Today’s Guest: Belinda Carlisle, singer, The Go-Go’s
By Bob Andelman
(Originally published August 22, 1986)
This year’s Belinda Carlisle model looks like a model.
Men are ga-ga over the slimmed down, radiant ex-Go-Go.
Women want to know who does her hair.
And fans are mad about her debut single as a solo act, “Mad About You.” It’s No. 3 in the country.
“I tried to have no expectations on how the record or career were going to go,” she says in a telephone interview. “I was probably going to have to start from, not the bottom but over again pretty much, and build a career.”
Imagine the once-pudgy lead singer of the Go-Go’s as a cover girl – not the one who posed in her underwear with the other Go -Go’s for the cover of Rolling Stone in 1982 with the tag “Go-Go’s Put Out,” but someone endorsing beauty products, revealing her hair secrets in “Vogue.”
BELINDA CARLISLE interview excerpt: “It was real hard auditioning, trying to put a band together, wondering if they were going to get along OK, are they going to be nice, are they going to be freaks or whatever.”
At least that’s what her record company said before the interview.
“I don’t know about that,” Carlisle says with surprise. “It was ‘Vogue’ for what? Hair? Hmmm. Maybe.”
Whether or not she does discuss her coif in the beauty magazine, it has been receiving much positive publicity. Does she have any secrets?
“Well,” she says, giggling, “this is just a real good cut. I’ve been going to the same hairdresser for years. 1 really don’t do much to it – it just gets that way. I think I’m a lucky person.”
Hair is not all that’s new about Belinda Carlisle. A year ago she suddenly shed all of the Go-Go’s except guitarist Charlotte Caffey and embarked on a solo career.
A few other things went: drugs and alcohol were two, extra pounds accounted for 20 more.
They’ve been replaced by a new diet and fitness regimen, a husband and lots of whistles and huzzahs from other men who’ve just discovered the “new” Belinda.
“I always had a problem with weight and stuff, and it’s nice when people say, ‘Oh, it looks like you lost weight. ‘It makes it all worth it” When people compliment me in that way, I’m always very flattered. It just makes this work from the past two years really worth it.”
So Carlisle is different. But her voice hasn’t changed. To many people, her song “Mad About You” sounds like another Go-Go’s hit simply because she’s singing it.
Is there really a difference, musically?
“I think it might be a little more progressive,” Carlisle says. “I think ‘Mad About You’ is a little less of a pop song than maybe some of the Go-Go’s songs. It’s not typical Go-Go’s in arrangement and guitar solo. There’s a lot of different things in ‘Mad About You’ that the Go4o’s didn’t do, like acoustic guitar. I think the similarities between the Go-Go’s and that record is probably really just in the vocals.”
To record the “Belinda” LP, Carlisle had help from Caffey, who wrote or cowrote five of the songs. Two other ex Go-Go’s – Jane Weidlin and Paula Brown – chipped in as well.
Duran Duran guitarist Andy Taylor shares a lawyer with Carlisle and was coerced into participating, as was the Bangles’ Susanna Hoffs.
One odd chestnut on the new album is a cover version of Freda Payne’s 1970 hit, “Band of Gold.” Carlisle, an avid oldies fan, says it’s one of her “all-time favorite songs.”
“I always wanted to do it in the Go. Go’s, but we never had time,” she says. “I thought, ‘If I ever do a solo record, I’m going to do that song.”
Something else surprising about “Mad About You” is the country flavor in many of the songs. “
BELINDA CARLISLE interview excerpt: “I’ve been going to the same hairdresser for years. 1 really don’t do much to it – it just gets that way. I think I’m a lucky person..”
One of my favorites is Patsy Cline,” Carlisle says, acknowledging the influence. “I listen to a lot of country, a lot of blues, a lot of R&B. Those are pretty much my roots. (The song) ‘I Never Wanted a Rich Man’ – Charlotte and I were saying how that song could be really cool if someone came along from the country world and covered it.”
An all-star lineup helped produce “Belinda,” but touring was another story. Carlisle and Caffey had to start from scratch again.
Carlisle says she was looking for three things in auditioning a new band: musicians who played well, didn’t overplay and who fit in physically.
“Someone with a bright green mohawk – as much as l like mohawks – wouldn’t fit in with the kind of music and the kind of band that I wanted to put together,” she says. “It was (people who) add personality, too. Also, what their personal habits were, whether they did drugs or drank a lot – that was a big factor.
“It was real hard auditioning, trying to put a band together, wondering if they were going to get along OK, are they going to be nice, are they going to be freaks or whatever,” she adds.
Joining the singer and Caffey on keyboard and guitar are Ricky Phillips on bass, drummer Pat Torpey” Rod Fullerton on lead guitar and Steve “I’m going to kick myself because I can’t remember his last name” on keyboards.
Once the band was settled, Carlisle & Co. went out as Robert Palmer’s opening act for several weeks.
“He’s a little bit aloof,” she says of Palmer, pausing then giggling some more. “He didn’t say a word to me, much ls sing a song with me. Ifs too bad, because it would have been really fun, but he’s a bit of an exclusive perron.”
During her current hour-long concerts, Carlisle says she is performing most of the material from her solo album and a cover song or two- Don’t expect to hear a lot of Go-Go’s fun is, though.
“As far as ‘vacation’ or ‘Our Lips Are Sealed,’ we do those two songs and sometimes we’ll throw on another Go Go’s song …
“The GoGo’s songs are wonderful and stuff, and I thought that I would never want to take them out of the set” Carlisle concludes, “but I’m finding that ‘We’ve Got the Beat’ doesn’t feel like it’s anything but a GoGo’s songs I don’t feel comfortable doing it. I think its meant to be laid to rest.”
Belinda Carlisle still go-gos with the beat
By Bob Andelman
(Originally published August 25, 1986)
Yeah, she’s still got the beat.
Despite protestations to the contrary less than a week ago, former Go-Gos lead singer Belinda Carlisle is still singing “We Got the Beat.”
“I don’t feel comfortable doing it,” she said of the song in an interview last week. “I think it’s meant to be laid to rest.”
So much for believing the proclamations of pop stars, eh?
Someone must have convinced Carlisle just how much vitality the Go-Go’s biggest hit sill had because she sang and danced the dickens out of it as the finale to her Tamps Theatre concert Saturday night.
The amusing thing was how good “We Got the Beat” sounded compared to the inanity of “Vacation” and “Our Lips Are Sealed.” It is the saccharine “Vacation” which should be retired; and after the show someone suggested “our lips” be changed to “my lips are sealed” on the latter song.
So how was Carlisle? Pretty good. Entertaining, cute, charming, effervescent and thinner.
Carlisle’s devotion to music from the ‘60s was apparent from the first song, “I Need a Disguise,” off her “Belinda” LP. The hard, poppy tune got right to the heart of the Carlisle/ Go-Go’s sound: a drum backbeat and keyboard fills that make folks want to pogo.
She did well on a surprise over of The Exciters’ oldie “Tell Him,” but failed to ignite Freda Payne’s “Band of Gold.”
“Since You’re Gone” was a song from the “Belinda” album with a similar ‘60s aura, from the ballad into and outro to the blue spotlight on the singer. “I Feel the Magic,” which she said will be her next single, was a party bopper with a taste of Gary U.S. Bonds’ “Quarter to Three,” replete with audience participation.
Carlisle took the majority of 13 songs from her solo LP. There were also four Go-Go’s tunes, including “Head Over Heels,” which was quite sharp.
Guitarist and keyboard player Charlotte Caffrey, another former Go-Go, in on tour with Carlisle, although her stage role is hard to figure.
The two women are offset by four male musicians and there was always a man playing keyboards or guitar at the same time ass Caffery. It was usually impossible to tell what notes were coming out of her instrument. The situation was especially glaring when guitarist Rod Fullerton took the solo part on “We Got the Beat.” That was a Caffery trademark in the Go-Go’d.
On the other hand, Caffery shone in a sparkling acoustic part beginning “Our Lips Are Sealed.”
There were a number of problems between Carlisle and her band. The greatest one was that she hardly acknowledged the quintet’s existence. Aside from the quitar in “We Got the Beat,” there were no solos, no asides, nothing. With the exception of Caffery, the singer never spoke to or even looked at her backing outfit. If the guys feel like second-class in this band, it wouldn’t be surprise.
During her 55-minute concert – shorter than Morris Day played at the London Victory Club, incidentally – Carlisle had plenty of room for stretching out, taking risks. That’s usually why singers break away from their bands, isn’t it? For new opportunities, new challenges?
Carlisle is a delight to watch, make no mistake. Her voice, like a little girl’s but with an adult’s roughewn, coying eroticism, is irresistible.
So what’s the difference between Carlisle the solo act and the leader of the Go-Go’s?
Not much. No wonder 1,200 people had such a good time.
As a side note, all tickets sold to Celinda Carlisle’s concert were reserved seats, meaning everyone had a place to be.
It was therefore unfortunate to see hundreds of young people rush to the edge of the stage. There was not the slightest hint of security or personnel to enforce seating.
At the least, everyone downstairs at the theater was forced to stand for the duration of the show. At most, someone could have been trampled or crushed.
If reserved tickets are going to be sold, facilities and promoters have a responsibility at least to try to give concert goers the seat position and safety they paid for.