Within the early ’80s, The Go-Go’s had been the epitome of shiny, breezy fun-girl pop, cresting the primary wave of MTV stardom. However the true story of the band is far darker, awash in despair, drug habit, and intra-band squabbles that belied the group’s candy-colored façade. Documentarian Alison Ellwood continues her encyclopedic efforts to chronicle the California music scene (following Historical past Of The Eagles and Laurel Canyon) with a brand new Showtime documentary on the primary all-girl band within the U.S. to have a No. 1 report taking part in its personal devices and writing its personal songs. As one member of the band says within the film’s intro, “Folks routinely assume that we had been put collectively by some man, however we did all of it ourselves.”
The story Ellwood places collectively is each simple and acquainted, touring from the band’s scrappy beginnings to the pitfalls of fame that may inevitably turn into its undoing. The Go-Go’s obtained their begin within the decidedly un-sunny area of the L.A. punk scene, discovering empowerment in an surroundings the place they had been free to precise themselves, and it didn’t actually matter how nicely they might play their devices. “We hated society and our dad and mom, however we supported one another,” guitarist Jane Wiedlin says. Whereas Wiedlin, guitarist Charlotte Caffey, and vocalist Belinda Carlisle had been collectively within the band’s first incarnation, different unique gamers had been changed, like drummer Elissa Bello being rotated out for Gina Schock, a transfer that the group credit with serving to cement a stronger sound. Schock, who clicked higher with the band, was insistent that they follow persistently. By 1980, The Go-Go’s nabbed a quick tour in England opening for ska bands Insanity and The Specials, which, whereas grueling, helped them refine their stage presence.
Candid pictures and classic footage assist Ellwood paint the gritty image of the band’s early years (when its “set was three songs lengthy, and two had been the identical music,” says one follower), successfully crafting the leap from Whisky A Go Go home band to area rock stars. Despite the fact that the English tour didn’t go so nicely abroad, the band was greeted with open arms upon its return to the States, primarily based on the energy of early single “We Acquired The Beat.” The Go-Go’s then traded their extra punk-minded bass participant, Margot Olavarria, who disapproved of the poppier path the band’s sound was taking, for Kathy Valentine, who says right here, “I mainly discovered all their songs on a coke binge.”
The misogyny of the music business is portrayed in The Go-Go’s as an virtually insurmountable hurdle for the band to beat. Regardless of its devoted following and radio-ready sound, the band’s then-manager, Ginger Canzoneri, recollects one label rejection after one other because of the then-novelty of an all-girl rock band. In the meantime, Ellwood makes use of colourful animation to assist clarify the genesis of hits like “Our Lips Are Sealed” (which Wiedlin wrote primarily based on a love letter from Terry Corridor, her then-boyfriend from The Specials). All 5 Go-Go’s relay their recollections in regards to the band’s early years, as do I.R.S. label head Miles Copeland, who finally signed the band, and his brother, Stewart Copeland, who recollects having The Go-Go’s opening for The Police whereas their debut report rocketed up the charts (“They created one thing that exploded on the stage,” he says). Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna remembers the significance of seeing The Go-Go’s stay for the primary time, 5 ladies dominating a rock stage with no man in sight.
However because the band ascended, Caffey’s heroin habit worsened (“Charlotte was so uncontrolled at that time that Ozzy Osbourne threw her out of his dressing room. That’s fairly fuckin’ unhealthy,” describes Schock), as did drug and alcohol use by the opposite Go-Go’s. Conflicts over how a lot the songwriters had been getting paid in comparison with the opposite Go-Go’s led to fractures that the younger band members couldn’t restore. “We’d say, ‘We’re like sisters,’” says Wiedlin. “Certain, like sisters that stab one another within the again.” Schock agrees: “The preventing and the true medication occur once we all get cash… [It] wrecks every thing.” Wiedlin was the primary to depart, in 1984 after the discharge of the band’s third album, Discuss Present, and regardless of Paula Jean Brown coming in as a substitute (she is credited with lastly getting Caffey into rehab), the band dissolved quickly after.
The indescribable chemistry between Carlisle, Wiedlin, Schock, Caffey, and Valentine is absolutely on show all through the doc; there’s a tragic second close to the tip after they all describe making an attempt to kind different bands after the Go-Go’s dissolution, however may by no means re-create that brash mixture of youth, effervescence, and charisma. However in its pretty brief time-frame, there’s loads The Go-Go’s glosses over; for instance, although the 5 members have reunited lately, Valentine and Schock have each filed lawsuits over compensation. Whereas Caffey is remarkably upfront about her heroin habit, Carlisle is much less so in regards to the longtime coke behavior she’s mentioned at size within the British press and elsewhere.
And whereas Hanna’s viewpoint is unquestionably welcome, it might have been nice to listen to extra feminine musicians describing the impact of the huge Go-Go’s legacy. Simply the truth that that they had a debut album that went to No. 1 is exceptional, a feat solely matched by a handful of artists like Elvis Presley and The Beatles, as MTV’s onetime veejay Martha Quinn factors out; that that they had the primary No. 1 album within the U.S. by an all-female band that performed their very own devices and wrote their very own songs is historic. So the story of The Go-Go’s is prime fodder for a documentary like this one, even when the tales behind the songs (like their “Misplaced Weekend” journey to Palm Springs) are possible darker than some followers would have anticipated. Ellwood’s most dear views are these extra candid, trustworthy seems, as there’s one thing refreshing in regards to the band coming clear, revealing all its soiled laundry in a no-holds-barred method. Because it seems, The Go-Go’s pastel-sweet persona was about as actual because the water-skiing within the “Trip” video. Canzoneri describes the band wandering off of the video shoot onto La Brea Boulevard, smoking and hanging out at a bus cease in full costume—not polished and poppy, however fortunately, completely themselves.