By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Wiedlin, Carlisle, Caffey, and Schock all went on to solo careers, each greeted with varying degrees of success, artistic and commercial: Carlisle's inanely slick, smooth disco-soul moves garnered her a few hits ("Heaven is a Place on Earth" went Number One in 1988), but Wiedlin's first solo record (Jane Wiedlin in 1985) ranks as the strongest of any post-Go-Go's record, a wildly varying piece of work that takes the Talk Show sound one step further toward adulthood. Valentine was the only member who did not record alone, instead returning to Austin and briefly hooking up with her former mate in the Violators, rocker-turned-mystery-author Jesse Sublett.
But it became painfully clear that without each other, the five Go-Go's were as useless as fingers unattached to a hand, and when A&M Records released a rather lamely assembled greatest-hits album in 1990, it gave them an excuse to regroup--if only, they said at the time, to mend old wounds and find out whether they could be pals again. The tour went well enough, but Carlisle had just come off her own trek across the world's performance stages and fought illness and fatigue the entire time, casting the pall of history over the affair. Eventually, the small talk about reuniting as a recording entity fell aside once the tour ended.
Then, last June, the band discovered I.R.S. Records was going to issue yet another best-of and demanded to become involved because the label owned only the masters to the first three records; the band feared a repeat of the A&M fiasco, and began providing cassettes of old performances and rehearsals, B-sides, and goofy private photos that dated back to their punk days.
And then the Go-Go's decided to record some new material, three songs of which (including the single "The Whole World Lost its Head" and the arrogantly mocking "Beautiful"--as in, "Beautiful is all I see when I look at me") are included on Return to the Valley of the Go-Go's and further blur the line between nostalgia and art. After all, the songs sound so Go-Go's--as though the decade that separates two breakups and two reunions is only a few weeks--yet they are every bit as endearing, as catchy, as sturdy as the moments they built on Beauty and the Beat and Talk Show. Which is ultimately what makes the Go-Go's, then and now, a great band: they were indeed a product of a time, exponents of glamour and excess and sarcasm, yet they transcend their point of origin.
"I almost feel the new songs are closer in spirit to our original intent," Wiedlin says. "I feel like in some ways we got a little bit sidelined in the '80s. And I'm not saying I'm not proud of the records I made or I'm ashamed of them. But let's face it, there were a lot of things going on in the '80s with new technology, and it was so exciting for musicians, and, of course, you wanted to use it on your records. Of course, we didn't know anything about it, so consequently we had people coming in and doing this stuff, and in a way it didn't represent what the band is now.
"Ten years later it's easy to look back and say, 'Oh, I get it--the Go-Go's are basically a garage band.' I mean, that's basically what we are. Let's face it, we're not Eddie Van Halen guitar players, we're not technodweebs, we're just kinda basic players and fortunately, for whatever reason, we just seem to have a good sense of melody, and that's where the pop enters into it. That's why now it's even more exciting for me because I feel like I have a clear picture of what we were, whereas before I was kinda like flying blindly and didn't know what was going on.
"Now," Wiedlin laughs, "I'm superior in every way."