Go-Go’s: Beauty + The Beat 30th Anniversary Edition

I.R.S./Capitol Records | US | 2xCD | 2011 | 5099902702728

I.R.S./Capitol Records | US | 2xCD | 2011 | 5099902702728

Go-Go’s: Beauty + The Beat DLX RM 2xCD US [2011]

Disc 1 – Album

  1. Our Lips Are Sealed
  2. How Much More
  3. Tonite
  4. Lust To Love
  5. This Town
  6. We Got The Beat
  7. Fading Fast
  8. Automatic
  9. You Can’t Walk In Your Sleep (If You Can’t Sleep)
  10. Skidmarks On My Heart
  11. Can’t Stop The World

Disc 2 – Live @ Metro Club, Boston – August 20, 1981

  1. Skidmarks On My Heart
  2. How Much More
  3. Tonite
  4. Fading Fast
  5. London Boys
  6. Cool Jerk
  7. Automatic
  8. Lust To Love
  9. Can’t Stop The World
  10. This Town
  11. You Can’t Walk In Your Sleep (If You Can’t Sleep)
  12. Our Lips Are Sealed
  13. Let’s Have A Party
  14. We Got The Beat
  15. Surfing And Spying / Beatnik Beach
  16. [Remember] Walking In The Sand
  17. Vacation

Last August, I bumped into an old friend who I knew from 34 years ago. I couldn’t help but notice that they’d had some work done. Namely, DLX remastering! I have to admit that in 1981, as soon as it was released, that the Go-Go’s debut album, Beauty + The Beat” was on almost constant rotation throughout the rest of the year. It seems hard to believe it now, but an all-female band in that time period was just fresher than more guys in jeans and Converse hi-tops®. I had heard the Stiff single version of “We Got the Beat” from the time of its release, so I was primed for more of Go-Go’s. I.R.S. Records was making big waves in my New Wave world at the time, so having them sign to Copeland’s label made much sense. Apparently, he had courted them for a year, but they were holding out for a “bigger” label, only to never link up with one. For the usual sexist reasons.

Having Richard Gottehrer produce the album made perfect sense since his production credits for The Angels and Blondie [their first two albums] showed a firm grasp of both classic and post-modern girl group tropes. The man knows how to get it down in the studio, for certain. It was amazing to read the interviews with each member of the group in the accompanying booklet. Charlotte, Gina, and Jane mentioned how shocked and disappointed the band were when they heard the final result. Gottherer had slowed down their 90 second punk songs to mine the 2:30 pop nuggets within them most effectively. Charlotte was less uncomfortable with this because she admitted that she was the pop person who came into this punk band and had felt a bit intimidated by her relatively advanced playing chops!

go-gos - wegotthebeatUS7AThe album began with the classic top 20 single “Our Lips Are Sealed” and it was a pleasure watching this winning pop number move from obscurity to its rightful place in the US top 20. Its clean guitar lines were abetted by subtle keyboards from Charlotte Caffey, pulling double duty on lead guitar as well. The synths definitely took a back seat here, and that helped the album avoid the taint of trendiness that would mark many a 1981 recording as dated [though personally beloved by me] years later. The song that Jane Weidlin brought to the table, as co-written by Terry Hall of The Specials, was an engaging pop look at a romance with an “us against the world” outlook. That it really happened between Weidlin and Hall when their bands were touring together in the UK in 1980, gives it plenty of verisimilitude!

go-gos - wegotthebeatUK7A“How Much More” was a holdover from the Paul Wexler five track demo that two cuts had surfaced on a year prior as the original “We Got The Beat” British 7″ on Stiff Records. The new recording here hewed closely to the original arrangement, albeit given a higher budget production. The guitars and tambourines still jangled, but the drum break that Gina Shock proffered definitely was one of two great ones that producer Richard Gottehrer nailed down on wax that year [the other one being on the Holly + The Italians album].

I always liked the melodrama of “Lust To Love,” a great song of the “Hunter Gets Captured By The Game” variety. The backing harmonies here were a real treat, as was the morse-code guitar of Charlotte Caffey. When followed by “This Town” with its moody rhythm guitar of Jane Weidlin, the album reached some sort of downbeat peak here. I just love the loaded lyric

“Discarded stars like worn out cars,
Litter the streets of… this…town” – This Town

it packs along with the rhythmic pauses dropping the title on an off beat in the tune.  Jane wrote in the liner notes to “Return To The Valley Of The Go-Go’s” that she laughs at the jaded, world-weary tone of the lyrics; written when she was about twenty. After that side ended, it was time for the big hit single at pole position as the first track on side two.

As seen on the mean streets of Asheville's sidewalks…

As seen on the mean streets of Asheville’s sidewalks…

“We Got The Beat” climbed up to number two on the US charts; held at bay by the juggernaut of “I Love Rock And Roll” by Joan Jett + The Blackhearts. It was a sweet victory that had taken almost a year as the band went from college radio to top 20 and higher. The album version of the cut had the added new, and improved middle eight call-and-response section in lieu of the simple drum break [not that there’s anything wrong with that] of the UK 7″ version from 1980. I would imagine that the middle eight had been beefed up in concert and when it was time to re-record it, it was ready to go. In any version, it remained a great 2:30 slice of giddy dance rock.

“You Can’t Walk In Your Sleep [If You Can’t Sleep]” was a complex title stuffed into a fast moving shuffle with a Bo Diddley beat. Side two also offered the campy metaphors of “Skidmarks On My Heart;” the one tune here with Belinda Carlisle lyrics. Ms. Shock’s mighty backbeat was a real winner here. For the most part these songs were from the pens of Charlotte Caffey and Jane Weidlin, but new member Kathy Valentine penned the closing track “Can’t Stop The World.” She was lucky that Charlotte Caffey stumped for her song to be included even though it was written during the sessions and not part of their road-tested live repertoire. This meant that she received songwriting royalties on a double platinum selling album of classic New Wave pop. This album still goes down easily today and in spite of hundreds of listenings over the decades, I would agree with Ms. Caffey’s assessment of it in the liner notes to this 30th Anniversary edition.

“Thinking about it now, I don’t find a bad song in the bunch. It was a moment of time in our lives and we all connected to make this record that, 30 years later is still great.” – Charlotte Caffey

So that much was unchanged in 30 years. How would disc two stack up? In a word, iffy. The live album as recorded at Boston’s Metro Club in August 20, 1981 and it sports what can be called near-bootleg sound. With the album and its first single just out in the world, the set list includes each of the eleven album tracks as well as the B-side of “Our Lips Are Sealed,” Ms. Caffey’s nifty instro “Surfing + Spying” which other surf bands should have revived by now. [checks] Yessss! Japanese instro surf band The Surf Coasters have recorded their rendition. I can sleep soundly tonight as there is some semblance of justice in the world.

go-go's - returntothevalleyofthegogosUS2xCDAThe program was salted with early cuts that have surfaced elsewhere [see: “Return To The Valley Of The Go-Go’s“] in other recordings. Songs like “London Boys,” and covers like Wanda Jackson’s “Lets Have A Party” or the Shadow Morton classic “[Remember] Walking In The Sand.” The appearance of “Cool Jerk,” which was long a part of their early live set, telegraphed where they were going on “Vacation” when it showed up on that album. That makes me think that maybe material for the sophomore album might have been thin on the ground, to rely on musty covers from their early set lists. Other tracks from “Vacation” were included here, including the ace title track and “Beatnik Beach,” which was performed as a medley with “Surfing + Spying.”

Several of the tunes here sport new wrinkles. “Our Lips Are Sealed” had an entire verse here that never happened in their studio rendition but might have been included in the Fun Boy Three version. It’s been over 30 years since I’ve heard that one, so I’ll plead the fifth. The closing tune “Vacation” also had not yet been hammered out and had different lyrics and arrangement.

The live album is worth a spin if you’re a fan and missed out the first time. I know that there were few bands I was as keen on seeing in 1981, but it never happened for me. Go-Go’s never came closer than Tampa to me so I never got the chance. The recording really sounds as if it might have been a soundboard mix where the balances are all skewed. In some cases, severely. Jane’s vocal during the middle eight in “Our Lips Are Sealed” is all but inaudible. It was only through the generosity of mic bleed from other singer’s rigs that she can be barely heard at all. Though her harmonies on the song’s outro shone through fairly strongly. Is it worth buying if you already have a copy of “Beauty + The Beat?” I’m on the line there. I feel that I can live with my original pressing of “Beauty + The Beat” and I also have “Return To The Valley Of The Go-Go’s” which has almost more “archaeological” material than a casual fan like myself even needs. So I can see the day when I unload this copy to someone who may need it more than I did, since there’s an infinite want list and decidedly finite cashflow.

– 30 –

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9 Responses to Go-Go’s: Beauty + The Beat 30th Anniversary Edition

  1. I remember this album very well and it is a cherished one in my collection. I think it is a perfect little box of pop chocolates with a bit of salting with some more meaningful lyrics here and there (as with “This Town”). I was previously familiar with other female-dominated bands like the Runaways, but yes an all-female band was still a rarity in those days (and still is to this day). Despite their intention to make a more punkish record, I think their pop sensibilities really shone through here and I remember being so delighted that an all-female band did so well in the charts as to make it no longer a novelty.

    I remember seeing them twice in concert, in Atlanta; one with Flock of Seagulls opening for them, and I believe the following summer when fortunes had turned and they opened for FOS! I always thought they should form a combined supergroup with the B-52s and just tour those perfect-for-summer ditties around forever, like an 80s version of the Beach Boys.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      chasinvictoria – Funny you should compare them to the Beach Boys since they are just as dysfunctional a grouping as that acrimonious lot!! The only one who doesn’t seem terminally damaged was Kathy Valentine. The rest? Yikes!! Looking back with hindsight, it was clear that “Beauty + The Beat” represented a perfect moment in time that would never be repeated, sadly.

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  2. Echorich says:

    Go-Go’s (there wasn’t a definite article similar to Ramones) are most remembered for what came next – the MTV ready sight and sound of Vacation. But Beauty + The Beat is a wonderful mix of New Wave and Punk filtered through the waning importance of L.A. production tradition. The album’s most important moment is its opener, Our Lips Are Sealed. It’s a song of truths that transcends the era. When you hear Terry Hall sing with June Miles- Kingston of The Mo-dettes and Everything But The Girl fame, you get a sense of the emotions Hall and Wiedlin put into it.
    What made them so much fun at this time was their “dirty, bad girl’s” reputation that bemused I.R.S. but thoroughly scared A+M Records execs out of the room whenever they did a press junket. I remember having the chance to attend a luncheon that the Press Dept at IRS/A+M gave in early summer of 1981 and it turned into a food fight started by Belinda and Kathy – the really bad girls. The suits and skirts ran from the room to take cover.
    But I digress…I have to agree that Beauty + The Beat is a classic for me in the mold of Blondie, The Motels and even The Runaways.

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    • SimonH says:

      Agree re Our Lips Are Sealed, in the midst of teenage angst I found it strangely comforting….recall very well buying it from the HMV shop here in Bristol and being happy to see it was on luscious thick bubblegum pink vinyl.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – Thanx for pointing out the lack of the definite article! So you were there. You know the score! I remember reading reviews of “the videotape” in Film Threat back when it was almost a fanzine. Again…yikes!! I like your comment of the waning days of L.A. as a production center. A poignant call there. 1981 definitely was the end of an era, except that the album was recorded in New York City! Still, I get what you mean. Gotterher was an L.A. guy.

      So you’re a Motels fan? I tried “Careful” and “All For One” and wasn’t convinced. They got recycled pretty fast, though I did like “Icy Red” pretty well.

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      • Echorich says:

        Motels, Martha + The Muffins, if you dug deep enough, there were some great pop/post punk pop bands fronted by women at the turn of the decade. Yes, The Motels did shoot for the airwaves pretty quickly, but they had a sound that I picked up on early on.

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        • SimonH says:

          Love both the Motels and Martha and the Muffins, M&M in particular are hugely under rated in my view. Would add Romeo Void as well…

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  3. Taffy says:

    Yes yes yes to this gem. I did re-buy for the sloppy live disc (partly cuz it was recorded at a club in Boston I saw many a memorable show, albeit not this one!). My fave song on BATB changes constantly, currently it’s Skidmarks, last month it was This Town. And indeed they have done summer co-tours with The B-52s, pimping the best sort of nostalgia for 50-something new wavers (I resemble that remark). The last few times I saw the Go-Go’s live they incorporated some solo stuff like Belinda’s Mad About You and Jane’s Sparks collaboration. I wanna go to cool places tonight!

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Taffy – Thanks for chiming in. I was wondering if you had attended this show or not. In a world where live albums are phonier than a starlet’s face, this one was definitely unretouched!

      Have you ever attended a show that later got released as a live album? That only happened with me once. It was the first time I drove up to Gainesville to [finally] catch Man… Or Astroman?! It was at The Covered Dish. I was there the second night and that show was released as “Live Transmissions From Uranus,” much to my delight.

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