Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Go-Go's Tour England With Madness And Get Spat On

So what does the British Ska Revival have to do with the Go-Go's? Funny you ask. From Lips Unsealed:
In December 1979, we opened at the Whiskey for Madness, an English ska band whose recently released first album, One Step Beyond..., was earning them raves and a handful of hits, including "One Step Beyond...," "The Prince," "My Girl," and "Night Boat to Cairo." They hit the town with a unique sound and the fun attitude of English boys out for a good time.

At sound check, I clicked with the group's lead singer, Graham McPherson, who went by the name Suggs. By showtime, we were flirting and having a good time watching each other onstage. Afterward, everyone from both bands went back to their hotel, the Tropicana, and partied pretty hard. I woke up next morning in a chaise lounge next to the pool.
Sounds pretty mild by her standards.
After Madness left town, Suggs wrote me a few letters and sent me some English cigarettes. I knew he liked me, but I didn't let myself imagine anything developing since I knew from following the bands in the English magazines that he was involved with punk beauty Betty Bright. Still.
Get a grip on yourself, Belinda! He's taken.
A few months later, Madness returned to L.A. and I don't know why I let myself, but I hoped Suggs would try to start something. He didn't. I heard he might have had a dalliance with a cute waitress, but that was mere rumor and I didn't want to turn my quaint romantic fantasy into a disappointment...
Let it go already!
That decision was probably smart, too, because Madness liked us and before they left town they invited the Go-Go's to open for them on their UK tour that spring and summer. We jumped at the opportunity.
And so, our young kitschy heroines crossed the ocean and toured Britannia. Initially harboring glamorous visions of Trans-Atlantic stardom, reality soon set in:
Even beer was a luxury. When we toured with Madness, we waited for them to finish their preshow dinner and then dug through the trash for the scraps they threw out. I still managed to gain thirty pounds over the next two months thanks to the Nutella I smeared on white bread every morning.
Mmmmm. At least it sounds like a step up from the oatmeal and Sweet 'N' Low she was living on earlier. While overseas, the band also hung out with the Specials and sang backing vocals on the closing track of More Specials, a cover of Guy Lombardo's "Enjoy Yourself (It's Later Than You Think)." I can't detect Belinda too well, but Jane stands out like a sore thumb.

The Go-Go's finding camaraderie with the British Ska Revival bands? Sounds odd at first, but when you think about it, it actually makes a lot of sense. Like the 2-Tone groups, the Go-Go's came out of a thriving punk scene, but found themselves gravitating toward the pop side of things. Of course, it would be wonderful to say that British punk audiences embraced the group as immediately as Madness and the Specials did, but that wasn't exactly the case:
They were young, angry neo-Nazi extremists who hated everyone, including us - and that was before we played the first song. Once they saw we were five girls from Los Angeles, they yelled vile things and called us terrible names. They spit on us too. They called it "gobbing."
"Gobbing"? Great. Only in England would they come up with a special name for spitting on people (and why do I get the feeling that British punks would probably spit on you, even if they liked you?).
They ran up to the stage, coughed up a wad of spit, and hocked it at us ... I never saw the gobs coming, but I felt my stomach turn after they hit. There were stories about performers getting sick after being hit in the eye or accidentally swallowing someone else's spit. We came offstage covered in snot, and I cried afterwards, as did the other girls.
I believe this is what they call in the business "paying your dues." Now just imagine, if you will, these same young women only a couple of years later, their image splattered all over MTV, being passed off as America's squeaky-clean sweethearts. On this particular tour, they may have been squeaky, but they were most definitely not clean.

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