Many know the Go-Go’s for its hits “Our Lips Are Sealed” and “We Got the Beat.” Lead guitarist and songwriter Charlotte Caffey will be coming to UCLA as a part of Professor David Leaf’s Music Industry 105 class, open to the public on certain Mondays, as one of his weekly musical guests. Caffey spoke with Daily Bruin’s Brittany Taylor about her career highlights, her songwriting process and what students can expect from her lecture.
Daily Bruin: How long have you been performing?
Charlotte Caffey: The first time I performed was when I was in college in the early ’70s, so that makes it a long time (laughs). Well, it’s been over 40 years.
DB: What was it like being in a band?
CC: It is really fun but also challenging if you can imagine the relationship between five people, especially the long-term relationship (the group) has had. It’s like a marriage … and you have to really work at it. We broke up … and got back together. The actual part about being in the band where we are performing, writing, doing what I’ve wanted to do all along and getting paid for is incredible. It’s the best thing ever. I don’t call it work. I call it fun.
DB: What was the songwriting process like for some for the big hits like “We Got the Beat”?
CC: In 1978 in Hollywood, there was a group of 100 kids. The punk rock movement was happening and it was a new art form that was emerging on the East and West Coast. In England there were the Sex Pistols, the East Coast had the Ramones and Blondie and on the West Coast there was us and some other bands. We started as a punk band. Our songs started off really rough and later became more melodic. There is no specific writing process. When the feeling comes on I just go for it. (“We Got the Beat” happened when) I was listening to this other song all day that the band was going to cover. The idea just came along and it took five minutes. It was just one of those ones that came out.
DB: What would you say are some of your career highlights?
CC: I would say when our first record went to No. 1 on the Billboard charts and stayed there for six weeks. That was crazy. We were on tour with The Police at that time and their album was number six and ours went to number one. We were opening for them! It was weird. But they were very gracious and congratulated us. I think it’s a highlight because it was so against-all-odds. We were just this little punk band from Hollywood who were dressed in vintage clothing.
DB: Who would you attribute as some of your musical influences?
CC: I would have to say The Beatles for sure and then Led Zeppelin, Patty Smith, Joni Mitchell and Carole King to name a few. There are so many. I like people that stuck to who they were. Those were the types of artist I gravitated towards.
DB: What are you currently doing now?
CC: I have a 17-year-old daughter who may be going to UCLA. We never know. I do a lot of songwriting. Most recently, I co-wrote a rock opera based on the life of Linda Lovelace. I wouldn’t call her a porn star because that’s not what her life was about. We made this rock opera that is really cool. That project was one of my favorite things I’ve done in the last couple of years. You are seeing your songs come alive in a story.
DB: How did you get involved with David Leaf?
CC: When the Go-Go’s were signed to a record label. … No other record label would sign us because they said we were girls. Miles Copeland and Jay Boberg who formed I.R.S. Records loved us and we ended up signing with them. Jay Boberg is a friend of David (Leaf) and David asked Jay to come to the class and Jay asked me. We thought it would be really fun and we’ve had some meetings chatting about some of our early influences and the music we listened to growing up. I’m actually bringing my electric guitar so I can play a song or two.
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