Head Over Heels

Amid a spate of new projects, the Go-Go's get back together to restore their tarnished legacy

Unlike other bands that have reunited to the collective groan of the public, the prospect of a new Go-Go's album is considerably more appealing. Although the tracks on the group's swan song may not have been as fully realized as their earlier material, it's difficult to argue against the notion that the Go-Go's ended their original run too early. While one could debate the relative merits of Talk Show versus Beauty and the Beat, there's little doubt that the group was at or near their creative peak when the combination of guitarist Jane Wiedlin's departure and increasing chemical addiction within the group forced them to halt the band after just three albums.

Although Caffey says the group hasn't been writing songs for an album as such, the idea of resuming as a working unit is clearly on their minds. "Yeah, we've talked about it. We haven't started that process yet mostly because we just haven't had the time. Also Belinda's in the cycle of starting a new solo record."

Judging solely on the basis of the three new songs written for the Valley retrospective (two of which Caffey co-wrote), there seems to be more than sufficient potential for the Go-Go's to follow Blondie's lead back into the recording studio. "I would love to see what would happen when we sit down and try to write stuff, just to see what happens without any pressure," says Caffey. "Because that's the best place to be. When you're not having to worry about a record deal and you're not like, 'Oh my God, we have to do this.' But for me the bottom line is the material would just have to be phenomenal."

Since the band's breakup, Caffey has been active with a variety of projects. In 1989, she formed the Graces (a group that included future "Bitch" rocker Meredith Brooks), which released Perfect View, an overproduced and largely ignored album for A&M. More recently, Caffey received a co-writing credit on "Reasons to Be Beautiful," a track from Hole's critical and commercial hit Celebrity Skin. The album owes an obvious debt to the well-crafted Southern California girl-pop sound that Caffey helped pioneer. Caffey says it wasn't coincidental that Hole front woman Courtney Love enlisted her help writing songs for the project. "I think Courtney knew exactly what she wanted to do when she worked with me," says Caffey, laughing.

"Originally I had approached her when I went to the Nirvana taping of Saturday Night Live. This was before Live Through This came out or anything like that. I had heard Pretty on the Inside and I thought this might be an interesting collaboration. Because I like to search out collaborators who can bring something different than what I could do. And I'd say she has far more angst than me--at least on the outside.

"I had another band called Astrid's Mother, and Courtney came to one of our shows in 1995. She came backstage and said she really wanted to write together. So I worked with her and Eric [Erlandson] in New York a little bit and came up with several ideas. She also came over to my house a few times and worked. It was great. I was so thrilled that one of the ones we worked on made it on the record--because it's always kind of a crapshoot."

In addition to her recent work with Hole, Caffey also appeared on Jewel's multiplatinum smash Pieces of You, arranging and playing piano on the song "Foolish Games." Caffey has also worked frequently with her former Go-Go's bandmates, both as a longtime contributor to Carlisle's solo albums as well as co-writing several cuts with Wiedlin for her ill-fated group Frosted. Although she's been away from the regular grind of touring and recording for several years, Caffey (who's married to Redd Kross founder Jeff McDonald) says the creative opportunities she's been afforded have been more than fulfilling. "I really love the behind-the-scenes stuff. I still love playing live, and I love doing records, but writing songs is my main thing."

While both the band's previous reunions have been filled with rumors of backstage fighting and ego clashes similar to those that marked the band's original breakup, Caffey (who was pregnant with daughter Astrid and forced to miss almost all of the 1994 tour) chalks up the inevitable squabbles to band chemistry. "The thing that makes us great is the thing that also makes each other crazy. But that's good, because that makes us do what we do--and do it well."

For her part, Caffey says the birth of her child has brought her a new sense of stability and understanding. "I'm only speaking for myself, but having a kid has put everything else in my life in perspective. Having a kid is getting a certain kind of freedom in a way because you can't be self-obsessed anymore. And when all of us start acting like little kids and brats, I'm thinking, 'Wait, Astrid is the kid here--I'm not.' So it puts it all in perspective."

Ultimately, Caffey is confident that whatever the future holds, the current tour will be the key step in restoring their slightly tarnished legacy by proving that the Go-Go's are first and foremost a great rock 'n' roll band. "My experience this time being around the girls is very different than it has been in the past. We've just kind of . . . it's weird because we keep getting these opportunities to get together, and I'm starting to look at it from a spiritual standpoint now. It's like, 'Hey, I think we're supposed to be working this out and trying to leave something more behind.'"

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