The Go-Go’s (2020)

It’s shocking how punk the background of The Go-Go’s is and ended up being. For a band that is known as one of the biggest pop acts of the 1980’s, their roots are deeply embedded in punk rock and heavy metal. Whether or not you think it was homogenized is up to you, but The Go-Gos have a great story, even if you were more of a Bangles or Banana Rama fan.

The first multi-platinum-selling, all-female band to play their own instruments, write their own songs and have a #1 album, The Go-Go’s are the most successful female rock band of all time. Rooted in the LA punk scene, The Go-Gos didn’t play the part of bad girls; they were genuine punk rockers. They rose to fame following the release of their 1981 debut album, “Beauty and the Beat,” became a pop phenomenon, had a lot of fun and blazed brand-new trails –for the DIY ethic in general, and women in music in particular. Their meteoric ascent, however, was marred by band tension and drugs, fueled in part by their rapid rise to fame.

I was born in 1983, so I was growing up around the time the decade was coming to a close, but the music of the decade was still pretty much alive and well. I loved listening to a lot of the pop acts from the decade, including the Go Gos, all of whom offered some great vocals and musical work. “We Got the Beat” and “Our Lips Are Sealed” are great sugary pop tunes that I still have a great time listening to. The talent of the group has always been completely overlooked, as Allison Ellwood takes great pains to express to the audience how strong musicians they were (featuring great interviews with Belinda Carlisle, Jane Wiedlin, Charlotte Caffey, Gina Schock, and Kathy Valentine, respectively), and how they felt about playing music.

“The Go-Gos” is a candid and frank exploration of how the group met at rock shows, the formation of the band and how a lot of the group were brought together primarily for their love for punk rock. In many ways this documentary works so much better than some clumsy biopic as Ellwood digs deep in to their origins, their simple ambitions to merely express their love for rock and roll and how they were driven to the point of burn out that made big headlines. Despite their big ambitions to hit the rock scene, the group of female rockers was not immune to the rollercoaster of rock stardom, including the big crash. Ellwood veers heavily in to the rock documentary arena, steering away from the pop pigeonholes, and it amounts to a refreshing film with some great insight in to instant fame, and the eighties.