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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Our Lips Are Sealed

Yesterday, in the one-shot edition of the Saturday Timeline, we took a trip back in time to the year 1981. And, on this edition of the Sunday Jukebox, we're going to be going back in time to the year 1981 as well.

(Hey, it's this blogger's birthday weekend! I think I can celebrate it for however long I want!)

Of course, here's a bit of a quandary for myself. I had a hard time picking a song for this week.

Don't get me wrong. I love 1980s music. I think that whole decade between 1980 and 1989 was one of the most creative periods in the music industry, and I would say that the vast majority of my music collection is from that decade.

This being said, of all the ten years that make up the 1980s, ironically enough the year 1981 is my least favourite.

I'm not entirely sure as to why this was the case, but looking through my collection of 1980s music, 1981 is the year that is least represented.

I can only speculate why this is the case based on what was happening at the time. You see, 1981 was kind of one of those transitional years. Disco was long dead, and New Wave was on its way to becoming the standard for pop music. But that period in between that transition was a real mosaic of different genres. I guess it could be best described in the words of Donny and Marie Osmond, as in that the charts were “a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll”.

And, maybe a little bit of new wave, a little bit of dance music, a little bit of rock, and yes, even a dash of disco.

That's how muddled the Billboard Charts of 1981 were. When else in history can you see Rick Springfield, Alabama, Blondie, Joan Jett, Olivia Newton-John, Kim Carnes, Air Supply, and Sheena Easton charting in the same year? Not often, I bet.

Still though...there were some classic gems coming out of the music scene the same year that I was born. Duran Duran released their debut album that year, as did the Stray Cats and Kim Wilde. One of John Lennon's final singles, “Woman” was released just weeks after his death, and it remains one of my all-time favourite songs of '81. Phil Collins was also coming into his own as a solo artist after years of performing with Genesis with “In The Air Tonight” and “I Missed Again”. And, I'll readily admit to being a “not-so-closet” Hall & Oates fan, as 1981 was one of the duo's biggest success years to date.

And, then there's the Top 20 hit by an all-girl group from Los Angeles, California in which two of the band members launched solo careers, and as of 2013 are still performing gigs today.

ARTIST: The Go-Go's
SONG: Our Lips Are Sealed
ALBUM: Beauty and the Beat
DATE RELEASED: June 12, 1981

Now, there's a couple of reasons why I chose this song in particular. One, it fits with the “Made in '81” theme, and two, it's probably the one song that helped establish this group in the pop music scene.

The Go-Go's were formed in Los Angeles circa 1978, and the original line-up consisted of four members. They were Belinda Carlisle (vocals), Jane Wiedlin (guitar/vocals), Elissa Bello (drums), and Margot Olivarria (bass). But, they didn't exactly adopt the classic pop image and retro 1950's stage look right off the bat. Believe it or not, they started off as a punk rock group, and in the late 1970s, the group were regular fixtures at Whiskey A Go Go and The Masque. During this time, there was a brief turnover in band members. A fifth member, Charlotte Caffey, was hired as the band's new keyboardist, while Gina Schock replaced Elissa Bello in early 1979.

The band began to get noticed right around the time they cut their first demo record. In late 1979, the band recorded their five track cassette in Los Angeles, and spent most of the first half of 1980 on tour in England, supporting ska revival band Madness. The band gained a following in the UK, and even released a rough copy of their single “We Got The Beat”, a single that was a big success in early 1982 in North America.

But in 1980, another band member would have to be replaced. Margot Olavarria contracted Hepatitis A, and was forced to leave the band to seek treatment. She was replaced by Kathy Valentine. But there was a lot more to Olavarria's departure from the band than what was let on. Belinda Carlisle later revealed that Olavarria was shown the door for skipping out on rehearsals, with Olavarria not meshing with the pop sound the Go-Go's were experimenting with at that time. A lawsuit was launched by Olavarria against the rest of the band soon after, and was settled in 1984.

In April 1981, the Go-Go's landed a record deal with I.R.S. Records, and just three months later, the band released their debut album “Beauty and the Beat”, which included “We Got The Beat” and today's featured song, “Our Lips Are Sealed”.

Our Lips Are Sealed” was a collaboration between Jane Wiedlin, The Specials, and Terry Hall of Fun Boy Three, and the song is semi-autobiographical. According to Wiedlin, she and Hall had embarked on an affair. The problem was that Hall already had a girlfriend in his native UK. So, the song title was basically a response to that affair...that neither one would say a word about it. Their lips were sealed.

(Well, apparently not anymore.)

The music video was filmed entirely in Los Angeles, California, and according to Wiedlin, the band was less than enthused about filming a music video in the first place. When I.R.S. Records President Miles Copeland informed them that they had to film a promotional video for the single, they were not enthusiastic about the project at all. Then again, when you consider that the video's budget was whatever was left over from the video budget of The Police (of which Miles' brother Stewart was a member), I guess you can't really blame them.

Here's the thing though. Sure the video appeared to be on the low-budget side, even for 1981 standards...but you'd never really know that the Go-Go's weren't gung-ho for video making. The convertible that Belinda drove was a 1960 Buick, and the girls really seemed to have a ball riding around in it. The Go-Go's even came up with the idea to have the video ending be centered around the girls splashing around in the Electric Fountain that was situated on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard.

Now, the band stayed together for four more years after that video was released. Over those four years, they released hit after hit with songs such as “Vacation”, “Head Over Heels”, and “Turn To You”. But by the end of 1984, Jane Wiedlin had decided to part ways with the rest of the Go-Go's. She was out by October, and was replaced with Paula Jean Brown in January 1985. The band tried the new line-up for a few months before splitting up in May 1985, with Carlisle and Caffey believing that they had gone as far as they could go.

This didn't mean that certain members of the band didn't go on to greatness as solo artists. Belinda Carlisle's solo career kicked off in 1986 with the single “Mad About You”, and throughout the late 1980s/early 1990s had several chart toppers in both the United States and United Kingdom. And, this was in spite of the fact that she had struggled with drug addictions for the better part of three decades. She has been on the road to recovery since 2005.

Jane Wiedlin also had minor success with a solo career in the 1980s, and I would say that this single from 1988 was her most successful single.

In the case of the Go-Go's, they have reunited many times since their original 1985 break-up, and have been regularly touring since 1999. As of May 19, 2013, the current line-up is comprised of Carlisle, Wiedlin, Caffey, and Schock, and I'm sure that as long as their fans still have love for the band, they will continue to provide great music to everyone.

And, that's my blog entry on The Go-Go's. And, in this case, my lips AREN'T sealed.

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