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The Best All-Girl Pop Group of the 80s

2011 August 17

No, not that one. Or that one. I’m talking about The Go-Go’s.

[WARNING: this post contains controversial opinions. Those of a sensitive nature may wish to look away now.]

Drum with The Go-Go's logo, photo by Ron Baker, Texas

Photo: Ron Baker

If I asked you to hum a song by The Bangles, you could probably do it, right? Perhaps this one. What about Bananarama? This might pop into your head. What about The Go-Go’s?

Perhaps you can think of a song, in which case: good work! Gold star. But over and over again I’ve found that people know nothing about them, even though they were one of the most successful girl groups of all time and – quite frankly – better than the other two. (I warned you…)

Here are my top reasons why I love The Go-Go’s and you should too:

1) Perfect pop

Just listen. My favourite is Head Over Heels (I like to think of it as the voice of the girl in Devo’s Out of Sync) but other hits include Our Lips Are Sealed, We Got The Beat and Vacation. Stupendously catchy choruses, simple lyrics, they’re like a revved-up 60s girl group. I guarantee you, one of these tracks will be stuck in your head all day.

Sorry for the terrible sound quality by the way – I thought you’d like to see the videos. There’s another great video for Vacation but the sound was too awful so you’ve got the karaoke version instead.

2) They played their own instruments and wrote their own songs

I’m not dissing The Bangles or Banarama, I love them too. I’m just saying they’re The Monkees to the The Go-Go’s Beatles.

3) For all your 1980s style needs

Think The Bangles or Bananarama have the last word on 80s fashion? Think again: The Go–Go’s may not have had as much hair but they did have VOLUME.

At one point they even looked a bit moody ‘n’ punk. Check out the braces! (Early on they toured with Madness…)

And guitarist Jane Wiedlin has sported some amazing looks:

4) Retro ironic album and single covers

The Go-Gos Vacation single cover, of band members waterskiing in retro costumesWheeeee! Anne Taintor eat your heart out.

5) Kicked ass in the charts

As someone with a lot invested in her ‘alternative’ identity (and a diehard contrarian) this doesn’t matter much to me. What I find surprising is that they aren’t better known given their chart success. They had a number one album and four Top 20 singles in the US. I read somewhere that they were the first all female group – who wrote their own songs and played their own instruments – to reach number one in the Billboard chart.

6) Better pop patron

The Go-Gos Beauty and the Beat album cover, band wearing towels and facemasksI may lose some friends over this one. While The Bangles’ biggest hit, Manic Monday, was written for them by Prince, The Go-Go’s first hit, Our Lips Are Sealed, was co-written by Terry Hall of The Specials. I know who’s cooler. And I think, in your heart, you do too.

7) They get geek points

Because Jane Wiedlin played Joan of Arc in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Communications Officer Trillya in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Win.

I don’t understand why The Go-Go’s are so often overlooked. Hopefully there will soon be an end to this injustice as they’ve been recently been given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, right outside The Masque club where they played their first gig. They’re also doing a reunion tour, celebrating the 30th anniversary of their first record, Beauty and the Beat.

Of course it doesn’t matter which was the best 80s all-girl pop group1 – the important thing is that they were all there, blazin’ a trail for the next generation to follow. If you’re interested in the history of women in pop and rock I recommend reading Lucy O’Brien’s She Bop II, and if you’re interested in what’s happening now head over to the cracking Wears The Trousers music blog2.

  1. It was The Go-Go’s []
  2. Ed’s Note: Should you need further encouragement, our very own Rhian’s assistant ed over there, too. So really you can’t go wrong, eh. []
5 Responses leave one →
  1. Pet Jeffery permalink
    August 17, 2011

    I love the Go-Go’s. Seeing this post made me check to see whether I could find anything of theirs I don’t have. And I find that I’m missing one album (Talk Show). Casting about for a copy, about the cheapest I can find on CD is around £30. Do I splash out???

  2. August 18, 2011

    I occasionally try to convince people of the Secret Punk Past Life of Belinda Carlisle, as she seems to be remembered mostly for her solo career as a kind of proto Katy Perry, with the Go-Gos lost to history. In future I will direct them to this post. Thank you! x

  3. August 18, 2011

    (Although I must protest at the suggestion that anyone is cooler than 80s Prince, even Terry Hall.)

  4. Hazel permalink
    August 19, 2011

    While The Bangles may not have written their biggest hits, they certainly wrote a great number of their album tracks and they did/do play their own instruments so I think it’s a bit mean to imply that they are in the same division as Bananarama.

    • Miranda permalink*
      August 19, 2011

      I LIKE the ‘Rama. Cruel Summer forever! *waves flag* ;)

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