Today is the 40th birthday of pop-rocker Belinda Carlisle, who was born in Hollywood,
Calif. Carlisle, a high-school cheerleader, was named after the Jane Wyman
Oscar-winner "Johnny Belinda," her mother's favorite film.
In 1978, Carlisle began singing in L.A. punk clubs with guitarists Charlotte Caffey and
Jane Wiedlin in the band the Misfits. They soon changed their name to the Go-Go's and
recruited drummer Gina Schock. In 1980, Stiff Records released the band's first single,
"We Got the Beat," and bassist Kathy Valentine joined the group. I.R.S. Records liked the
Go-Go's blend of peppy new wave and pop and signed the band in 1981.
"Our Lips Are Sealed," written by Wiedlin and Fun Boy Three/Specials vocalist Terry
Hall, made #20 on the U.S. Hot 100, paving the way for the group's first album,
Beauty and the Beat (1981). The Go-Go's achieved instant fame as one of the first
all-girl groups, uncontrolled by men, to hit it big. A re-released "We Got the Beat" went to
#2. After their second album, Vacation, made the top 10 in 1982, the Go-Go's
were named Billboard's Top Artist of the Year.
But, by 1984's musically accomplished Talk Show (featuring the hit single "Head
Over Heels"), the Go-Go's were in trouble. Wiedlin soon quit, mainly because of the
growing drug problems of Carlisle and Valentine. In 1985, the band officially broke up.
Carlisle stayed with I.R.S., married boyfriend Morgan Mason and began to end her drug
Carlisle's solo Belinda (1986) yielded the #3 U.S. hit "Mad About You" and a
three-month club tour. She switched to MCA Records for the more popular Heaven on
Earth (1987), which went platinum. The album, which was more rock-oriented than
Carlisle's Go-Go efforts, featured Caffey, Thomas Dolby and Michelle Phillips, and was
produced by Rick Nowels, who co-produced Stevie Nicks' 1985 hit Rock a Little.
The single "Heaven Is a Place on Earth" benefited from an amusing video directed by
actress Diane Keaton and topped the pop charts in America and Britain. When the
follow-ups, "I Get Weak" and "Circle in the Sand," went top 10 in both countries,
Carlisle's career momentum seemed unstoppable. But, after a hit with "Leave A Light
On" (on which George Harrison played guitar), the gold Runaway Horses (1989)
began to slip down the U.S. charts.
Carlisle reunited with the Go-Go's in 1990 for a 20-city reunion tour, but tried the solo
route again in 1991 with Live Your Life Be Free, which flopped in the States. In
1992, she gave birth to a son, and The Best of Belinda Carlisle, Volume I topped
the U.K. album chart. The following year, she sang on the Lemonheads' Come On
Feel the Lemonheads, but her own Real marked another U.S. misfire.
A 1994 Go-Go touring reunion, in support of the two-CD retrospective Return to the
Valley of the Go-Go's, came just in time for Carlisle. But she ended the reunion by
deciding to go solo again, signing with Chrysalis in 1996. Carlisle issued Woman
and a Man, featuring ex-Bangle Susanna Hoffs (and legend Brian Wilson on the
track "California"), the following year, but it too failed to make much of a splash.
Other birthdays: Gary Talley (Box Tops), 51; Sib Hashian (Boston), 49; Kevin Rowland
(Dexy's Midnight Runners), 45; Colin Moulding (XTC), 43; Steve Gorman (Black
Crowes), 33; Posdnuos, a.k.a. Kelvin Mercer (De La Soul), 29; and Donnie Wahlberg
(New Kids On The Block), 29.