Members and Past Members
- Belinda Carlisle
- Jane Wiedlin
- Charlotte Caffey
- Gina Schock
- Margot Olavarria
- Elissa Bello
- Kathy Valentine
- Paula Jean Brown
The Go-Go’s are an all-female American rock band formed in 1978. They made history as the first, and to date only, all-female band that both wrote their own songs and played their own instruments to top the Billboard album charts.
The Go-Go’s rose to fame during the early 1980s. Their debut album, Beauty and the Beat, is considered one of the “cornerstone albums of (US) new wave” (Allmusic), breaking barriers and paving the way for a host of other new American acts. When the album was released, it steadily climbed the Billboard 200 chart, ultimately reaching No. 1, where it remained for six consecutive weeks. The album sold in excess of 3 million copies and reached triple platinum status, making it one of the most successful debut albums ever. The Go-Go’s have sold more than 7 million albums.
Original incarnation (1977–1980)
Formed in Los Angeles, California in 1978, the Go-Go’s initially consisted of Belinda Carlisle (vocals), Jane Wiedlin (guitar, vocals), Margot Olavarria (bass) and Elissa Bello (drums).
They were formed as a punk band and had roots in the L.A. punk community; they shared a rehearsal space with the Motels, and Carlisle (under the name “Dottie Danger”) had briefly been a member of punk rock band The Germs. Due to a bout of mononucleosis, she left The Germs before playing a gig.
The band started out playing gigs at seminal punk venues such as The Masque and the Whisky A Go Go in Los Angeles and the Mabuhay Gardens in San Francisco alongside bands such as Fear, The Plugz and The Controllers. Charlotte Caffey (lead guitar, keyboards) was added later in 1978, and in the summer of 1979, Gina Schock replaced Bello on drums. With these lineup changes, the group began moving towards their more-familiar power pop sound.
During late 1979, the band recorded a five-song demo at Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles, and in 1980, they supported the British ska revival group Madness in both Los Angeles and England. The Go-Go’s subsequently spent half of 1980 touring England, earning a sizable following and releasing the demo version of “We Got the Beat” on Stiff Records, which became a minor UK hit.
During December 1980, original bassist Olavarria fell ill with hepatitis A and was replaced with Kathy Valentine, who had played guitar in bands such as Girlschool and the Textones. Valentine had not previously played bass guitar. Carlisle also related in her autobiography, Lips Unsealed, that, according to the band’s view, another reason for Olavarria’s dismissal from the Go-Go’s was that she frequently missed rehearsals, due largely to her dissatisfaction with the band’s move away from punk and toward pop. In late 1982, Olavarria sued the remaining members of the band for wrongfully throwing her out. The suit was settled in 1984. Olavarria later worked with Martin Atkins and Brian Grillo in a band called Brian Brain.
The Go-Go’s have toured regularly since 1999. In February 2010, Carlisle announced that the 2010 tour would be billed as the “Farewell Tour”, but this tour was cancelled when Wiedlin injured her knee while hiking near her home in Northern California, requiring surgery and up to a year of recovery time.
Since 2010, the idea of a farewell tour seems to have been abandoned, as the Go-Go’s have toured every year since with no indication that they have plans to quit. In 2011, the Go-Go’s announced the “Ladies Gone Wild” tour to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the release of Beauty and the Beat.
On August 11, 2011, the band received the 2,444th star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame located at the site where punk rock club The Masque used to stand. They subsequently toured the US in 2012, with Abby Travis subbing for an injured Valentine during the latter part of the tour.
Departure of Kathy Valentine and lawsuit
On March 8, 2013, the group’s official website said “irreconcilable differences” had led to the departure of bassist Valentine. On May 24, Valentine sued her former bandmates for “breach of fiduciary duty and abuse of control…in an attempt to deprive [her] of her position and interest in the group, including her right to receive her full one-fifth, 20% share of the benefits and revenues generated by the group substantial reputation, fame, and goodwill.”
Now officially a quartet (Caffey, Carlisle, Schock, Wiedlin) the Go-Go’s continued on, playing a series of tour dates in 2013, including several double bills with The B-52’s. Abby Travis performed with the group as an adjunct member on bass. A series of US tour dates was announced for June and July 2014.