Go-Go’s – Our Lips Are Sealed
From a certain point of view, Britain was a thoroughly miserable place to be in the early 1980s, and it’s tempting to think that we passed on the Go-Go’s because we were all far too depressed about unemployment, riots and the miners’ strike to spare any time for a bunch of fun, punky upstart girls from America. This makes sense if you pick Ghost Town by The Specials as your soundtrack to that time (as documentaries about the period inevitably do), but of course it isn’t the entire story – less than a year later Fantasy Island by Tight Fit was zoom
ing up the charts and that’s about as giddily happy as pop gets. It also happened to be in ascendance just as the Go Go’s were paddling about the lower reaches of the charts with Our Lips Are Sealed but sadly finding the waters a little cold.
I was nine years old when Our Lips Are Sealed was released in the UK, and heavily into the kind of happy, upbeat pop as peddled by Bucks Fizz and the aforementioned Tight Fit. I had already identified that Girl Singers were very much my thing, although I wore a Madness badge at school in order to blend in – it bestowed a certain element of protection upon you if you were the type of child who opened their mouth only for a purse to fall out of it. Had I actually heard the Go-Go’s I would have fallen in love instantly. Belinda Carlisle, Jane Wiedlin, Charlotte Caffey, Kathy Valentine and Gina Schock looked like the girls you whispered about, the ones who smoked out by the bicycle sheds and went too far with boys at the school disco. In short, your mother wouldn’t approve, and there was nothing better than that.
Our Lips Are Sealed is one of the greatest calling cards in pop history and it still holds my personal record for speed in getting from the bar to the dancefloor – under three seconds, just in time for the guitar to kick in (if you’re game for trying this you have to drop whatever you’re drinking because you are going to need every single one of your limbs in order to give it maximum Belinda). And as the record is over in a super-efficient 2 minutes and 45 minutes there’s a good chance your drink will still be there when you get back, unless of course you’re in Glasgow.
It’s a wonderfully juicy song, with a brilliant “f**k you” attitude and packed with more secrets than Gretchen Wieners’ hair. Written by Jane Wiedlin and Terry Hall following a dalliance when the Specials were on tour with the Go-Go’s in America in 1980, it was a fantastically good way of acknowledging their affair without actually admitting to it. Though putting it out as a single rather let the cat out of the bag I suppose.
Our Lips Are Sealed did of course become a huge smash in the UK when Terry Hall‘s next band, Fun Boy Three, released it in 1983, although in a considerably more gloomy guise. Which leads me to theorise that maybe the UK wasn’t completely depressed in the early 80s – perhaps it was just Terry Hall.
If we compare the videos, we see the Go-Go’s arsing about in a convertible and splashing around without permission in a public fountain. Meanwhile, Terry sings in front of a black curtain, doing a fine impression of someone who’s been heavily medicated just before going on stage. Both versions of the song are brilliant in their own ways, but I know whose pool party I’d go to if invited and it’s certainly not Terry’s.
The Go-Go’s went on to become the definitive female band of the decade in America, and when they broke up their crown was immediately lifted by the Bangles – and while they managed to repeat the trick in the UK, the Go-Go’s had to wait until their 1995 reunion to score even a minor top 40 UK hit (The Whole World Lost Its Head, no.29). But for rough around the edges, California sun-soaked pop, there’s really no-one better.
Entered chart: 15/05/1982
Chart peak: 47
Weeks on chart: 6
Who could sing this today and have a hit? Well certainly not Hilary and Haylie Duff, who attempted it in 2004. But gosh, this would be perfect for Little Mix.
It’s a question of sensibility, but I far prefer Terry’s shade to Belinda’s light.