Born on the 17th August 1958, Belinda Carlisle first came to the world’s attention as the lead singer of the US all girl outfit, The Go-Gos. It’s hard to picture the now sleek and shiny Belinda as a rebellious teen, but she has previously confessed that “By the time I hit fourteen, I’d gone really wild,” she said. “I ran away from home, smoked pot, dropped acid … you name it, I’d try it.”
Caught up in Hollywood’s budding punk scene, her first musical foray was as the drummer of the local punk band Germs – where her punk name was Dottie Danger. However, Belinda was to spend more time in her sick bed than behind the drum-kit and most of her tenure with the band was written off with a severe bout of Glandular fever.
In 1978, she formed an all-female band The Misfits, with friends Jane Wiedlin, Margot Olavarria and Elissa Bello, later adding Charlotte Caffey, and eventually replacing Elissa and Margot with Gina Schock and Kathy Valentine. They became known as the Go-Go’s.
The band rehearsed a block away from where they were living, a place they described as ‘the basement of a porno theatre’, which was also home to punk hangout The Masque, where they shared space with fellow punk and new wave bands like X and The Motels.
As novice musicians at the time, they apparently wrote their first songs still using tape markers on their instruments to remember the chord shapes.
It was at The Masque that the Go-Gos made their live debut in July ’78,
‘Everyone in the audience was either horrified or laughing hysterically’ – Belinda Carlisle
Although the Go-Gos had formed in 1978 and were initially inspired by the punk scene, it became obvious that they were now writing with a far poppier sensibility,
“Punk pundits called them sell-outs, but they didn’t care”. – David Keeps
After opening for Madness in LA in March 1980, the Brits invited them back to the UK, for a return three month stint as tour support later in the year. So, via their new connections, Stiff Records released their demo versions of “We Got The Beat” and “How Much More” on a single in May of 1980.
The Madness audience took straight to them – letting them know by honking up the now famous, post-punk phlegm of appreciation, and directing it straight towards the stage,
“Once they saw we were five girls from Los Angeles, they yelled vile things and called us terrible names. They spat on us too. They called it “gobbing”. They ran up to the stage, coughed up a wad of spit, and hocked it at us … I never saw the gobs coming, but I felt my stomach turn after they hit. There were stories about performers getting sick after being hit in the eye or accidentally swallowing someone else’s spit. We came offstage covered in snot, and I cried afterwards, as did the other girls”.
While still wiping the spittle off their stage clothes, import copies of that first record on Stiff, started trickling back into the US, and the girls returned to the States to find that they were in the middle of having an enormous underground hit on their hands.
“I remember thinking to myself, OK, I’m young and I’m a musician, people are going to have certain expectations of me. They’re going to think I’m a flake, they’re going to think I’m a drug addict and they’re going to think I’m irresponsible—so I might as well become all those things.” She settled on cocaine as her drug of choice—a substance, she said, that “always made me feel better no matter what else was bothering me.” Carlisle wasn’t the only member of the Go-Go’s to succumb to addiction, as other members of the band would send drugs via FedEx to their locations when they went on tour”. from biography.com
The Go-Go’s would go on to become one of the most successful American bands of the 1980s, looking as unlike FedEx drug dealers as was possible, they shoehorned their popped up brand of new wave music onto popular American radio. The Go-Gos were the first all-female band to single-handedly write and play their way to the US No. 1 album slot with “Beauty and the Beat”, which featured the re-recorded hit “We Got the Beat” and “Our Lips Are Sealed”. It was the second best selling album in the US in 1982 and was awarded a double platinum disc in recognition of sales of over 2 million.
The Go-Gos disbanded in 1985, after which Belinda then embarked on a solo career, which spawned the drive-time, uber-classic “Heaven is a Place on Earth”.
Belinda has not only written some corking pop chunes, posseses of one of the most recognisable voices in pop, and has been an excellent ambassador for girls in bands – she has also posed naked for Playboy, made an album based on repetetive chants and advertised menopause magnets. For each and every one of these things, we salute her.
Happy Birthday Belinda.