The Go-Go's were the most popular all-female band to emerge from the punk/new wave explosion of the late '70s and early '80s, becoming one of the first commercially successful female groups that wasn't controlled by male producers or managers. While their hit singles -- "We Got the Beat," "Our Lips Are Sealed," "Vacation," "Head Over Heels" -- were bright, energetic new wave pop, the group was an integral part of the Californian punk scene. And they did play punk rock, even if many of their rougher edges were ironed out by the time they recorded their first album, 1981's Beauty and the Beat. Even as they became America's darlings, the Go-Go's lived the wild life of rockers, swallowing as many pills and taking as much cocaine as possible, trashing hotel rooms, and just generally being bad. More importantly, their earliest music -- now collected on Return to the Valley of the Go-Go's -- was raw and rocking; it may not have directly inspired the female alternative rockers and riot grrrls of the '90s, but it certainly foreshadowed it.
Originally formed in 1978 as the Misfits, the group featured Belinda Carlisle (vocals), Jane Wiedlin (guitar, vocals), Charlotte Caffey (lead guitar, keyboards), Margot Olaverra (bass), and Elissa Bello (drums); the group soon changed their name to the Go-Go's and began playing local parties and small clubs in California. In 1979, Gina Schock became the group's drummer. During that year, the band recorded a demo and supported the British ska revival group Madness in both Los Angeles and England. The Go-Go's spent half of 1980 touring England, earning a sizable following and releasing "We Got the Beat" on Stiff Records. An import copy of "We Got the Beat" became an underground club hit in the U.S., which meant the band was popular enough to sell out concerts, yet they had a difficult time landing a record contract.