October 18, 2021

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“Splendor and the Conquer” at 40: The Go-Go’s landmark debut ushered in a musical new wave

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On July 8, 1981, the Go-Go’s launched their debut album, “Attractiveness and the Conquer.” To call the LP a watershed musical moment release would be underselling the album’s affect. 

Musically, the quintet’s combine of nervy pop, gritty punk, rock, and girl-team harmonic gleam was a revelation. The five associates — vocalist Belinda Carlisle, guitarists Charlotte Caffey and Jane Wiedlin, bassist Kathy Valentine, and drummer Gina Schock — ended up neat and self-assured onstage. These were talented gals earning tunes their way, adhering to their personal one of a kind path — and displaying legions of lovers that they much too could carve out area for them selves any where. 

Thematically, the band softened punk’s defiant stance with lyrics relatable to everyday everyday living. Like the Go-Go’s on their own, the figures of “Attractiveness and the Defeat” have been savvy and wise. Even if things failed to go very according to program — for case in point, “You Are not able to Wander in Your Sleep” works by using the extended metaphor of insomnia and slumber disturbances (relatable!) to express aggravation about life’s position quo — there was never ever a perception of experience bleak or trapped.

For case in point, the much more personalized, inward-searching music supply complexity, and the information that the hole in between what you want — and what you get — can be broad. “How Significantly Additional” smolders with longing, as properly as a little bit of jealousy and light self-loathing (“She’s seeking very good/Just like I would/If it could be me”) although the iconic “Lust to Like” speaks of the common expertise of falling for somebody (and shedding “manage of the match”) that was only intended to be a no-thoughts-attached fling.

But the figures of “Magnificence and the Conquer” have company, and usually are not passive members in any lifetime knowledge. The romantic co-conspirators of “Our Lips Are Sealed” use (what else?) the silent cure to combat any rumors or jealousy. And the most important character of “Fading Fast” is seeking to encourage herself an ex is a distant stranger (“Are you just a further boy / That I achieved extended in the past?”) simply because they’re a jerk: “You had me all to by yourself/I thought that you were being such a prize/I finally came to my senses/When I read just 1 far too many lies.” 

“Attractiveness and the Defeat” also updates frequent lyrical imagery for the modern-day age. This collision of the basic and contemporary appears fresh: “We Bought the Defeat” mentions dance moves these types of as the Watusi and the Pony as inspirations for the youth of currently, whilst “Skidmarks on My Heart” takes advantage of a vehicle metaphor to speak to a faltering partnership torpedoed by temperament variances with a soon-to-be-ex: “I get you cologne/You want axle grease/You say get a mechanic/I say get a shrink.” And “This City” plays up the grit and glamour of their L.A. hometown, with piercing observations and incisive commentary.

Regardless of a superior profile on the L.A. club circuit, the Go-Go’s to begin with experienced hassle landing a record offer. “We ended up advised, ‘We appreciate you. We can see that everybody enjoys you, but you can find by no means been an all-female band that has been massive. I imply, you’ve had cult-amount successes, like the Runaways and Fanny, but as significantly as having a huge likelihood of achievements observe, since you’re all gals, you can find hardly ever been anything at all before, you know, like you, so I am sorry, we will move,'” Carlisle informed Yahoo Entertainment in 2020.

There are many layers to the sexism permeating that estimate. A past absence of (perceived) results shouldn’t be any sign of future musical fortunes. Blaming a absence of precedent for passing on some thing that appears new or diverse is why new music frequently seems so homogenous — and why lots of non-cis-men have to perform twice as tough to achieve success.

Extra than that, the notion that only just one girl (or team of girls) can be prosperous at a time is an regrettably common (and pernicious) sentiment. It sales opportunities to artists being positioned in opposition to each and every other — Madonna vs. Cyndi Lauper, Britney Spears vs. Christina Aguilera, Taylor Swift vs. Katy Perry — and quashes opportunities for other functions. Furthermore, it’s absurd, insulting and condescending to perspective women as some variety of monolith. As has been mentioned quite a few instances just before, in so quite a few terms, “feminine-fronted” or “ladies rocker” is not a style.

And so that the Go-Go’s transcended that stone-age attitude was amazing plenty of. But that the Go-Go’s toed the line concerning pop, rock and punk so adeptly also created them singular. Nowadays, plenty of bands combine these influences together having said that, at the time, this merger of appears and scenes gave them a unique edge.

“To me, it truly is continue to what our band is: we have individuals pop melodies, but we have that punk generate, the undercurrent of becoming a punk band,” drummer Gina Schock explained to NPR Tunes in 2020. “I truly feel like our new music is generally that way, but that to start with album is very pop-sounding.”

For the latter, credit history can go to “Natural beauty and the Conquer” producer Richard Gottehrer, who co-wrote indelible ’60s hits “My Boyfriend’s Back again” and “I Want Sweet” and also manufactured Blondie’s firsts two albums, shaped “Natural beauty and the Conquer.” At initial, his approach to the album — the tunes had been slower and extra polished than the Go-Go’s were made use of to — was complicated for the band to consider.

“We ended up crying, and cursing him, and it didn’t even seem like us, because it failed to seem like us reside,” Charlotte Caffey explained to NPR Tunes in 2020. “A number of months later, when we finally bought ‘Our Lips Are Sealed’ on the radio, then I recognized, in that instant, what he was seeking to realize: People today would listen to us.”

It can be difficult to feel now, but that was not essentially a given. To illustrate how novel the Go-Go’s have been in 1981, it truly is instructive to search at the rock charts from back again then. For case in point, the band’s initially solitary, “Our Lips Are Sealed,” peaked at No. 15 on Billboard’s Rock Best Tracks chart for the week of December 5, 1981. 

That week, the Go-Go’s were the highest-position girls-driven act on the chart each solitary track forward of them was by a male solo artist or all-male band. In general, just 9 music out of 60 (or 15%) highlighted woman vocalists. The only other distinguished ladies to surface in the complete leading 60 have been Stevie Nicks (who had three music, all from her smash debut “Bella Donna”), Pat Benatar, Quarterflash’s Rindy Ross, and The Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde. 

There have been little indicators issues have been transforming: That exact week, both equally the Plasmatics and Joan Jett ended up new provides on the chart. Nevertheless, when the band’s next single, “We Bought the Beat,” achieved a higher of No. 7 on the rock singles chart on April 17, 1982, things ended up nonetheless male-dominated. Joan Jett experienced two music in the prime 20, even though a are living Stevie Nicks tune, Human League’s co-ed “Really don’t You Want Me” and a tune every single from Bonnie Raitt and Quarterflash have been it. This time, just 11.7 % of the rock chart had a female vocal presence.

You can find by no means been any question that “Beauty and the Conquer” has a long term put in songs history. In March 1982, the album arrived at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 (then regarded as the Prime LPs & Tape chart), where it remained for six consecutive weeks. It was the to start with album unveiled by an all-female band who played their have devices and wrote their have songs to leading the Billboard album chart. Nonetheless, 40 years afterwards, the Go-Go’s are nonetheless the only all-female band to reach this feat — which is a distinct indictment of how much new music nonetheless has to go. 

Continue to, the band’s punk verve helped nudge rock and pop tunes out of the staid 1970s and into the extra colourful, danceable ’80s. The Go-Go’s preceded the increase of British Invasion bands these types of as Duran Duran and Society Club, pop greats Madonna and Michael Jackson, and a complete wave of unabashedly new wave acts. That the Go-Go’s are finally remaining inducted into the Rock & Roll Corridor of Fame this 12 months is an significant move forward to acknowledging not just their cultural affect — but their enduring standing as musical trailblazers.

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