Music News & Reviews

The Go-Go’s bid goodbye with Paso Robles concert

The Go-Gos perform Aug. 23 at Vina Robles Amphitheatre in Paso Robles.
The Go-Gos perform Aug. 23 at Vina Robles Amphitheatre in Paso Robles.

Jane Wiedlin still gets shivers when she thinks of the first time she heard The Go-Go’s hit song “Our Lips Are Sealed” playing on the radio.

“I remember being in the car and pulling over” to listen to it, said the rhythm guitarist, who co-founded The Go-Go’s with lead singer Belinda Carlisle in 1978. “I was singing along and crying and yelling. I couldn’t believe it.”

“We were so under the radar and so underground that (success) came as a complete shock to the world and to us as well,” Wiedlin said with a laugh.

About 35 years ago, The Go-Go’s made history as the first all-female rockers writing their own songs and playing their own instruments to have a No. 1 album, 1981’s “Beauty and the Beat.” Now the beloved power-pop band behind “We Got the Beat” is on its farewell tour.

The Go-Go’s are set to perform Tuesday, Aug. 23, at Vina Robles Amphitheatre in Paso Robles. Rock duo Best Coast and singer-songwriter Kaya Stewart will open the show.

Wiedlin said the concert — just one of 18 tour dates planned for August — will serve as a way for her and her bandmates, which include Charlotte Caffey on lead guitar and keyboards and Gina Schock on drums, to say goodbye to their fans.

“This tour is a nice way for us all to reflect on our career(s), and to give people a chance to party with us,” she said.

Reached at her home in Hilo, Hawaii, Wiedlin described how The Go-Go’s originally found their footing in Los Angeles’ punk rock scene.

“We were pretty ragtag,” Wiedlin said. “We didn’t really know how to play instruments. But what we did have was plenty of enthusiasm and a ton of good songs.”

“By 1978, nearly everyone was in a band except for a few lone girls,” she says in the book “Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk” by John Doe with Tom DeSavia, published in April. “Eventually it became painfully obvious that you needed no prior knowledge to form a punk band and that we were the only kids left who hadn’t done so.”

“It was a really small scene, but it was also a very inclusive and supportive scene … for misfits and people with an artistic bent,” Wiedlin said, making it a “perfect incubator for people like us who didn’t know how to play but were passionate and wildly enthusiastic.”

Wiedlin and her bandmates got help from their peers — she credits X guitarist Billy Zoom with teaching her how to play bar chords — and before long they had developed a strong following.

“We were very powerful on a local level,” Wiedlin said.

But it still took three years for the band to sign with I.R.S. Records.

“The record companies all said, ‘There’s never been a successful all-female band,’ ” she said, “which is typical record company thinking.”

“Trying to get a record deal, trying to get on the radio, trying to convince anyone to give us a shot — we got a lot of pushback,” Wiedlin said.

That changed when the band’s debut album, “Beauty and the Beat,” became a surprise hit — spending six weeks at the top of the charts, earning triple platinum sales and garnering The Go-Go’s a Grammy Award nomination for best new artist. (In 2003, it earned a spot on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.)

As the album climbed up the charts, The Go-Go’s went on tour with New Wave powerhouse The Police.

“We went from playing these tiny, tiny clubs to playing these huge stadiums,” Wiedlin said. “We were playing for tens of thousands of people a night — and people were actually responding to us!”

When “Beauty and the Beat” reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart in 1982, she said, Police frontman Sting and his bandmates surprised The Go-Go’s with champagne.

The Go-Go’s released just two more albums — 1982’s “Vacation” and 1984’s “Talk Show” — before disbanding.

Carlisle became a platinum-selling pop star with a string of solo hits, including “Heaven Is a Place on Earth, “I Get Weak” and “Mad About You.” She performed in San Luis Obispo in July 2015 as part of Central Coast Pride.

Wiedlin, meanwhile, released four solo studio albums, including 1988’s “Fur,” 1990’s “Tangled” and 2000’s “Kissproof World,” while pursuing a side career as an actress and television personality. (Her screen credits include a memorable turn as Joan of Arc in “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” and a stint as a cast member on “The Surreal Life.”) She also teamed up with Bill Morrison to create the “Lady Robotika” comic book series.

The Go-Go’s reunited for the 2001 album “God Bless The Go-Go’s.” They’ve been playing and touring together ever since.

Wiedlin and her bandmates initially planned a farewell tour in 2010, but an accident forced them to call it off.

“Just before rehearsals were supposed to start, I fell off a cliff and exploded my knee,” explained Wiedlin, who underwent surgery to repair the joint, followed by a lengthy recovery process.

“After that, we all rethought our position about retiring and decided we had a few more years in us,” she said.

The band received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2011, and lent its music to the 2015 jukebox musical “Head Over Heels,” now headed to Broadway.

Asked why The Go-Go’s have decided to call it quits now, Wiedlin said that “most of our peers are no longer playing and touring.”

“We’re not actually breaking up. (But) we’re probably not going to tour as a band anymore,” she said, cautioning fans not to rule out a future reunion.

“When we get together, there is an energy that we can create that is very distinct and very compelling,” she said. “Our audience feels it, and we feel it too.”

The Go-Go’s

7:30 p.m. Tuesday

Vina Robles Amphitheatre, 3800 Mill Road, Paso Robles

$45 to $65

805-227-4812 or www.vinaroblesamphitheatre.com.

  Comments