Please…She’s a Woman on a Mission
~ by joel martens ~
Ah, the ‘80s: Oversized clothes, huge shoulder pads, Benetton’s pastels and neon colors, lycra and all that big, big hair. Reagan was in the White House, cell phones weren’t, the Internet was, though relegated to underground military bunkers and computers were still the size of your Mama’s living room.
The other throwback still crossing our pathways today? The catchy, enduring and persistent music of the era. Disco was certainly dead, but out of its ashes rose punk rock, new wave and the early stages of the electronic dance music movements. Another stand-out, indelibly associated with the decade?
The Go Go’s and Belinda Carlisle.
They were a cutting-edge group, remarkably the first of their kind; five young women who not only played their own instruments but wrote their own songs. A quintette who would quickly dominate the charts with their 1981 debut album, Beauty and the Beat, which according to AllMusic, is one of the “Cornerstone albums of (U.S.) new wave.” The album sold in excess, of two million copies and reached double platinum status, making it one of the most successful debut albums of all time. Quickly solidifying a musical movement and sound that would blaze the trail for many new American acts who would follow.
At the head of that new wave, was the pert, sweet-toned voice of the band’s lead vocalist…Belinda Carlisle. A woman who, along with her talented bandmates, managed to ride the crazy rollercoaster of the Go Go’s early smash success…And all of its excesses. They and she have witnessed their share of life’s ups and downs, events inexorably linked with a career in the music industry. But, Carlisle has ridden that wave and is still making her presence known.
Like those of us who spent our early adulthood listening to the Go Go’s music, the songs and her outlook may have evolved and matured, but, Carlisle is still relevant and at the leading edge of performance, change and activism. Certainly, she’s a woman who still manages to “Get Up and Go.”
What was most important to you as a kid, as far as music is concerned?
Music was always important to me. My first memories are of loving pop music and probably when I joined the local Beatles Fan Club on our block…I loved the Beatles! I remember my first concert at the Hollywood Bowl being Glen Campbell, the first single I bought was “Aquarius” by the Fifth Dimension and Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys was my first album. I grew up in Southern California and music was very much part of the culture there. “California Pop” is part of me on a cellular level. I don’t remember a time when music wasn’t important, really.
Who most influenced you as a singer?
Linda Ronstadt, Patsy Cline, Dinah Washington, Chrissie Hynde and Debbie Harry. They were my role models and they played a big part in my wanting to be a singer.
Your voice and the Go Go’s music are a big part of the soundtrack for my early days as a young man and coming out. My first boyfriend was so into your music and there are many sweet, sweet memories associated with your music. Thank you for that. What for you, are some of the most powerful memories around those early years?
It was a whirlwind and it all came and went so fast…But they are all good memories. It started out as a girl’s club and went beyond anything any of us could have imagined. There were ups and downs, of course, but 99 percent of it was just so amazing.
If you had advice for yourself as a young woman entering the music industry, what might it be?
Simply…Don’t do drugs. (Laughs)
It’s hard to believe that was 39 years ago…What would you say is the most significant thing you have learned as an artist?
Always be true to yourself—that’s so important—all the times I wasn’t, I ended up really regretting it.
We’re so happy you haven’t given up performing and touring, even though there have been rumors that you and the Go Go’s might.
Yeah, I’ll always sing and I think I’ll always have that opportunity. I have such an amazing back catalogue between the Go Go’s and my own stuff.
You have always been such an ardent supporter of the LGBT community. (Thank you!) What motivated you early on, and how has it changed over the years?
Since I was a teenager, I have always had a lot of gay friends. That fact still holds true today, 95 percent of my friends are gay or lesbian…I have just always loved the LGBT community. They were friends first and foremost, and I lost a lot of friends back in the early ‘80s to AIDS. Also, having a gay son has made me even more active in the community – PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) is an amazing organization that I have been involved with. They do such great work!
I’ve always been about being “authentic.” I’m a gypsy and I’m not normal… I know that. I may look normal but I’m not normal. (Laughs)
I just read that your son is involved in the #ResistMarch during L.A. Pride this year. How proud a momma are you?
I’m very proud and lucky to have him as my son. I can’t imagine it any other way.
Tell us a little about your work with Animal People Alliance.
Ever since I was a little girl… I have loved animals. About eight years ago, I went to Udaipur, India. I went to this amazing animal hospital that was created by this great American family from Seattle, Jim and Erica Abrams and their daughter, Claire. They created everything that I ever dreamed of. They had an animal hospital and sanctuary for beasts of burden, a spayed and neutering program along with educational programs. They do so much for the animals in that area.
I thought, this is something that I really, really want to do one day and I’ll know when the time is right. So, a year ago, a friend of mine, Paul Suit, [the managing director of a non-governmental organization (NGO) called “Made by Survivors” herfuturecoalition.org] and I met in Bangkok with some other friends of ours. Paul said, “I’m about to do some sort of animal project for Kolkata, West Bengal.” Well, everybody knows I love India…So I thought, “Hmm, I really want to do this.” I didn’t say anything. A few months later, I called, asking him if he was still doing this as I would love to do it with him. He was.
That’s how it started and the model that we aspire to is Animal Aid Unlimited in Udaipur, as what they are doing for animals there is incredible. So, it’s a beginning, really, of a new chapter in my life and I’m so fuckin’ excited (laughter). (For more information, please go to madebysurvivors.com/animalpeople/ and facebook.com/animalpeoplealliance.)
So, White Party Palm Springs. Have you ever been before and what are you most excited about?
I don’t think I have ever been, but I love the desert and love the energy of these kind of events. And, I’m so excited to perform my set of course!
Please tell us a little about what else you’re up to these days.
I’m super-busy. I have a new album coming out in October, I’ve been touring all over the world and just got back from Japan. I’m moving to Thailand very soon and I have festivals in Europe this summer and a Go Go’s 30th-anniversary tour in October, as well…And that’s just off the top of my head. It’s all good!
Belinda Carlisle will be headlining at Jeffrey Sanker’s White Party at the famed Sunday’s Sunset T-Dance, which takes place from 3 to 10 p.m. For more information on all White Party events or to purchase tickets for Belinda’s set on Sunday, go to jeffreysanker.com.
For more information about Belinda Carlisle, check out her website: belindacarlisle.tv.