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The first band of all the girls who wrote their music and played their instruments, The Go-Go exploded on the music scene four decades ago.
Now, they’re back in a new Showtime documentary that promises Friday at 9pm ET / PT. Coinciding with the release of “The Go-Go’s”, the band will release a new single on Friday, “Club Zero”.
The documentary stands naked on how the well-known group of lovers like “We Got Got Beat” and “Our Lips Are Sealed” came together. And it was not easy.
Along the way, gang members were fired upon and replaced, unscrupulous businessmen tried to persuade them to sign their music rights, and there was drug use (and abuse) among several members, including cocaine and heroin.
The group initially disbanded in 1985, though members have been made again for projects since then.
Before the premiere, here are five excerpts from the documentary:
Go-Go had punk rock roots
While their most popular works are pure pop, the roots of this group date back to the Los Angeles stage in the late 1970s.
“If you were awesome, you would be cooler,” said lead vocalist Belinda Carlisle. “Anyone can do whatever they want. It was total freedom.”
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Little members did not know that within a year or so, they would be trading in diving bars for arenas such as Madison Square Garden. The gang friends quickly connected.
“We hated our parents and society, but we supported each other,” said rhythm guitarist Jane Wiedlin.
The punk scene was a sacred place
While most Go-Go admits they were growing up, in particular, Wiedlin had a difficult childhood stemming from her father leaving her family.
“I always felt like I didn’t get inside,” she said.
This led to a suicide attempt when he was 15 years old. Then she discovered, through a number of Women Wear Daily, the London punk scene and her wild patterns. She was identified with the “energy and rage” of punk. Soon, she was making her own clothes to mimic strong nail-like movement.
“People were crossing the street when they saw me,” she said.
Carlisle, the eldest of seven children, says punk immediately approached her.
“I always felt like I was pretending to be something I was not,” she said. “It opened up a whole new world for me.”
If you or someone you know can fight suicidal ideation, you can call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Line at 800-273-TALK (8255) at any time of the day or night, or chat online.
Drummer Gina Schock knew she would be a rock star
While Go-Go all had musical backgrounds, when they started the band, most had to learn how to play the instruments we know and love.
Take Charlotte Caffey, the band’s lead guitarist. Her roots are in the piano, which she started playing when she was 4 years old, even studying music at Immaculate Heart College, a private Catholic school in Los Angeles.
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When she made the punk move, she says, “all this music theory, the rules had to be thrown out the window.” She had to get the guitar, and fast.
“We were pretty upset at first,” Caffey said. “We really didn’t look very good.”
Gina Schock was an exception. As one of only a few female drums at the time, she admits she had her concert choices.
“When I left Baltimore, I said to everyone, ‘Next time you see me, I’ll be a rock star.’ “
The first few days in London were a mixed bag
At first, The Go-Go was recruited in London, where they opened for a number of tabs. Concerts often attracted large numbers of white nationalists and it was not uncommon, members said, for the audience to spit on them and throw bottles and other items on stage.
“They hate us,” said Wiedlin. “We were Americans and, worst of all … we were boys.”
“Here are these five little girls from Southern California up on stage playing with these scary skinheads,” Caffey said. “It was scary.”
Still, the trip proved worthwhile, helping to raise their profile at home.
“Everyone thought we were big stars in London and we were not telling them otherwise,” Wiedlin said.
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They thought the video ‘Our lips are sealed’ was a ‘waste of time’
MTV started in 1981, leading artists to start producing music videos for mass consumption.
Go-Go went into action, filming a video for “Our Lips Are Sealed” for just $ 6,000.
“This money came from a Police video that they did not spend all their money,” Wiedlin said.
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The gang members did not take the goal seriously, Caffey said. In fact, when they were spreading out in a fountain, she says they hoped they would be arrested.
“We did not know how important the video would be,” she said. “We thought it was a big waste of time.”
This video, at one point, was playing every 30 minutes on MTV and catapulting them into the history of pop culture.
Follow Gary Dinges on Twitter @gdinges
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