You often look back on the ‘80s and think about mullet haired rock bands like Aerosmith, Def Leppard, and Bon Jovi. People often forget about the girl group that broke out on the scene, delivering pop-rock music with a feminine punch: The Go-Go’s. Defining the era and creating a pathway for other all-women acts to follow, this group had hits that inspired dancing and good feelings. All the while, the likes of Belinda Carlisle and the rest of the crew wrote their own songs, produced their own music, and rocked out on their guitars and the drums, creating the definition of “girl groups.”
Their first album, Beauty and the Beat, was their breakout album and an instant success. It wasn’t until Vacation, however, that their sound was fully developed and the group reached their peak and accepted their fame. The main song, released as a single and arguably one of the most popular songs of the group, is “Vacation.” It’s been used in various movies, commercials, and anything you can think of over the years, and understandably. The fast and infectious beat of the guitar-vocal combo, along with the carefree and fun lyrics all make for the perfect summer song and album. “Vacation all I ever wanted/Vacation had to get away” is the quintessential stuck-in-your-head line that draws you in. Everything builds up so well to the chorus, and then it kicks off with a bang.
A song that works in a similar capacity is “Get Up And Go,” which is done in typical Go-Go style. There’s a guitar intro, which preps the listener to what comes next, which is usually “oohs” or “aahs” or “heys!” in a peppy fashion. Soon enough, Carlisle enters with her unique and easily distinguishable voice that has almost a croon to it. Then comes a mixture of all instruments and vocals, creating rock that you can’t help but sway your body to and jump around the room. This pattern continues with many of the tracks on this album.
A common theme is relationships and love, and it’s almost as if these songs were specifically tailored to create a summer smash hit. “He’s So Strange” plays masterfully with intrinsic rhythm and a smooth play, the bass a constant that drives everything along while paired with synth. As you can tell from the title, “Cool Jerk” is another one of these examples. It’s a cover of the original by The Capitols, and the modern twist they put on it gives it a flair on The Go-Go’s could give it. While still retaining it’s classic feel, the band makes us all feel strong and on top of the world. They do this with the majority of their songs. There’s a noticeable absence of doom and gloom rock can sometimes adopt, shying away from the “happiness” of pop. However, this band intertwines the two in a way that no band will ever be able to copy. The Go-Go’s are in a league all of their own when it comes to being original with the lyrics they sing and the music they perform.
Lastly is “Beatnik Beach,” giving us all serious surfer vibes with the heavy drums and guitar tunes that sound as if they rode the waves and came straight to us from California. Not only did it inspire me and give me beach FOMO, but it reminded me that songs can be brilliant without heavy vocals. One of the most instrumentally driven out from the whole album, “Beatnik Beach” gives us a tune to rock out to and have fun with. That lesson is what the whole album is based off of, the need to just let loose and have a ball. It just so happens that The Go-Go’s created great music to accompany this sentiment.