On June 15, 2014, Casey Kasem, host of the longtime countdown program, AMERICAN TOP 40, passed away at the age of 82. From my first blog post (and prolly some more inbetween then and now), I explained how, in 1979, I was a geeky, lanky and somewhat lost 12-year-old living in Central Maine, had a few friends and not a lot of interest in much of anything, but at some point early that year, I discovered AMERICAN TOP 40, and was glued to it every weekend. Not only could I hear the 40 biggest songs in the country every week, but also Casey’s cool trivia and facts about the songs and the artists, a trait I treasure to this day. For me, the show was No. 1 with a bullet. And still is (thanks to the re-airing of broadcasts of AT40 on iHeart Radio).
You know, time is a funny thing, not just for hit singles, but for life too. For the month of June 2017, in honor of my radio hero, Casey Kasem, I’ve been highlighting songs that peaked in the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (including some (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s), and with every blog post, just like on AMERICAN TOP 40, the hits have been getting bigger with each post. On June 1, 2017, I featured a song that peaked at No. 40.
My goal was to feature a “song of the day” on June 30 (today) that went all the way to No. 1. Well, life happens. I wanted to do 40 posts in 30 days, but during the last half of the month, it got crazy busy for yours truly, visiting with dear friends I hadn’t seen in awhile, including a kick-ass concert in Boston with Tears For Fears and Daryl Hall & John Oates, guesting on a couple of radio shows, plus work stuff, family stuff, home stuff, and more of each…
Anyhoo, long story longer, I promised a countdown and a proper tribute to Casey Kasem on the bloggy thing here, and I humbly apologize for the delay, but I’m going to proudly honor my tribute to Casey, and keep going through July until we count down all the way to No. 1!
So, as Casey used to say on AT40, “And on we go!”
In Los Angeles in 1978, four young female Punk Rock upstarts from the area – including vocalist Belinda Carlisle and guitarist and vocalist Jane Wiedlin – got together and formed a band called The Go-Go’s.
The Go-Go’s played on the same bills as bands like revered L.A. Punk bands Fear and X and others. Later in 1978, vocalist and lead guitarist Charlotte Caffey joined the band, and in the Summer of 1979, Gina Schock signed on as the drummer.
By the time they recorded a five-song demo in late 1979, The Go-Go’s went from a Punk Rock sound to a more Power Pop sound. In 1980, they got a huge break by touring with Madness in Los Angeles and in England, spending half the year on tour over in England. A demo version of “We Got The Beat” (released on Stiff Records) ended up being a minor hit in the U.K., and gave The Go-Go’s their first bout with fame.
In December 1980, guitarist Kathy Valentine came aboard as the band’s bassist, and thus became the final member of the quintet, or rather, the future history-making lineup of The Go-Go’s.
Four months later, in April 1981, the band signed on with I.R.S. Records. Within three months, they recorded and released their debut album, BEAUTY AND THE BEAT. It was not an instant smash here in America. In England and Europe, however, the New Wave / Power Pop appeal of BEAUTY AND THE BEAT was definitely a hit.
The first single from BEAUTY AND THE BEAT (and the album’s opening track), “Our Lips Are Sealed” (co-written by Jane Wiedlin and Terry Hall, singer for The Specials and Fun Boy Three), was released in mid-June 1981, a few weeks in advance of the album.
“Our Lips Are Sealed” took a couple of months to reach on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, debuting in late August 1981, and coming in as the lowest-debuting song on the Hot 100 that week (No. 90). About two months into its chart run, “Our Lips Are Sealed” squeaked onto the Top 40 (at No. 40), having lost its “chart bullet” (representing strength in airplay and sales) for two consecutive weeks.
It inched up “bullet-less” to No. 39 the following week, and regained its bullet in week No. 11 on the Hot 100. A couple of weeks before Xmas 1981, lips and ears and wallets of fans were no longer sealed, as both the single “Our Lips Are Sealed” and parent album, BEAUTY AND THE BEAT, picked up momentum. “Our Lips Are Sealed” spent a couple of weeks at No. 20 in December 1981, and was still in the Top 40 by mid-January 1982.
In late January 1982, “We Got The Beat,” the second single from BEAUTY AND THE BEAT, was the highest-debuting song of the week, coming in at No. 79. Within three short weeks, “We Got The Beat” was already at No. 31 on the Hot 100, on its way to a No. 2 peak for three weeks in April 1982. That also helped bring the BEAUTY AND THE BEAT album to No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s album chart for six weeks in March and April 1982.
As for the debut single, “Our Lips Are Sealed,” it left the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in late March 1982 and spent a more-than-impressive 30 weeks on the chart. Wanna be even more impressed? “Our Lips Are Sealed” spent four more weeks on the chart than the biggest song of the 80s, Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” (which was the No. 1 song at the time “Our Lips Are Sealed” peaked on the Hot 100).
1982 was certainly the year for The Go-Go’s, who placed three singles among the Top 100 songs in the U.S. that year. “We Got The Beat” ranked at No. 25 for 1982, and “Vacation,” the title song from their second album, a No. 8 hit, and the first-ever cassette single (then a novelty item), was ranked at No. 87 for the year.
The unusually long chart run for “Our Lips Are Sealed” (even though it stopped at No. 20) placed it at No. 63 for the year, higher than many songs that were Top 10 hits, including “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey, “I Ran (So Far Away)” by A Flock Of Seagulls, and even the gorgeous No. 3 hit by The Police, “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic.”
“Our Lips Are Sealed” wasn’t just a big hit on the BILLBOARD Hot 100. It also reached No. 10 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart and No. 15 on BILLBOARD’s Rock chart. Around the globe, “Our Lips Are Sealed” enjoyed success in Australia (No. 2), Canada (No. 4), Sweden (No. 14) and New Zealand (No. 23). Oddly enough, in the U.K., where the band had its first success, it stopped at No. 47, though it would reappear a couple of years later.
In 1983, Fun Boy Three released their own version (as it was co-written by FB3 singer Terry Hall), from the album, WAITING, which was produced by Talking Heads’ David Byrne. This version ended up being a big hit in both the U.K. and Ireland, reaching Nos. 7 and 13, respectively.
The Go-Go’s broke up in 1985, and Belinda Carlisle and Jane Wiedlin went on to successful solo careers in the second half of the 80s and early 90s. The band got back together a couple of times in the 90s, and 2001, Belinda, Jane, Charlotte, Gina and Kathy reunited and released GOD BLESS THE GO-GO’S, their first studio album together since 1984’s TALK SHOW.
Though the band has already had their “farewell” tour, the legacy of The Go-Go’s lives on. BEAUTY AND THE BEAT was once described as one of “the cornerstone albums of American New Wave” and 35 years later remains as the first and THE ONLY all-female band to reach No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s album chart.
I love “We Got The Beat,” and I am so glad it brought deserved huge success to The Go-Go’s, but I’ve always found myself more partial to “Our Lips Are Sealed,” which is two minutes and 44 seconds of simple and pure New Wave / Pop perfection.
“It doesn’t matter what they say / In the jealous games people play / Our lips are sealed / Pay no mind to what they say / It doesn’t matter anyway / Our lips are sealed…”