Beauty and the Beat at 40

On July 8, 1981, I.R.S. Records released the debut album by The Go-Go’s, Beauty and the Beat. Beauty and the Beat would eventually hold the top spot on the Billboard album chart for six weeks, yield two top-twenty hits – “Our Lips Are Sealed” and “We Got the Beat” – and become the second biggest-selling album of 1982 (after Asia’s self-titled debut). The album remains, to this day, the only #1 album by a female rock band who played their own instruments and wrote their own music.

The Go-Go’s formed in 1978 in Los Angeles; the original line-up consisted of Belinda Carlisle (vocals), Jane Wiedlin (guitar, vocals), Margot Olavarria (bass) and Elissa Bello (drums). Later in 1978, lead guitarist Charlotte Caffey joined the group. The Go-Go’s started out as a punk band, and played L.A. punk venues like The Masque and Whiskey a Go Go. Eventually, Olavarria and Bello left the band and were replaced by Kathy Valentine and Gina Schock, respectively. It was around this time that the band started pulling away from their punk roots to a poppier sound.

In late 1979, The Go-Go’s recorded a five song demo, including the earliest recorded version of “We Got the Beat”. The band subsequently spent much of 1980 touring in the U.K., where “We Got the Beat” became a minor hit.

On the strength of their demo, The Go-Go’s signed with I.R.S. Records in April, 1981. A little more than two months later, their debut single, “Our Lips Are Sealed”, was released, followed by the full album about a month after that. “Our Lips Are Sealed” wasn’t an instant success in the U.S. but eventually hit #20 on the Billboard Hot 100, due in part to its iconic video, filmed guerilla-style on the streets of Hollywood. Fun fact: the budget for the video came from unused funds in The Police’s video budget (The Police’s drummer, Stewart Copeland, is the brother of I.R.S. Records founder Miles Copeland III).

When the rest of the band goes into the lingerie store, and Jane Wiedlin is sitting in the car singing the bridge, you can see Belinda Carlisle trying to hide behind the driver side door.

On January 16, 1982, I.R.S. released Beauty and the Beat‘s second single, “We Got the Beat”. The song spent three weeks at the #2 spot on the Hot 100 (it was kept out of the top spot by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts’ “I Love Rock and Roll”) and propelled Beauty and Beat to the top of the album chart. The video for “We Got the Beat”, filmed during a live performance at Palos Verdes High School in Los Angeles, received heavy airplay on MTV, and the single reached a wider pop culture audience later that year when it was featured in the opening credits sequence for Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The band was also nominated for Best New Artist at the 24th Annual Grammy Awards (they lost to Sheena Easton).

Beauty and the Beat is iconic, with one banger after another. It is thirty-five minutes of pure pop-punk perfection. And though The Go-Go’s weren’t able to duplicate Beauty and the Beat‘s success with their subsequent albums, 1982’s Vacation and 1984’s Talk Show, their place in rock and roll history is secure. On October 30, 2021, the band – after fifteen years of eligibility – will finally be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It couldn’t happen to a more deserving group.

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