Talking to You about The Go-Go's
(Part of my series on Rob Sheffield's Talking to Girls about Duran Duran)
I assumed my sisters would scoff at the Doors, but Tracey ended up doing a book report on No One Here Gets Out Alive. We were always checking out each other's music, books, magazines, everything, looking to surprise each other with new kinds of fun. One day I put on the cassette of Jesus Christ Superstar only to find that Tracey had taped something new over it: the Go-Go's album Beauty and the Beat . . .
. . . Man, we listened to that tape over and over again. Every song sounded like it was the chronicle of a world that was much cooler than the 70s burnout rock we heard all around us. It was a report from California, where sassy girls got dressed up and messed up and went out to cool places to do evil. "This town is our town," they sang. "It's so glamorous! Bet you'd live here if you could and be one of us!"
I actually didn't listen to The Go-Go's much in the 80s. While I can sing We've Got the Beat and Head over Heels (and like Belinda Carlisle's solo stuff), I was unfamiliar with Rob Sheffield's personal recommendation of Our Lips Are Sealed. And even back then, The Bangles were more my style.
But it was another 80s girl group which really got me and my only "sister" singing. (I refer to a cousin whom I was so close to that we were practically sisters . . . and who was virtually the only friend I had for the first seven years of my life.)
If you read my Reading Diary entry on BSC#13: Good-bye Stacey, Good-bye, then you know about my best friend moving away when we were both very young. It was long before we developed our individual tastes in music, so we didn't really have the Sheffield siblings' experience of "surprising each other with new kinds of fun." She moved the year my actual sister was born, so I sort of had a replacement for her . . . but I wasn't about to wait seven years for the latter to catch up to me! =P Besides, by the time she herself was old enough to care about what was on the radio, the 80s were over.
Nevertheless, our own strange brand of sisterhood also peeks out at me from between the lines of Rob Sheffield's memories, some of which were in the even shadowier 1970s . . .
One of our favourite songs was Sister Sledge's disco classic We Are Family, still all over the radio in 1980, getting played like it was a brand-new hit even though it dated back to the summer of 1979. Our baby sister, Caroline, a decade younger than me but picking up all of our cool music in the timeless tradition of sassy little sisters throughout human history, loved to sing along with this one, making up her own words: "We are family! We got all the sisters we need!" Those are still my favourite words to that song, because (in our case) they were true. But it's funny how this song never goes away, and ever generation of baby sisters puts their own spin on it. Just the other day, in a movie theatre lobby outside the Harry Potter movie, I heard a little Puerto Rican girl singing it as "We are family! Yeah, Mama, sing it to me!" And she was singing it to a life-sized cardboard cutout of Megan Fox, which only proves there is no limit to the Sledge sisterhood.
There's poetry in the rewriting of well-known lyrics, but the best that my family legends can do is a pun. Somewhere in the middle of 1992 (Shudder!), my toddler sister tried in vain to get someone to sing to her what she called "the 'nose' song." And although nobody had the foggiest idea what she meant, she claimed that the song had been playing over and over on the radio and that we did know it. Then one day when the whole family was in the car, with some easy listening station on as background noise, my sister squealed, "That's it! My 'nose' song!"
Now, my sister wasn't actually a Rick Price fan, and I wasn't the sort of sibling who would have been very interested in any case. But in an ideal world, she would have made me listen to his 1992 album . . . and I would have rewound and replayed his cover of The Left Banke's Walk Away Renee the most (Cassette tapes, anyone? LOL!) . . .
. . . and together, we just might have been able to channel our complex feelings toward our mother, our own Renee, through some shared music. Hey, did you know that St. Peter Chrysologus said that singing together is a spiritual way to share each other's burdens? So who was the last person you sang something with? And did either of you change up the lyrics to make them truer?
I'll be skipping the next few chapters of Talking to Girls about Duran Duran, so the next band you can expect to hear is: Orchestral Manoeuvers In The Dark!
Your Turn at the Jukebox: What song did you share with the companions of your youth?