Breaking ground as one of the first all-female superstar bands to play their own instruments and take control of their careers (without any testosterone), The Go-Gos burst out of the L.A. punk/new wave scene and had a string of infectious hits before splitting in 1985 and going their separate ways. Fans had to be content with lead singer Belinda Carlisle's solo career for a number of years before a handful of heralded reunions took place. After a few new compilations appeared in the 90s, the girls reunited for God Bless The Go-Gos, their first album of new material in years, in 2001. They continue to be hot on the touring circuit.
Originally called the Misfits, the band was formed in 1978 by Carlisle and guitarist Jane Weidlin, who were joined by guitarist Charlotte Caffey, bassist Margot Olavaerra and drummer Elissa Bello. This original lineup was signed to the UK indie label Stiff Records and to I.R.S. in the States. By the time they released their irresistible hit debut Beauty and the Beat in 1981, Olaverra was replaced by ex-Textone Kathy Valentine and Bello by Gina Schock.
The rambunctious Beauty And The Beat drew immediate comparisons to Blondie, and the album quickly hit #1 and stayed on top for six weeks. Its two big hits were "Our Lips Are Sealed" (U.S. Top 20), co-written by Wiedlin with Terry Hall of the Fun Boy Three, and "We Got The Beat", which gave the band a U.S. number 2 hit the following year. Film buffs will forever remember the song during the opening credits of the film Fast Times At Ridgemont High.
The title track from the second album, Vacation, was another Top 10 hit, but the band soon showed signs of burnout. The gap between their public image and private lives were widening. "When you're that young and having that kind of success, there's no sane way to handle it," Carlisle has said. Beneath the surface camaraderie, tension and turmoil were brewing, and on the road excesses were common. 1984's harder rocking Talk Show and its hit "Head Over Heels" both reached the U.S. Top 20, but the band split in 1985.
With the break-up, Carlisle subsequently pursued a successful solo career with assistance from Charlotte Caffey, who, for a time, appeared in her backing group. Carlisle's most notable hits were "Mad About You" (1986) and "Heaven Is a Place on Earth" (1987.
Caffey later formed the Graces with Meredith Brooks and Gia Campbell and recorded for A&M Records, releasing Perfect View in 1989, before moving into soundtrack work (Clueless).
Schock formed the short-lived House Of Shock, releasing a self-titled album for Capitol Records in 1988. As well as recording as a solo artist, Wiedlin attempted to break into acting with a few minor movie roles. She instigated the long-anticipated but brief Go-Go's reunion in 1990 for a benefit for the anti-fur trade organization PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).
A fuller reunion took place in 1994 for well-paid shows in Las Vegas, which led to I.R.S. release of Return To The Valley Of The Go-Go's, a compilation of the band's best-known moments with the addition of two new tracks. Carlisle and Wiedlin then resumed their solo careers, whilst Valentine and Schock formed the Delphines. Another reunion took place in summer 2000 for a US tour alongside the B-52's, with a new album released in May 2001. In 2000, they appeared on VH1's Behind the Music series and released an accompanying best-of album, the Go Go's collection.