The Beat Goes On
For parents of a certain mind-set, the Go-Go's were the band they wanted their musically inclined daughters to aspire toward. The first all-female band to top the Billboard 200 with 1982 debut Beauty and the Beat, the Go-Go's had swagger, spit and style to go along with chops, great songs that rocked and some extremely effective music videos.
All five were also that certain type of female who looked like she could either put a liplock on you or kick your ass, but wasn't about to ask permission to do either. The band recently got its own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Chatter caught up with Austin-based bassist Kathy Valentine on an off day in Los Angeles.
Chatter: The Go-Go's are often labeled a seminal New Wave band. What was New Wave to you?
Kathy Valentine: Punk and New Wave actually came up together and the line between the two isn't that defined. All the bands like the Sex Pistols who had that anarchy, aggression and rebellion thing in their music, that was definitely punk.
But then there were arguments about "Is Elvis Costello punk or is he New Wave?" because he and his band were good players and they had more of an arranged sound. Critics described us as New Wave, but we all came out of the punk thing originally.
C: Were you formally trained or self- taught?
KV [Laughs]: I grew up in Austin, and as soon as I got my hands on a guitar when I was 15, I knew that was what I wanted to do. So I just started learning how to play it. That was the thing about punk and that environment of the time; it wasn't about practicing scales six hours a day, it was about getting good enough to play with some other people and then just play. You didn't have to be a trained musician.
C: The band hasn't worked much the past couple of years. Why are you doing this long tour now?
KV: Actually we try to work some together every year, but it's been awhile. We were going to do this tour last year, and Jane [Wiedlin] banged up her knee and had a long recuperation. And then the label that owns the record, EMI, decided they wanted to put out a 30th-anniversary edition of our first record in pink vinyl. So with that added angle, it just worked out to be good business for them and us.
C: What is the current set like?
KV: We're an '80s band, so playing our popular songs is the smart thing for us. We play all the hits and some things from all the records. We're not like a band making a comeback move or a full-time band, anything like that. But I think the audiences see we still really like to do this and we still like our music. Every show has been sold out so far, so something seems to be working.
C: Any surprises?
KV: The real surprise is that there are five women with very busy, complicated lives outside the Go-Go's on that stage who are playing their own instruments with no hired guns, no backup singers, no smoke machines, no string sections, no gimmicks. That's pretty punk.
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