Deliberating the Go-Go’s Vacation on its 35th Anniversary

After a six-week run atop Billboard’s 200 album chart with the multi-platinum debut album Beauty and the Beat, all-girl rock group the Go-Go’s hurriedly released the follow-up sophomore effort, Vacation. Echoes of previous singles “We Got the Beat” and “Our Lips Are Sealed” could still be heard across radio airwaves when “Vacation” became the band’s third hit single in the summer of ’82. The bubbly title track was the first-ever cassette single and was accompanied by its vivid and playful music video, which revealed the band members hamming it up while pretending to be highly skilled water skiers.

The Go-Go’s second studio album started off strong, but inspiration seemed as if had been stretched thin in order to quickly release a follow-up to the band’s best-selling debut. Leftovers from the Go-Go’s earlier live setlists unfortunately found their way onto the sophomore effort, effectively diluting what could’ve been a solid track listing. The obligatory cover tune “Cool Jerk” and the subpar “Beatnik Beach” sounded like fillers included to expand upon the album’s abstract beach theme. It resulted in making the Go-Go’s second album sound as if the girls had been left scrambling for quality material. Additionally, Jane Wiedlin’s heavy reliance on Webster’s rhyming dictionary (as evidenced on “Girl of 100 Lists” and “It’s Everything but Partytime”) certainly didn’t help matters. Fortunately, Kathy Valentine was aptly able to pick up her cronies’ slack by contributing the effervescent title track, the accidently prophetic “We Don’t Get Along” and the ethereal closing ballad, “Worlds Away.” [Read Full Review]

Go-Go’s: Beauty and the Beat (30th Anniversary Edition)

It was during the days of big hair, John Hughes movies, and hanging out at the mall when five feisty beauties called the Go-Go’s became America’s sweethearts. Fronted by lead singer Belinda Carlisle and anchored by key songwriters Jane Wiedlin and Charlotte Caffey, their debut album was an important breakthrough for women in music. The multi-platinum Beauty and the Beat was the first number one album written and performed by an all-female group. It’s now been remastered and expanded into a 2-disc set (and pink vinyl) to celebrate its 30th anniversary.

Beauty and the Beat, one of the 1980s cornerstone albums of American new wave, was both groundbreaking and inspired. Yielding the hits “Our Lips Are Sealed’ and “We Got The Beat,” this seminal recording has never sounded better than here on this new remaster, which manages to breathe new life into these songs no matter how many times you’ve listened to them.

“Can you hear them/They talk about us/Telling lies, well that’s no surprise,” sang Carlisle in “Our Lips Are Sealed,” which could be heard blasting from every car stereo during the summer of 1981. That breakthrough hit was soon followed up by “We Got The Beat,” which became the group’s most successful song and spent three weeks at number two on the U.S. hot 100. The classic 80s anthem’s lyrics “See the kids just getting out of school/They can’t wait to hang out and be cool,” left an indelible impression on pop culture.

The Go-Go’s magic relied on the masterful blending of upbeat melodies, catchy hooks, and background harmonies layered upon sad lyrics, while delivered with undeniable attitude. “Get dressed up and messed up/Blow our cares away/We rule the streets tonite/Until the morning light,” declares Carlisle with energetic angst during the frenetic “Tonite.” Carlisle gets right into your face as she sings “Change the lines that were said before/We’re all dreamers, we’re all whores/This town is our town, it is so glamorous/Bet you’d live here if you could and be one of us,” with an undeniable aggressiveness during the Hollywood ode “This Town.”

This newly released 2-disc set gives fans a chance to hear both sides of the group: the raw energy and post-punk edginess of their live performances never captured on their studio recordings, as well as the smoothed out pop-gloss sound most associated with the band. Disc one is comprised of the full remastered album, while the second disc contains a previously unreleased live concert from 1981. The live disc includes songs that have never appeared on any Go-Go’s album, in addition to an early version of the hit single “Vacation,” complete with alternate lyrics that differ greatly from the well-known recorded version.

The anniversary edition of Beauty and the Beat shows this album still holds up surprisingly well thirty years later, which is a testament to the energetic spirit captured in this musical zeitgeist of the 80s. Unfortunately, it also serves as a reminder that the Go-Go’s were never able to equal or surpass the success of this landmark debut with the band’s subsequent releases. Their beauty may have faded over the years, but their beat still sounds almost as timeless today on this seminal 80s album as it did thirty years ago.

© 2011 ForASong Media, LLC