Friday Film Review--"The Go-Go's"
The Go-Go’s made it big in the early eighties, but not much is known about their rise to fame and backstory. Making its debut at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the documentary - "The Go-Go’s" hit the small screen this month on Showtime. Linda Jager shares her review of the film for this week’s Friday Film Review.
I quickly became a fan when the Go-Go’s made their debut on the mainstream music scene and MTV in the early eighties. Their music became the soundtrack to my high school and college years. They were pioneers as an all-girl band who played their own instruments and wrote their own songs, and stood out far and above their underrated genre at the time, which included The Bangles and Bananarama.
Alison Ellwood’s documentary "The Go-Go’s" is now streaming on Showtime after having made its debut at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Like most rock documentaries, the film follows a linear storyline with archival footage, personal interviews and behind the scenes stories that begin with the band’s start playing L.A.’s punk rock circuit.
Original bandmates Belinda Carlisle, Jane Wiedlin, and Charlotte Caffey met and formed the group in the late seventies. Ironically, Wiedlin and Caffey didn’t know how to play guitar, but quickly learned to back up Carlisle on lead vocals. The trio then cycled through drummers and bass players before gelling with guitarist Kathy Valentine and drummer Gina Schock.
Early on the band had a distinct pop vibe that set them apart and caught the ear of rookie manager Ginger Canzoneri, who knocked on doors and pawned her valuables to get the band airtime, a record deal and touring gigs.
The film goes behind the music to share the origins of the band top 10 hits - from "Our Lips are Sealed" to "We Got the Beat" to "Vacation", all written by bandmates Caffey and Wiedlin. There’s also footage of the band’s rocky first tour opening for The Replacements and The Specials in England. But the group eventually made it to the big time opening for The Police, as their debut album "Beauty and the Beat" made it to #1 on the Billboard charts in 1982. It stayed for six weeks and was the first and only time an all-female band who wrote their own music and played their own instruments held that spot. Yet, the band still hasn’t made it to The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The film also chronicles the darker times for the bandmates, which included infighting over creative differences, pay equity, depression, drug abuse and the band’s eventual break up. But things and on a high note, which I’ll let you discover on your own when you watch the film.
"The Go-Go’s" runs 1 hour and 37minutes. It’s not rated but does contain some spicy language and references to drug use, so heads up before you watch it with your kids. The documentary is a standout among the rock doc genre and definitely a film worth watching, especially if you came of age in the MTV era.
This is Linda Jager with the KPCW Friday Film Review.