Why the Go-Go’s matter in rock history

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I happen to believe in historical and factual accuracy. So did Ben Franklin. Spin is one thing. We can argue all day about “who” is most influential in rock music history. But it’s simply ludicrous to completely ignore the as-yet-unduplicated album chart success of the Go-Go’s, the first all-female band to write their own songs, play the music AND hit #1 on the Billboard album charts.

In short, The Go-Go’s epitomize “Women Who Rock.” So why is it that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland makes no mention of the Go-Go’s in its upcoming Women Who Rock exhibit.

Look for a definition of “Women Who Rock” in any music history encyclopedia and the Go-Go’s will be included. Look for the Go-Go’s in the Women Who Rock exhibit of the Rock and Roll Museum and you won’t find them–at least not in the promotional materials. It remains to be seen whether they will be included in the exhibit, which opens May 13 in Cleveland.

Quick aside: This is a rant about why the Go-Go’s aren’t included in the exhibit, not the Hall of Fame. I’m saving my rant about putting the Go-Go’s on the ballot for the Hall of Fame for another day. I hope you’ll save that fight for another day, too.

The Go-Go’s are the first all-female band to (1) play their instruments, (2) write their songs, and (3) score a #1 album on the Billboard album charts (and hold the position for six weeks!). Before the Go-Go’s no other all-female band had accomplished this.

This isn’t a diss on any of the following “named” artists (nor a diss of anyone I fail to mention)…..I’m just making a case here for why it’s ludicrous to omit the Go-Go’s from an exhibit that purportedly reflects the history of Women Who Rock:

Before the Go-Go’s….

* Solo women “rock” artists had success–Patti Smith, Joni Mitchell, Dusty Springfield, Aretha Franklin, Ann & Nancy Wilson, Lita Ford, Janis Joplin (although she might be considered a “front” woman, too, and that category is covered later), Wanda Jackson, to name a few. I don’t mean for this to be an exhaustive list.
* All-girl “bands” (singers, not musicians) had achieved #1 status, but mostly with singles (the Supremes, etc.)
* More than a few bands featured a woman as lead singer. My fave: Debbie Harry fronted Blondie. Blondie was a HUGE influence on my taste in music. But Blondie was mainly four guys and one woman. Nothing significantly “new” here–other than their “new wave” sound and sensibilities.
* Some bands included women who played instruments (Tina Weymouth in Talking Heads, for instance, or Karen Carpenter–who had a rep as a very good jazz-type drummer, on top of her amazing voice)
* A few bands featured all-female lineups (Most notable example: the Runaways)

But it was the Go-Go’s who put together the whole package. The Go-Go’s were the first all-female band to take the package and achieve platinum-selling success. Without a svengali. The Go-Go’s first album, Beauty and the Beat, hit #1 on the Billboard album charts March 6,1982 and held that position for six weeks. No other all female band has done this. Beauty and the Beat stayed on the charts for 72 weeks.

Let me repeat: No other all-female band who play their instruments and write their songs has achieved #1 album status for six weeks. Before or since 1982. Let this sink in. The Go-Go’s album chart success has not been replicated by an all-female band who write and play their original works. (Which brings up another question for another day: Why can’t all-female bands achieve this level of success?)

Again, not to show any disrespect to the following, but there’s a qualitative (and/or quantitative) difference in the careers of these women who achieved success in the years since the Go-Go’s hit #1 with Beauty and the Beat:

* The Bangles achieved great success in the wake of the Go-Go’s. The Bangles had lots of hit singles, but they never had a #1 album.
* Madonna is a pop singer. She’s had major, record-breaking success, but she’s not a rocker and she’s not a band and, until recently, she made no effort to be a “musician,” as opposed to being a vocalist.
* Cyndi Lauper happens to be a great songwriter, but she is had one big hit album as a solo artist (the Hooters and studio musicians backed her up).She’s done great work since, but she’s known for her first album. Update: Correction to note that her second album went platinum, as well.
* The Breeders: Love this band but the Go-Go’s broke the barriers that allowed them to gain college radio airplay.
* Pink: Pink rocks but she’s solo, not a band.
* Britney: Pop “singer.” She has songwriting credits. Not sure if she plays an instrument. Celebrity.
* Avril Lavigne: Wouldn’t have had a chance if the Go-Go’s hadn’t opened the doors.
* Miley Cyrus–Good singer but get back with me when she’s 25. (Wanna know who wrote some of her songs? one of the Go-Go’s).
* Lady Gaga–owes whatever “fame” she has to Madonna. Not sure about any musical achievements, beyond sales.

Keep in mind, folks: There’s no correlation between record sales (or downloads, or whatever) and a band’s scope of influence. Wanda Jackson didn’t sell the most records of any 50s female performer but her influence on rock is more pronounced than perhaps any other white female artist of the late 50s through 60 (excluding perhaps Kitty Wells).

If you care about musicology, historical accuracy …. and less about hype and manufactured music …. I hope you’ll make your opinion known to the “powers that be” who are putting together the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame “Women Who Rock” exhibit. And please keep in mind: This is about the Exhibit, not induction into the Hall of Fame. We’ll save that fight for another day.

Here’s how you can do your part in this revolt:

* Call the Hall of Fame and express your discontent: Phone: 216.781.ROCK (7625)
* Email the Hall of Fame and express your discontent: staff@rockhall.org
* If you’re affiliated with a legitimate news organization (and I include music bloggers in this category) contact the PR department: forthemedia@rockhall.org.
* If you’re on Twitter, start tweeting. Include #GoGosRock as the hashtag. @officialgogos might retweet you. If you have enough characters, reference @rock_hall
* Include a relevant fact about the Go-Go’s and why the exclusion from the exhibit is so “asinine.”
* If you’re on Facebook, start posting. Create buzz.
* If you’re a blogger (or know someone who is a blogger): Start posting. Include Go-Go’s, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Women Who Rock exhibit, etc. as “tags” to your blog post. In other words, make sure to tag your post so it will show up in search engines. (your efforts now may pay off later, too).
* Find music bloggers and post comments to their blogs and mention the Go-Go’s and this ridiculous oversight. Include a link to your blog (or this one).
* Visit music sites and comment, join in chats. Focus on the Exhibit, not induction.
* Link back to this post, if you’re so inclined.
* Link to www.gogos.com website.
* Post links to your blog within Facebook

Thanks for reading this rant. I hope you’ll join in. Comments are welcome.

If you find a mistake, correct me. I value accuracy (unlike, apparently, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame powers-that-be).

Find me on Twitter: @RealSheree

Go-Go’s biography via MTV site

About Sheree

Change Catalyst, Idea Explorer, Dot-Connector, Square Peg


  1. i’m gonna blog about this! thanks for posting! i’ll probably do the post on monday for my music mondays…i’ll post a link here!

  2. Michael Arlt says:

    This is totally stupid if you ask me why the Go Go’s were pulled from the exibit, I think it’s political. Actually, the first “all-female” band who played their own instuments was “Goldie & The Gingerbreads” (who later changed their name to Isis) who were signed to Atco, some of their clips are on Youtube. I know Jan Wenner hates anything that isn’t artsy, trendy, punk, or comes out of New York or London. To me the R&R HOF is a elitest place where Wenner picks his favorite acts that he wants to induct. I would love to see the Guess Who get inducted but I know they have a snowballs chance since they played the White House in 1971. The Go Go’s were a awesome band who wrote their own material and played their instuments and were a major inspiration to alot of people, male and female. That alone should get them in but I think it’s politics.

  3. kristydrums says:

    great article. the rock hall of fame is obviously off their rocker. pun intended.

  4. “Jan Wenner hates anything that isn’t artsy, trendy, punk, or comes out of New York or London.”

    Then how come Britney, Madonna, et al are included? I think you were right with “it’s political.”

    The only women Rolling Stone wants to acknowledge are those who are artsy and obscure OR who are popular because they conform to male fantasy expectations.

    An artist like Patti Smith may appear more threatening on the surface, but because her exposure is so limited, so is her influence. So it’s no real threat for the Wenners of the world to endorse her. The Go-Go’s showed huge numbers of people that women can do more than just sing and posture. And they can do all of it while being 3-dimensional. That’s definitely too scary.

  5. hi!
    here’s the link!! it went up today!


  6. There were all-female bands who played their instruments before the Go-Go’s. What about Fanny? I think the Go-Go’s had good songs, performed well and were fun in concert, and deserve a mention as well as any other notable female musicians and bands, but they were not the first all-girl band to play their instruments. I don’t know that Fanny was, either, but Fanny predates the Go-Go’s.

  7. Areawoman says:

    Hey man, what about the Joy of Cooking all girl band from Texas? What about them huh? HUH? !!!!

  8. What Sheree is saying is not just that the Go-Go’s were the first all female band to play their own instruments (there were others before them that did that) but that they were first to achieve all 3 facets of what she has set out – playing own instruments, writing own songs and achieving a #1 album on Billboard charts.

    I was lucky enough to see Belinda Carlisle in concert in Melbourne, Australia this last weekend and she was absolutely fantastic. I have been arguing with my workmates since my return regarding the merits and legacy of the Go-Go’s. I think this “rant” by Sheree sums up my thoughts and opinions perfectly.

    Listening to Beauty and the Beat recently, many of these songs are absolutely timeless, they don’t appear or sound to have aged out all, especially of course Our Lips Are Sealed. Also though, We Got The Beat is still an outstanding anthem and songs like Lust To Love and Automatic are extremely underrated. Go-Go’s forever!!!

    • Thanks so much, Derek, for commenting and sharing your thoughts. You nailed my point perfectly. I’ve never seen Belinda do a solo show, so I’m envious! One day, I hope.

      Agree that Beauty and the Beat is timeless and that Lust to Love and Automatic are “extremely underrated.”

      One thing that really inspires me is that this post continues to get traffic and attention, nearly a year after I wrote it. That tells me a lot of people really do care. I think the success of last summer’s Ladies Gone Wild Tour might have changed the mind of some who might’ve respected the Go-Go’s in the early 80s but had otherwise written off the 21st century Go-Go’s as a “nostalgia” act.


  9. Oliver Holz says:

    The so-called “Rock and Roll HOF” in Cleveland is a joke, and really doesn’t deserve a place in any serious discussion about rock-n-roll music. That’s why its omission of the Go-Gos does not matter one iota.


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