Go-Go's: Beauty And The Beat (1981)

Whether one looks back on their high school years with a sense of nostalgia or dread (or some combination of the two), I imagine most of us have certain music that we will forever associate with that part of our lives, unable to hear certain albums years or decades later without being transported back to our teen years.  The debut from the Go-Go's is definitely one of those for me, classic singles "We Got The Beat" and "Our Lips Are Sealed" instantly conjuring up images of my high school years (or, perhaps, images of 80s movies that remind me of high school; memory can be funny that way).

Given the emotional resonance of the album, it's hard for me to assess how it holds up on its own merits.  But I'd say that, while some of it is clearly of its age, it's a pretty durable record, with enough great music that it can be enjoyed without its historical associations.

While the Go-Go's weren't the first all-women rock band (gotta give credit to Fanny and the Runaways for breaking some of that ground), it's hard not to view this (alongside the early Bangles work) as pretty significant for showing that women could rock without some male Svengali pulling the strings.  And while there was, unfortunately, still some novelty associated with the band (I think it was really a decade later, with the rise of Riot Grrl and Liz Phair and the Breeders and the like, that this ceased being novel and was just part of the norm), the fact that a lot of these songs are just freakin' great makes the album stand up as simply a solidly great pop record, rather than a fun little lark by an all-women band.

Obviously those two singles are the killer tracks, still wonderfully fun and captivating today.  I mean, there may come a day when I hear the opening drumbeat and bassline of "We Got The Beat" and don't need to sit there and listen to the whole song, but it hasn't happened yet, and I remain skeptical it ever will.  But there are plenty of solid deep tracks here that hold up nearly as well.  "How Much More" deserves to stand alongside those other two as unforgettable, perfect power pop.  But the more subtle and melodic "Tonite" and "This Town" are plenty fine, as is the slyly ingratiating "Skidmarks On My Heart."  And closing track "Can't Stop The World" is unabashed bubblegum glee.

While the debut is always going to hold special significance given its cultural impact, I think their third and final studio album, Talk Show, is underestimated, with plenty of great songs that hold up nearly as well. 

So here's that "Our Lips Are Sealed" video I must have watched two gazillion times in high school:
...and of course "We Got The Beat":
And a live take on "How Much More":


  1. Great album. Had it on cassette. It was a guilty pleasure of mine.

    1. Yeah, I filed this one as a guilty pleasure for a long time, as it felt like fun but cheesy pop back in the day. But these days I think it's earned its place as a legitimately great album, no need for guilt.

  2. They were my first real concert experience (unless you count Modern English at Magic Mountain), just before they broke up in '84. I agree they are too good to be classed as a guilty pleasure. "Vacation" is probably my favorite tune of theirs, maybe it's the key change toward the end.


Post a Comment