If ever anyone has given Madonna a run for her money as the queen of the three-minute pop song, it’s Belinda Carlisle. Over the last two decades, she’s made the journey from Hollywood-based teen punk with the Go-Gos to the ultimate global big hair pop icon with a serious of sophisticated, but instantly memorable pop-rock singles. All of which are included on…. A Place on Earth-The Greatest Hits.
“Over the years I’ve learnt that everything is possible and my career is a testament to that way of thinking. I’ve never let doubt or any negative thoughts interfere with my dreams,” says Belinda “I’ve been making records for 22 years and the longevity says something. I’m very proud of my career.”
Born in August 1958 in Hollywood, Belinda was brought up on a strict diet of Californian pop radio and she embraced everything from the Beach Boys to Roxy Music. “Music has always been an escape for me. Growing up, I eventually found the alternative to what I hated on the radio, I discovered Iggy Pop. I always say I wouldn’t be here without Iggy Pop.”
After a short stint as a drummer in the legendary Germs, Belinda helped form the Go-gos. Together they scored in every sense of the word, and with a string of hit singles including “We Got The Beat” and “Our Lips Are Sealed” and a double platinum debut, Beauty And The Beat (making them the first girl group to top the US albums chart), they broke down barriers for female bands in the music industry.
But it was with “Heaven Is A Place On Earth ” that Belinda achieved international success. With a video directed by Diane Keaton and co-starring husband, Morgan Mason, it was a number one on both sides of the Atlantic and helped to establish her as a solo artist in her own right after the demise of the Go-Gos in 1985. “ Heaven” is not just a song; it’s one of those moments in one’s career that don’t come around too often. It had the right sound at the right time. It’s one of those unexplainable things,” she says.
“Heaven” was a collaboration with writers Rick Nowels and Ellen Shipley who’ve written many of Belinda’s biggest hits including, “Circle In The Sand”, “(We Want) The Same Thing” and “Do You Feel Like I Feel?”, all featured on…. A Place on Earth-The Greatest Hits. Over the years, her choice of songs has not only been instinctive but one of her best assets.
The 1986 album Heaven On Earth included the hits, “ Circle In The Sand” (no6), I Get Weak” (no10) and “World Without You” (no34), the latter two tracks both written by the legendary Diane Warren.” Heaven On Earth’s” success was Belinda says, a dream come true, saw her honing her style as an immaculately polished purveyor of perfect pop.
Belinda returned to the uplifting and inspirational territory that has become her trademark with the singles, ‘Leave A Light On’ (no4), ‘La Luna’ (no38), ‘We Want The Same Thing’ (no6) and ‘Summer Rain’ (no23), a personal favourite. It’s an unusual song about losing somebody in the war.
The singles were taken from the 1989 album, Runaway Horses, which spent 18 months on the UK charts.
The album Live Your Life is free followed in 1991. As did the hits. The anthemic title track (no12) and catchy ‘Do You Feel Like I Feel’ (no29) paired Belinda with the Rick Nowels and Ellen Shipley writing team once again while ‘Little Black Book’ (no28) and ‘Big Scary Animal’ (no12) saw Belinda step into the role of co-writer for the very first time.
A baby (James Duke, born April, 1992) meant a break from recording but Belinda’s return album, A Woman And A Man in 1996, saw her in a more mature mode though still with the same pop sensibility. The singles were as radio friendly as ever: In Too Deep hit (no.6), Always Breaking My Heart, written by Roxette’s Per Gessle (no.8) and Love In The Key Of C (no.20).
Nineteen-ninety-nine and the Belinda Carlisle story is far from over…A Place On Earth- The Greatest Hits comes with three bonus tracks which, in her true style, sound just as great blasting from a Californian car stereo as they do in the comfort of your own home.
The track ‘Feels Like I’ve Known You Forever’ saw Belinda work with Johnny Douglas, while ‘All God’s Children’ and ‘A Prayer For Everyone’ are very timely.
These tracks see Belinda working with producer Brian Rawlings, responsible for multi-million selling single ‘Believe’ by Cher. “ I love that song,” she admits. “I thought the production was great. I never will be a dance artist, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking certain elements from the production and bringing them to what I do.
Likewise, the secret of her success is a combination of instinct and fate: “I’d say it’s been my destiny to have this career,” reflects Belinda, “ I also think that though my voice is not great it’s distinctive. But most importantly, I have a really good talent for choosing hit songs.”
This year will see her touring all points of the globe from New Zealand to the USA, Europe, Japan and the UK in support of her first new album in a decade and her first record sung entirely in French, ‘Voila’ is a radical departure for the pop diva and lead singer of the Go Go’s. Working with producer John Reynolds (U2, Sinéad O’Connor, Indigo Girls, Hothouse Flowers), Carlisle has fashioned a traditional pop album that pays tribute to the classic French chansons and pop music of the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s. The album was released on February 6, 2007 to great critical acclaim which continues to this day.
“After I moved to France, I became familiar with the classic French chansons and a lot of French pop music,” Carlisle explains. “I realized there was a whole world of artists and singers I was not familiar with. As I discovered all these amazing songs, I came to love this music and wanted to record some of them with a playful, contemporary feel.”
Carlisle and Reynolds went into the studio with a musical dream team including Brian Eno on keyboards, guitarist Fianchna O’Braonain (Hothouse Flowers,) Sharon Shannon, the Irish button accordion player who incorporates reggae, tango and calypso into her music, Julian Wilson (Grand Drive) on piano, Hammond B-3, strings, keyboards and world music star Natacha Atlas (Transglobal Underground) on backing vocals.
“We wanted to try everything, no holds barred,” Carlisle says. “Since this is not a pop project, we were free to experiment. We played with every song, trying all sorts of instrumentation and different styles of arranging and everything clicked. The only definite idea I had was that I wanted to sing with an accordion. Other than that, there was no conscious effort to cover as much creative ground as we could; we just played around with things and had a blast.”
The creative energy Carlisle and Reynolds brought to the project is evident on every track. Carlisle’s smoky vocals and the diverse arrangements imbue the songs with a simmering Gallic soul. “Sous Le Ciel De Paris (Under Paris Skies)” sounds like a street carnival waltz with its mournful accordion and eerie keyboard accents, Francoise Hardy’s “Pourtant Tu M’aimes” gets recast as a new wave rocker, “La Vie En Rose” bounces along on a driving disco backbeat and “Jezebel” sounds like the twang-drenched theme song from a spaghetti western. Songs like “Ne Me Quitte Pas” and “Avec Le Temps” are closer to their original incarnations, wrenching emotional statements made more intense by Carlisle’s understated delivery.
As ‘The Times’ said in their review of the album ‘She delivers these songs so smoothly, it’s like she’s been a chanteuse her entire life, and it’s that deep musicality that makes Voila not just a rewarding detour but one of her best albums — and, with any luck, the first chapter in a new phase of her career.’