DIAMONDS IN THE SHADE…THE LOST YEARS OF THE GO-GO’S EDITION

“Cool Jerk”
The Go-Go’s (1990)
#60 UK
Recommended source: Greatest

“The Whole World Lost Its Head”
The Go-Go’s (1994)
#108 Billboard
Recommended source: Return to the Valley of the Go-Go’s

“Good Girl”
The Go-Go’s (1994)
Did not make the charts
Recommended source: Return to the Valley of the Go-Go’s

“Beautiful”
The Go-Go’s (1994)
Album Track
Recommended source: Return to the Valley of the Go-Go’s

Weird.

gogos1

Every once in a while when I’m noodling around, doing nothing in particular, I think of something from days gone by and then, being now properly programmed by modernity, I naturally think again. What I tend to think the second time is “I wonder if it’s on YouTube?”

One of the things I still can’t believe is not on YouTube, no matter how often I’ve thought “surely it must be there by now,” is the Go-Go’s’ MTV video for “Turn to You,” the last great single of their original incarnation, which ended in 1984. One reason I keep hoping it will be there is so I can do a “Not Quite Random Favorites” edition titled “My Favorite Video” because nothing else comes within a thousand miles. (That’s the one where they played a band at a sock-hop…and their own dates. Maybe they really did need a break.)

Anyway, last night I went looking for it yet again and found it still wasn’t there. There’s a mini-doc on the making of “Turn to You”–of course there is–but not the actual video.

Story of my life and all that.

But, this time, clicking around, I started thinking of other things that should be there, none of which I ever thought to look for before.

By which I mean videos from “the lost years”….those years between 1984’s Talk Show and 2001’s God Bless the Go-Go’s, when they popped in and out a couple of times and did what they always did, which was be perfect.

Sometimes, what other people did with and to them wasn’t perfect. Whoever put the extra disco-fied ‘effects’ on this wasn’t perfect. But I’m sure it wasn’t their idea. They were barely paying attention to themselves or each other when this came out in 1990. But having the video finally makes sense of it (in a way its inclusion on their first greatest hits package didn’t). What’s clear hearing–and seeing–it now, at least to me, is that Belinda Carlisle had turned from a singer who was right for her band to a singer who could carry any band. I missed that at the time so a mea culpa is in order.

They were paying a little more attention when they got together and recorded three new songs of their own for 1994’s full-blown retrospective Return to the Valley of the Go-Go’s. Almost inconceivably, I had never even wondered if they made any videos attending that little project, so I went searching deeper and found this, for the lead single from the project….which isn’t much of a video (not nearly as good as “Cool Jerk,” let alone what they had done in their heyday) but is a fabulous record. Even if the faint tang of my disappointment in finally realizing that “Boston girls are getting down in bikinis” (a touch of poetry) was really “Muslim girls” (meh) remains, it’s failure to break out still serves as one of the Seven Signs of the Apocalypse…

…And it wasn’t even the best of the three sides they cut for Return.

This, for which they released a single but didn’t make a real video, was better, and has the new-and-improved Carlisle’s finest vocal…

..and I’m not even sure it was the best…depends on the mood I guess. It’s worth reading the quotes at the beginning of each song, but they won’t break any ties.

All in all, that should have been enough to re-start their career.

But it wasn’t.

God Bless the Go-Go’s came out a full seven years later and, instead of really promising more, its final track sealed the whole deal. Years of summer reunion gigs, Kathy Valentine’s departure, and one of those “farewell tours” (at least I think there was only one) formalized it.

But the end was right there in that final track, now commemorated in my favorite “homemade” video.

For some perspective, here’s a nice piece from Goldmine, circa 2011, before Valentine left the band, where, among other things, they debunk any notion that being an all-female band was actually some kind of advantage, post-punk. Turns out that, through no fault of their own, Fanny and the Runaways (both signed by big labels and given major publicity pushes in the decade prior) hadn’t so much blazed a trail as crapped the table.

I’m reading between the lines, of course.

Just more fuel for the argument I made at the time and have made ever since: they didn’t blaze all those trails because it was, as so many argued, “time” for an all-female band. They blazed all those trails because they were the Go-Go’s. It’s only in critical theory that the theories count. In the real world, it’s always the people who matter.

gogos2

(Belinda Carlisle, Charlotte Caffey, Gina Schock, Jane Wiedlin, Kathy Valentine)

SOME DREAMS DIE HARD…(Found In The Connection: Rattling Loose End #17)

…And I’ll keep hangin’ on to this one, but just at present the prospects don’t look good.

In 1982, when they were riding high, the Go-Go’s played across the street from the apartment where I was living.

So, literally, in 1982 I could say that I didn’t walk across the street to see the only post 1979 band I ever cared about the way I’ve cared about a dozen or more pre-1979 bands. I had good excuses for not going back then and they would have been good excuses even if I had known for certain that the revolution was winding down and I would never feel that way again.

I was broke. I didn’t go to concerts. I would have had to go alone, which I’m generally fine with even now (and was even more generally fine with then), but I thought it would seem pretty weird and isolationist to be alone at a rock concert even for someone as anti-social as me.

Most importantly, though, there was always the future.

I was sure I would catch them next time around.

Now it’s thirty-one years on and I still haven’t seen them. Let’s just say, they haven’t played across the street from me since then. Heck, they haven’t even come within reasonable driving distance.

So I was all set to fly out to the west coast, last year. Had it all planned that I would catch them at their 30th anniversary show at the Hollywood Bowl in September.

Seemed perfect.

I was within days of lining up my tickets–airline and concert–on the web.

Then a home inspection occurred and my insurance company told me I would have to replace my roof and my hardwood floors before the end of the year if I wanted to keep the house insurable.

There went that little plan.

Later on, I was actually kind of relieved that I didn’t go, because it turned out that bass player Kathy Valentine had a wrist injury that kept her from playing the show. I can’t even describe how bummed I would have been if I flew all the way to the west coast, pilgrimage style, to see the Go-Go’s, only to discover one of them was missing.

Laugh if you want, but they are one of those bands where it really isn’t the same with one person missing, and, no, it doesn’t matter which one it is.

Fast forward to the present:

A couple of days ago, when I was hunting around for a video link for my previous post I came across the news that Valentine has now parted ways with the band. Happened earlier this year. Some time the spring near as I could gather. I read up on the reasons and they don’t really matter to me personally because I don’t know any of the people involved and have no idea who is right or wrong.

What is pretty obvious is that there are now lawsuits flying around and lot’s of money involved so there’s a good possibility the chances I’ve missed to see all of them–which is all I would ever be interested in–have gone for good.

I know, I know–bands do this all the time and they usually do get back together eventually.

But I have a feeling about this one.

And if it turns out I’m right then it will mean I was also right about the feeling I had the first time I heard the last track on what I’m now sadly confident will be their final album (2001’s God Bless the Go-Go’s):

“If it ends here, then they really were perfect.”

The Go-Go’s “Daisy Chain” (Studio Recording with Fan Video)