Belinda Carlisle: A Go-Go Keeps Go-Going
The front lady for a seminal 80’s band has kept her own star shining for decades.
By Steve Houk
They are an integral part of the time capsule of the 80’s. They were the first, and to date still only, all female rock band to both write their own songs and play their own instruments while also topping the Billboard charts. And when you think great 1980’s music, you think “We Got The Beat,” heck, the song’s in the opening credits of seminal 80’s high school romp “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” Always popping up as a symbol of an era and a big dose of early rock and roll girl power to boot, The Go-Go’s made a huge mark and continue to conjure up memories for millions.
And still out in front of this now legendary band, who will reunite this fall for what is being called their farewell tour, is a stunningly beautiful, silky-voiced redhead who back then captivated both boys and girls and helped propel the Go-Go’s to lofty heights. And almost 40 years after their smash debut Beauty and The Beat was released, Belinda Carlisle hasn’t missed…a beat. Her own career continues to soar, helped by both her Go-Go’s connection as well as a highly successful solo career. Carlisle brings her solo band show to the Hamilton in DC on Friday, April 8th.
For the still gorgeous leading lady, it’s just loving what she’s doing that keeps her fire and her career burning all these years later.
“I’m 57, gonna be 58 in August,” the effervescent Carlisle told me recently after returning from Australia. “And it’s busier this year than I can remember it being for the past like 25 years. It’s good. I mean, I don’t have much of a breather from now until September. This is what I’m meant to be doing. I could probably be doing this when I’m 70. And I probably will in some form because I do love singing.”
In some ways, Carlisle’s life-after-the-Go-Go’s solo career has been more successful than the stratospheric rise of her band back in the late 70’s/early 80’s, given her solo stuff’s consistent appeal through the years. And she feels she’s sustained that success for a couple of specific reasons.
“I think that my voice is unique, I think that has really given me longevity,” Carlisle said. “Plus I’ve really been lucky to work with some of the world’s greatest songwriters, and I think that’s also given me longevity. And if you have an amazing back catalog, that can help give you longevity. I think now that I’ve been around for so long, that I’ve kind of gotten past that marker of not being just another sweet little pop singer. I’ve just been around for so long.”
Carlisle is quick to point out why her pioneering Go-Go’s (minus Kathy Valentine who left amidst a messy lawsuit in 2013) all agreed that this is as good a time as any to go out with a bang, while also having her own reasons for doing one last tour now with her pals.
“Most of us have been kinda thinking that we want to end on a high note. In music there is a certain amount of sexism, and it’s different for men aging than it is for women, especially the kind of music that we do. We’re all getting older and I just started thinking about…I had just surgery on both of my hips last year, and I just started really thinking about how I want to live the rest of my life. I want to make room for alot of other things. I just thought, I just felt like it was time. And what’s great about this is that there is no weird sort of, like, we’re gonna go out on a good note with each other too, this is not an acrimonious ending. We all agreed that, you know something, it’s time now, let’s just go out with a big bang and go out on a high note, and that’s it.”
And Carlisle remains proud that her Go-Go’s have stood the test of time and remain more than just great danceable 80’s rock.
“The Go-Go’s transcend music,” Carlisle said proudly. “People have really sort of strong feelings about the Go-Go’s because, like you said, it’s not just music and memories. It’s hard to explain, but alot of the music transcends music, and becomes moments and everything else to people.
Carlisle just finished a new solo album and continues to tour as both a solo artist and, for one last blowout, as the main face of her beloved Go-Go’s. And she remains grateful, and even until recently a bit surprised, at her ongoing success.
“Only a few years ago, I thought, oh, I guess this is what I’m supposed to be doing for a living, singing. But I never would have guessed back when I was 19 that I would have had such an amazingly rich career, and just so varied. I know I said it before, but I just love singing. And I think people know that. They can tell.”
Belinda Carlisle performs Friday April 8th at The Hamilton, 600 14th Street NW, Washington, DC. For tickets click here.