Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Day The Go-Go's Died (Or Did They?) AKA It Ain't Over Till The Slightly Overweight Belinda Sings

Rome fell to the Huns. Napoleon lost one battle too many. The British Empire collapsed under the weight of its own antiquated colonialism. Sooner or later, all great things must come to an end. And so it was ... with the Go-Go's. From Lips Unsealed:
The five of us rehearsed with the intention of making a new album. We tried to come up with our own songs and we worked through songs outside writers had submitted. The record company wanted more creative control over the band's next steps. We didn't like it, but we didn't have any better ideas.

Frustrated at every turn and no good at communicating with one another, the band dissolved into factions, with Charlotte and me pitted against Kathy and Gina, and Paula left uncomfortably alone on the periphery as we fought during rehearsals. The demos we recorded sounded terrible ... the band had lost its creative center. It no longer felt like the Go-Go's.
Ah, yes, the druggies vs. the rhythm section. Or rather, the (both soon to be relatively sober?) superstar lead singer and chief composer/multi-instrumentalist vs. the two most expendable band members. Not to give it away, but I don't think this was going to end well for the bassist and drummer.
I finally met secretly with Charlotte, who agreed with me that after two months of work the only decent, Go-Go's sounding song we had was "Mad About You," which Paula had brought in. Otherwise the band wasn't working anymore. It was early May 1985. We had an album to record and a tour to set up. But both struck us as unlikely. The lack of material aside, the dynamics were way off and no one was getting along. Charlotte and I decided it was time to call it a day.

We talked it through until we assured ourselves that the band had stopped moving forward artistically and that we as individuals were stifled. We could do other things. I had already been approached about doing a solo album. Though that hadn't been an option when the band was my top and only priority, it sounded viable now, and Charlotte was amenable to working with me.
Hmmm. A solo album, eh? A new song called "Mad About You"? Sneaky, sneaky Belinda, pulling that little ace out of your sleeve, at just the right moment. And secretly roping Charlotte into your handy getaway plot! Dealing that ace could've cost you all your chips, but oh ... how you hit the jackpot.
The two of us called a meeting with the other girls on the second Friday of the month and broke the news that we wanted to end the band. Kathy and Gina were not just shocked, they were blindsided and fought back with anger and bitterness at the way we handled the situation. Kathy insisted we were overreacting and had overcome worse, but I kept to the basic premise: the band wasn't working, the songs were terrible, and the chemistry wasn't there.
But why let that stop you? It didn't stop Kiss. At any rate, there it was: the Go-Go's finally sealed their lips for good. Wait, what's that you say? Ah, but that's another tale for another time - one that is not without its share of intrigue, although between you and me, it couldn't quite measure up to the next twist in our saga, perhaps the most gripping twist of all.

You see, in a more ordinary universe, this would have been the end of the Belinda Carlisle story. Former Go-Go's lead singer fades away in a haze of garish leggings and coke. Ah, but fortunately, the universe in which we live is no ordinary one. It turns out that fate had other plans in store for the erstwhile Dottie Danger. And if you thought a story this good couldn't possibly get any better, well think again buddy.

By 1985, Belinda Carlisle had already demonstrated that she was no stranger to stunning career transformations, having morphed from grungy punk rebel to adorable New Wave princess. But that initial makeover would be small potatoes compared to what was to come. The '80s listening public failed to anticipate her most bizarre and seemingly unfathomable transformation yet. With the aid of a brand new (and rich) Hollywood husband, a little break in the consumption of the white powder, some strategic dieting and exercise, and the eager embrace of an impressively sanitized musical style, in 1986, Belinda Carlisle would finally assume the role she had been born to play, would finally claim her title as the unquestioned, uncontested, the one and only ... Queen Of Yuppie Rock.


Anonymous said...

I don't think that's a fair characterization of the end of the British Empire...

Little Earl said...

Well, life ain't always fair, is it?

Anonymous said...

But characterizations perhaps should strive for fairness.