Monday, February 10, 2014

"Turn To You": Belinda's Least Favorite Go-Go's Song

"Turn To You," the second single off Talk Show, is sort of the Forgotten Go-Go's Hit. To be fair, it wasn't exactly the biggest hit, peaking at #32, just barely becoming the band's fifth and last US Top 40 entry. Well, on paper "Our Lips Our Sealed" didn't peak too high either, but that one had legs, as they say.

The song was co-written by Charlotte and Jane, and according to Wikipedia, it was written about Charlotte's relationship with previously discussed then-Dodgers pitcher/future A's pitcher/perennially alcoholic boyfriend Bob Welch. One look at the lyrics and I guess we shouldn't be too surprised that the union did not last:
You act so tough
But I know what you're doing
You think falling in love
Means falling to ruin
You build your walls so high
You act your life out all alone
You don't want to let me see
That your heart's not made out of stone

There may be some explanation
Why you feel the way you do
The world makes its rotations
But I just want to turn to you

Come on let me turn to you
Please let me turn to you
Why not let me turn to you
Just want to turn to you

It has a lot to do
With the first time that we met
The wild dance in your eyes
Made up for what was never said
Gotta get my message
Stop spending all our precious time
Because before you know it
We'll be down to our last dime
Although the lyrics have a pleading, desperate quality, the Go-Go's tear through the song with a hard-charging abandon that simultaneously keeps the words from sounding whiny while perhaps not giving them their full emotional due. But who cares, it rocks.

Of course, there's also the notorious music video directed by Mary Lambert. Before Lambert teamed up with Madonna to film five of the Ciccone's most iconic videos ("Borderline," "Like A Virgin," "Material Girl," "La Isla Bonita," and "Like A Prayer"), before she filmed Janet Jackson's "Control" and "Nasty" videos, before she filmed other clips for the Eurythmics, Sting, and Whitney Houston (to name a few), before she directed Pet Sematary, Pet Sematary II, Halloweentown II: Kalabar's Revenge, and the infamous Mega Python vs. Gatoroid (starring Debbie Gibson and Tiffany), she directed the video for the Go-Go's' "Turn To You."

The setting appears to be a high school prom during the early '60s, but here's the catch: the Go-Go's play men, and they play women. In the same video. At the same time.

Four of the five Go-Go's appear in drag as the house band, rocking "Turn To You" of course, while Gina, amusingly, plays the drums in a towering bouffant wig. The other Go-Go's are disturbingly effective as men. As many YouTube commentators have noted, Belinda shares an eerie resemblance to Leonardo DiCaprio here. My default stance of gazing at my '80s Dream Woman, in this particular instance, takes me to some uncomfortable places. Another observer commented that Jane in drag is the spitting image of the Animals' bassist Chas Chandler. But out on the dance floor, Belinda, Jane, Charlotte, and Kathy are back to being women, albeit women with absurdly campy wigs, while this time Gina is the one in drag (looking, actually, pretty much like she always does). Oh, and Rob Lowe is in it too.

Apparently Lambert had this whole idea of playing around with androgyny, and at times you sort of lose track of who is pretending to be whom. The three weirdest/funniest moments: 1) When the "male" Gina cuts in between the "female" Charlotte and Rob Lowe, while seconds later, Rob Lowe and his buddies point to the "female" Gina on-stage, collectively admiring her beauty; 2) the "female" Charlotte gives flowers to the "male" Belinda on-stage; 3) the "male" Belinda hops into the passenger seat next to the "female" Jane and leans in for a ... kiss? Isn't that Go-Go's incest right there?

But now we come to the real reason why "Turn To You" is the Forgotten Go-Go's Hit: Belinda hated it. She hated it then and she hates it now. For some mysterious reason, she's just never liked the damn thing. And you can't make the lead singer sing a song she doesn't like. Despite the fact that, technically, it is one of the Go-Go's' actual hits, she has managed to convince the rest of the band to permanently retire it from the touring set list. From Lips Unsealed:
And then there were those I didn't get. "Turn to You," for instance, was one of my least favorite songs (the video was even more hideous, I thought), and yet the Rolling Stone album review that would appear a few months later called that particular tune the "best in the bunch." Go figure.
Yes, go figure. I have one observation: if she thought the video was so "hideous," she certainly went along with it, didn't she? In spite of Belinda's attempts to suppress the song and write it out of the band's history, "Turn To You" lives on in the hearts of A.V. Club commentators, as these responses to the posing of the question "Best Go-Go's song" attest:
'Turn to You'. if only because its one of the few later Go-Go's tunes where Belinda really lets go vocally. and the guitars are louder than they needed to be, which is a good thing. it rocked.

"Turn To You" just flucking rocks. LeadingExpert is right: both the over-cranked guitars and the note-bending Belinda make the song so effective. The song builds -- subtly, gradually -- throughout the solo. And, just before the final verse, when the rhythm guitar kicks in after the one beat rest...

Yep, my vote is also for Turn To You. I love it when Belinda really belts out 'Now GET MY MESSSSSAGGEEE.' Best part of the song.
Sorry, Belinda, looks like you're out-voted on this one.


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