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The first band for girls to write their own music and play their own instruments, The Go-Go, appeared on the music scene four decades ago.
Now they are back in a new Showtime documentary, which premieres Friday at 9pm ET / PT. Along with the release of “The Go-Go’s”, the band will release a new single, “Club Zero”, on Friday.
The documentary describes how the band, known for their favorite hits such as “We Got the Beat” and “Our Ups Are Sealed”, came together. And it wasn’t easy.
Along the way, the band members were fired and replaced, unscrupulous businessmen tried to persuade them to sign their music rights, and there was drug use (and abuse) among some members, including cocaine and heroin.
The group initially disbanded in 1985, although members have been returning together on projects ever since.
Before the premiere, here are five downloads from the documentary:
Go-Go had punk rock roots
While their most famous works are pure pop, the band’s roots date back to the punk rock scene in Los Angeles in the late 70’s.
“If you were terrible, you were cooler,” said lead vocalist Belinda Carlisle. “Everyone could do whatever they wanted. It was complete freedom.”
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Few members did not know that in about a year, they would trade dive bars for arenas such as Madison Square Garden. The roommates contacted quickly.
“We hated our parents and society, but we supported each other,” said rhythm guitarist Jane Wiedlin.
The punk scene was a sanctuary
While most of the Go-Go admit to being exiles, in particular, Wiedlin has a difficult childhood that stems from her father leaving his family.
“I always felt like I didn’t fit in,” she said.
This led to a suicide attempt when he was 15 years old. She then released the London punk rock scene and her wild models through the Daily Wear Daily. She identifies with “punk energy and anger.” Soon she was making her own clothes to emulate the movement with hard nails.
“People were walking around the street when they saw me,” she said.
Carlisle, the eldest of seven children, says the punk immediately turned to her.
“I always felt like I was pretending to be something I wasn’t,” she said. “It opened up a whole new world for me.”
If you or someone you know can fight suicidal thoughts, you can call the U.S. Suicide Prevention Rescue Line in the U.S. at 800-273-TALK (8255) at any time of the day or night, or talk online.
Drummer Gina Shock knew she would “be a rock star”
While all Go-Go had a musical background 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, she even studied music at Immaculate Heart College, a private Catholic school in Los Angeles.
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When she made a punk move, she said, “All this music theory, rules had to be thrown out the window.” She had to pick up the guitar, and fast.
“We were pretty stupid in the beginning,” Caffey said. “We really didn’t sound so great.”
Gina Shock was an exception. As one of the few female drummers at the time, she admits to choosing concerts.
“When I left Baltimore, I told everyone, ‘Next time you see me, I’ll be a rock star.’ “
The early days in London were a mixed bag
At the beginning of Go-Go they were recruited in London, where they opened for a number of ska groups. 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 hated us,” Wiedlin said. “We were Americans and worst of all … we were chicks.”
“Here are these five Southern California girls on stage playing these scary skinheads,” Caffey said. “It was scary.”
Still, the trip proved worthwhile, helping to increase their profile at home.
“Everyone thought we were huge stars in London and we didn’t tell them anything else,” Vidlin said.
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They thought the video “Our lips are sealed” was a “waste of time”
Launched in 1981, MTV’s leading artists began producing music videos for mass consumption.
Go-Go joined the action, shooting a video for “Our Lips Are Sealed” for only $ 6,000.
“This money came from a video of the police, for which they did not spend all their money,” Wiedlin said.
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Members of the group did not take the photos seriously, Caffey said. In fact, when they sprayed themselves in a fountain, she said they hoped they would be arrested.
“We had no idea how important the video would be,” she said. “We thought it was a big waste of time.”
At one point, this video was played every 30 minutes on MTV and catapulted them into the history of pop culture.
Follow Gary Dings on Twitter @gdinges
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