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The Go-Go’s are bidding farewell to touring

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By Chrissie Dickinson

Chicago Tribune

(TNS)

Promotional photo for the band The Go Go's. (TNS)

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Promotional photo for the band The Go Go’s. (TNS)

Few bands lit up the early 1980’s like the Go-Go’s. The all-female band’s hits have endured as shiny pop-rock nuggets that exemplify the best of the new wave era. After a 38-year career of highs, lows, breakups and reunions, the Go-Go’s are now calling it a day as a touring act with a month long string of farewell shows.

“We’re excited about going out,” guitarist Charlotte Caffey says. “We’ve always had the best fans and we’ve put together the best set list.”

The shows will feature four of five members of the band’s classic lineup. Caffey will be joined by singer Belinda Carlisle, guitarist and singer Jane Wiedlin and drummer Gina Schock. (Bass player Kathy Valentine left the band in an acrimonious split in 2013).

Caffey says this tour signals the end of the Go-Go’s run as a touring act, but not the band itself. She holds out the possibility that the group might play certain shows down the road, including charity benefits. But for now, this is the last chance fans have to catch the band in all its big stage-touring glory, performing signature cuts “We Got the Beat” and “Our Lips Are Sealed.”

Formed in Los Angeles in 1978, the band signed to I.R.S. Records and released its debut “Beauty and the Beat” in 1981. The album spent six weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard charts and sold 2 million copies. The band was nominated for a Grammy Award and became a darling of the then-fledgling music video cable channel MTV.

Caffey called recently to talk about the Go-Go’s last hurrah on the road. This is an edited transcript.

Q: The Go-Go’s originally planned to do a final tour in 2010 but that was postponed. What made you decide that now was the right time for a send-off?

A: We had been talking for a while about when we would stop the touring. In 2010 Jane had a hiking accident and she busted both of her knees, so that put the kibosh on a (farewell tour) back then. This time it just felt right. Personally, I could probably tour for a lot longer, but I respect other people’s wishes. It’s fine.

Q: What is your approach to playing these final shows?

A: I will be even more in the moment, really soaking it in and appreciating it. Not that I normally don’t, but this will be more enhanced.

Q: How did you come to join the Go-Go’s in the beginning?

A: Belinda and Jane started talking about putting a band together in April of 1978. I met Belinda backstage at the (West Hollywood punk club) the Starwood and she asked me to join. I went to England for a month, came back and we all started together.

Q: The Go-Go’s were part of the early LA punk scene. What are your main memories of that notable community of musicians?

A: Jane and I just wrote chapters in John Doe’s book “Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk.” John had a number of people write their stories. It was an extraordinary scene. It was a really cool hotbed of creativity. Everyone was expressing themselves.

Q: Before the Go-Go’s big commercial breakthrough with “Beauty and the Beat,” the band toured England in 1980 and released an early version of the song “We Got the Beat” on Stiff Records. What was that time period like for the band?

A: We sold everything we had. We gave up the places where we were living. We took a chance. We had no idea what was going to happen. I had been working in a hospital for nine years. It was a good-paying job, but I thought, “If I don’t do (the music now), who knows?” I took a risk. It was absolutely the right decision. It worked out but it was very hard. We had no money. When (the ska band) Madness was on stage, we would eat their leftovers. But that tour showed us that we were tough and really wanted it. We were there for a couple months. We came back and that’s when Miles Copeland from I.R.S. Records saw us. At the end of the year he offered us a record deal.

Q: You wrote the Go-Go’s hit ‘We Got the Beat,” which is regarded as one of the classic singles of the era. It has never gone away. How did that song come together?

A: It was a day of trying to write and then I stopped. Then all of a sudden the entire idea came to me. Fortunately I had a little tape recorder next to me and I captured it. I took it to rehearsal. People loved it. Everyone in the band put in her own special input. We all added little touches. We started playing it and that was that. We recorded it and got a great take. We had no idea it would be the song to bring us over the edge and take our “Beauty and the Beat” album to No. 1.

Q: How is your life outside the Go-Go’s?

A: I’ve been married for 23 years to Jeff McDonald from Redd Kross. Our daughter Astrid McDonald is 21 and has her own band. I’m working in theater. I did not grow up loving or even knowing anything about it, except for “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Tommy.” But I love it. It’s such a great collaborative thing.

Q: There’s a new musical in the works, “Head Over Heels,” that is produced by Gwyneth Paltrow and features the Go-Go’s music. What is the status of that production?

A: We’ve been working on it for six years. It’s aimed for Broadway. The question is whether it goes on in 2017 or 2018. We have Tony Award-winning writer Jeff Whitty of “Avenue Q.” The show is based on a 16th century story called “The Arcadia” by Sir Philip Sidney. It’s befitting. It’s a very twisted and fun piece, just like us.

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©2016 Chicago Tribune

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The Go-Go’s are bidding farewell to touring