Friend of LOUD WOMEN Terry Staunton jumped on a Zoom with The Go-Go’s Jane Wiedlin in Hawaii and Charlotte Caffey in LA to talk about the heyday of the group who, with monster hits such as ‘We Got The Beat’ and ‘Our Lips Are Sealed’, lay claim to be the first chart-topping all-woman band who wrote their own songs. However, theirs was a star that shone comparatively briefly, the pressures of success, the pursuit of greater success, and a few personal demons conspiring to derail them after just three albums.
You seemed to spring fully-formed as a sparkling pop band, but how important were your beginnings on the LA punk scene?
Jane: I don’t think we would have made it anywhere without punk, because it was kind of the first inclusive music scene that ever existed. There had been women singers in bands in the past but the idea of entire bands of women calling the shots themselves was pretty much unheard of.
Charlotte: The whole punk scene was about pure self-expression, so it was place where we could stand up front on stage and say ‘Here’s who we are’. It all seemed to unfold very organically, we found our voice and that gave us, Jane and myself especially, the courage and the confidence to write songs.
Did you see yourselves as part of a feminist new wave in music?
Jane: We didn’t really sit down and dwell on it. I mean, we were women but we didn’t spend long nights dwelling on our gender! It was a time when ‘feminism’ was still, to some extent, a dirty word, like ‘communist’ or ‘fascist’ – it conjured images of strident women with moustaches who hated men. It was difficult for us to embrace feminism as an ethos when we were still very young, all in our teens, so I don’t think we analysed it too much. In retrospect, of course we were feminists, and as our popularity grew we met so many hundreds a girls that were inspired by us. That was when it sank in that what we were doing was important.
Charlotte: We didn’t fly a feminist flag, but our actions spoke for themselves. We consciously hired a female manager and lawyer and roadies, but I don’t think it really struck us at the beginning that we were a source of inspiration to others.
You do own up to a love of vintage girl groups as your own source of inspiration, though.
Jane: We didn’t have a lot of women to look up to, but Belinda, Charlotte and I grew up listening to AM radio in Los Angeles, and these incredible hooks and harmonies and melodies would stick in your head. I think we all especially loved the rebellious girl groups – The Shangri-La’s in particular were singing about stuff most bands wouldn’t touch, it was like no subject matter whatsoever was off-limits.
Charlotte: I’d say Jane was more of an inspiration to me than The Shangri-La’s!
Charlotte: Yeah, absolutely! I was kind of like a dork, I’d had classical music training, and wasn’t sure where I fit in. But there were these young women with such attitude, wearing bin-liners and what have you. I couldn’t wait to finish work each day and get to rehearsals just to be around them. I was completely in awe.
Jane: I never thought of you as a dork, you always seemed ultra-cool to me.
This is an extract of a full interview, which is published in the March 2021 issue of Record Collector magazine – grab a copy from here.
The Go-Go’s documentary is available to download and stream now via Eagle Rock. God Bless The Go-Go’s is reissued with bonus tracks in May.