Now, the doomed event has been resurrected in real life for a special concert happening to be held virtually on June 23. Live From the Upside Down will feature a retro bill of the Go-Go’s, Corey Hart and Soft Cell, along with a special guest appearance by Charli XCX.
The Go-Go’s are big fans of Stranger Things, the popular ’80s-themed show which returns this month for its fourth season. (In fact, their 1982 song “Get Up and Go” has already appeared as part of the show’s soundtrack.) All five members joined UCR on Zoom to discuss the experience of playing in the Upside Down.
This gig seems like it must have been a lot of fun. Can you take us behind the scenes?
Belinda Carlisle: The set was really incredible. It was just a really fun experience. We had to really look ‘80s, which some of the fashion is pretty funny, actually – and the hairdos are pretty funny. It was a great experience and it’s a great show. It was a lot of fun.
Gina Schock: We kept playing as we were being attacked by creatures from the sky, crawling up our legs. We kept playing and didn’t stop. That’s the kind of troopers we are.
Jane Wiedlin: You made us keep playing.
Schock: Yeah, because I’ll throw a drumstick and hit ‘em in the back of the head.
Charlotte Caffey: One of my favorite things about the day is that we had to get dirty. You know, we had twigs and leaves in our hair. We were just rolling around on the ground in the dirt, and it was super fun.
Kathy Valentine: We were so into it. They tried to dirty us up with makeup and we’re like, “Fuck this!” We were rolling around in dirt. We were pretty raggedy by the end of the day. I think the crew and director were a little taken aback at how gung ho we were to get dirty.
Schock: They said that they had the most fun with us out of everybody that was there.
Valentine: Of course! Who wouldn’t say that? I mean, c’mon, we are the most fun of anybody!
Caffey: We are the fun band.
Is there a gig from back in the day that was similarly challenging?
Valentine: Have you ever been to Alabama?
Wiedlin: I remember one time that we were touring with the B-52’s and we were doing this outdoor show. The people running the show were just super weird, and I guess they weren’t into us or something. It was pouring rain and it was this weird old wooden stage with a huge hole in it. We’re like, “Oh God, this is dangerous!” – which is fair enough, because it was dangerous. We were just jumping around on stage trying not to fall in the hole. Then, the B-52’s went on and it was the same thing, they were like, “Oh my God, holy moly, we’re going to break a back today.” [Laughs.] That was kind of similar to being in the Upside Down, because the Upside Down is dangerous and scary. Like Gina said, we got attacked by Demo Bats – which are a new creature, by the way, that we haven’t seen on the show before.
It seems like it would have been fun revisiting the fashions from the ’80s.
Caffey: Well, we brought some stuff from home and then we talked about it. We wanted to keep it true to how we projected ourselves back then. The stylist did a really good job bringing in a lot of pieces. Everybody was able to put together great outfits and, of course, the hair was the big deal of the day. We all got makeovers on our hair. It was something else and super fun, and I can’t wait for people to see it.
Wiedlin: Don’t forget the makeup!
Caffey: Oh my God, yeah!
Wiedlin: It was like we bought every blush in the universe. Like, we used all of the blush. There is no more blush. [Laughs.]
Caffey: All at the same time.
Schock: It was pretty hardcore.
Jane, you’ve done a good amount of acting. How prepared were you for doing this?
Wiedlin: Because I’m a huge fan of Stranger Things, I kind of knew that they just wanted us to be the Go-Go’s and they wanted us to be lively. We were in this perilous situation and stuff, but as far as being prepared, I just had so much anticipation. I was really hoping to meet the cast – but that’s okay, we got to be in the Upside Down. We’re just super excited and grateful that Stranger Things thought of us.
Watch the Video for Go-Go’s ‘Vacation’
Vacation turns 40 this summer. What are your most vivid memories of working on the album?
Valentine: It was really different for us – because No. 1, we were kind of rushed. We did our first record in New York City and we couldn’t have gotten further away from that vibe, because we did Vacation in Malibu. We did it at Indigo Ranch and there had been some really cool records made there, but there were also all of these ghost-y rumors that they brought John Barrymore’s body up there. I can remember me and Belinda were running around and trying to figure out where they put his body – and they supposedly did a wake. It was just a really cool environment – really, really different. We felt a lot of pressure. Nobody was expecting Beauty and the Beat to sell millions of copies. We felt so much pressure to match up to that. It was hard. You know, we were still really young and we were kind of in this big whirlwind, but I didn’t know it was the 40th anniversary. Time flies when you’re having fun!
Wiedlin: One thing about that studio being in Malibu, it wasn’t Malibu on the beach but it was Malibu way up in the mountains. It took forever to get there, up this crazy, winding road. We wanted to isolate ourselves, because we had been bombarded by sensations with the success of our record [and the] millions of [new] fans, so we felt like we needed to get somewhere in the middle of nowhere.
One of the great things about the Go-Go’s lockdown-era documentary is “Club Zero,” the new song that emerged from the experience. How much has that provided any additional creative spark for further new music?
Valentine: I don’t think it did. It was really hard, you know. We’re used to, as a band, working together and being in the same city. Having to do it with email and sending [files around], you know when you’re working on a song with somebody, you’ll play it for them and they’ll go, “Oh no, I don’t like that” and you’ll change it. When it’s email, it’s like, [Valentine takes on an ominous tone] “No, I don’t like that.” It feels a lot worse than when you’re sitting in the room. It was a hard process. Until we’re all together in the same place, all working, I don’t see how we could ever make a record that way – but we’re really happy with the result of what we managed to do. Anything that gets done with five very fully realized, engaged women is pretty much a miracle.
Watch the Trailer for ‘The Go-Go’s’
The documentary helped give people a new perspective on what the Go-Go’s are all about. What are you most pleased that people are aware of now that maybe got glossed over back in the day?
Caffey: Obviously, that punk rock are our beginning roots. Had it not been for that little scene in Hollywood – at least in my experience, that just spawned so much creativity within the band itself.
Schock: I think that Alison [Ellwood], the woman who did our documentary, she did such a fantastic job. We were all so delighted with the end result. You’re basically entrusting your life as the Go-Go’s with this person and hopefully they’ll do a good job and show us in the light that we had hoped for. She did a great job.
Carlisle: I think she captured the essence of the band, which is a really hard thing to do.
Schock: That we’re fun to be around and when we get together, there’s this certain energy that we have that we don’t have anywhere else with any other people that we play with. It’s a very special thing that this band has when we’re together. You can’t replicate it any place else. I think Alison caught all of that. As Charlotte said, that punk scene that was happening in L.A. at the time that people were gravitating towards people like us – like-minded folks. It was quite a great time to be in the music business, as far as I’m concerned. Even though people had issues with us being all women, being all girls, we were ready to go. We had on our boxing gloves. It was the five of us against the world, we felt like we had something to offer.
Top 100 ’80s Rock Albums
UCR takes a chronological look at the 100 best rock albums of the ’80s.
Why the Go-Go’s ‘Flipped Out’ Over Rock Hall Induction