitar on their Old Stone Gang album.
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We are touring from mid-June to mid-July with the B-52’s for a lot of the dates. We work once or twice a year. It’s still really fun. We’re one big happy dysfunctional family.
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