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(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE GOT THE BEAT")

RACHEL MARTIN, host: Thirty years ago, this band made history.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE GOT THE BEAT")

MARTIN: In the summer of 1981, The Go-Go's released their debut record, "Beauty and the Beat." It would go on to become the first number one album for an all-girl band that wrote its own songs and played its own instruments. And believe it or not, that hasn't happened since.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE GOT THE BEAT")

THE GO-GO'S: (Singing) See the people walking down the street, fall in line just watching all their feet. They don't know where they want to go, but they're walking in time. They got the beat, they got the beat, they got the beat, yeah, they got the beat.

MARTIN: "We Got the Beat" seemed to spill out of every teenager's Boombox or Walkman that year, but The Go-Go's split up just four years later, and each went her own way. There were addiction battles, other music projects, kids. Now, they're back together reliving that history, touring the country to mark the 30th anniversary of "Beauty and the Beat." I caught up with them a few days ago after they finished their soundcheck at the Wolf Trap Amphitheater in Northern Virginia.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FADING FAST")

GO-GO'S: (Singing) You're fading fast out of my memory.

MARTIN: Belinda Carlisle leaves her mic stand, Jane Wiedlin her guitar, and they both settle onto a worn-out red leather couch backstage. I ask about the eight long months it took for "Beauty and the Beat" to climb the charts and catapult them to stardom. Here's Jane Wiedlin.

JANE WIEDLIN: As soon as the record came out, we did a tour of America in a van, playing tiny clubs. And then as soon as we finished that tour, we did another tour, playing larger clubs. And then was it the fourth tour that we did The Police?

BELINDA CARLISLE: We did The Police. Yeah.

WIEDLIN: We got asked to open for The Police on their stadium tour. We went to number one during that tour.

MARTIN: Do you remember when that information was conveyed?

CARLISLE: I think Steve came back with a bottle of champagne, said, you're number one!

MARTIN: Well - and I know you've been asked this before - but what were your expectations at that time?

CARLISLE: Well, I mean, we thought if we sell a hundred thousand copies, and we're cool in L.A., and we can get lots of boys, then we've succeeded. And that really was pretty much it. It was like a club. We had no idea.

MARTIN: How did you deal with that pressure of realizing, oh, it's not just us having fun making music now. Now, we're someone's bottom line and now, there are other people who are dependent upon us to make sales.

CARLISLE: It was kind of a drag.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

WIEDLIN: Yeah. No. The thing about The Go-Go's, it was always such a private girls' club for the five of us. And it was always us against the world. And then after we found success, you know, it's the typical story. It became more us against each other - more business, less fun.

MARTIN: As you allude to, there was - all of a sudden, there was tension within the group because things got so good, so quickly. Was there anyone that you, as a girls' club, had who was sitting down with you, telling you: This is stuff you have to look out for, these are some roadblocks.

CARLISLE: Well, I remember getting a lecture from John Belushi on the evils of drugs, you know, when I broke out my measly little half-gram - like, look what I have. And he gave me a big lecture, saying, when you become rich and famous one day, people are going to give you lots of drugs, and you have to be careful and - besides that, I don't remember getting any sort of nurturing.

MARTIN: Did you take that to heart when he...

WIEDLIN: No.

CARLISLE: No.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

WIEDLIN: And neither did he, of course.

CARLISLE: Exactly. Exactly.

MARTIN: Did you understand at that time how exceptional you were, to be five young women writing your music, playing your instruments?

WIEDLIN: I think we did a little bit...

CARLISLE: Yeah.

WIEDLIN: ...but it's become more and more apparent, as the years go on, really how unique it is. I mean, no one...

CARLISLE: And even today.

WIEDLIN: ...we're still waiting for someone else to do it, you know? Like...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CARLISLE: People don't realize that, you know, we did it all ourselves. And when you think about it, a band who had no idea how to do anything - not even plug guitars into amplifiers back in '79 - and by 1981, be the number one band in America, the story of the band is pretty incredible, actually.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LUST TO LOVE")

THE GO-GO'S: (Singing) When I see you, I lose my cool. Lust to love was the last thing I was dreaming of.

MARTIN: Now that you are 30 years out from the women that you were when you wrote this music, performing it, how does it feel to you?

WIEDLIN: Every song is something different. Like some of them, I find very challenging. And I feel, really - if I'm going to make it through it. And then there'll be one - the next one will be like, something that I love singing the harmony. I love singing with Belinda. And it's...

CARLISLE: I'd have to say I love singing with Jane, too, because it's really weird. It's like an intuitive thing. It's weird because we go into rehearsal and it just - it's like you've never left rehearsal.

MARTIN: Really?

CARLISLE: You know, I mean, when I walked in a month ago - and I hadn't been in a rehearsal for two years - it was if I had, you know, left for a week or so. Same dynamics, same, you know, same issues...

WIEDLIN: Same jokes.

CARLISLE: Same jokes, yeah.

MARTIN: What about touring? How is touring now?

CARLISLE: It's hard.

MARTIN: Yeah.

CARLISLE: It's really hard. You know, we're not 20 years - I don't know how we used to do it. We used to work five days a week and party and, you know, I don't - it's just...

WIEDLIN: We never slept.

CARLISLE: We never - but we're learning more, especially this year, because we haven't toured for two years, like a proper tour - that we really need to really pace ourselves because it's hard.

MARTIN: You're on a bus. You're on a bus? You're flying.

CARLISLE: Sometimes...

MARTIN: You're doing the whole...

WIEDLIN: Yeah. We're on a bus for the first time in like, 15 years or something.

MARTIN: How is that?

WIEDLIN: I am having so much fun on the bus.

CARLISLE: See, I hate it. She loves it.

WIEDLIN: You don't hate it. Come on.

CARLISLE: I can't - I do. Well, I hate overnights, and I'm doing my first overnight next week, which...

MARTIN: You have like, bunk beds?

WIEDLIN: Yeah.

MARTIN: Mmm.

CARLISLE: It's not my thing.

MARTIN: She loves it.

CARLISLE: She loves it.

MARTIN: What happens new on the stage when you go in front of an audience? You've never been here before. You're playing music you've played for 30 years...

CARLISLE: Not much, to be perfectly honest. I mean...

MARTIN: Is that nice?

CARLISLE: I like it that way, actually. It's in my blood. And yeah, it just feels comfortable. I may not look like a punk rocker, but I am, kind of.

WIEDLIN: Of course you are.

CARLISLE: I am. I think - yeah, I'll always have a little bit of punk rock in me - or a lot of it.

MARTIN: Belinda Carlisle and Jane Wiedlin of The Go-Go's. Thanks, ladies, for taking the time.

CARLISLE: Thank you.

WIEDLIN: Thank you.

MARTIN: Have fun on the tour.

CARLISLE: Thank you.

WIEDLIN: Thank you very much.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MY LIPS ARE SEALED")

THE GO-GO'S: (Singing) Doesn't matter what they say, with the jealous games people play.

MARTIN: And for Sunday, that's WEEKENDS ON ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. Remember, you can hear the best of this program on our podcast. Subscribe or listen at iTunes, or at npr.org/weekendatc. We post a new episode Sunday nights. We're back on the radio next weekend. Until then, thanks for listening and have a great week.

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