Formed in Los Angeles, California in 1978, The Go-Go’s is an American new-wave band that became famous in the early 1980s. They were the first all-female band who wrote their own songs played their own instruments and top Billboard charts. Their debut album was considered to be a cornerstone album of US new wave. It managed to break the barriers and pave the way for other American artists. In this article, we are going to find out how The Go-Go’s started their musical career and how they made their mark in the music scene.
Early Days and Career
When they were formed in 1978, the Go-Go’s initially consisted of Jane Wiedlin on guitar and background vocals, Belinda Carlisle on vocals, Elissa Bello on drums, and Margot Olavarria on bass. They started as a punk band and first played gigs at punk venues like Whisky a Go Go and The Masque in Los Angeles and the Mabuhay Gardens in San Francisco. They later added Charlotte Caffey to the band as their background vocals, lead guitar, and keyboards. In the summer of 1979, Gina Schock replaced Elissa Bello on drums. The line-up changes caused the group to move towards to the power-pop sound we all know today. Later that year, The Go-Go’s recorded a five-song demo in Los Angeles and the following year, they supported the English ska revival group called Madness. That’s when they started touring England where they earned a generous following.
in 1980, their bassist, Margot Olavarria fell ill with Hepatitis A that’s why she had to leave the band. She was replaced with Kathy Valentine who used to play guitar in bands like the Textones and Girlschool. According to Belinda Carlisle’s autobiography, another reason why Margot Olavarria left the band was she frequently missed rehearsals and because she didn’t like the idea of the band’s shift from punk to pop.
In 1981, The Go-Go’s signed a record deal with I.R.S Records and they released their debut album called Beauty and the Beat which became a surprise hit. The album was on top of the US charts for six weeks and it eventually achieved double-platinum certification. Beauty and the Beat was also a success outside of the United States where it reached the second spot in Canada’s charts and became a platinum album. in 2003, the Rolling Stone magazine included the album on their list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. In 1982, The Go-Go’s was nominated as Best New Artist on the Grammys.
Their second album, Vacation, received mixed reviews from the critics and it didn’t match the success of their first album. However, it still managed to reach certified gold status in the United States and produce a top 10 US hit single entitled This Old Feeling. Once again, The Go-Go’s were nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Packaging for their album Vacation. In 1983, the band went on a hiatus while promoting their album. This was because Gina Schock underwent surgery for a congenital heart defect.
In 1984, The Go-Go’s returned to the music scene with the release of their third album entitled Talk Show. The album featured the songs Turn To You and Head over Heels which both became top 40 hits in the United States. Despite the positive reviews, the album sold less compared to their two previous albums and it did not enter the top ten charts.
Creative differences, drug addiction, and personality issues within the band were slowly breaking them apart. That’s why in 1984, Jane Wiedlin announced that she was leaving the group. The Go-Go’s replaced her with Paula Jean Brown as their new bassist and moved Valentine to rhythm guitars. Their new line-up debuted at the Rock in Rio festival in 1985. However, Belinda Carlisle and Charlotte Caffey felt that they no longer feel the excitement when playing with the band and they decided to leave the band in May 1985.
Five years after, The Go-Go’s classic line-up, Schock, Caffey, Wiedlin, Carlisle, and Valentine reunited to perform in a benefit concert for the California Environmental Protection Act. Their performance opened the door to more shows for the band later that year. In 1994, the band with the same line-up reunited again and released their two-disc retrospective album called Return to the Valley of The Go-Go’s which included three new songs. Their song, The Whole World Lost Its Head, reached the 21st spot of the Billboard Modern Rock Charts and became the band’s first and only Top 40 UK hit.
From 1999 onwards, The Go-Go’s toured regularly with the classic line-up and in 2001, they released an album called God Bless The Go-Go’s. The only single they released from the album was called Unforgiven and it was co-written by Green Day’s vocalist, Billie Joe Armstrong. The song reached the 22nd spot of Billboard’s Adult Top 40 chart. That same year, The Go-Go’s performed at the concert “An All-Star Tribute to Brian Wilson” together with Paul Simon, Elton John, David Crosby, and Billy Joel.
On 2010, Belinda Carlisle announced that the band will be having another tour called Farewell Tour. However, it did not push through because Wiedlin had a knee injury while she was hiking in Northern California. In 2011, The Go-Go’s received their own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame which was located at the site where The Masque used to be.
In 2013, their bassist Kathy Valentine decided to leave the group because of irreconcilable differences. And on March that same year, she sued her bandmates for breach of fiduciary duty and abuse of control. Despite this, the band continued without Valentine and played a series of tours in 2013 and 2014. The Go-Go’s was inducted in the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame in 2014.
In 2016, plans for the postponed Farewell Tour were announced and it meant to be the band’s final extended tour even if they have not broken up and they still intend to play on an occasional basis. In 2018, Valentine rejoined the band when they performed their first show together as a quintet in six years. They also announced that the dates of their musical, Head Over Heels. That same year, The Go-Go’s officially announced that Valentine had officially rejoined the band.