By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
And Vacation, released the following year, sounded like a record made by superstars--flat, slick, a vapid attempt to capitalize on what made them famous (cutesy bathing suit cover this time, frolicking videos again) and diminish what made them special. Only "It's Everything But Partytime" stands up now, though it's more a nod to Leslie Gore than its own piece of work.
By the time of Talk Show in 1984, the band had all but fallen apart: most of the women had become drug addicts and alcoholics, they began feuding over who would assume lead vocals for particular songs, and they stopped writing together. It played out like teenybopper soap opera--five girls grow up in the L.A. fast lane, crave fame but don't know how to handle it when it arrives, hang out with celebrities (John Belushi) and tour with superstars (The Police), and succumb to the pressures and jealousies that come with unexpected success.
Wiedlin, who says she was "completely miserable" at the time, recalls how the band turned against guitarist Charlotte Caffey as the worst offender, often handing her parts over to bassist Kathy Valentine. Wiedlin, in fact, says that she can't separate herself from the bitterness that surrounded the making of Talk Show, recalling the bad feeling that still lingers from the fact her bandmates forced her to let Carlisle sing "Forget the Day" when she desperately wanted to handle the chores.
"I know I have heard from a lot of people that they think Talk Show is our best record," Wiedlin says, "and I don't really have a clear perspective of it because we were having so many problems when we were making that record that I think all of us just sort of feel the negative emotions of that record more than the actual songwriting quality or the production standard or anything. So it's hard for me to divorce my feelings of 1983 and 1984 from what that record sounds like.
"Like, at rehearsal [for the current tour], everyone said they wanted to rehearse 'Forget that Day,' which was a real sore point. We were just nuts then. It was really ridiculous. Like, who really cares either way? Why do I care that much if I sing, and why do they care that much to say they don't want me to sing? It was just kind of an indication of how badly things had disintegrated. So when they brought that up, I was kind of like, 'Oh, God, not that thing.'"
Talk Show ranks as the band's worst-selling record, but it is indeed the Go-Go's most confident, mature, and willful: it's a mini-masterpiece of pop songcraft, two handfuls of relationship songs balanced out by equal parts bitterness, cynicism, and romantic hope. If the Go-Go's of Beauty and the Beat created the frothy, perky image and the girls on Vacation honed that image to imperfection, then the band members on Talk Show emerged as confident, independent women who stopped flirting with the boys and began talking with the men.
"I wonder if we think the same thoughts," Carlisle sang in "Beneath the Blue Sky," "I think we're sharing the same lies." And when she proclaimed "I'll live without you" on the B-side "Good for Gone" (written by drummer Gina Schock and Kathy Valentine), she was staking out her independence with pride and good cheer: "Everything's the same, nothing's changed, without you."
And with the maturation as musicians and songwriters came the shedding of the bubbly thrift-store image--a move that ultimately alienated those fans who thought of the band as kewpie dolls who got the beat. It failed to place a hit single ("Head Over Heels" and "Turn to You" fared modestly on the charts), and shortly after its release in 1984, Wiedlin left the band. By that time, Carlisle and Caffey had succumbed to enormous drug and alcohol problems, and the infighting became too much for Wiedlin to handle; eventually, by May 1985, Carlisle and Caffey had sobered up and decided they, too, had had enough, leaving Valentine and Schock to go their own way.
"At that time, it was less fun, fun, fun and more, 'OK, here's some good songs and, yes, we're grown-up women,'" Wiedlin says. "We presented that to the public, and the public was like, 'Well, we don't want you to be grown-up women. We want you to be fun, fun, fun.' And it sucks! It freaks you out, it pisses you off.
"The whole image thing is so mystifying to me. It can be such a blessing and such a curse because, let's face it, that was what attracted people to the Go-Go's--that whole sense of bubbly fun. And that was cool because the first record sold over two million copies, but then after the 1,001st person asks you, 'Wow, what's it like being a girl in an all-girl band?' or yet another dorky question, you kinda feel like you want to smack people a little bit. God, get over it already. But basically we were kind of trapped in our little fun-fun-fun world.
"And it is partially true. It's not a completely false image. I mean, we were having fun. We started the band to have fun. We're fun-loving people. I still love to have fun. But that's not all I am. I can be morose and bitter and bitchy like anyone else on this planet. I think what happens is you start getting resentful that everyone expects you to be like a little cartoon character."