Released: July 8, 1981 – 35 years ago
The Go-Go’s first studio album, combining 60s girl group-styled pop harmonies with surf rock, punk, and post-punk, help usher in a new era of underground-influenced pop. Coinciding with the launch of MTV, it quickly became a cornerstone of the New Wave movement, 80s youth culture, and all that was hip. One of the most successful debuts of all time, these catchy, well written songs hold up incredibly well.
The Classic Pick is a weekly feature at 4 p.m. Monday-Friday on The Home Stretch, sponsored by the Good Oak Bar and curated by Kris Kerry. Each Monday at 4 p.m. Kris stops by KXCI’s studio to give us insight on this classic album at 91.3 FM and KXCI.org.
The Go-Go’s were formed in Los Angeles in 1978, developing out of the late 70s LA punk scene. In fact, lead singer, Belinda Carlisle (under the stage name Dottie Danger) had a brief stint as a member of the LA Punk band, The Germs.
While the Go-Go’s sometimes get credit as the first “all-female” rock band, there were other earlier all-female rock groups. The first two all-female rock bands actually date back to 1964, including Goldie & The Gingerbreads, a British garage trio signed to Decca, and The Pleasure Seekers, a Detroit garage band that featured later glam rocker Suzi Quatro. Other notable early all female rock bands include: The Liverbirds, Ace of Cups, and The Heart Beats – all forming in the late 1960s, and the 1970s acts Fanny, who became the first all-female band to reach Billboard’s Hot 100 in 1971, The Runaways, featuring Joan Jett and Lita Ford, The Slits, and The Raincoats.
The Go-Go’s were the first all-female that saw real commercial success after signing to I.R.S. records in early 1981. I.R.S. was a new label at this time, forming only two years earlier in 1979 by Miles Copeland, brother of Stewart Copeland and manager of The Police. I.R.S. was the influential new wave and college rock label where R.E.M., The Buzzcocks, The English Beat, The Cramps, Squeeze, The Straglers, Concrete Blonde, the Go-Go’s, and others got their start.
Beauty and the Beat was a surprise hit, producing two Top 20 hits: “Our Lips Our Sealed” and “We Got The Beat.” While I.R.S. was excited about it’s release, no one expected it to top the US charts for six weeks in late 1981 and early 1982, peaking at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Eventually, it received a triple platinum certification (over 3 million sales). The album was also a success in Canada, topping in at #2 on the charts there.
Critically, Beauty and the Beat originally received reviews that were positive, but not outstanding. The album has since garnered significant esteem, being hailed as “one of the cornerstone albums of new wave” by All Music, and Rolling Stone ranks Beauty and the Beat #413 on their list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
Recorded in Penny Lane Studios, Record Plant Studios and Sound Mixers Studios in New York City, Beauty and the Beat was produced by Richard Gottehrer, who has a long history working with female-led acts. Initially working as a songwriter, he penned the monster 1963 hit by The Angels, “My Boyfriend’s Back.” By the 1970s, he had progressed to record production. In addition to working with the Go-Go’s, he produced Blondie’s debut, worked with Joan Armatrading, and in 2010, he produced Dum Dum Girls debut. Other non-female led acts Gottehrer has also worked with include Richard Hell, Link Wray, and Marshall Crenshaw among others.
The Go-Go’s likely owe much of their early success to MTV, which launched on August 1, 1981 – only three weeks after the release of Beauty and the Beat. Other “new acts” to benefit from the advent of MTV include The Cars, Duran Duran, Billy Idol, Culture Club, Eurythmics, The Police, Van Halen, and Prince.
Following Beauty and the Beat, the Go-Go’s released two other albums on I.R.S., Vacation (1982), also produced by Richard Gottehrer, and Talk Show (1984). Neither of these albums faired as well as their debut. Personality conflicts and creative differences within in the group combined with drug problems eventually let to the band break up in 1985.
All four band members have pursued solo careers since the Go-Go’s break-up; each attaining various levels of success as artists, session musicians, and songwriters.
Through out the 1990s the Go-Go’s played a handful of reunion shows, and since 1999 the group has toured regularly.
The Go-Go’s were the first (and still the only) all female group to top the Billboard charts by writing and playing their own songs. Despite this, the Go-Go’s are not in the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame (they have been eligible since 2006).