Who are The Go Go’s?
The Go Go’s were energetic female youths trying to make their way in the punk scene, an aspiration beyond belief, and fortunately they came at the right time when some of the post-punk era was transitioning into the synth heavy – punk influenced new wave. Their debut, Beauty and the Beat is heralded as one a cornerstone in American new wave, that included artists like Devo, The B52’s, and Talking Heads. The band consisted of singer Belinda Carlisle, guitarist Charlotte Caffey, bassist Kathy Valentine, rhythm guitarist Jane Wieldlin, and drummer Gina Schock.
The Go Go’s immediate rise with their two big singles off their debut, Beauty and The Beat, opened eyes and ears to other american acts who have been doing it, like the bands Berlin and Oingo Bongo. But what initially brought the many eyes and ears to befall onto them was the notion that they were one of the first female bands who wrote their own songs and played their own instruments. There was never a shadow lurking behind the scenes with a room full of writers. New Wave was a prominent component behind the cultural shift in music and that social dynamic throughout many regions.
With many artists coming and growing from the trenches have been more affluent in the sounds of disco and pop, letting foreign nations regain dominance in rock and roll. There were some bands that tried to bridge their direction with these popular sounds and eventually make it their own, but The Go Go’s were the ones who dominated, but opened more doors. As well, they did something American artists rarely did, and that is compete and win on the charts during a domination of new wave music from across the Atlantic, especially in one of the biggest eras of music in the United Kingdom known by some as the Second British Invasion.
The Go Go’s debut, Beauty and the Beat, is a proper showcase of what their career is defined as; bridging these popular new sounds with their own unique fun and poppy delivery, which became part of a big culture-shift (musically) in the 80s. With many male dominant bands running amuck and stealing limelights, not many female artists made a huge name for themselves in this stratosphere. It was unlike Disco and Soul where female artists could make gangbusters in popularity and deliver consistency, with a lot of their hits feeling like a remnant of the past and never feeling dated. I mean, to this day, Disco has seen its own versions of modernized sounds, which never feel dated – meaning it could be played at the genre’s peak decade and nobody would bat an eye. The same goes for The Go Go’s, whose sound was a blend of new wave and synth pop rock, where a current uptick in synth pop has been growing again in the pop world.
The Go Go’s subsequent releases, Vacation and Talk Show, maintained the authenticity that kept the Go Go’s in this unique sphere away from others in the genre. It was profound for many, at the time, because there was no one behind the scenes writing chords, percussion patterns, and lyrics of the song. So what they did was beyond imaginable at the time considering the gender cultural norms, and for those cognizant to remember – wasn’t it was crazy to imagine how this little band made such an impact in the 80s, especially in the way their two singles from Beauty and the Beat performed on the Billboard charts?
“We Got The Beat,” was their first major hit on the charts, peaking at #2, opposed to their first single, “Our Lips Are Sealed,” which peaked at 20. Beyond that, the way it shifted the way the new wave genre eventually transitioned away from the gloomier – rainy day punk undertones to more vibrant pop synth patterns. But their take on those kinds of rooted songs was something all its own.
The music The Go Go’s made infiltrated many club mixes and playlists, and its ongoing presence still has relevance today. We still hear the songs in circulation within films and other avenues. I mean Spider-Man: Far From Home gave “Vacation” a new resurgence that summer and today we still hear it circling many pop radios when they categorically shift from those 3 Hot 100s tracks to a throwback on certain stations, amongst other notable and fantastic tracks that are embodiments of new wave, but have a wider range in demographics. Tracks like “Head Over Heels” and “Get Up And Go,” are perfect embodiments of a slower – tempo new wave sound, and though there is this consistency throughout their first three albums that allow their singles to feed off them and create these effervescent attraction to their cohesion of instrumental layers. As well, they don’t trend in these bleak directions and keep a constant uptick, which later new wave acts would adapt like the liveliness of Duran Duran’s funkadelic take on new wave.
A lot of their songs grasp ears with many illustrious songs like “This Town” and “Turn To You.” From Belinda Carlise’s sultry-raspy vocals boast her skills and the grimy strings, which play an intricate part in the overall sound that has minimal focus on its synthesizers. They let their vocal pitches and effects turn the turnstile swiftly beneath the overlaying instrumentation. And The Go Go’s band members’ different vocal pitches become the unsung hero, no pun intended, in their music, like on “Turn to You,” and “Yes or No,” have varying degrees of instrumental isolations where they let their inner pop-glam come out from behind the surface level new wave aesthetic.
Amongst the many potential inductees, one has to think like a voter and how we view these artists in the bigger scheme.
LL Cool J had one helluva 80s and early 90s with his inclusions in the Golden Age of Hip-Hop. His legacy doesn’t have the kind of impact one would expect, unlike Jay-Z, who paved his legacy with consistency and profound works, even in his later years – i.e. 4:44 and American Gangster. A lot of these artists are testaments to the greatness behind an era in which they had a predominant presence in, as well as the wider cultural spectrum, like how potential nominee Iron Maiden had a profound effect on the melodic shifts in heavy metal or Tina Turner whose chameleon-like vocal pitches allowed her to turn a constant array of varying and impactful sounds in her solo career.
The Go Go’s made a statement that helped bend the idealistic social shift, specifically in the industry that was more cut-dry between writers and performers. Their youth and expressive personalities allowed them to become these bigger than life with ear-popping color and dance moves and grooves that made them pop more, especially with the amount of videos that are from live performances evoking their infectious nature. And it stems from the content of their music and the women they were at their peak – young and in charge and cool, which is what we all want to feel like.
I believe that through the many bands we have had in our lifetime, there haven’t been a lavish amount of stage stealing energy from the predominant new wave bands. It was almost as if, due to a genre’s popularity you aren’t guaranteed star power and these transformative airplay, but the ones that do have left a major impact on the YouTube and streaming service time machine. I personally love the band and new wave, so it isn’t hard to see how they have stuck out, as much as bands like the Talking Heads and Tears for Fears. The Go Go’s have been waiting long enough and it is time the Hall lets them in.