As the most successful all-woman rock band of all time, the Go-Go’s performed catchy, well-crafted songs that formed a bridge between the brash urgency of L.A. punk and the dark melodies of new wave pop.
Formed out of the diverse and egalitarian punk scene in Los Angeles in 1978 with Belinda Carlisle on lead vocals and Jane Wiedlin on rhythm guitar and vocals, the core lineup of the band solidified over the next few years with the additions of lead guitarist and keyboardist Charlotte Caffey, drummer Gina Schock, and bassist Kathy Valentine. Known for their raw and energetic live shows, the Go-Go’s circumvented record label sexism and signed with IRS Records in 1981. Their debut album Beauty and the Beat was released later that year and became the first (and, to date, only) album by an all-woman band that played its own instruments and wrote its own songs to top the Billboard albums chart.
Despite a shift toward a more melodic new wave sound, the band’s D.I.Y. punk roots remain evident in hits like “We Got the Beat” and “Our Lips Are Sealed.” The group’s second and third studio albums, Vacation (1982) and Talk Show (1984), furthered their success with the singles “Vacation” and “Head Over Heels.” In heavy rotation on MTV, their songs (primarily composed by Caffey, Wiedlin, and Valentine) had weighty lyrics belied by their sunny melodies and a timelessness that set the band apart from many of their 1980s counterparts.
After breaking up in 1985, the band got back together in 1990 for touring and a succession of singles, videos and album releases. In recent years, the band’s music has been celebrated with the Broadway musical Head Over Heels and chronicled in the Showtime documentary The Go-Go’s (2020). For the documentary’s soundtrack, the band reconvened virtually to record their first new song in 19 years, “Club Zero.” The Go-Go’s influence is seen in countless artists, including Bikini Kill, Green Day, and Nirvana.
Inductees: Charlotte Caffey, Belinda Carlisle, Gina Schock, Kathy Valentine, Jane Wiedlin
Influences: Beach Boys, Germs, Buzzcocks
Legacies: Green Day, Nirvana, Bikini Kill
Cleveland, Ohio 44114