Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Go-Go's On Solid Gold: My Life Is Complete AKA We Got The Beat, But Who's Got The Booze?

If you'll recall, the first time I heard "We Got the Beat," I was not impressed. "What the hell is this?," I said to myself, "Cheerleader rock?" Oh, I was so clever back then.

To be fair, I'd only seen a live clip of the song. I'd never heard the studio version. And, as Belinda so freely admits below, the Go-Go's' live performances could be ... inconsistent. When I eventually heard the studio version, I liked the song a little more, although I still thought it was somewhat silly and not the best example of the Go-Go's' overall talent. Arguably, with its absence of drama and angst, it might be Beauty and the Beat's most atypical track. In a Totally Go-Go's interview segment, Charlotte described the song's origins:
I was sitting at home, it was about midnight, I was watching The Twilight Zone on TV, and I wrote the song, it was like five minutes, it just all came out. I actually had been listening to Smokey Robinson all day, 'cause we were gonna cover that song "Going to a Go-Go," and then I thought, well why do we have to cover someone's song? So I listened to that song all day long, the same song, over and over, and then I came up with "We Got the Beat."

The Twilight Zone and Smokey Robinson: a heady mixture indeed. At any rate, as I became more enamored of the Go-Go's, I listened to the song a little more. Then, one day, I decided that I loved it, couldn't get enough of it, and became just as obsessed with it as I have with every other Go-Go's song. Nowadays, whenever I listen to "We Got the Beat," I can't help but surrender helplessly to the onslaught of hyperactive silliness. By the time Belinda exhorts me to "jump baaack!!!/get down/round and round and round" and the rest of girls join in with a "whoo!" of pure, primal abandonment, I feel like I've just snorted a line of coke and I want to run around the room and dance the pony and do the watusi and do whatever the hell I feel like doing.

Whether or not "We Got the Beat" was one of the two best songs on Beauty and the Beat is really beside the point. "Our Lips Are Sealed" was a good solid hit, but "We Got the Beat" was a monster, peaking at #2 in March of 1982, held off the top spot by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts' "I Love Rock 'N' Roll." Yes, it was a brave new world, and the woman rockers were taking over.

"We Got the Beat" wasn't just a hit; it was an anthem. I've seen a writer refer to it as the "Rock Around the Clock" of the '80s. Well ... sure. All I can say is, you know your song has captured an era when you hear it playing over the opening credits of Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

The Go-Go's had hit the big time, all right, and television came calling:
In November, we guested on Saturday Night Live, along with Bernadette Peters and Billy Joel. The appearance was a significant moment for us. Beauty and the Beat was number 20 on the Billboard 200 chart and climbing; the exposure on a show that defined hot to America's youth was going to keep that momentum going ... But Kathy, Charlotte, and I got ripped. We had sat around in the studio all day, drinking the free booze, and when it was finally time to go on, we gave one of our worst performances ever. We played "We Got the Beat," and we destroyed it. It didn't even sound like a song.
Fortunately for the Go-Go's, but unfortunately for us, the Saturday Night Live clip is nowhere to be found on YouTube. It appears that SNL protects its clips with the zeal of PricewaterhouseCoopers. One day, I will find this clip. I will find this clip and I will watch it. In the meantime, I'll just watch the version of this clip that's playing in my head, in which Belinda accidentally vomits on Gilbert Gottfried's crotch, Gina assaults a security guard with a hi-hat, and Charlotte and Jane slit the throat of a wild boar around a sacrificial bonfire - all on live TV.

But seriously, who needs a clip from Saturday Night Live when you've got something much, much better? Here's how you know the Go-Go's were starting to make it. It's not because they appeared on Saturday Night Live. Oh no. It's because they appeared on Solid Gold.

You won't find any Solid Gold dancers here, but come on. The Go-Go's don't need dancers. There is, however, a funny fellow in a bow tie and a glittery maroon suit, who introduces this clip and is apparently from the future, as he says, "Our next guest made that kind of splash two years ago, and they haven't let up since. Among their several hits in 1982 was the year's #31 song, 'We Got the Beat.' With us tonight to perform it, please welcome ... the Go-Go's!" But the Go-Go's were not "with him tonight," as their performance was almost certainly taped in late 1981/early 1982, and not 1984. Belinda's fashion sense in this era was so mercurial and evolving that I can practically date a Go-Go's clip based on her appearance alone.

As if I needed another reason to stare into those entrancing eyes. I mean, just look at that screen shot. Look at it! She appears to be wearing the same dress she wore in the Totally Go-Go's video, but I have to say that she's wearing it better here. I don't normally go for that much eye shadow and lipstick, but in this case ... yes please. To paraphrase Bananarama (by way of Shocking Blue): a goddess on a mountain top, burning like a silver flame, the summit of beauty and love, and Belinda was her name. Or in the words of one YouTube commentator, "As a teenager in the early 80s, I thought Belinda Carlisle was the Hottest, Coolest chick alive!!! Oh wait a second, At 46 I still do!"

And there's one more advantage to appearing on Solid Gold as opposed to Saturday Night Live: the performer merely has to lip-sync. As a result, the Go-Go's could have gotten as wasted as Richard Harris and Peter O'Toole at a Richard Burton birthday party and still would have sounded terrific.

The Go-Go's, alas, never filmed a proper video for "We Got the Beat." The footage from Totally Go-Go's was sent to MTV, but I like to think of this clip from Solid Gold as the true, genuine video of record. This ain't no Paul Davis or Melissa Manchester, folks. This is some (heavily sanitized) punk rock, kidnapping your TV set and taking your precious suburban living room hostage. This is like if the Powerpuff Girls came to life and formed a New Wave band. I mean, whose clip came on after this? Air Supply? Even the coked-up host in the bow tie doesn't know what to say.

Edit: I didn't mean to give short shrift to the clip of "Our Lips Are Sealed" from the same Solid Gold episode; it's just that I've posted quite a bit on that song already. However, it is even more "Solid Golden" than the clip of "We Got the Beat" is.

First of all, this time, there are dancers, although they're in the background (presumably so that they wouldn't steal any of Belinda's secret stash?). We've also got some great Solid Gold graphics at the start, complete with explosions and flying letters in tacky 3-D font. There's also another priceless interlude where Andy Gibb and Marilyn McCoo lure us in with the promise of "more great music tonight," only to say, "But first, let's listen to the Go-Go's tell us that mum is the word." Yeah, I'll tell you whose lips should be sealed, all right: Andy Fucking Gibb's. The reason I rarely watch this clip is because the audience, like a bunch of imbeciles, claps on the off beat. As one YouTube commentator put it, "ya know... with that off beat clap, kinda gives you an idea of what the disco remix wouldda sounded like."

No comments: