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Kathy Valentine of The Go-Gos: ‘They really are like my sisters’

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When The Go-Gos, rock’s first female band to score a No. 1 Billboard album, burst on the scene with 1981’s “Beauty and the Beat,” they were an instant smash. Videos for “Our Lips are Sealed” and “We Got The Beat” coincided with the birth of MTV, and depicted a band of fun-loving BFF’s cruising around LA and hopping onstage to sing their catchy tunes.

The Go-Gos merged the retro sensibility of ‘60s and ‘70s pop with a new wave edge that produced an amalgam of music and image that became an irresistible combo for millions of fans in the 1980s.

Everything was great, until it wasn’t, and the full picture is just now coming into view, thanks to a new Showtime documentary (“The Go-Gos”) and “All I Ever Wanted,” the memoir of Go-Gos guitarist and songwriter Kathy Valentine.

In the following Maine Edge interview, Valentine, a native of Austin, Texas, discusses the heady early success of The Go-Gos, how and why the band imploded and how forgiveness and healing brought them together again.

The Maine Edge: There are many stories in your book that will be new to fans who thought they knew everything, and some of it gets pretty dark. Was this a difficult book to write?

Valentine: Parts of it really were difficult. I wanted to convey what we felt not only during the joyful times, like the recording of our first album “Beauty and the Beat,” which was joyful.

We were successful very early, and it was a very heady, exuberant and wonderful experience, but the other side of that was the amount of work we were doing, the drinking and the excess. It was the 80s, we were young and that’s part of the story, but I also wanted people to know what it felt like when all of that came crashing down.

Music has been with me every step of the way throughout my life. I grew up in pretty unconventional and difficult circumstances, so it was a real dream for me to achieve that kind of success. I decided I was going to be a musician and I was going to make it in the business, so I moved to Los Angeles and I did just that. We went right to the top, and I was 22 years old.

The Maine Edge: You had famous fans very early on, including The Rolling Stones and John Belushi. Not many people can say they jammed with Belushi.

Valentine: John was a fan of the band and that’s how I met him. It was really cool to have one of the most beloved figures in popular culture genuinely like your band. One night after hours, we wanted to keep the party going, so we went looking for a place to jam. He liked blues, and being a girl from Texas, I’m very familiar with blues music. We acquired a six-pack from the 7-Eleven, got the Guitar Center to open up after hours, and off we went.

The Maine Edge: When did you first notice relationships changing among your bandmates in The Go-Gos?

Valentine: Things began to change towards the end of recording our last album, “Talk Show,” (1984) which had the single “Head Over Heels.” Charlotte (Caffey, guitarist) was really struggling with addiction, Jane Weidlin (guitarist) quit the band after the record came out and we went on tour to support it. The chemistry between us was very tense and volatile. If one person leaves, it’s never going to be the same.

We were physically and mentally exhausted and there were money problems. The people writing the songs - and I was one of them - make more money than the others. When you’re making a lot more money than someone else, and you’re both in the same band, it doesn’t feel good.

Looking back, there are things we could have done differently or better, but we were young. When it was all over, I was 25 and probably had the emotional maturity of a 15-year old, because you don’t really have to grow up when you’re in a rock and roll band.

The Maine Edge: Things seem pretty good with The Go-Gos these days. The documentary has been received very well, and you just released “Club Zero,” the first new Go-Gos song in nearly 20 years. How are relations among the ladies today?

Valentine: Yeah, it’s like a sisterhood, and sometimes with forgiveness and healing, it doesn’t happen just once. It has to happen over and over again. Over time, you get to a point where you share this history and it’s not a history you have with anybody else.

Nobody else knows what it was like to be at the top, with a number one album, and hit singles, and traveling all over the world. The only other people in my life who know what that experience was like are the other four women in The Go-Gos. They really are like my sisters.

The Maine Edge: Would The Go-Gos be successful in 2020 if you were a brand new band today?

Valentine: Absolutely, because it’s really about the songs. A good song is a good song. My daughter is 17 and she likes music from the 50s and 60s all the way to the present. Good songs transcend time. When a Go-Gos hit comes on the radio, you don’t think “Oh, there’s an oldie, a hit from 40 years ago,” you think: “I like this.” Our songs hold up.

Last modified on Wednesday, 19 August 2020 10:10

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