In 1981, the Go-Go’s’ debut album, “Beauty and the Beat,” climbed to the No. 1 spot on the Billboard chart. In 1982, their second album, “Vacation,” reached No. 8. A harbinger for the new wave movement, the Go-Go’s were also making history as the first multiplatinum-selling, all-female band that played their own instruments, wrote their own songs and had a No. 1 album. Now, Go-Go’s bassist, Kathy Valentine, an Austin native, has published her memoir, “All I Ever Wanted,” detailing her experience with the band.
In the book, Valentine focuses on her path to rock ‘n’ roll stardom, from her childhood in Austin, where she says she basically raised herself, to her journey toward becoming a Go-Go. She also documents how she regained her purpose in life after the band’s collapse that devastated her.
Valentine says she started playing in bands as soon as she was able to create one of her own.
“By the time I was 19, I was probably on my third or fourth band, and we just thought, To make it, you’ve got to go to New York City or Los Angeles,” Valentine says.
Valentine and her band, The Violators, moved to LA in 1978, and promptly broke up. But there, she met a lot of Texans who had moved there to pursue a music career, just like her. Valentine later started a band called The Textones, but it didn’t last. Not long after, though, on a night at the famed nightclub Whisky a Go Go, she met Charlotte Caffey, guitarist for the Go-Go’s. Valentine says their music didn’t impress her at first.
“In my mind, I was a real musician, and they had a ways to go,” she says. “Then I saw them about a year later, and they were selling out clubs in LA, so they got my attention.”
Learning their songs made her want to be a permanent member of the band.
“To me, the absolute essence and the secret to the Go-Go’s’ success is the songs,” Valentine says.
But the excesses of the 1980s rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle took its toll on the band members, all of whom were in their early 20s at the height of their success.
“You get to a point where you kind of cross a line,” Valentine says.
She says being in the Go-Go’s was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream; she had always wanted to be in a successful band, and to be connected to a “family” of musicians. But that fulfillment was at the expense of her well-being.
“By the time we get to the point where [the band is] falling apart, I am consumed and driven on pretty much equal parts desperation and fear to keep it,” Valentine says.
Intertwined with that desperation was Valentine’s struggle with substance abuse. But she eventually got sober, which changed her life.
“To this day, it’s the foundation of what is, for me, a life filled with abundance and blessings,” she says.
These days, Valentine is a mother and a writer who doesn’t want to be defined solely by the music she made in the 1980s. But she acknowledges that her time with the band will always play a part in who she is.
“I’m still a Go-Go,” she says.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.