By Ken Sharp
As new Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, Go-Go’s members Charlotte Caffey and Jane Wiedlin unseal their lips to offer stories behind key songs in their catalog.
“We Got the Beat”
Charlotte: We had been talking about playing the song “Going to a Go-Go.” I remember one day I was listening to that song and I was thinking, “You know, I should just try writing something.” I remember it was about five after 12 this idea came to me. I still have the tape I wrote it on. The whole song just came to me, it flowed out. It was literally written in five minutes. I wrote the bass riff on the guitar. I thought it was really great. When I brought it to the band it was slightly different than some of the stuff we were doing, but everyone really liked it. I always thought it was a really good song, and a really fun song. Of course, you can never really predict what’s gonna happen with songs, but I guess that song was meant to be a success. It ended up selling a million copies, which is kind of unusual.
“Our Lips Are Sealed”
Jane: I wrote that with Terry Hall (The Specials). Terry had sent me the lyric idea for that and I wrote the music and finished the lyrics. Charlotte always said if I had any knowledge of music theory I would never write the songs that I write. “Our Lips Are Sealed” is the classic example of that. It has some really bizarre chord changes in it. I don’t even know the names of some of the chords in it. It felt really good to me. It felt like an important song to me. I was almost afraid to show it to the band in case they didn’t like it, I was gonna be upset. I remember sitting there in my room for a few weeks playing it every night before I ever showed it to them.
Jane: I wrote “This Town” with Charlotte and I feel that’s one of The Go-Go’s best songs. To me, it classically represents The Go-Go’s because it’s poppy and danceable, but it’s slightly melancholy, too. If you listen to the words it’s kind of dark, but at the same time, it makes you happy to listen to it. I always felt that was what The Go-Go’s were always about, this mixture of bittersweet emotions.
“Lust to Love”
Jane: That one is great because it’s such a drama queen song and it cracks me up because I was just so dramatic then. I don’t think I could ever write a song like that now because I would just have to laugh at myself too much. It was a very innocent song.
Charlotte: Jane and I had this weird connection where literally she’d have lyrics sitting around and I’d have music sitting around and they’d just go together. It still happens today. We really have this great writing relationship. I think I might have been messing around with the guitar part at the beginning and then I saw her lyrics and fit them in. It’s one of my favorite Go-Go’s songs.
Charlotte: As usual in my writing relationship with Jane, I wrote music and maybe had lyrical ideas. She might have a lyric and I’d get inspired and write music to it, or I’d just happen to have music that matched her lyrics; it was just so weird because everything always kind of fit together. Peter Case co-wrote that with us. Jane and I wrote most of the song, and I think there were either additional lyrics or some additional music that he contributed or both. We’ve played “Tonite” in probably every one of our shows since the very beginning. That song captures an excitement for that moment in the show. We like playing it ‘cause it’s fun and that guitar riff is really fun to play. I think that translates to the audience. Also, I think lyrically it’s great.
Charlotte: This is how it was written: Kathy Valentine brought me the song “Vacation,” which had been done by her band, the Textones. There really wasn’t a chorus; it was very linear. What I did to that song was I elevated it. I changed the verse melody and I came up with the chorus. There wasn’t really a chorus for it and I wrote that melody, which elevated the song. Some of our songs were more anthem-like, and that’s what was in my mind. Kathy loved what I did and then Jane wrote two lines of lyrics. So Kathy brought the song in, but I made it into a hit song; I’m not being all conceited by saying that, but that’s what I do.
“Head Over Heels”
Charlotte: I played piano since I was four years old. I wrote that song with Kathy. I worked feverishly on it for a long time and pretty much wrote a lot of it and brought it back to Kathy and she really liked it. She had the title “Head Over Heels,” and she co-wrote some of the lyrics.
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