The term “all-girl band” has been thrown around for decades to describe what was considered a novelty for a band consisting entirely of women. When rock music was becoming popular in the 1950s and 1960s, the band scene was predominantly male and arguably, it wasn’t until The Runaways experience success did more women start to form their own groups. One of the most commercially successful and influential all-female rock bands was The Go-Go’s. Formed in 1979 out of the punk scene of Los Angeles, the five-piece had huge commercial success, sold millions of records while off-stage they broke stereotypes by embodying the spirit of rock-n-roll of the time that was unapologetic for their partying ways and proving naysayers wrong that they were nothing more than a novelty act for being an “all-girl band”.
Comprised of lead singer Belinda Carlisle, guitarists Charlotte Caffey and Jane Wiedlin, bassist Kathy Valentine and drummer Gina Schock, the band broke out during the new wave revolution of the early 80s. They had their challenges early on getting signed to a record label, as Caffey told Billboard, “People at the record labels were like, “We don’t want to sign you, you’re girls” — sexist, ridiculous nonsense.” Eventually signing with I.R.S. Records, their debut album, ‘Beauty and the Beat’, was released in 1981 and topped the Billboard charts for six weeks and is the first and only album by an all-female band who wrote their own music and played their own instruments to reach the top position. Songs like “Our Lips Are Sealed”, “We Got The Beat”, “Vacation” and “Head Over Heels” have stood the test of time as numerous artists have covered their songs and continue to be played on commercial radio while being used in various television and movie soundtracks. Without a doubt, their music has influenced artists who came after them including Dum Dum Girls, Best Coast, The Donnas, and Veruca Salt, as well as Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day and Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, who’ve cited The Go-Go’s as an influence. More recently, punk rock band Potty Mouth had the opportunity to open for The Go-Go’s and even co-wrote their song “Fencewalker” with Schock. Bassist Ally Einbinder of Potty Mouth stated, “They’re all individually fantastic talented musicians in their own right. The Go-Go’s are an incredible band and definitely a major influence of ours. Everything they’ve released is so good, which is why they have a legacy. That’s very admirable.“
During their heyday, The Go-Go’s were just as debaucherous as their male counterparts when it came to partying, drugs and groupies. The band’s image of five attractive women contradicted their penchant for getting into mischief that wasn’t considered acceptable for women at the time. In her memoir “Lips Unsealed”, Carlisle stated- “It was never a contrived image. We just looked that way. It was a combination of punk, rockabilly and tiaras, torn stockings and stilettos and we just had these angelic faces that hid a multitude of sins.” That “punk rock” attitude transcends each of the band member’s personalities, whether it’s being politically active, championing LGBTQ+ rights or helping the next generation of women in music.
Today, The Go-Go’s still perform live together while maintaining their own individual careers. Carlisle had a huge solo career in the late 80s and 90s and continues to perform to this day. She’s very politically active and has been intimately involved with the LGBTQ+ community, especially more-so after her son came out when he was a teenager. Wiedlin has had a successful career as a solo artist and songwriter, as has Caffey and Schock, all three of whom have written and collaborated with current artists ranging from Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus to Social Distortion, Hole, Tears for Fears and others.