A Q&A with Charlotte via Sound Spike
Last year, The Go-Go’s made headlines when they announced they were going to embark on a farewell tour. But those July plans were derailed when rhythm guitarist Jane Wiedlin tore her ACL in both knees after she took a fall while on a nighttime hike. That forced the quintet to rethink its retirement.
“It’s interesting how divine intervention happens,” guitarist Charlotte Caffey told SoundSpike with a laugh. “Jane had her hiking accident and we re-evaluated everything, and we were like, ‘No, no, no, no, no. This is silly.’ That was, I believe, divine intervention.”
Now The Go-Go’s — which also includes lead singer Belinda Carlisle, drummer Gina Schock and bassist Kathy Valentine — will begin their “Ladies Gone Wild” tour on May 27, performing a few shows with co-headliners The B-52s. [See the itinerary for details.]
The Go-Go’s are considered one of the cornerstones of the new wave movement. Formed in 1978, The Go-Go’s made history as the first all-female band that wrote its own songs and played its own instruments to top the Billboard album charts.
The band celebrated the 30th anniversary of its double-platinum debut, “Beauty and the Beat,” with the May 17 reissue of the digitally remastered and expanded album. The commemorative edition is available in a two-CD package and in two digital collections featuring the remastered original album plus exclusive, previously unreleased concert audio recordings from 1981. At the same time, the remastered original album was reissued on pink vinyl with replicated original artwork.
Caffey spoke to SoundSpike about the reissue, her admiration for The B-52s and a long-held secret about the band.
The shows you’re doing with The B-52s are going to be great.
Oh my God. We played with them about 10 years ago. It was some of the best shows ever. I really felt like the audience got their money’s worth because it was such a great pairing.
Are you longtime friends with the band?
We met them, I think, [in] 1979 at the Peppermint Lounge in New York. It was really long ago. I remember really well — I was just staring at Cindy [Wilson] and Kate [Pierson], their outfits and their hairdos. It was like, “Oh my God. These girls are so cool.” Fred [Schneider] is awesome. It’s really nice that we’re going to get some dates in with them.
What kind of reaction do you get when you’re on stage?
We always get baffled, “People still like us.” I think the thing is we really have a great time playing on stage. I think that people really feel that. So I guess we put on a good show. We don’t have a lot of dancers. We don’t have all that stuff. We just have the music. That’s what we can offer everybody.
I hear your songs a lot on the ’80s stations on Sirius XM. They have a timeless quality to them.
Little did we know [as] little baby Go-Go’s that 30 years later we’d still be playing together. It’s a real thrill for us.
Can you believe it’s been 30 years since “Beauty and the Beat”?
I can’t. It goes really quickly. You know how quickly it goes. Boom, and you’re like decades later. It’s great. I just feel so lucky. I love these girls and we just have a blast together. We’ve had our ups and down, and right now we’re having a blast.
Tell me about the 30th anniversary edition of “Beauty and the Beat. I understand there are unheard audio concert recordings.
It has a concert from 1981 in Boston, WBCN the radio station there. I think it’s a really cool concert. I think one of the cool aspects of it is we wrote “Vacation” and we started playing it before the “Vacation” album. This version of “Vacation” on there is different than how it ended up. It’s like a different arrangement. When I heard it, I was like, “I don’t even remember that.” It’s cool. And it’s got a lot of different songs that aren’t on records. I think it’s a cool thing. They remastered that. I think people had it as a bootleg, but bad versions of it. It’s a good, audible version. We always get so blown away.
Have you considered writing new material for The Go-Go’s?
We have such a high standard for what we consider a song we would play. We’ll see if we can make this happen. We don’t know yet. We’re going to start rehearsals on Monday [May 16].
The Go-Go’s are often cited as an inspiration by a lot of female bands. How does that make you feel?
It’s really great. Over the years, so many people came up to us and said, “You were my first concert” or “You inspired me to play.” That is awesome. I hope that we can continue to inspire people. We were totally self-made, totally self-contained, and did it all ourselves. I love the fact that long before Spice Girls’ “Girl Power,” on our very first tour, we had the five of us, a girl roadie, a girl manager and a girl lawyer. We were really the pack of girls. It was just the right people for us. They have to be girls. It was unique that way.
To what do you attribute your longevity? You mentioned you had a lot of ups and downs. What kept the band together?
I think growing up some and also the music, really. Back then we were in this little punk rock scene in Hollywood. We had this incredible experience that started our careers of writing and being together. It was this total self-expression. I think that we really appreciate that and always remember that where we came from. I do believe the music keeps us coming back. We really enjoy playing it. And the fans. They’re going to get a great show. I think the older we get, the better we perform. We sound better than we ever have. It’s weird. I was listening to the recordings of when we played last and I thought, “God, we really sound good.”
Do you see the other Go-Go’s often?
Belinda lives in Europe. I’m the only one who lives in L.A. We used to all live in L.A. I just went and spent some time with Kathy, the bass player. She lives in Austin. Gina and Jane both live up in San Francisco. They see each other quite often. Gina comes down to L.A. Yeah. It’s almost like we do, but not as much as you might think. We know each other so well it’s almost like when we see each other it’s like we’ve been together forever. You know when you know a person and it just seem like when you see them it’s just like you’ve never not seen them? It’s that kind of thing. When we get together we do have lots of fun.
What are your favorite Go-Go’s songs to play?
That kind of varies from year to year, tour to tour. I like “This Town” a lot. That’s a really cool sound. “Lust to Love.” A lot of stuff off the first record. I think the other records, they’ve got some great stuff on it. That first record [“Beauty and the Beat”] — I was just talking to Jane about it today — it’s kind of special. It was just so there was no pressure. That first record came out of just us writing. We weren’t successful. We were just a starting band. It was all about pure emotion and writing. I think it’s a really cool record. I’m not being conceited. I just think that it’s cool. It was really meaningful to me at the time. Every time I hear it I’m like, “Wow. That’s cool.”
I grew up listening to The Go-Go’s, and that is a special record.
That cover is so weird [with the girls covered in towels with mud masks on their faces]. I looked at it the other day. It was really, really fun. I remember that photo session so well. You know how masks dry? We had that mask on and it kept drying and we were saying, “Do not make me laugh.” Everyone tried to make each other laugh. We kept cracking it and they kept on piling more and more on. We didn’t have any money. We were so poor that after we did that photo session, our manager took the towels back to Macy’s, which I love. I’m like, “Wow. We could have put them in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame,” if we ever get in there. I love that story.