Early career and The Go-Go’s
Belinda Carlisle’s first venture into music was a brief stint as drummer for the punk band The Germs, under the name Dottie Danger, although illness (specifically mononucleosis) prevented her from ever performing with them live. Soon after leaving this band, she founded The Go-Go’s (originally named The Misfits), with friend and fellow music novice Jane Wiedlin. With bassist-turned-guitarist Charlotte Caffey, guitarist-turned-bassist Kathy Valentine, and drummer Gina Schock, the Go-Go’s became one of the most successful American bands of the early 1980s, helping usher new wave music into popular American radio, and becoming the first all-female band in rock history to ever achieve a #1 album, who also wrote their own music, and played their own instruments. The Go-Go’s recorded two more studio albums (including 1982 Vacation, which went gold thanks to the title track). “Head over Heels,” from their 1984 album Talk Show, made it to #11, but they never repeated the success of their 1981 multi-platinum debut, Beauty and the Beat, which featured the hits “We Got the Beat” and “Our Lips Are Sealed”.
The Go-Go’s broke up in 1985, and Carlisle embarked on a solo career (although she continued to work with fellow Go-Go Charlotte Caffey). Carlisle’s first album, Belinda, was released on I.R.S. Records, in 1986. This album was successful in North America and was certified Gold in the U.S. and Platinum in Canada. Her summer hit “Mad About You” peaked at #3 in the U.S. and topped the Canadian Singles Chart. “Mad About You” was followed by the Motown-influenced single “I Feel the Magic”, and by a cover version of the Freda Payne song “Band of Gold”. All three songs were included on her debut album. The single Since You’ve Gone was used only for promotion.
During this time, Carlisle also had songs featured on movie soundtracks, notably “In My Wildest Dreams” from the movie Mannequin, as well as “Dancing in the
City” from the Whoopi Goldberg movie Burglar.
Heaven on Earth
Belinda Carlisle changed her hairstyle significantly for her second solo album, giving up her California Girl blonde bob for a long auburn style for 1987’s Heaven on Earth. The musical style eschewed the 1960s-influenced pop of Carlisle’s first album in favor of slickly produced 1980s power-pop, and was released in the United States through MCA, and in the United Kingdom through Virgin. The album became a Top 5 bestseller in the UK and Australia, and was nominated for a Grammy Award. The album’s producer, Rick Nowels, previously worked with Stevie Nicks, and would later collaborate with Kim Wilde, Jennifer Rush and Madonna.
The first release from Heaven on Earth was “Heaven Is a Place on Earth”, which topped the single charts, not only in the U.S., but also in the UK and in several other countries (the dance mix of the song also topped the dance chart). The radio-ready song was further propelled by a video, directed by Academy Award-winning American actress Diane Keaton. The second single from the album was “I Get Weak”, which shot to #2 in the U.S. and #10 in the U.K. The song was written by Diane Warren. The third single from the album was “Circle in the Sand,” another Top 10 hit in the U.S., the UK, and Germany. “World Without You” was another British hit, followed by 1988 low-charting ballad “Love Never Dies”, making this her fifth single from the album in the UK. In the U.S., the fourth and last single, “I Feel Free,” a cover of the Cream classic, failed to reach the Top 40.
Carlisle’s follow-up to the success of Heaven on Earth was Runaway Horses, released on October 23, 1989. The album hit the Top 5 in both Australia and the UK, certified double platinum in Australia and platinum in the UK and in Canada, but failed to reach similar success in the U.S. The first release, “Leave a Light On”, peaked at #11 in the U.S., and became another Top 5 smash in the UK, Australia and Canada. The song features a slide guitar solo by George Harrison (see ‘Collaborations’). The second U.S. single, “Summer Rain”, reached #30 in early 1990. The song, which Carlisle noted was the most difficult song she had ever sung up to that point, peaked successfully at #6 in Australia, where it has maintained popularity, and the tune saw a cover version, in 2004, by the Australian group Slinkee Minx. It was the final release from Runaway Horses in the UK where it was released as the album’s sixth single in December 1990, peaking at #23 in January 1991. Whereas in the U.S. Carlisle’s success was decreasing, her popularity remained big in Europe and Australia. In 1990, further singles from the Runaway Horses album were successful as well: the title track, the summer mood influenced “La Luna”, a Top 10 in Switzerland and top 20 hit in Germany and Australia, and “(We Want) The Same Thing”, remixed from a country-styled release into a massive Pop hit, reaching #6 in the UK.
In the late Autumn of 1990, the Go-Go’s reunited for a tour to support their first best-of album, Greatest, including a new recording of the cover song “Cool Jerk” (Go-Go’s original cover featured on Vacation).
Live Your Life Be Free
In 1991, Belinda Carlisle released her fourth solo album, Live Your Life Be Free. The album marked somewhat of a return to 1960s-influenced music for Carlisle. The single “Do You Feel Like I Feel?” was accompanied by a tongue-in-cheek video, inspired by the B-movie Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. The title track, “Live Your Life Be Free”, merged 1960s influences with producer Rick Nowel’s trademark bombast, and featured a video that emphasized colorful imagery, fashion, and Carlisle’s photogenic face. Subsequent releases, “Half the World” and “Little Black Book”, were also hits outside the U.S., and although Live Your Life Be Free as an album flopped in the U.S., it was a success in Europe (Top 10 in the UK), while the title track was a Top 20 hit single in the UK, Australia, Italy and Sweden. To date, “Do You Feel Like I Feel?” is Carlisle’s final single to enter in the Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at #73.
The Best of Belinda Vol.1
Still active in Europe and Australia with a record contract at Virgin Records, her 1992 greatest hits album, The Best of Belinda, Volume 1, reached #1, and was certified double platinum in both the UK and Australia. This first greatest hits album of her included all the hits taken from the Heaven on Earth, Runaway Horses, and Live Your Life Be Free albums, neglecting the ballad “Love Never Dies”, and the three I.R.S. singles from her first album; also, no movie-soundtrack songs appear on the collection. The US version of the Album was named “Her Greatest Hits” and included also songs from the first album Belinda.
Belinda Carlisle’s fifth solo album, Real, was released in 1993, on the Virgin label, in the U.S. and in Europe. Produced without Nowels, the disc was a departure from Carlisle’s polished pop music formula. Even the album’s cover photograph featured her with very little make-up. Belinda Carlisle co-produced and co-wrote much of the disc, collaborating heavily with friend and former Go-Go’s member Charlotte Caffey. The album reached #9 in the UK, and its first single, “Big Scary Animal”, peaked at #12 in the UK. The second single from Real was “Lay Down Your Arms”, which made the Top 30 in the UK.
At this time, Belinda Carlisle also recorded “One by One”, on the soundtrack for the 1993 movie The Harvest.
The Go-Go’s reunited again, later that year, to support the retrospective double-CD Return to the Valley of the Go-Go’s, their second collection, which featured three new songs, including the single “The Whole World Lost Its Head”. However, the band broke up again, soon after the promotional tour
A Woman and a Man
Carlisle returned to the recording studio, and resumed working again with Rick Nowels. In 1996, she released in the UK and Australia her sixth solo album, A Woman and a Man, on the Chrysalis Records label. This album, consisting of mostly relaxed adult pop, revitalized her solo career in Europe, and included several hits. The leadoff single, “In Too Deep”, returned Carlisle to the UK Top 10, for the first time in six years, reaching #6. “Always Breaking My Heart”, written and produced by Roxette’s Per Gessle, also made the UK Top 10, peaking at #8. The album spawned two more UK hits: “Love in the Key of C”, and “California”. The album reached #12 in the UK, and was certified gold. As a result of A Woman and A Man’s UK success, the album was released in the U.S., during the Summer of 1997, on the small Ark21 label. Despite the recent successful comeback in Europe, and the promotional appearances Carlisle made on American television and radio, the album did not enjoy similar success in North America selling only 17’000 copies.In 1996, Carlisle recorded “I Wouldn’t Be Here (If I Didn’t Love You)” for the Two If by Sea official movie soundtrack. In 1997, she recorded “I Won’t Say (I’m in Love)”, from Walt Disney’s Hercules,
A Place on Earth – The Greatest Hits
In 1999, Carlisle released a greatest hits album in the UK, a double-disc on the Virgin label, collectively entitled A Place on Earth – The Greatest Hits. Carlisle recorded three new tracks for the album first disc, properly called The Greatest Hits, including the single “All God’s Children”, and the songs “A Prayer for Everyone” and “Feels Like I’ve Known You Forever”. The second disc of her greatest hits album, in fact entitled A Place on Earth, contained previously released remixes of some of her hits, plus a couple of B sides, which were previously unreleased at the time. Some of the remixes were by William Orbit, who also worked with Madonna on her 1998 Ray of Light album. The album was certified Gold in the UK and went on to sell an excess of 1 million copies worldwide.
In 2007, the singer released her seventh album Voilà, which was her first full-length, solo studio album in more than ten years. The album was produced by John Reynolds. Consisting of a mix of French pop tunes and chanson standards, including covers of Françoise Hardy and Édith Piaf classics. Voilà was released via Rykodisc in the UK on February 5, and in the U.S. the following day, February 6, 2007. Carlisle was originally approached to make another pop rock album, but she declined immediately, in favor of recording this collection of songs, the style of which, she’d “absolutely fallen in love with” since moving to France in the early 1990