Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Go-Go Gets Stuck In Rush Hour

One of my favourite acts from the first half of the 80s were the Go-Go’s. The all-girl pop quintet formed in L.A. in 1978 (originally as the Misfits) and within three years were dominating airwaves around the world with tracks from their debut album ‘Beauty And The Beat’ (6 weeks at US#1). ‘Our Lips Are Sealed’ (US#20, OZ#2) and ‘We Got The Beat’ (US#2, OZ#29) were instant 80s classics in my book, and many other books for that matter. Belinda Carlisle provided the vocals (and glamour), backed by guitarist/vocalist Jane Wiedlin, guitarist Charlotte Caffey, bassist Kathy Valentine and drummer Gina Schock.

All-girl pop/rock bands weren’t overly prevalent at that time but along with the Bangles, the Go-Go’s were the most successful in commercial terms. Their sophomore album ‘Vacation’ spawned another top 10 U.S. hit with the title track, and following an enforced break, due to guitarist Charlotte Caffey breaking her wrist, the band returned in 1984 with the album ‘Talk Show’ which yielded their last major hit single with ‘Head Over Heels’ (US#11). But all was not well within the group and by late ‘84 Jane Wiedlin had left, acting as a catalyst of sorts for the bands overall breakup shortly thereafter.

Belinda Carlisle went on to a solo career that, in commercial terms, dwarfed her achievements with the Go-Go’s - four top 10 singles both in the U.S. and Australia, and six top 10 British hits - ‘Heaven Is A Place On Earth’ and ‘Leave A Light On’ among the biggest sellers. In relative terms the other former Go-Go girls didn’t fare as well; Charlotte Caffey formed the Graces with Merideth Brooks and Gia Ciambotti; Gina Schock fronted the short lived outfit House Of Schock; whilst Jane Wiedlin was finally given licence to take on the vocals fulltime when she launched her own solo career.

Wiedlin’s solo career may not have reached the dizzying chart heights of Belinda Carlisle, but it featured a number of hit albums/singles and showed Wiedlin to be a diverse and substantial talent in her own right. She released her debut self-titled album in 1985 which realised a minor hit single with ‘Blue Kiss’. Interestingly this wasn’t the first single to include Jane Wiedlin as a credited artist - in 1983 she featured on the single ‘Cool Places’ by duo Sparks (US#49). But it was Wiedlin’s second album that gave her a degree of credence as a solo artist. ‘Fur’ was released in 1988 and featured the hit singles ‘Rush Hour’ (US#9, UK#12) and ‘Inside A Dream’ (US#57, UK#64), but overall the album wasn’t received that well and languished outside the top 100.

The title track did provide a vehicle for Wiedlin to voice her protest at the fur industries cruelty to animals, and it was through this channel that Wiedlin organised the Go-Go’s reunion in 1990, which also coincided with a Go-Go’s ‘best of’. The reunion was brief though another more substantive one occurred in 1994 with new material recorded for the release ‘Return To The Valley Of The Go-Go’s’. Wiedlin also explored the world of acting with minor appearances in ’Star Trek IV’ (Wiedlin is a huge Star Trek fan), ’Clue’ and as Joan of Arc in the hit comedy ’Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure’. But when the Go-Go’s reunited once more in 2000 and released 2001’s ’God Bless The Go-Go’s’ it’s a fair bet that Wiedlin would have welcomed being back in the fold as a Go-Go. That said Wiedlin has also performed voice-over work for TV, written a book about a three year stint living in Central America and continues to write and record music. The ‘rush hour’ of her career may have passed but Jane Wiedlin is still a Go-Go on the move.

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