By the time the Go-Go’s second album, Vacation, hit the charts in 1982, they had made a small but giddy bit of history. Female rockers were nothing new, but this was the first all-female group to make it big by writing and playing their own songs, and they were riding high. They were bouncy and giggly, a sorority-house sock hop onstage. They partied like crazy, posed in bubble baths for their first album, Beauty and the Beat, and made the cover of Rolling Stone in their underwear.
But between Vacation and their third album, Talk Show, released in April, the Go-Go’s bubbly world lost its fizz. First, their manager, Ginger Canzoneri, quit. She’d been with them from the beginning in 1978 both as a den mother and inspiration, but the Go-Go pace had gotten to her and, as they themselves admit, success had turned their heads. Drummer Gina Schock, 27, concedes, “When I was out on the road, I felt like ‘Gina Schock, Rock Star.’ ” A protracted squabble followed with the group’s label, International Record Syndicate. Next, guitarist Charlotte Caffey, 31, began losing feeling in the fingers of her left hand. Doctors said it would pass in two weeks; it lasted four months. Then during a routine physical, doctors found a hole in Schock’s heart, necessitating open-heart surgery. She now has a thin scar from her collarbone to her navel but is fully recovered. That trauma seemed to bring the group back together—until last week. After a tour-ending concert in San Antonio, guitarist Jane Wiedlin, one of the founding sisters (with Belinda Carlisle) and probably the Go-Go’s best songwriter, announced that she was quitting.
Wiedlin, 26, had ventured away from the group once before, to do a hit single with Sparks in 1982, but this move seems permanent. Citing a desire for “artistic freedom” and the chance to sing her songs her way, Wiedlin plans a solo album next year. “I’m excited and scared and relieved,” she told Robert Hilburn, pop music critic for the Los Angeles Times. “I’ve been doing the same job for seven years and it’s time to move on.”
The group has always maintained that it was just like a family, and that apparently hasn’t changed. “The great thing is we’re still friends,” Wiedlin told Hilburn. “That was important to me—that there not be any bitterness.” Caffey admitted that at first she was “upset—mad and angry, and I think everybody in the band went through the same emotions. Then we sat down with Jane and talked about it, and her decision made more sense.” Schock readily affirms that in private life “you pay a price for making the Go-Go’s the most important part of your life.”
Still, if any group can keep going, the Go-Go’s probably can. “Jane was definitely a key member,” says Hilburn. “But this band has shown that it’s feisty and determined to make it.” Adjustments are already under way. Kathy Valentine, 25, is switching from bass to lead guitar, replacing Wiedlin. The band, which goes into the studio next month to work on a February album, will soon begin auditions for a bass player. Meanwhile, lead vocalist Belinda Carlisle, 26, insists that the band has come of age with the public. “Now people are buying our albums for the right reason: the music, not because we’re some cute novelty.” Concludes Caffey, “My woman’s intuition tells me it’s going to be a good thing for both Jane and the band.”