A great rock-and-roll wrong has finally been righted for the Go-Go’s, the first—and only—all-female rock band to ever earn a number one album, which it did with 1981’s Beauty and the Beat. (Other women have since reached the top spot, but none wrote all their own songs, as the Go-Go’s did.) Forty years after that feat, and fifteen years after they became eligible, Belinda Carlisle, Jane Wiedlin, Gina Schock, Charlotte Caffey, and Austin’s Kathy Valentine were finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last month in a sold-out ceremony-slash-concert that will premiere Saturday, November 20, on HBO and HBO Max.
The induction capped several recent career highlights for Valentine and her bandmates, including the 2018–19 run of the Broadway musical Head Over Heels, an acclaimed 2020 Showtime documentary by Alison Ellwood, and the release last year of Valentine’s captivating All I Ever Wanted: A Rock ’n’ Roll Memoir (now in paperback). The three-hour-plus broadcast will feature appearances and performances by stars such as Taylor Swift, Jennifer Lopez, Paul McCartney, and Arlington’s Mickey Guyton, as well as the inductees themselves: the Go-Go’s, Foo Fighters, Carole King, Tina Turner, and Jay-Z (honoree Todd Rundgren did not attend). Unlike stuffier New York ceremonies of some years past, this time it all went down in front of a sold-out crowd at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse arena in Cleveland, the city that’s home to the Hall of Fame, which features memorabilia and exhibits. Some reviews have called the show the best in years.
Ahead of the broadcast, Texas Monthly spoke with Valentine about what it was like to perform again as a group for the first time since the pandemic, how the bassist feels about being inducted after so long, and what it was like to meet the most legendary bassist of all. Here are a few things we learned.
She has no hard feelings about the long wait.
I think it was perfect timing. The band has come a long way in terms of overcoming past gripes, betrayals, hurt feelings, dysfunction, and toxicity. I think we have never been in a better place as women, as bandmates, as business partners, as friends. I don’t think there’s anything negative left that could happen other than the old-age stuff that everybody has to deal with. I think if [the induction] had happened ten years ago and then some weird thing had happened after, it would’ve tainted it. Nothing’s going to taint this.
The band asked me to be the first speaker to accept, and I don’t think that would’ve happened five years ago or ten years ago, but because my book came out and I’ve been doing a lot of speaking, they were able to gift me with that opportunity. I felt very, very privileged to get to do that, and took it to heart. I wanted to say something that would represent us and make a statement that we could all feel proud of. My daughter is a freshman at Syracuse University, and so I was really happy that she could join me, and her dad came from Los Angeles. So I had my family with me.
Drew Barrymore really gets the Go-Go’s.
The first person inducted was Carole King, and then after that was Tina Turner and a feeling of like, ‘Oh my god, we’re not worthy.’ Then LL Cool J’s performance just blew the roof off the place. I was a little intimidated by the scope and the professionalism of everyone. We’re still, at heart, just this scrappy little punk band. But what was wonderful was Drew Barrymore [who inducted the Go-Go’s]. We didn’t know what she was going to say.
So we’re off at the back watching on a monitor. And I just thought she did this phenomenal job of making it clear to every single person in that place, and hopefully whoever tunes into HBO, that success is not always about the amount of sales and the amount of hits. She made it very clear why the Go-Go’s mattered and that influence doesn’t necessarily come from commercial success. And she did it in such a way that, when we went on stage, the entire place was on their feet. Then we got to put on our instruments and start our songs with everybody on their feet.
Wendy Davis gave her some pointers on her speech.
I’m not an old hat at it, but I’ve given enough speeches that I wasn’t terrified. I don’t like to read, I don’t like to refer to notes. I really like to be in the moment. But I was holding my notes just in case I needed them, on the advice of Wendy Davis, who I met with the week before—I knew if I could say it in front of her and not be intimidated, because she’s such a wonderful speaker, that that would give me a little bit of confidence. She said, “Keep your little notes.” And so I did. And I was glad I had them, but I didn’t need to use them.
She’d never watched the Hall of Fame event before.
We had a rehearsal on the stage, and it was wild because it was the first time that I really understood the scale of the ceremony. I have never watched a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame thing. And from what I understood, this was not typical—it was an arena, and it was sold out. To walk out and see the size of the place gave me the first feeling of jitters that I’d had.
The Beatles are just like us.
We knew Paul McCartney was going to be there, but we didn’t know whether we would get to meet him. It wasn’t like we were hanging out and having dinner, but it was a thrill. He told me, “Well, us bass players need to stick together,” when he pulled me in for a photo. And you can see me in the photos—I’m kind of holding onto him like, “Okay!” [Laugh.] And we exchanged some words about he wanted us to meet his wife; he said she was a big fan. And then we exchanged some words about how we both started on guitar. Afterward, I thought of all the other things I could have said. He just seemed like a really cool, nice, pleasant, down-to-earth person.
Sir Paul was great, but Valentine was especially excited to see one surprise guest.
Oddly enough, the only surprise guest who I didn’t know about was Gary Clark Jr. I was pleased to find out that I was going to get a little bit of Austin. It was so nice. I’m not good friends with Gary or know him that well, but that Texas thing goes with you wherever you go. Seeing him was just kind of comforting. [Clark honored “Father of the Delta Blues” Charley Patton, who was recognized by the Hall of Fame for his early influence on the genre.]
The Go-Go’s exhibit itself is a saga.
They like to get the exhibit up months before the ceremony. So right after [the inductions are announced, in May], the first thing you do is a bunch of interviews, and then they need stuff. But it’s been a long time, and we’ve all moved a zillion times. The sad thing is many, many years ago, in the nineties, we sent [the Hall of Fame] a bunch of stuff for an exhibit, and somehow [the items were] either stolen or lost. So it kind of sucks because Gina had her original drum kit with the original drum head. And I think I had given one of my cool basses. We had to scramble a little. Charlotte thought she had the whole outfit from the “Vacation” video [in which the musicians all appear to water-ski in tutus and tiaras], but it was only a few things like a glove and a tiara. But we managed to scrounge some stuff up!