Underrated Albums: Go-Gos’ ‘Talk Show’

©2021 Popmartzoo

It’s funny how a change of season and a cyclical change in the weather can bring memories rushing back. In March 1984, the Go-Go’s released the third and final album of the band’s ‘80s peak popularity. Now, 37-years later, the trailblazing ladies have been nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, making it the ideal time to revisit the totally awesome, but criminally overlooked Talk Show.

Talk Show hails from the heydays of when new wave and MTV ruled, all the way back to the early spring of 1984, but I can still remember it like it was yesterday. I achingly recall how the previous year had been sheer agony for myself and fellow Go-Go’s fanatics, as Belinda, Jane, Charlotte, Kathy and Gina seemed to all but disappear from the 80’s music scene, despite making a big splash with their two important and impactful releases; “Vacation” and Beauty and the Beat, both of which I have discussed previously (those can be found by clicking on the abovementioned album titles). As 1983 slowly progressed, I frantically scoured Rolling Stone and Billboard, as well as my local magazine stands for any scrap or morsel about my favorite band, but only rare dribbles were found few and far between for the entirety of that year.

When word finally arrived that the Go-Go’s were across the pond in England recording the eagerly awaited third album with Martin Rushent, I could barely contain my excitement. This thrilling news was soon followed by an unwanted update that the new album had been delayed due to Charlotte Caffey’s ailment with carpal tunnel syndrome. Reading this unwelcomed tidbit quickly dashed my hopes for new music arriving anytime in the immediate future. Luckily, after waiting out an extended absence that felt like an eternity, the Go-Go’s eventually returned to the spotlight in March of 1984 with an astoundingly robust and electrifying new collection of songs. My appetite was first whetted with Talk Show’s lead-off hit single “Head Over Heels,” accompanied by its neon-tinged music video, which brightly signaled the return of the Go-Go’s, while gratifying my ears, albeit temporarily. While wearing the grooves off my “Head Over Heels” 45 rpm record and its B-side, “Good for Gone,” I began frantically calling my local record stores daily to find out when I would be getting my hands on that elusive third album. Fortunately, my nearly two-years of suffering for a new Go-Go’s album was rewarded on March 19, 1984 with a fantastic collection of ten prodigious songs. I can still remember my overpowering exhilaration as I raced home from my local record shop to play my newly acquired LP.

As soon as I placed the needle into the groove, my ears were filled with the opening piano riffs of “Head Over Heels,” which I’d already committed to memory during the month-long countdown to the full-length album. Then, I was entranced by the unexpected power of “Turn to You,” which still remains as my all-time favorite Go-Go’s track. As the record progressed, I was amazed by how much I loved each and every track; from the hypnotic synth intro of “You Thought,” the exquisite harmonies of “Beneath the Blue Sky” and the beautiful melancholia of “Forget That Day.” Side one was all killer, no filler. I couldn’t have been happier.

Shaking with excitement, I quickly flipped the record over and continued to be blown away by the guitar drenched “I’m the Only One,” the fiery “Capture the Light,” the dramatic “I’m With You” and the bouncy, hook-laden “Yes or No.” Talk Show profusely demonstrated newfound growth and maturity in musicianship, lyrical content, plus a noticeable new confidence in Carlisle’s phrasing and vocal delivery.

Legendary producer Martin Rushent (The Human League, The Stranglers) amped up the guitar crunch and added subtle sprinkles of piano and synths, consciously choosing to veer away from the girl group echoes of Richard Gottehrer’s previous album productions, which added a much-needed renewal to the Go-Go’s sound. Bassist Kathy Valentine handled the lion’s share of lead guitar licks due to Caffey’s battle with carpal tunnel, which added a noticeable frenetic ferocity throughout the album’s 10 tracks. Talk Show’s material was masterfully accentuated by Gina Schock’s unyielding and metronomic pounding of the drums, undeniably proving that Schock indeed, still had the beat.

Unfortunately, the album’s accompanying Prime Time Tour failed to live up to expectations. I caught two shows during Talk Show’s tour cycle and each performance confirmed the first public signs of trouble in paradise. Not only was it glaringly obvious the band members were going through the motions or “phoning it in” on stage, but also painfully apparent they were not thrilled to be spending time in each other’s company. Shortly after the tour’s completion, Jane Wiedlin announced she was leaving the Go-Go’s to pursue a solo career. This was hardly surprising to me as I’d witnessed her unhappiness on tour as she sat down and looked pouty at both of the shows I attended during performances of “Forget That Day.” This song allegedly became a specific point of contention within the band. Written by Wiedlin, “Forget That Day” seemed to create a sore spot between Wiedlin and Carlisle as Wiedlin stated she’d originally wanted to sing lead vocals on the track, but was overruled by Carlisle and the other band members.

Sadly, Talk Show proved to be the female fivesome’s final full-length offering for 17 years until Belinda Carlisle and company reunited for 2001’s God Bless the Go-Go’s. In the interim, it seemed that the Go-Go’s were destined to fulfill the all too familiar rock cliché of burning out before fading away. After Talk Show, the band members’ demons were eventually revealed on an unflattering episode of VH-1’s Behind the Music. It seemed as if the band members were hell bent on fulfilling the prophetic declaration of becoming the “catty girls, dreamers, and whores” Caffey and Wiedlin described in “This Town” on the band’s debut album Beauty and the Beat, instead of exercising the option to keep sealed lips. However, there are no audible signs anywhere to be found when listening to Talk Show. Listeners would be hard pressed to hear any evidence of an imploding rock band’s behind the scenes drama, infighting, or substance abuse issues. Perhaps the only hint of discord exists solely on the album’s front cover, as the separate compartmentalization of each band member unintentionally conveyed the group’s disjointed state of existence?

No matter the surrounding circumstances of the time, the female fivesome’s third studio effort still sounds as effervescent as an “uncorked bottle of cold champagne,” as Christopher Connelly described it in Rolling Stone’s original 4-star album review in 1984. Although the Go-Go’s will never be considered prolific, thankfully they managed to give us some superlative music that still manages to transcend time.

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