‘OG punks for the win!’ The Go-Go’s on their Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction
On Wednesday, the Go-Go’s guitarist and cofounder Jane Wiedlin had just been informed that her band was the first L.A. punk group to earn entry into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when she mentioned a just-received note from a longtime friend and peer from the band X.
Said Wiedlin on the phone from her home in Hawaii, “I just got a text from John Doe saying, ‘OG punks for the win!”
Earning a spot in the 2021 induction ceremony alongside Todd Rundgren, Foo Fighters, Tina Turner, Carole King and Jay-Z , the Go-Go’s were honored for their groundbreaking run of new wave and pop-punk hits including “Our Lips Are Sealed,” “We Got the Beat,” “This Town” and “Vacation.”
Dave Grohl, Carole King and Tina Turner will be all be inducted into the Rock Hall for a second time.
Part of the first-generation L.A. scene centered on such bands as X and Germs, , the band combined the music’s urgency with the catchy melodicism of Brill Building-style pop. The quintet — singer-guitarist Wiedlin, singer Belinda Carlisle, bassist Kathy Valentine, drummer Gina Schock and guitarist-keyboardist Charlotte Caffey — remains the only all-female rock band to earn a No. 1 album, “Beauty and the Beat” from 1981.
“We are overwhelmed with gratitude to be 2021 inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” the Go-Go’s said in a joint statement. “Women have always been a vital part of the ever-changing music business and The Go-Go’s are so proud to have our success story honored and recognized by fans and voters.”
If there was a subtext to their note, it involves a question that many fans have been uttering for the 15 years that the Go-Go’s have been eligible for induction: What took so long?
“We were the palatable flavor of the punk scene, I guess. The cute girls, or whatever,” Wiedlin says, adding that she and the rest of the band had long ago learned not to expect a call from Cleveland for a very specific reason: “We had heard so many times that somebody or somebodies who were on the nominating committee hated us.” But, she continued, “in the past year, they got a lot of fresh blood in their nominating committee, and I think those people saw our worth.”
She recalled a 1981 story from The Times that echoed the challenges the band has faced earning respect from a male-dominated music business. Called “Why Can’t Go-Gos Get Record Deal?,” the story listed the many contemporaneous L.A. bands that had been signed, few of which were as popular as the Go-Go’s. Said Wiedlin at the time: “I think it’s because we’re girls. If it had been boys doing our songs, the record companies would love them.”
In the story, she acknowledged the self-doubt such messages breed: “Sometimes I think we must be terrible, despite what our fans say.”
On the phone from Austin, Texas, Valentine, whose 2020 memoir, “All I Ever Wanted,” traced her experiences with the Go-Go’s, said they “came out of the punk scene in the streets of L.A., a band that happens to be one of the thousands that has the goods. We delivered. We had the material. We had the charisma. We had the timing. We had all the stuff you need to have. That was all overshadowed or dismissed or written off for many, many years.”
She added that the band’s visibility in the last year likely helped their cause. “The Go-Go’s,” director Alison Ellwood’s Showtime documentary on the band, drew attention and acclaim when it was released during the height of stay-at-home boredom. But, Valentine stressed, the Go-Go’s earned their place through “our achievements and what we did, which was super rock ‘n’ roll.”
Neither Wiedlin nor Valentine had a solid answer when asked who would be introducing the Go-Go’s at the induction ceremony Oct. 30 in Cleveland. Wiedlin suggested peers from the 1980s scene, but said Valentine had made a great case that younger artists might offer a better perspective.
“I would like either Haim or Hayley [Williams] from Paramore,” Valentine said, calling them “strong, amazing women performers and artists.” Stressing that the band could easily draw up a long list, she added, “Maybe what happened for us helped open the door for these acts.”
Asked whether the institution’s tardy acknowledgment of their influence had tainted her view of the Hall of Fame, Wiedlin said it hadn’t.
“I was really surprised at how excited I was when I found out,” she said. “I thought I’d be like, ‘I wouldn’t want to be in a club that would have someone like me as a member’ — that old Groucho Marx line. But I don’t feel that way. To be up there with all those kings and queens of music? Hell, yeah.”
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