October 2, 1982
By David Huff
The GoGos - The GoGos, A Flock Of Seagulls
On The Run With The Go-Go’s
The Go-Go's are definitely, as Paul McCartney so deftly coined it several years ago, a ‘band on the run.'
Since the release of their debut album, Beauty and the Beat, almost a year and a half ago, Belinda Carlyle, Charlotte Caffey. Gina Schock, Kathy Valentine, and Jane Weidlin have done nothing but run – from city to city and continent to continent – on a world-wind concert tour that has taken these five formerly unknown musicians with light and breezy lyrics, incredibly good looks, and girlish charms, onto the center stage of rock and roll arenas around the globe.
It has been a long and winding road for the Go-Go's, with the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter every day.
"You know, when we first started out," recalled Jane Weidlin in her cute pixie voice, "I think most people considered us novelty acts because we were an all-girl band. That helped in the beginning because we always got gigs. We didn’t care how people perceived when we started out because we just needed to play.
"I didn't know that people ever thought about our band being a joke until later. None of us ever considered the Go-Go's to be a joke, so it never affected me. We used to act angry on the stage. The material we were playing when we first got together was stuff like taking the over the world. It was sort of like fashionable to be mad like that back then."
Weidlin laughs when she thinks back to the early days of the band. Whoever considered the Go-Go's a novelty act four years ago have since abandoned that theory. With a No. 1 album already under their belt, three gold singles, a platinum album and a second album solidly entrenched in the Top Ten, the Go-Go's are anything but mind numb amateur musicians. Life may be in the fast lanes now with the girls, but it hasn't always been that way.
"Before we recorded our first album," said Weidlin, "I remember we were all sharing hotel rooms in New York and living off of ten dollars apiece a day. We were having fun, but it wasn't easy street. When you chose music as a profession, the word normal goes out the door. Once you have figured out what is important, what is real, and what is a part of the show, you just have to put up with distracting things and remain cool. I guess that if you were stupid or overly emotional, you could be sucked in by all of the unimportant parts of this business."
The Go-Go's also got a dose early on about the harsh realities of the music business.
“A lot of times.” She continued, “it was easy to forget you’re not in a normal business. Let’s face it; the record industry is not like a normal way of life. I am used to seeing people smoking, people drinking every night, people doing drugs, this and that, and to me, it seems normal because it has been going on for so long. But you know, when I sit back and look at it from the outside, I say, 'Gosh, this really is kind of a scary life.' You have to be careful with what you do. Some people get too wrapped up with it, and they will go over the top.
"It isn't easy being a normal person when you’re a musician. You keep different hours and your work becomes your life. Once you have figured out what is important, what is real, and what is a part of the show, then you can put your life in perspective and remain cool. I guess that if you were stupid or overly emotional, you could be sucked in by all of the unimportant parts of this business.
"The bottom line for us is making good records, having fun with each other and getting the most out of what we can with this career. I don't think any band as romantic notions of what the rock and roll lifestyle is all about. Some may believe in the party hearty and live on the edge bullshit, but that’s all it is – bullshit. If you’re stupid to believe it, you don’t last long, that’s for sure."
The Go-Go's story is even more fascinating when you look at the musical backgrounds of the individual members. The original members are Carlyle, Caffey and Weidlin. Their musical backgrounds read like this. Brenda previously sang back-up vocals on two songs for a local group before launching her own career as the Go-Go's as lead vocalist. Charlotte was trained on the piano and dabbled playing bass. In the band, she plays the keys, rhythm guitar and backing vocals. And then there is sweet, coy Jane. She started playing an acoustic guitar when she was 12, and then put it away. Several years later she picked the instrument up again, only this time she had to plug her guitar into an amp.
As for Gina Schock and Kathy Valentine, they were actually seasoned musicians when they opted to join the group. Schock had played the drums for several years before she was asked to join. Kathy belonged to an Austin, Texas based group called the Textones. The group relocated to Los Angeles in hopes of making it big, but the band thing fell apart once they got there. When the opening for a bass player in the Gog-Go’s opened up, she jumped at the chance to join.
Weidlin says that there were several occasions when the Go-Go's considered adding a male to the group, especially after the band’s first drummer left the group. Then, right before they signed a deal with IRS Records, their bass player flew the coop.
"When we had to replace the drummer,” conceded Weidlin, “we thought that we had two choices as a band. Choice number one was to hire a girl that couldn’t play because she was female, or get a guy that could play and ruin the all-girl thing we had going. We had a real problem on our hands. Then we just happened to meet Gina, and it solved our problem. She was a great drummer and fit our situation perfect.
"The same situation occurred again right before we signed with IRS. Our bass player quit. This is the only time we seriously considered hiring a guy. As luck would have it, we came across Kathy and the group was complete. The reason we like having an all-female band is the fact we all understand each other very well. Everyone gets along great. Now our road manager is male and he is with us all of the time, but it is not the same. It's like having a girl on a football team. She could play the part, but would she every truly feel like a part of the team."
There's no secret potion the Go-Go’s employed to rise from virtual obscurity to headlining status, unless you call writing catchy songs with clever pop hooks a magic formula. As Gina Schock puts it, "the only way this group has become successful is through the fruits of our own hard labor. We've had to work to get to where we are right now."
Weidlin chips in. "I think that people like Chrissie Hynde and Deborah Harry helped a lot because after people saw them front successful bands, it wasn't too weird to see women in music."
Schock attributes much of the Go-Go's success to a real team effort, and being in the right place at the right time.
"Actually,’ quipped the drummer, “there are a lot ways to explain how we have gotten into the position we occupy today. First off, we worked really hard. Two, the timing was very important not only for us, but the release of the album as well. Third, we’ve been very lucky. There are a lot of really good bands around Los Angeles that just can't get a record deal.
"The Go-Go’s has been a real team effort from our manager, lawyers, record company, our booking agency on down. Everyone worked as a team to make the Go-go’s a reality. When you have a successful combination where all the pistons in the engine are working in harmony, you can get up to speed really quick. And we did.
Beginner’s luck is another example Weidlin like’s to cite for the reason the Go-Go’s were able to accomplish the elusive dream that frustrates so many.
"If you have never been in a band before,” remarked the guitarist, “you really don't realize how much the odds are stacked against you. Believe it or not, I think our naïve outlook on the business actually worked in our favor because we hadn't been frustrated with previous efforts. Seriously, we just didn’t know any better.
"It never occurred to me that we could fail. I had never worked for years in a bar band, or done like the Holiday Inn circuit. I had no idea how hard it was to make it in this business. Seriously, when we all started out, Kathy and Gina were the only experienced musicians. The rest of us were beginners. But we did have that one key ingredient that makes the difference between success and failure. We could write catchy songs."
If determination has ever been drawn in the lines of a person’s face, then it was scrawled all over Gina Schock's. The 25-year old grew up in Baltimore and started playing the drums when she was 15. After a few attempts at playing in local bands, she decided, at age 21, it was time to make her move or forget it.
"I would go through periods where I wouldn't play my drums for six months,” she recalls, “and then I would think this is ridiculous. To find out the answer to the question bothering her, the musicians loaded up her father's truck, told her parents she was leaving for Los Angeles, and drove out West with a friend.
“At the time,” asserted Schock, “in order to be in a big band, you had to put down roots in New York or L.A. to have any sort of a chance. Those two cities are where all the rock and roll was happening. My parents didn’t want me to leave, but they realized how determined I was to give it a show. They knew I had to give it a shot, because music was the only thing that was going to make me happy. Even if I wasn't going to be successful at it, I had to make some sort of effort to better myself as a musician, or forget it. Fortunately, I landed in the perfect situation."
Schock doesn’t consider herself psychic by any means, but she does get a good laugh recalling her days back in high school when she told all of her friends that one day, she would be part of a big rock and roll band.
"When I was in high school,” recalled the drummer, “I had everyone convinced that one day I’d be a star in a famous rock and roll band. That was all I ever talked about when I was in school. It’s hysterical to think about it now, but I swear it’s true. I was always turning my friends on to new music. That’s how strongly I felt about it. Music occupied about 90 percent of my time to the point I was addicted to it. It’s really weird how much it overtook my life."
There really is no telling what separates the haves from the have-nots in the music business. Some groups just have that ‘it’ factor about them. The Go-Go's are more than a band that was in the right place at the right time. Certainly luck plays a large part of any band’s success, but there is no way to predict what, or who, will make an impact with their music.
"The fact there is this gnawing feeling inside of you that says you have to keep going is weird," said Schock. “It’s funny, but I think that all musicians are the same way. You never give up in this business despite the odds stacked against you. If you do, you’ll always wonder what would have happened if you had just stayed with it a little bit longer. If you give up when times are tough, or the situation is looking bad for you, then you shouldn’t have been in the business in the first place.
“The music business has a strange way of weeding out the pretenders from the contenders. There are times when situations look so bad you simply just don't know what you are going to do next. You can't worry about money. You can’t be emotionally up and down all the time wondering if you’re doing the right thing. There are many factors involved in doing something you truly believe in. If you want something bad enough, you will accept all the heartaches that go with it and carry on. When I would put my drums away and think about going out and getting a decent job, I would pull my drums out again because it was the only thing that I really enjoyed doing. That always snapped me back to reality.
"I figured that it was never too late, never too late, to follow your heart. If I wasn't in the Go-Go's, I would be in another band because I don’t give up that easily. I have always had that type of attitude because I absolutely love what I do. As much as I have complained in the past, I wouldn't be happy doing anything else. Yes it is hard work and a lot of times it's no fun. Certainly this life is no picnic, but here’s the thing. I know that if I was to do something else, my heart wouldn’t be in it. That goes for us all."