If we’ve learned anything from watching documentaries about ’70s and ’80s music icons of late, it’s that the money to be made in the business doesn’t come from the singing. It comes from the writing, and the money, and the ego and resentment that come with it, are often at the root of a band’s demise. That seems to be the case with The Go-Go’s too. The all-girl punk/post-punk/new wave/pop/pop-rock band from Los Angeles weren’t together for many years – just seven – but they certainly left their mark in music history. By the time their fourth album, Talk Show came out in 1984, it was all over. (It just took a few more months for it to be official.) The two band members who were responsible for writing the bulk of their music, Charlotte Caffey and Jane Wiedlin, were not interested in sharing their writing royalties equally with the others. But it’s now 2020 and what’s past is in the past and the girls have patched up their differences. They have gotten back together (yet again) to release a new song, Club Zero, their first in 19 years. Not surprisingly, along with the song is a tell-all documentary.
Simply titled THE GO-GO’S, the film charts the band’s meteoric rise from the Hollywood punk scene in the late ’70s to their playing to sell out crowds in stadiums and arenas on both sides of the Atlantic. The women are all on camera to tell their version of events and they don’t hold anything back. They are brutally honest about themselves and about each other. They were all driven to succeed in the music industry and if that meant unceremoniously tossing out band members who weren’t pulling their weight or even their manager to reach that goal, they did it. Along the way, they partied hearty with plenty of cocaine and alcohol to the point where Caffey checked herself into rehab. When so many of their contemporaries ended up in an early grave, it’s a wonder that they’re all still alive and clean today.
Though The Go-Go’s only had a few hits, they were huge, with songs like “We Got the Beat”, “Our Lips Are Sealed”, “Vacation” and “Head Over Heels” soaring up the record charts. You could easily think that their new song is from that era too (I know I did), as it has that familiar Go-Go’s sound and beat.
Director Alison Ellwood (AMERICAN JIHAD; HISTORY OF THE EAGLES) wisely puts a tight frame around the five women, only bringing in former band members, record company executives and fellow musicians (like The Police’s Stewart Copeland, The Stranglers’ Lynval Golding and Madness’ Lee Thompson for additional colour) when needed. This is their story in their own words and the result makes for an interesting, informative and enjoyable 98 minutes. Watching old footage of Belinda Carlisle dancing isn’t too bad either.
THE GO-GO’S is streaming now on Showtime. For fans of their music, it’s a must-see.
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