When The Go-Go’s started in 1978, the group was a punk band.
The quartet played rock clubs like Whiskey a Go Go in its home city of Los Angeles, and two of its members recently contributed chapters to the book “Under the Big Black Sun,” a punk-in-LA history written by X lead singer John Doe.
“When we were really popular in the ’80s, we were ‘America’s Sweethearts,’” says Jane Wiedlin, The Go-Go’s guitarist and vocalist (who contributed an essay to the book). “But when we started out we were a little punk band, and the punk scene was very supporting and inclusive.”
Now, 38 years after that start, The Go-Go’s can look back at a career with phases: the punk phase, the new wave phase, the worldwide superstars phase, the breakup phase, the reunion phase and, right now, the farewell tour phase.
amNewYork caught up with Wiedlin to talk about the band’s final road jaunt, which rolls through New York on Aug. 13, and what will come next for the new wave pioneers.
So, why bring an end to the band’s touring now?
We’d kind of been discussing wrapping up the touring business for a couple of years now. While I still find it really fun and really gratifying, it’s also kind of hard on the body as you get older. So we’re not going to be touring anymore after 2016, but we’re not breaking up. There’s certainly more in the future for the band. We have a musical that’s been written, featuring our music. It’s in New York now, in workshops, which means hopefully it’ll be coming out next year. We’ll be busy doing that, and I’m sure there’s lots of other stuff we’ll be doing. So it’s not the end of the band, it’s just the end of us doing these tours.
In 1978, when you were playing the Sunset Strip rock club Whiskey a Go Go, could you have imagined that there’d be a Broadway musical based on your tunes?
It was literally the last thing I could have imagined. It’s so crazy and exciting — I’m thrilled. It’s sparked an interest in me in theater that I’ve never had before. … At first they were talking about doing some sort of bio story. But they got Jeff Whitty [of “Avenue Q” and “Bring It On”], who’s a Tony-winning script writer, to write the book, and it has nothing to do with The Go-Go’s, and that was really fun because it ended up being a mashup with this story that was written more than 400 years ago [“Arcadia,” a 16th-century work by Sir Philip Sidney]. It’s funny, it’s sweet, it’s got gender bending. It’s great.
You’ll be closing the tour at the Greek Theater in your hometown. That might be the last time you play some of these songs.
It’s going to be weird. I’m sure I’m going to be overwhelmed by emotion. I’m much more present in life now, being an older person. I’m going to be much more aware. And my emotions are always much more on the surface anyway, so I’m sure I’m just going to be a wreck. It’s going to be sentimental, and bittersweet. You think when you’re young you’re going to be young forever, and things are going to be the way they are forever, and it’s not true.
What should a young artist today learn from the story of The Go-Go’s?
For women, I would say to really think about what you want your legacy to be. I’m really proud that, when we’re gone, people are going to say, “Those women that wrote those songs and played those instruments.” That’s still a big deal, and it shouldn’t be in 2016. I hope that young women would learn to play an instrument and learn to write songs so that the songs reflect them and that they’re not just puppets for men.
If you go
The Go-Go’s perform at SummerStage in Central Park on Aug. 13 at 6:30 p.m., Rumsey Playfield, enter park at 69th Street and Fifth Avenue, summerstage.org, $50-$60.