They’re not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Of the myriad artists who warrant the response, The Go-Go’s have been one of the most brow-furrowing omissions.
But that changes on Saturday, when lead singer Belinda Carlisle, guitarist/keyboardist Charlotte Caffey, drummer Gina Schock, bassist Kathy Valentine and guitarist/singer Jane Wiedlin receive their overdue coronation in Cleveland as part of the 2021 class.
Drew Barrymore will induct the quintet, who will be enshrined in the “performer” category along with Jay-Z, Carole King (as a solo artist, being inducted by Taylor Swift), Todd Rundgren, Tina Turner (as a solo artist, being inducted by Angela Bassett) and Foo Fighters (being inducted by Paul McCartney). The significant lineup will be joined by “early influence” selectees Kraftwerk, Charley Patton and Gil Scott-Heron; “musical excellence” recruits LL Cool J, Billy Preston and Randy Rhoads; and Ahmet Ertegun Award winner Clarence Avant, who will be inducted by Lionel Richie.
The Go-Go’s catalog is highlighted by “Our Lips Are Sealed,” “We Got the Beat,” “Vacation” and “Head Over Heels” and the band is expected to play a trio of hits at the ceremony, which will air on HBO and HBO Max Nov. 20. (The Foo Fighters will also perform, while Turner will be represented on stage by Christina Aguilera, Mickey Guyton, H.E.R. and Bryan Adams, and Swift and Jennifer Hudson will perform on behalf of King.)
In separate interviews, Schock, Wiedlin and Caffey talked about the momentousness of their induction and the pioneering legacy of The Go-Go’s – the first all-female band to write their own songs, play their own instruments and top the Billboard album chart, as they did in 1982 with “Beauty and the Beat.”
On the band’s reaction to the induction news:
Schock: At first we were like (expletive) them! You’re not going to let us in, (expletive) you. But when we learned we were actually going in, we were like, ‘Oh my God, we’re going to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!’ It’s like getting the lifetime achievement Academy Award. From hateful to grateful, as they say… It’s way long overdue for women and we are on this wave that’s hitting really hard right now. We’ve been feminists without even realizing it, just by virtue of doing what we do. We just happen to be five girls who got together and made some music and had a great time. The fact that we were women was secondary. All these years later, there still isn’t a band like The Go-Go’s.
Caffey: The nomination was one thing. We were really excited like, ‘Wow!’ But in the back of my mind, I was like, we have to get inducted. I didn’t really get my hopes up or think about it, but when the news came we were really thrilled and a little dumbstruck.
Wiedlin: It’s funny, we’ve been eligible for 15 years. I think all of us thought since we were the first successful all-female rock band who played their own instruments and wrote their own songs, that that’s a hall of fame kind of thing, like the guy who made the most home runs. So when it didn’t happen after a few years we were like huh, what’s going on? And then there was a changing of the guard (on the committee) and as soon as that happened, we got nominated. I was super excited.
On the influence of Alison Ellwood’s 2020 documentary ‘The Go-Go’s’:
Wiedlin: Hardly anyone in this country knew our legacy and we had no way of getting that out to people until Alison’s documentary. She pounded that message about us being the first female rock band and I like that it’s something you can never take away from us. After the ‘Behind the Music’ debacle (in 1997) that was so ridiculously salacious and negative, I was gun-shy (about doing a documentary). It took us a year of meeting with Alison before we took that leap of faith.
Caffey: Alison really showed what we were like in the beginning and the passion and everything, and that, to me, was impactful. Showing up to interview with her, I started rambling the second we started. It was such a flow, such a great vibe. The thing that was really telling was that she sent us a rough cut and she said, ‘Please watch this from beginning to end,’ and by the end of it, I was floored. When we went to Sundance and saw the reaction after people had just watched it, there was a standing ovation for us and we were like, ‘What?’ We had the same experience of how it changed our view of the band and each other and it was very healing. Even though it happened to me, I felt like I was an outsider looking in.
On the legacy of The Go-Go’s:
Wiedlin: (We want people to remember) how we managed to make it in a man’s world. It was hard. People were openly and blatantly sexist in those days. The industry is still run by the patriarchy, but people are way more cautious about being open about it – at least they know they might be wrong. And girl power was really important. We all got enormous strength and courage because there were five of us and we were incredibly naïve. Most of us had no experience in the music biz.
Schock: I come from a blue-collar, middle-class family. So no matter where you’re from, if you have faith in yourself and people have faith in you, you have a chance. My parents were very supportive of me being a musician even though they thought I was completely crazy. Well, sometimes it works out!
Caffey: It’s about the songs and the music we wrote. It’s classic in a sense because that music has stood the test of time. Our legacy includes when we play live. People leave the show being uplifted and have an energy shift and bring that out into the world. That’s one of the best things we can do. We didn’t compromise. We were who we were and we wrote what we wrote.