Los Angeles CA | Pop
From their halcyon days as America’s sweethearts to their current status as superstars who pioneered a genre,
The Go-Go’s preside over an amazing three-decade reign as high pop priestesses. The internationally-loved pop hitmakers helped cement the foundation of the early 80's pop-rock sound without the aid of outside composers, session players or, most importantly, creative compromise. From their very first show, The Go-Go’s sang and played their own songs, offering five feisty role models for a generation of ready-to-rock girls and good, hooky fun for pop-loving guys. Their story truly is a punk version of the American Dream. They came, they saw and they conquered the charts, the airwaves and, with their kicky kitsch appeal, pop culture in general. For a while, the band was virtually inescapable: TV guest shots, magazine covers, high-profile concert tours and movie offers turned Belinda Carlisle, Jane Wiedlin, Charlotte Caffey, Gina Schock and Kathy Valentine into certified rock stars. Their sparking California pop appealed to an astonishingly wide cross-section of music fans.
Because of — or maybe in spite of — all this attention, they soared to become a pop phenomenon while having a lot of fun and blazing a brand-new trail — for the DIY ethic in general, and women in music in particular. Their self-contained battle cry was a string of irresistibly catchy, self-penned pop singles featuring Carlisle’s infectious vocals, with Caffey and Wiedlin’s loud, punk rock guitars and sweet backing vocals, all slammed home with Valentine’s throbbing bass and Schock’s big 60s beat.
Sure, before the Go-Go’s debuted in May of ’78, there were other all-female bands, but to a man (ahem, or in this case, woman) there was usually a seedy, cigar-chompin’ guy lurking just behind the curtain, pulling strings, writing songs and shaping the image as his gals danced on his string. But The Go-Go’s didn’t need a doctor in their house. No Phil Spector, Kim Fowley or Sonny Bono plotted their moves. It was their baby right from the start and they nursed the bouncing infant on a diet of non-stop nocturnal nourishment in dank clubs all across the city.
They danced to their own joyous beat from the very beginning. The Go-Go’s banded together in the truest of punk ethics: there was no master plan to get signed or in any way conquer the world. In fact, when Belinda Carlisle and Jane Wiedlin (then known by her faux-tough nom-de-punk Jane Drano) met, they weren’t even musicians. But since nearly everyone else in their vicious circle of friends was forming bands, they said why not? and jumped right in that darn fountain, fully clothed. The band was conceived in the very same gritty glitter of the rough Los Angeles scene that also birthed X, The Germs, and The Weirdos. By all accounts, their first show was short, sweet — and very, very raw. They didn’t care, they were just having fun. But, just as lust can turn to love, their new-found hobby turned to dedication. Two months later, real musician Charlotte Caffey joined and their sound quickly improved. The unique mix of snotty punk discord blended with sweet pop melodies was presented with a freewheeling let’s have a party thrift-store chic attitude. The ensemble quickly cultivated a dedicated clique of fans and collected glowing notices in the notoriously fickle LA press.
By ’79, with the addition of Gina Schock on drums, the Go-Go’s were beating their path to stardom on their own terms. They played every cool club and party in L.A. and, naturally, record companies were starting to sniff around. Still, the band remained true to their punk leanings, releasing an early version of “We Got The Beat” through the quirky Stiff Records in the UK.
As ’80 turned into ’81, Kathy Valentine joined and by April, the band was signed to upstart new wave haven IRS records. As summer arrived, so did Beauty And The Beat, hot on the heels of their debut U.S. single “Our Lips Are Sealed.” Summer turned to fall, and the world fell in love with the cute, bubbly and effervescent (and yes, they hate that description) Go-Go’s.
But really, how could anyone who loves real music not love The Go-Go’s? They melded the timeless songcraft of The Beatles, a defiant punk attitude, the blitzkrieg bombast of The Ramones, the deceptively dangerous allure of Blondie, the distinct personalities of The Monkees, 60s garage-band grit, good-girl wall-of-sound schmaltz, and a touch of 70s glam, all while creating a canon of work that deftly defined the spirited 80s sound. Even more astonishing is the fact that they merged all of those grand influences into streamlined MTV stardom — without sounding overtly dated. Quite a feat, but then The Go-Go’s are quite a band.
The double-platinum-awarded Beauty And The Beat reached number one and begat Vacation in ’82 and Talk Show in ’84 during the ladies’ charming reign of chart and radio smashes. And, like any truly classic rock band, their enduring hits including “Vacation,” “Head Over Heels” and “Turn To You” live on in countless compilations, movie soundtracks, remakes and, yes, even a string of very successful television commercials.
Having accomplished more in just a few years than most bands could ever imagine, The Go-Go’s were inactive for the last half of the 80's, splintered in various directions with each member busy with solo projects and real life. The groups legacy was rekindled in 90 when The Go-Go’s reunited for a charity show.
In ’94 the rejuvenated musicians contributed three new songs and extensive liner notes for the career-retrospective Return To The Valley of The Go-Go’s. The band had also returned to sporadic touring by that time, occasionally revisiting the frivolity of the early 80's on stage while depressing grunge continued to rule rock radio. In 2000, their raucous and rocky off-stage history, often re-told and colorfully embellished, was unflinchingly presented in a very popular episode of VH-1s Behind The Music series with an accompanying greatest hits collection. Behind The Music: The Go-Go’s Collection continues to be a strong-selling catalog item. At this point, most bands would have happily settled into obscurity or would have desperately flung themselves into futile and embarrassing updates of their sound. But not The Go-Go’s. On the strength of the VH-1 special, God Bless The Go-Go’s, an all-new collection of songs was released in 2001. A stack of glowing reviews soon followed backed by a triumphant tour, later immortalized in the exciting DVD, Live In Central Park.
Today, with the original hitmaking lineup intact, The Go-Go’s live shows continue to deliver every bit of the raw energy of their now-legendary punk beginnings, tempered with the wisdom of three decades of pop perfection. They have no need to change their sound to try to be modern or current or wander off on some trendy tangent. Why should they change a thing? Now, as in ’81, no one sounds like The Go-Go’s but The Go-Go’s.
The whole world may have lost its head, but in a world gone crazy, The Go-Go’s still have the beat. And now, three decades after the release of their first album, go-go music still makes us dance!
Athens GA | Pop
It has been said that the B-52s are as quintessentially American as the Beach Boys. And thirty-five years and over twenty million albums into their career, the B-52s remain the among the most beloved rock stars ever. Any mystery concerning the longevity and ongoing appeal of the B-52s is immediately solved when exposed to the B-52s unique concert experience. From the timeless gems of "Rock Lobster," "Planet Claire" and "Private Idaho" to the more recent classics of "Channel Z," "Love Shack" and "Roam", the B-52s unforgettable dance-rock tunes start a party every time the music begins. Formed on an October night in 1976 following drinks at an Athens, GA, Chinese restaurant, the band played their first gig at a friend's house on Valentine's Day 1977. Naming themselves after Southern slang for exaggerated 'bouffant" hairdos, the newly-christened B-52s (Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson, Keith Strickland, Cindy Wilson and Ricky Wilson) began weekend road trips to New York City for gigs at CBGB's and a handful of other venues. Before long, their thrift store aesthetic and genre-defying songs were the talk of the post-punk underground. A record deal soon followed and their self-titled debut disc, produced by Chris Blackwell, sold more than 500,000 copies on the strength of their first singles, the garage rock party classic "Rock Lobster," and "52 Girls." The B-52s began to attract fans far beyond the punk clubs of the Lower East Side — galvanizing the pop world with their 'stream-of-consciousness' approach to songwriting and outrageous performance. They had clearly tapped into a growing audience for new music that was much larger than anyone could have anticipated. "We always appealed to people outside the mainstream," says Kate Pierson, "and I think more people feel they're outside the mainstream these days." With the release of their second studio effort, Wild Planet (1980), the B-52s and co-producer Rhett Davies proved their success was no fluke with hits with "Private Idaho," "Give Me Back My Man" and "Strobe Light." In just two albums, the B-52s created a lexicon of songs, styles, phrases and images which would set the standard for the development of the 'alternative music scene' for the next decade. The success of Mesopotamia, produced by David Byrne (1982), and Whammy! (1983) positioned the B-52s as MTV regulars as well as alternative radio staples. At the time of their greatest achievements, however, they suffered their greatest tragedy — the death of guitarist Ricky Wilson from AIDS. "He really had a vision…," said sister Cindy Wilson. "He was one of the strongest elements of the B-52s from the beginning." Ricky Wilson's passing in 1985 came just after the sessions for Bouncing Off The Satellites (1986). The album, dedicated to Wilson, had taken nearly three years to complete but was worth the wait, serving up the fan favorites "Summer of Love" and "Wig." As a period of mourning, Keith, switching from drums to guitar, gradually resumed writing music for a new album. Working together on vocal melodies, lyrics and arrangements for the new tracks, Keith, Kate, Fred and Cindy re-emerged with the Don Was/Nile Rodgers co-produced Cosmic Thing (1989). The album proved to be the greatest commercial achievement for the group, and its success propelled the band to international superstars. Cosmic Thing soared to the top of the Billboard Album chart, sold five million copies and yielded their first-ever Hot 10 hits — "Love Shack" and "Roam" and a Top 40 hit with "Deadbeat Club." The B-52s advanced their reputation as the greatest party band on the planet to a whole new generation of music fans. They played to sold-out audiences worldwide on a tour that would last more than 18 months, including an Earth Day gig before nearly 750,000 people in New York City's Central Park. Soon after, Cindy Wilson amicably departed. "I'd been a B-52 for a long time, and it just felt like time for a change," said Cindy. Before long, Wilson had successfully completed her first solo project — a baby girl. Meanwhile, Kate collaborated with other artists, including Athens compatriots R.E.M., for whom she guest-starred on their 1991 album Out of Time. She also scored a hit with fellow CBGB's alum Iggy Pop on his lovelorn duet "Candy." Fred, meanwhile started work on a solo project, Just Fred (1996), with producer Steve Albini, his second solo project since the release of 1984’s Fred Schneider and the Shake Society. As a trio, Fred, Keith and Kate re-enlisted the tag team of Was and Rodgers to produce the energetic Good Stuff (1992). With it’s popular title cut and concert favorite "Is That You Mo-Dean?," Good Stuff is more than just a worthy follow-up to Cosmic Thing: the album stands as the group's most overtly political album. "We're out there to entertain people," said Fred, "but it's great to get people thinking and dancing at the same time." Reuniting permanently with Cindy, the B-52s wrote and recorded two new tracks that fit perfectly into Time Capsule, a 1998 stellar collection of hits. The first single from the Best Of collection, "Debbie" is a metaphorical tribute to band friend and supporter Debbie Harry and the whole CBGB's scene of the late '70s. With the release of the two-disc collection Nude on the Moon: the B-52s Anthology (2002), the B-52s took much-deserved credit for a body of work that is unique, beloved and timeless in its own way. The B-52s influence cuts a wide path through much of so-called 'modern rock' — from the low-fi efforts of nouveau garage bands to the retro-hip of ultra-lounge, to the very core of dance music itself. "We just did our own thing, which was a combination of rock 'n 'roll, funk, and Fellini, and game show host, and corn, and mysticism," says Fred. It is indeed all these things (and much more). In 2008 the B-52s released their first new album in 16 years, the aptly titled Funplex. With its primal guitar hooks, driving drums and the B-52s' unmistakable vocal style, Funplex is instantly recognizable as quintessential and contemporary B-52s. Newsweek Magazine declared, “Like a sonic shot of vitamin B12, the dance floor beats, fuzzy guitar riffs and happy, shiny lyrics keep the energy going.” As the B-52s continue to take their party-music revolution into the 21st century they show no signs of slowing down, serving up their own unique blend of music and showmanship to millions of fans around the world.