When you watched MTV in 1982, there was a great video from an all girl band, The Go-Go’s. This cute, flirty video was attached to a great tune called ‘Our Lips Are Sealed’ (see our Podcast on this single at tinyurl.com/zublips). This video was very popular and the band seemed to appear out of nowhere. I always loved the Go-Go’s, buying the single and their first LP Beauty And The Beat right away. It helped that they were on I.R.S. Records, the label that had R.E.M., Buzzcocks, Stranglers, and many others. In those days I would buy unknown artists if they were on the ‘right’ record label, and The Go-Go’s didn’t disappoint.
The new Showtime aired documentary, The Go-Go’s, does not disappoint either. Director Alison Ellwood, who previously made the History of the Eagles documentary, does a great job here. Beginning with the band’s true Los Angeles punk rock beginnings, singer Belinda Carlisle and guitarist Jane Weidlin are misfits that want to form a band. They add Margot Oliveria on bass, Elissa Bello on drums, and score major points by adding a real musician, Charlotte Caffey, on lead guitar. The band at this point is a true punk band, loud and fast, playing clubs like The Masque with contemporaries like The Germs and The Alley Cats.
With manager Ginger Canzoneri on board, things slowly start to happen for the Go-Go’s. First casualty was drummer Bello, quickly replaced by Baltimore’s Gina Schock, which was a huge upgrade in musicianship for the band. Shock is ambitious and gets the band to rehearse every night; the interviews with her are always surprising and funny. After opening for Madness at the Whisky in L.A., the band goes to Britain to support Madness and The Specials on their U.K. tours. Manager Ginger sells almost all her possessions, including her car, to get the band to Britain. The band is spat at and confront nasty National Front skinheads at every gig, but they impress both headliner bands (the interview with The Specials Lynval Golding is priceless) and as a result, get a 45 pressed by Stiff Records (‘We Got The Beat’).
Back in L.A., The Go-Go’s are bigger than ever, with an import record in the shops. Bassist Oliveria is unhappy with the band’s turn to a more pop sound, and she is jettisoned to be replaced by Kathy Valentine. The now classic version of the band is set. Typically for the record business, no label has any interest in an all-female band that writes their own music. They finally signed to I.R.S. in 1981 and quickly recorded the debut album Beauty And The Beat. Aided by $6000 left over from a Police video (Miles Copeland is the impresario behind both his brother Stewart’s band and IRS Records), they make the video for ‘Our Lips Are Sealed,’ They get a plum slot opening for The Police and on tour their LP passes The Police in the charts. It would soon go to number one on the charts.