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One Crazy Tour

‘We Did the Booze, the Drugs, the Fun’: Belinda Carlisle Recalls Touring With The Go-Go’s

Groupies, being “good girls,” and landing a top spot on the list of the “wildest” bands in rock and roll. As Belinda says: “We did it all”
The band in 1984. (Credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Belinda Carlisle is no stranger to being on the road – with her trailblazing group, The Go-Go’s, as a solo artist, or as a curious explorer of the far corners of the globe. Belinda is preparing to hit the road again this summer on the Decades Tour in support of her recently released five-song EP, Kismet.

The Decades Tour is sure to be a far cry from the touring experiences Carlisle had with The Go-Go’s some 40 years ago. The original “girls gone wild,” The Go-Go’s reputation was the stuff of rock ‘n roll legend—but a bit exaggerated if Carlisle’s recollections are anything to go by.

She rifles through her memories of the rainbow of Belindas that exist within her: the thin-eyebrowed ballsy punk rocker on the Los Angeles underground scene, the trailblazing icon who formed and fronted The Go-Go’s, the mall rat-turned-refined musician, Rock & Roll Hall of Famer, wife, mother, world traveler. She encompasses all these Belindas with an ease that comes from having lived through the hedonistic ‘70s, the excessive ‘80s, the rough ‘90s, the unpredictable millennium.

Carlisle speaks from her home where she fits in like a piece of fine art against the beautifully framed poster of the 1963 French film Le Mépris on the wall behind her. Tasteful sculptures positioned around her, and another framed painting, this one a still life of flowers in a vase on another wall, Carlisle recounts how her only regret is being too “fucked up” to meet David Bowie.


Belinda in 1981. (Credit: Steve Rapport/Getty Images)


Cute Boys Versus Cute Girls

Most of the craziness happened a long time ago. Right before the [1981] release of Beauty and the Beat, The Go-Go’s were on the road for a year and a half straight. When you’re touring, still to this day, the one thing that happens is, it’s very insular. It’s like you live in this bubble and that is your world. Craziness happens inside the bubble. You lose all perspective, and you don’t really know what’s going on around you. I don’t know how we did it. Well, I know how we did it because we were in our early 20s. We were able to burn the candle at both ends and still do great shows.

We did the booze, the drugs, the fun, but we never had groupies. Guys were really afraid of us. The girls were very aggressive, but the cute guys were very intimidated. The Go-Go’s were like a five-headed monster, a force to be reckoned with. When everybody was in the same room together, it was pretty intimidating.

You hear about guy bands having their roadie go out into the audience and go, “you, you, you,” [picking out girls]. We had our roadie do that. When the guys they picked actually came backstage afterwards, we all ran into the inner sanctum dressing room and hid. We were like, “Oh, my god, I can’t believe we did this. This is so wrong. This is so embarrassing.” But none of us came out. We liked the idea of groupies, but in actual fact, we never had them because it didn’t seem natural to us. But—without naming names—somebody in the band picked up a cute guy on the road in Canada and brought him on the tour bus. 


Wrecking and Repairing

We were good at behaving like a guy band in some ways. In other ways, we were mischievous, we were very, very naughty, but bottom line was, we were good girls. We destroyed a dressing room on the road because we thought that’s what guys do. Then we cleaned everything up afterwards.

Twenty years ago, before I got sober, we were doing shows with a very big band. I was one of the last ones standing because I could drink all night. It was a few people from their band and me. One of their band members started wrecking the hotel room, and I was like, “Stop! You have to stop! Somebody’s mother or sister or brother or father is going to have to come and clean this up. You can’t do this.” I humiliated him and he cleaned everything up.


On stage at the Whiskey a Go Go in 1980.  L-R: Charlotte Caffey, Gina Schock, Belinda Carlisle, Margot Olaverria, and Jane Wiedlin. (Credit: Donna Santisi/Redferns)


License to Destroy

People made such a big deal about it when we would do things like stay up all night partying. Rolling Stone had a list of top five wildest bands ever in rock and roll. Number one was Mötley Crüe, number two was Led Zeppelin and number three was The Go-Go’s. We weren’t as bad as guys, but we were women misbehaving and mischievous—in a profession where you are expected to behave badly, are almost given license to behave badly.

Gender aside, when you’re in a band that’s successful, you have money, you travel, you don’t have any responsibilities because you’re in your early 20s, you don’t have house payments or husband and kids at home, you have this amazing life, we took advantage of that. We did pretty much everything. I can’t think of anything I wish we had done because we did it all.


Opening Act

The Police tour was so perfect for us because we got to be ourselves, but we didn’t have the pressure of having to carry the show. We didn’t lack confidence, but it was weird to go from clubs to arenas in the course of two-and-a-half years. We put the band together in ‘78 not knowing how to do anything and then fast forward to The Police tour three years later. That’s pretty incredible.

Most of the artists that I’ve had the privilege of opening up for—not all of them, but most of them—have been really gracious. Cher and Green Day were some of the nicest people to work with. Cher is very generous. But you do come across the artists that won’t move their equipment and you have this much space [holds hands close to each other] to do your thing and won’t let you do soundcheck. It’s almost like trying to sabotage the opener.

The Bowie tour was a blur because we were all just out of our minds. It was the Serious Moonlight Tour and we said we would have to call ours the Serious Barbecue Tour because it was all through Texas. They wouldn’t let us do that. They probably thought we were making fun of them. But we weren’t making fun of them. All of us idolized Bowie.

Madness was on the bill too, and they were a big part of The Go-Go’s success in the very beginning. We opened for them [in the UK] in 1980. That changed the trajectory of the band. Going over there was difficult, but I always say I was born without the fear chip. That tour changed us because we were playing for an audience that didn’t like us: Nazi skinheads. That toughened us up as a band. There was not a lot of communication before the age of information. We would write home and tell everybody we were huge stars, and they believed it. It worked because when we came back to LA, there were kids wrapped around the block of the Starlite, and every show that we did.

We had a great time. Everything was perfect. I wouldn’t condone drug use, but even the drugs I don’t regret. Not at all. The only regret is never getting to meet David Bowie. I was too out of my mind to meet him. It was in Anaheim and there was an all-nighter the night before the show. I didn’t get to meet him, but everybody else in the band did. Bowie was one of those artists that was so influential for me and my bandmates. Whenever I see old interviews of him, he’s so witty and so smart, I can fucking kick myself for being so fucked up that I never got to meet him.