Lips unsealed

Jane Wiedlin and the Go-Go’s eternal beauty, beat at Rose

By Tim Walker

The Go-Go’s. As I sit here writing these words, I’ve had to remind myself that this story is not about my high school years in Fairborn – this story is about the Go-Go’s and their 2016 farewell tour. Or, more specifically, it’s about Jane Wiedlin, one of the founding members of that groundbreaking new wave band, famous for such hit songs as “We Got the Beat” and “Our Lips Are Sealed” and her feelings about that great band’s final tour.

But I’m 50 now, and decades removed from that high school senior who picked up the August 1982 issue of Rolling Stone featuring the band on the cover (in their underwear, but that’s another story). It’s hard for me to write about the Go-Go’s without getting a bit nostalgic. As a young man growing up in Ohio during a certain time period, raised on a steady diet of Neil Young, Ted Nugent, and Bob Seger, the Go-Go’s simply weren’t supposed to be on my radar. But then, MTV appeared in the Miami Valley, bringing the new wave with it, and… well, everything changed. The universe shifted under the weight of spiky hair, The Police, Culture Club, and, yes, the Go-Go’s.

Lady Robotika herself, “Reverend Sister Go-Go” (as she calls herself when she officiates at marriage ceremonies), called Dayton City Paper from her home in Hawaii to reminisce about her career, her dogs, and the band with which she will forever be identified.

If you were a teenager again, back in L.A. starting out in that punk scene like you did, would you do it all over again, knowing how the record industry has changed?

Jane Wiedlin: Of course, yes. In retrospect, it’s easy to look back on my life and my career and see the hard points and the low points. The interesting thing to me, and it’s not that uncommon, is that when I look back, the times that I remember with the most fondness were the very beginning days – before we were anything, before anyone knew who we were, before we had any money or fame or anything. The punk rock days. On a side note, one really exciting thing was that I recently had the opportunity to be a part of a new book that just came out called “Under the Big Black Sun,” which is about the L.A. punk scene in the 1970s. And I got to write one of the chapters, as did Charlotte Caffey, my band mate…and it made me realize that those were probably the best days of my life.

I would imagine that a lot of people who are fans of the Go-Go’s or fans of your solo work might not even know that you were part of that L.A. punk scene. 

JW: It’s true. I always say that history tends to erase us from that because it’s hard to imagine us fitting in with that scene, but we were definitely a punk band when we started, and we gradually became more pop, but I would say that all of us still have punk rock in our hearts. I know I certainly do. I love my music fast and hard and if it has a great melody, so much the better.

What is your most memorable stage performance? Is there anything that stands out when you look back over your career?

JW: Well…that’s a difficult question because at the height of our success, we were playing hundreds of shows per year. It was a blur. But I’ll tell you the moment I’ll pick – we played at Anaheim Stadium in 1983, with David Bowie – my all-time favorite artist, my muse, my inspiration, my hero – and we got to open for him and there were like 70,000 people there. It was so crazy. I’d waited my whole life to meet Bowie, and he stepped over to our dressing room trailer to introduce himself and I wasn’t there; I was off watching one of the other bands. And when I got back to the trailer the other girls said, “You just missed meeting David Bowie,” and I said, “No, I did not. You guys are totally messing with me.” But they were telling the truth. I burst into tears – I was absolutely heartbroken.

Years later though, I heard from some friends of ours who were at that show that Bowie stood on the side of the stage, so he could watch our performance that day. So, now I know that David Bowie saw us play, which is just amazing to me.

I see that, in addition to your music, you’re operating your own dog rescue in Hawaii now, correct?

JW: Yes. I love it. I feel like fostering dogs is probably the most important part of the equation when it comes to saving animal lives. I’d like to encourage everyone to do it.

What role does social media play for young bands in the music industry today?

JW: It’s everything. I was thinking about the music industry yesterday, and it’s changed so much. Back in the day, you had the record company, which was basically your daddy and your slave master, too. Everything lived and died by what they thought. Now, I feel like you have this new standard where artists are basically able to create their own careers if they’re very clever on social media, which is a very good thing. I just watch these newer performers, and how much harder they have to work now – they have to be their own publicists.

A true innovator, a member of a renowned band that has sold millions of records since their punk days, Wiedlin certainly made her mark in the recording industry.

The Go-Go’s take the stage Wednesday, Aug. 17 at Rose Music Center, 6800 Executive Blvd. in Huber Heights. Best Coast and Kaya Stewart are also on the bill. Show starts at 7 p.m., doors at 6 p.m. Tickets range from $23.50 – $56. For more information, please visit gogos.com.

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Tim Walker is 51 and a writer, DJ, and local musician. He lives with his wife and their two children in Dayton, where he enjoys pizza, jazz, and black T-shirts. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Walker at TimWalker@DaytonCityPaper.com

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