“People automatically assume that we were probably put together by some guy…but we did it all ourselves.” And so begins The Go-Go’s, Alison Ellwood’s candid new documentary that gives an all access look at one of the most groundbreaking pop/punk acts of all time. Starting with the band’s early days in late ’70s Los Angeles, the film gives a chronological look at their unexpected rise to the top of the charts, while letting the women tell their own story of how it all came crashing down.
Rich with archive material, early demos and personal photographs, the first hour of The Go-Go’s is a wild ride filled with amusing anecdotes from a time where women weren’t particularly welcome in the punk scene. Everyone in the band participates and tells stories that alternate between hilarious and heartbreaking, while folks like Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna and music journalist Chris Connelly offer context that really drive home just how important and influential these women were – they were the first all-female band that played their own instruments and wrote their own songs to top the Billboard album charts.
What goes up must come down – the last third of the documentary focuses on the tensions that come with instant success. Endless touring, a shakeup in management (“my band was taken away from me,” says Ginger Canzoneri), and disputes over publishing money pushed the band to a breaking point. Throw in heroin addiction, a rotating lineup, and you’ve got a real recipe for disaster. Considering the amount of turmoil and personality clashes doing on, Ellwood could have spent a little more time on some of these stories – this section feels a little rushed and superficial, and there’s enough material here to fill another hour.
The Go-Go’s closes on a positive note with footage of the recently reunited band having a grand ole time rehearsing together, and it’s clear they still got the beat. Their first new recording in nearly 20 years, a catchy and melodic throwback jam called “Club Zero,” released yesterday to coincide with the film, which premieres August 1 at 9pm on Showtime.