Mad About The '80s
Belinda Carlisle Still Has The Beat

By Lee Valentine Smith

The Retro Futura Tour kicks off its 2018 tour in Atlanta this month. The '80s-centric package tour features co-headliners Belinda Carlisle and British new-wave act ABC with Modern English, Haircut 100's Nick Heyward, Kajagoogoo's Limahl, Bow Wow Wow's Annabella and Tony Lewis of The Outfield.

Carlisle personifies the decade with a career that began in Hollywood in the late '70s and continued through the height of the MTV era as the lead singer of the Go-Go's, the world's most successful all-female rock band. The group issued a small but highly influential body of work that includes '80s staples "We Got The Beat" and "Our Lips Are Sealed."

When the members went their separate ways, the California-born singer embarked on a solo career with eight stylistically different albums and a number of iconic hit singles including "Mad About You" and "Heaven Is A Place On Earth." In the meantime, she's been an active part of pop culture with a stint on Dancing With The Stars and even an appearance in Playboy. In the past decade, she's been an active animal-rights supporter.
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Now based in Thailand, Carlisle's main focus remains music, whether on solo tours, '80s revival shows or occasional reunions with The Go-Go's. Her latest album Wilder Shores is a decidedly ambitious collection of Sikh chants, released a decade after her previous release Voila, a collection of chansons performed entirely in French.
INsite caught up with Carlisle by phone on her way to a Go-Go's rehearsal.

Anyone who follows you on social media knows that you are always on the go. Another day, another country.

I'm a gypsy at heart, but today I'm in L.A. for Go-Go's rehearsals for the Hollywood Bowl shows next week. Then I fly to Atlanta to do rehearsals for the solo shows. I'm lucky at my age to be as busy as I want to be.

You're on an incredible spiritual journey that's so far removed from the early days of L.A. punk.

I had always been defined by what I do, which was the music. I'd been doing that since I was 17. But around the time I turned 40, I was dropped by a label and it led to a big journey to who I am now. It led to chanting but I still couldn't avoid where I was at in my life which was a lot of addiction, secrets and lies. When I got sober, I was chanting two or three hours a day. I knew its power and then I knew that one day I'd like to do a chant album.

And last year you did it. It's definitely not a standard pop record.

Yeah and I'm really proud of it. It's not for everybody. I don't think I'll ever be a chant artist, but I thought, 'Why not take mantras that I know and ones that I know have been very powerful for myself and put them in a pop song format?' It did well for something like this. I don't think I'll ever do it again, but I got it out of my system. I'm working on another album and it'll probably be ready sometime next year.

For the Retro tour, you can't delve too deep into your catalog because you don't have a lot of time.

Yeah, it's only 30 or 35 minutes. But it's all hits, beginning to end. Solo hits, Go-Go's hits. I don't think people will be disappointed.

The '80s has really endured. Why do you think people look at that decade so fondly?

The '50s and '60s were great, but I think the '80s was the last decade for music with a definitive sound and full of great music. So many good things like power pop and the New Romantic movement and it definitely had a sound.

You mentioned the Go-Go's and obviously that band means a lot to many people, including myself. But you had a farewell tour last year. Now you're back doing some shows. Is this a permanent return?

We did the farewell tour but we said if something incredible came our way, we'd do it. Then we were asked if we'd join the L.A. Philharmonic for three nights and we said yes because it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But as far as doing it and slogging it on the road again, that will never happen. I live in Thailand and its getting harder and harder to commute and I hate flying. I don't think I'll ever retire, but I do think I'll be cutting back on things.

It's no secret that the Go-Go's didn't always get along. But now at this point, what is the band dynamic? You never see each other, so it must be great.

[Laughs] well it is great actually. Of course, after 40 years of being in a band of all women, the dynamics are complicated. But at the end of the day, it's family. We've been in each other's lives a lot longer that we've been married or known anyone else. We had a lot of amends to make and now it's good.

Everyone is on good terms and just in time for the Broadway show, Head Over Heels.

You know, I heard it got a ten-minute standing ovation the other night! It opens officially next month. So we'll see how it goes.

How does it feel to know that songs you were a part of, almost 40 years ago at this point, are living on stage in a whole new format?

It's amazing, it's surreal and it's great. I have no question that it'll bring new fans to the band.

I may be a bit biased, but I truly believe Beauty and the Beat is one of the most perfect pop records every made and it's almost 40 years old now.

That's crazy think about. In some ways, it's gone by quickly. I'm proud of it. It's always in at least the Top 50 best American albums. It's a good album and I'm lucky we have it.

Tell us about Animal People Alliance and how people can meet you at the show.

I stated it about four years ago in India. It's one of the big loves of my life. A couple of us started it to help provide services to stray animals and to create employment for women in need. We train them to become active in veterinary services and it's doing really well. We have nine people on staff now, building our own hospital and we've treated 1500 animals in the past year. I'll be doing a special meet and greet every night on the Retro Futura tour to benefit Animal People Alliance and people can sign up on the website or on Eventbright.

RETRO FUTURA TOUR 2018 will be on Wednesday, July 11 at Chastain Park the event will feature BELINDA CARLISLE, ABC, MODERN ENGLISH TONY LEWIS from THE OUTFIELD. For more information, please visit amphitheateratlanta.com.

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