The Go-Go's were a singular force in the early Los Angeles punk and new wave scene of the late 1970s and early '80s, carving a path both through the city and, ultimately, the world and finding both critical and commercial success along the way.
The all-female band came together in Los Angeles in 1978 with Belinda Carlisle (vocals), Jane Wiedlin (guitar, vocals), Margot Olaverra (bass), and Elissa Bello (drums). Later that year, Charlotte Caffey (guitar, keyboards) joined. In 1979, Gina Schock became the group's drummer, and the next year an illness sidelined Olaverra, with Kathy Valentine replacing her.
The Go-Go’s had their first show at the Masque in downtown Hollywood, and played other L.A. rock haunts including the Whisky A Go Go on the Sunset Strip. An early demo earned them a supporting slot with rising British ska group Madness, and their European single, "We Got the Beat," made its way to America and became an underground club hit. In 1981, I.R.S. Records signed them to a U.S. deal, releasing their debut album, “Beauty and the Beat,” later that year.
“Beauty and the Beat” hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts, where it remained for six weeks. Led by catchy, edgy, teen-oriented hits "Our Lips Are Sealed" and a re-recorded version of "We Got the Beat," the album sold more than 3 million copies. It was the first album entirely written and performed by an all-female band to reach No. 1.
In 1982, the Go-Go’s were nominated for a Grammy Award for best new artist but lost out to Sheena Easton. Robert Hilburn, then-pop music critic for The Los Angeles Times, wrote about their debut appearance at the Hollywood Palladium, a show that sold out in four hours, saying the band “updates the innocence and sparkle of the Phil Spector-produced ‘girl group’ records” and called them a “textbook example of refreshing, good-time rock.”
“The heart of the Go-Go’s appeal lies in its ability to capture the stereotypes about the energy and impatience of adolescence; the time when everything seems followed by an exclamation point,” he wrote, and said they “offer such a delightfully accessible package that it all but comes with a ribbon around it.” (Nice words, considering a scathing 1978 song called "Robert Hilburn" played live in the band's early days but never released. But then, Hilburn didn't hear it until years later when Kurt Cobain played it for him; the critic writes that he thought the song was "good fun.")
The Go-Go’s went on to release two more discs: 1982’s “Vacation” and 1984’s “Talk Show” before disbanding due to personality conflicts and creative differences. In the ‘90s the girls reunited for one-offs, a few tours and also released a double-disc retrospective, “Return to the Valley of The Go-Go's” in 1994. In 2001, they issued their first studio album in 17 years, “God Bless the Go-Go’s.” EMI Records reissued a two-disc set of “Beauty and the Beat” featuring an extended selection of demos and outtakes.
Each member has gone on to explore solo careers that have included music, film, books and even reality TV, to varying degrees of success. In 2011, the Go-Go’s reunited to tour in celebration of the 30th anniversary of “Beauty and the Beat.” Together they have sold more than 7 million albums.
— Gerrick D. Kennedy for the Los Angeles Times