Belinda Carlisle wrote her memoir after five years of sobriety. Lips Unsealed doesn’t read like a written memoir and resembles a transcribed interview. Carlisle’s story was a burning page-turner for the first half of the book, as she recounts the punk scene in Los Angeles which led to the formation of the Go-Go’s.
Carlisle was stoned on cocaine and booze for the first 47 years of her life. Her cocaine addiction was no secret to her fans (I count myself as a strong Go-Go’s and Belinda Carlisle fan) who knew of her drug addiction over twenty years ago. What was surprising to discover were the countless times Carlisle fell off the wagon, only to sober up again then fall deeper and deeper into a coked-up Hell. Unfortunately Lips Unsealed suffers in its second half because Carlisle tells the same story over and over again. The last twenty years of her life were about going on tour, sniffing out coke dealers as soon as she was in a new town, then going onstage blasted out of her mind and partying for days afterward. It got pretty tiring to read the same story over and over again.
Belinda must have been sober during the making of the Go-Go’s’ and her own solo albums, because the accounts of her studio session time and the dynamics that were involved in songwriting and production were extremely interesting. Carlisle’s later solo albums did not do well at all in North America, yet they were consistent Top Tens in Europe. I found it very interesting to read about her experiences making these lesser-known albums (such as Live Your Life Be Free and her French-only album, spelled mistakenly without the accent grave, Voila) since the local press all but ignored them.
After having a coked-up epiphany when she realized that if she snorted one more line she would die, Carlisle sobered up through AA and by adopting a healthy lifestyle of exercise and yoga. As far as I’m concerned, after reading her life story, Carlisle seems fragile enough to go off the wagon again any second, yet I will be the first to admit that a former addict is always an addict and will always have these demons looking over her shoulders.
I was glad to read that Belinda and the four other Go-Go’s, Charlotte Caffey, Jane Wiedlin, Gina Schock and Kathy Valentine long ago built bridges, forgave each other and put all their bickering behind them. They certainly took a proactive role in the inevitable post-breakup record company reissue of hits packages. Instead of letting the record company release these compilations on its own, they decided to reform, give all their input, and tour to promote these new albums.
One song from the Go-Go’s’ second album, Vacation, “Cool Jerk”, was rerecorded for their first greatest hits compilation. I love this reworked version, and all the women look damn hot in this video clip: