The Go-Go’s performed a farewell tour in 2016. In the four years since, they have launched a Broadway show (Head Over Heels, 2018), written their first new song in twenty years (“Club Zero,” out today, July 31), and completed The Go-Go’s documentary, airing tomorrow, August 1, on Showtime. That is one impressively productive retirement.
Baltimore native Gina Schock headed for L.A. “with $2,000 and two grams of coke” when she was just twenty-one. She “drove across country with a dream,” telling everyone, “The next time you see me, I’m gonna be a rock star.” Inspired by John Bonham, Schock had an insatiable thirst for the big time—to play in arenas around the world and make a living as a drummer and songwriter—that was quenched in 1979 after meeting singer Belinda Carlisle and guitarists Jane Wiedlin and Charlotte Caffey. A few days later, a brief jam session cemented them as four fifths of the Go-Go’s; bassist Kathy Valentine solidified the line-up in late 1980.
Showtime’s new documentary on the band, The Go-Go’s, which premiers this Saturday, beautifully and truthfully illustrates their career—the highs and lows, the victories and struggles, the humor and heartache, the past and present—through an honest, raw, and emotional lens. Director Alison Ellwood (History of the Eagles, American Jihad, Laurel Canyon) equally and earnestly captures each of the five bandmembers’ stories and takes the viewer on a visceral journey through their breakneck ascent and devastating dissolution.
Ellwood takes it back to the late 1970s, painting an authentic picture of L.A.’s punk scene and the inexperience of the Go-Go’s, whose founding members decided to start the band despite, admittedly, not really knowing how to play instruments. It was, however, a rather forgiving environment, as Schock tells Modern Drummer: “[It] allowed you to be whoever you wanted to be, play the way you wanted to play, and you fit in. You were accepted.”
Next comes the heyday—the period from 1981 through 1984—when the Go-Go’s sign to IRS records and release just three albums prior to their 1985 breakup. During this time, the band becomes mainstays on MTV, tours relentlessly, sells more than seven million records worldwide, battles addiction, and squabbles over songwriting. “After years of a lot of money, a lot of drugs, and a lot of hangers-on,” Schock says, “it was starting to take its toll on the band.”
When it all became seemingly irreconcilable, the band officially split and didn’t speak for five years. In 1990, however, they received a call from actress and activist Jane Fonda about doing a show to help raise money for an initiative she wanted put on the L.A. ballot. According to Schock, the band said, “‘Sure,’ and it was just like old times—everything just faded away.” They’ve continued to work off and on ever since.
In 1982, the Go-Go’s became the first all-female band who wrote their own songs and played their own instruments to reach #1 on the Billboard album chart. Nearly forty years later, they remain the only band to do so. Schock hopes the takeaway from the documentary is that “People go, ‘Wow, they worked really hard to achieve what they have, and they happen to be women.’ How about that.”
Story by Dena Tauriello
Gina Schock photo by Arnold Neimanis
Go-Go’s photo by Vicki Berndt