Wednesday, January 6, 2016

"Lips Unsealed" by Belinda Carlisle

I bought the Go-Go's first album, Beauty and the Beat, early in the spring of 1982, when I was a university student. The title and the cover art played up the novelty factor -- an all-girl band, imagine that!! -- but these chicks weren't just pretty faces -- they wrote & played their own songs -- and they were great songs, too. Their frothy, hook-laden, punk-pop sound was intoxicating -- especially for a girl like me, who was raised in the '60s and '70s on a message of female empowerment and hungry for role models. 

Belinda Carlisle was the cute & perky frontwoman who got the most attention and, after the band broke up, had the most successful solo career. But privately, she was battling a lot of demons: the breakup of her parents' marriage and a lifelong struggle with her weight demolished her self-esteem and led to a 30-year struggle -- 30 YEARS!! -- with addiction to alcohol and drugs, along with a tendency to reckless and sometime life-endangering behaviour.  In her 2010 memoir, "Lips Unsealed," Carlisle admits that while the other Go-Go's wrote songs and worked hard to hone their craft as musicians, she would often just show up to sing after snorting vast quantities of cocaine.  No wonder there was some internal friction.

There are some fun stories here about the early punk movement in Los Angeles, the birth of the Go-Go's, and Belinda's encounters with various other musicians and celebrities -- for example, the Police, with whom they toured, Rod Stewart, INXS... But like many such memoirs (Chrissie Hynde's recent memoir, which I reviewed here, comes to mind), the drugs & drinking become tedious to read about after awhile. Each time Carlisle would describe a new low in her drug-induced behaviour -- snorting cocaine in the bathroom of her young son's school, for example -- or getting lectured on her drug habit by John Belushi (!!!seriously!!!) -- I would think, "OK, this MUST be the point where she finally decides to turn her life around." Nope. :p  She denies the rumour that she did cocaine during her pregnancy -- but she does admit to having a glass of wine every day during that time. Stuff like that can be hard to read for those of us who have struggled to get & stay pregnant.

Eventually, however, she did become sober, with the support of her incredibly patient husband and son, a life-changing trip to India, spiritualism and yoga.

If you're a fan, you might enjoy this. It had its moments, but not enough of them for me to give it an enthusiastic recommendation.

This was the final book that I completed in 2015, over the Christmas holidays -- #27.  Not bad!  

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One of my favourite Go-Go's songs, below. :)  I used to put on this album when I was living at home with my parents, post-graduate school but pre-wedding, and riding my mom's exercise bike in the morning. (This, and Billy Idol's "Rebel Yell" album, lol. Always got me pedalling faster...!) ;)


  1. I don't remember this band at all! I can always relate though when you talk about being raised "on a message of female empowerment" and being "hungry for role models."

  2. I love "Head over Heels." 30 years is a long time to deal with addiction - sounds like she's lucky to be alive!

    1. She is, and she admits it! The realization that she was going to wind up dead in a hotel room with a pile of cocaine was what started her on the road to sobriety.