Along with all the candidates who want your vote in November, there’s another group that’s campaigning this year: The Go-Go’s, the all-girl rock band, wants to be elected to the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame. The new documentary film The Go-Go’s makes that point perfectly clear and may well serve to earn them serious consideration.
The film, like many such retrospectives, has plenty of archival “back in the day” footage but the contemporary comments from the individual group members are sharper in tone and more candid than one might expect. Not only do the Go-Go’s talk about their drug use, the film shows them consuming.
The Go-Go’s, whose hit songs are mainly bouncy pop, began in the L.A. punk scene. As the band evolved they transitioned away from the edgier music. A road trip to England where they opened shows for a couple of ska bands provided a bonding experience and gave them confidence to win over challenging audiences.
(Although the film does not make the reference, that trip reminded me of the stories of the time the Beatles spent in Hamburg, Germany in the early 60’s shortly before they broke worldwide.)
Along with those candid comments from the five core women of the band, director Alison Ellwood includes sound bites from women who were fired from the band, the band’s original manager, record company folks, some of those ska musicians and entertainment reporter Chris Connelly.
The Go-Go’s career trajectory paralleled that of MTV. They provided eye candy for the channel, which was a key factor in their ascent. Group members recall not thinking the video for the song Our Lips Are Sealed was that important but later realizing that it was a vital part of their development. As were the Rolling Stone magazine covers. (Remember MTV’s Martha Quinn? She gets a bit of face time to offer her takes on the band.)
Interestingly, lead singer Belinda Carlisle, who was, in my opinion, the prettiest of the group when they were making hit records, has not aged as well as the others. Belinda is still attractive but she has that Priscilla Presley “too much plastic surgery” look.
How important are the Go-Go’s in the history of pop music? Well, they were the first and only all-female band to have the number one album on the Billboard chart. But personal rivalries and jealousies, not to mention drug use, caused the band to break up just a few years after their big debut.
Is that singular chart achievement negated by their lack of career longevity? I think you could argue that either way. But when you scroll thru the list of 230 something performers in the Rock Hall, it would appear that the Go-Go’s qualify for inclusion.
Presuming this film will be seen by Rock Hall gatekeepers, expect them to make it. Soon.