In this video, The GoGos perform "Vacation".
In 1978, three girls, Belinda Carlisle (1958), Jane Wiedlin (1958) and Margot Olaverra (1958), were sitting on the curb in Venice, California. All three were heavily into the punk image adorning themselves with garbage bags for dresses and brightly colored streaks in their hair. It just so happens that while sitting out on the curb, they decided to start their own band, which would eventually become the most popular all female band to emerge from Punk.
And so they gathered up a few more friends and called themselves The Misfits in 1978. The line-up consisted of Carlisle as a lead vocalist, Wiedlin on guitar and vocals, Margot Olaverra on bass, Charlotte Caffey (1953) on lead guitar and Elissa Bello on drums. They started rehearsing in the punk rock hangout in Los Angeles, The Masque. It was at this establishment that they also made their debut performance. During the group's early days, they played some rather hard punk music that had an edge to it that is not found in their later music as they morphed into New Wave pop.
Shortly after forming, the band became known as the Go-Gos and they began playing in small venues in California. By 1979, Gina Schock (1957), a drummer from Baltimore, Maryland, took the place of Bello. In the same year, the Go-Gos also recorded a demo tape and played with Madness, a British group interested in ska revival.
The girls took off to tour England in 1980, spending about six months in that country and producing one of their most important singles. Becoming considerably popular with the British, the band was able to record the single, "We Got the Beat" with Stiff Records. An imported copy of the song filtered into America and became an underground club hit.
Margot Olaverra became seriously ill near the close of 1980 and had to leave the band. Kathy Valentine (1959) would become her replacement on bass, although Valentine had never actually played the instrument before. By early 1981, the Go-Gos finally landed a record deal with IRS Records.
Even though the band was hosting sell out concerts and was getting very popular, especially in clubs, they had some difficulty getting a label to back them. But the record company soon saw that it was a wise decision to sign this pioneering group of women who operated without the help of any male producers or managers.
In 1981, "Beauty and the Beat", their first album, shocked many by holding strong at number one in the charts for six weeks. This album, which sold over two million copies, contained the singles "Our Lips are Sealed" and a re-release of "We Got the Beat", which enjoyed three weeks at number two.
The year 1982 brought about the release of "Vacation", the album containing the energetic title track, "Vacation" that was a top-ten hit. However, "Vacation" as a record was not nearly as successful as their previous releases, and by 1983 the band decided a literal vacation was much needed. Besides, Caffey had broken her wrist and needed time to recover.
They were back on track as a group in 1984 and released "Talk Show" their most artistically adventurous album that, unfortunately, did not sell well. While it did produce two hit singles, "Head Over Heels" and "Turn to You", like other bands, such as Blondie, they had a hard time selling a record that did not exhibit only the catchy New Wave songs that fans expected to hear.
Vacation may have served as an omen for what was to come by the end of 1984. Weidlin left the group leading to the official breakup of the Go-Gos in 1985. Most of the members went on to pursue careers in music, Belinda Carlisle having a very lucrative solo career. Charlotte Caffey, sometimes backing Carlisle, eventually formed her own group, the Graces. Jane Weidlin also produced solo efforts and did some acting.
The Go-Gos were an important development in the era of punk and New Wave music paving the way for other female groups to go out on their own without the need for male managers. Although they were becoming America's sweethearts, they were not strangers to the rock and roll world of heavy drug use and the entertaining activity of trashing hotel rooms. The Go-Gos early music, employing the heavier punk elements, served as a precursor for the music of the 1990's alternative girl rockers.
Despite the initial breakup in 1985, the ladies could not stay apart for too long and found themselves reunited in 1990 when they performed at a benefit concert supporting the efforts of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) as well as doing a cover of "Cool Jerk" that can be heard on the 1990 "Greatest Hits" album. The double disc compilation "Return to the Valley of the Go-Gos" was the offspring of a 1994 reunion. Most recently, the band has been a part of VH1's "Behind the Music' series and released another commemorating album, "Behind the Music: Go-Gos Collection", in the year 2000.
Page author: N.G.