The Go-Go's say '80 music stands the test of time

The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)July 16, 2014 

It's been an astonishing 30 years since the last Top 10 hit by The Go-Go's, the 1980s band who made history by being the first - and only - all-female group that wrote their own songs and played their own instruments to top the Billboard album chart.

And yet its hits, such as "We Got the Beat," "Our Lips Are Sealed" and "Vacation," sound as fresh and fun - or even more so - as what's on the radio these days.

That was by design, lead guitarist and keyboardist Charlotte Caffey says in a phone call from Virginia, where the band had stopped for a show on the Replay America Tour of 1980s acts.

"Interestingly enough, the way we recorded our records were exactly that - we didn't date them with, like, electronic drums or synthesizers," Caffey says. "We are just a rock and pop band that's what we are. And I believe we recorded the records to feature the songs rather than it being a giant production."

Those songs, and those of the other bands on the tour (Patty Smyth of Scandal, Martha Davis and The Motels, Naked Eyes and Cutting Crew) are central to Replay America, and the reason why The Go-Go's chose to do it, Caffey says.

"It was presented to us, and we thought, we'd never done anything like this before, we always go on our own tours," Caffey says. "But the thing is, what we look at is the songs, you know? We thought it might be fun to join forces and just bring a lot of great songs to people and have them have a great evening - uplift their spirit. And that really was my intention behind saying yes."

But even at that, how do The Go-Go's - whose live performances are still vital - feel about performing on a nostalgia tour?

Caffey again refers to the music.

"The '80s, no matter what kind of wacky fashion or whatever else that went on in the '80s, the songs that came out of it, there was really great songwriting, in my opinion."

She has a point. The other groups also have music that has stood the tests of time. Scandal's "Goodbye to You" and "The Warrior" remain fresh. Same with The Motels' "Only the Lonely" and "Suddenly Last Summer," Cutting Crew's "(I Just) Died in Your Arms Tonight."

And Naked Eyes' "Promises Promises" and cover of the Dionne Warwick hit "(There's) Always Something There to Remind Me" - which the latter song's writer, Burt Bacharach, has said is his favorite version.

Besides, Caffey says, summer is a time to recapture anyone's memories, and The Go-Go's are well suited to do that, with hits such as "Vacation."

"We were presented with the idea and we thought this could be pretty cool - pretty fun for the summer," Caffey says. "The lineup, with Martha and Patty, it seemed like it'd be a fun, great, song-centric show. You know, we're known for summer and we're known for fun, so it kind of made sense."

The Go-Go's have history with some of the other acts, Caffey says. The band used to share a rehearsal room with Martha Davis and The Motels at the start of their career in a California punk club called The Mask.

"So that's how long we have known Martha," Caffey says with a laugh. "So it was a long time ago."

Not that things haven't changed for The Go-Go's.

With all the members now in their mid-50s - Caffey is the oldest at 56 - touring also is more focused on music, she says.

"I mean, we grew up, we've grown up," Caffey says, laughing. "And we don't party and all that stuff. You know, we were just like a baby band back in the '80s. You're young, you don't think about that. But, you know, now a lot of us are moms.

"It's a different feeling because we have grown up and also we're still together and we're working and it's a cool thing. We recognize that - we really appreciate each other as a band."

The Go-Go's have toured continuously since re-forming in 1999, and even put out a disc of new material, "God Bless the Go-Go's," in 2001 - the first disc of new music since 1984's "Talk Show." It just missed the Top 50, and produced a Top 25 Mainstream chart hit, "Unforgiven."

Asked whether The Go-Go's will ever put out new music, Caffey says, "We've been talking about it. But it all depends on the songs."

Caffey says The Go-Go's are writing, and has a process for putting together an album.

"The last record we wrote about 50, 65 songs and we pulled out 11," she says. "That's what we do, so we'll see. We're all in kind of different cities and stuff, so it's a little bit more difficult, but we have definitely been talking about it."

Since that last album, the group parted ways with longtime bassist Kathy Valentine, with the band's website in 2013 attributing the split to "irreconcilable differences." Valentine later sued the other members, saying they forced her out.

Caffey won't address the dispute. "According to our agreement, we don't talk about it," she says. The band performs with a touring bassist.

It all comes back to the songs, Caffey says.

"They've stood the test of time," she says. "We didn't know at the time that's what we were doing, but it just felt right. And for us, we're happy, we're grateful that people come out and people want to see us. It's an awesome thing, you know?

"And we're just definitely have a great time with the audience and really have a great time with each other on stage � that's another thing, for sure."

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