Music Women in Music

Jane Wiedlin’s Excellent Adventure!

Jane Wieldin was amongst the thick of it when LA punk was born in the 1970’s and she helped propel the all-female new wave band, The Go-Go’s to fame. Beyond her days in The Go-Go’s, she had a modest solo career and famously played Joan Of Arc in the comedy movie Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure

For Jane Wiedlin, it was a case of being in the right place at the right time, during those early days of the drug-fuelled chaos of the late 70’s Hollywood punk scene. It’s a wonder how Jane Wiedlin ever survived! The story goes that she moved to Hollywood to study fashion design in college, to instead end up finding fame as a punk guitarist.

Wiedlin has explained over many years how that period time was one of the most thrilling of her existence. Her apartment building called the Canterbury was literally a short walk from The Masque, one of the most important new clubs for local youth and Los Angeles’ punk subculture. It was here amongst a small tight-knit community of wannabe punk rockers that she honed her skills writing her punk rock poetry and playing rhythm guitar in The Go-Go’s. Prior to joining The Go-Go’s with friend Belinda Carlisle, Jane has admitted to never having written a song or having an ounce of musical ability. She told LA Weekly in 2016 that, “It didn’t matter if you knew what you were doing or you didn’t. You would be met by a group of people (at The Masque) that were going to be intensely supportive of you, even if you sucked.”


The Go-Go’s Jane Weidlin (left) and Belinda Carlisle (right).

Maybe they did suck just a little in those early days, from what Jane says, but you cannot deny how big they got with their first hits Our Lips Are Sealed and We Got The Beat. Their debut album even reached Number 1 on the Billboard album charts. Interestingly, it still surprises me nowadays that they haven’t been considered as inductees for The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Seems like a damn shame, particular because they were the first all-female band that wrote their own songs, and played their own instruments. But there might yet be some good news for the girls who have finally been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year after 15 years of eligibility. With an announcement later in May 2021, we will see if they are successful.

Over the years I have spoken to many acquaintances (including some expats from Los Angeles) that recall The Go-Go’s in those early days. Although some of their memories are vague, the common thread in all their stories, when I mention I am a Jane Wiedlin fan, is that how quickly she grew into a very capable artist. Her strength as an artist lay in her ability to write strong guitar melodies, but also in particular her ability as a lyricists. In short, she helped fuel much of The Go-Go’s early success particularly alongside fellow guitarist Charlotte Caffey.

My introduction to Jane Wiedlin came not long after she left The Go-Go’s. (Jane left the Go-Go’s in 1985 and the group broke up soon after.)  It was the year 1988 that I distinctly recall listening to American Top 40 with Casey Kasem, when I was introduced to Jane’s first single called Rush Hour from her second solo album Fur (1988). Rush Hour was surprisingly, by most standards, a very catchy song which reflected a lot of the type of music that was produced in the mid to late eighties. New wave, post punk and synth pop was admittedly popular with me during that period, which might explain my instant attraction to Wiedlin’s music. In particular I loved, in between all the synths and sound effects, the rush of guitars (which I am a complete sucker for) and her youthful infectious voice.

Rush Hour propelled Jane up the charts once more. It climbed as high as #9 in the US and #12 in the UK. But as much as it pains me to say, Jane would never really reach the heights of success, she once enjoyed under The Go-Go’s. Her follow-up single Inside A Dream failed to make an impact on the charts and her album Fur (1988), while it had some great tracks, didn’t really have that killer punch it needed to truly carry Jane all the way up the music charts. 

Despite its lukewarm reaction from audiences and some harsh criticism from reviewers, I adore Fur as one those straight pop albums of the late 80’s. Particularly clever is the title track Fur, which addresses Weidlin’s lifelong passion, and standpoint on animal rights. The stirring ballad The End Of Love also stands out as one of Jane’s more tortuous intimate moments as a songwriter. While Song Of The Factory, one of the more underappreciated songs on the album, with its catchy synth undercurrent and Jane’s eccentric lyrics, fills the back half of the album with a much-needed boast. Furthermore, despite failing to find an audience with Inside A Dream, it is nonetheless a good pop song about hope and longing.

Jane’s third album Tangled (1990) showed a lot of promise with its fun rousing single World On Fire. A lavish music video accompanied the singles release with Jane as a temptress. I’m dumbfounded it failed to make inroads on the charts in 1990. It should have produced another top 10 hit for her, but for some reason the gods conspired against her.

The album itself had some limited success, but it too was ultimately plagued by a lack of interest from the buying public. World On Fire and the album’s title track Tangled, which appeared on the Pretty Woman soundtrack, starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts, failed to kick-start big sales, not because they were bad songs, but allegedly because her record label EMI failed to promote it. Jane Wiedlin, of course, was less than impressed, which in turn led to her departure from her record label. Nonetheless, Jane had good reason to be proud of her efforts with Tangled. It was a far more mature album than her previous releases.

Overall, in my opinion, the album is an admirable accomplishment in its ability to convey a message whether it is about longing, regret or freedom. The opening track Rain On Me seductively draws us into Wiedlin’s world with bittersweet melodies accompanied by a satisfying guitar riff. These themes continue throughout the album with lyrics that are fun and sweet (at times) and straightforward enough in what she wants to say. Her two anthemic songs Flowers on The Battle Field and Euphoria are standouts on the album, along with her track Paper Heart in which she co-wrote with Cyndi Lauper. But it is the whimsy World On Fire that reminds me how much fun Jane can have when given the chance.

In the 90’s, Jane’s solo career would float around the fringes of being commercially accepted. (Sporadic Go-Go’s reunions occasionally helped to spark interest in what she was up to.) Does it bother her? We’d have to ask her. I don’t think it matters, a lot of artists do what they do because they love it. Instead of answering to record label wishes, I think artists sometimes create their best and most engaging work when they are truly left to their own devices. The same is true for Jane, who rediscovered her pop punk roots once again in the mid 90’s.

Jane Wiedlin’s returned with an enthusiast new band called FroSTed (The capital ST stands for Star Trek. Apparently Jane is a trekkie from way back!). With the help of an old friend, Go-Go’s guitarist Charlotte Caffey (as a composer/songwriter on several tracks) and three energetic band members (Brian Waters, Sean Demott and Lance Porter), FroSTed hit all the right notes to create Cold (1996), ultimately a well received album. Everything about her collaborative effort, from her wry lyrics to the urgency of rushed guitars highlights Jane’s real love for punk music. Today, it stands as one of those overlooked pop punk treats, lost in the haze of many of the mid nineties big hitters like The Smashing Pumpkins, Foo Fighters, Alanis Morrisette and Green Day. Nonetheless, Jane Wiedlin proved she still had a surprise or two musically up her sleeve.

In 2000, Jane released her fourth studio album Kissproof World with little fanfare, again largely ignored by record buyers. However fans, of course, like myself were treated to yet another edgier album, a lot like Cold, in which Rolling Stone magazine called a “solo tour-de-force by an entrepreneur, an actress and rock goddess.”

However following Kissproof World’s release, Jane put her music career on hold to concentrate on her budding acting career. (She first caught the acting bug playing Joan of Arc in the comedy film Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure in 1989). Though Sporadic Go-Go’s reunions helped to spark interest in what she was up to. Interestingly, in 2009 Jane became an ordained minister, which only reaffirmed her chameleon nature.

Following The Go-Go’s farewell tour of 2016, which finally put a close to one of the great all-female bands of all time, Jane Wiedlin together with multi-instrumentalist Pietro Straccia collaborated together to record a new album (Jane’s first studio album since 2000) entitled You’re A Boy Or A Girl (2017). The duo would call themselves Electrodomestico, which is Italian for “appliance” inspired by Straccia’s Italian heritage, and have already been compared to bands such as Metric, The Flaming Lips and The XX. With a flair for theatre, it seems Jane has reinvented herself yet again with a new psych-pop existence. (Accompanying Jane and Pietro’s debut album is an extensive music video catalogue for all of Electrodomestico’s songs. You can check it out HERE.) When you’re listening to their album, its worth remembering this just might be some of Jane Wiedlin’s best work as a songwriter. It’s true, while the mainstream media today has largely ignored the veteran, there is no denying that her excellent adventure continues. 

*This article was first published in March 2017. It has been updated here with some additional new commentary.

Photo Credits: The image of Jane Wiedlin in the late 80’s is licensed and used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license. The image of Jane Wiedlin and Belinda Carlisle was photographed by Melanie Nissen. I believe was used as a promotional image for The Go-Go’s Showtime documentaryI am not the uploader of You Tube clips embedded here.

10 comments on “Jane Wiedlin’s Excellent Adventure!

  1. Jane’s such a great talent, and it’s a shame her label didn’t promote her as much as they should have. She later collaborated with musician Jonny Polonsky on a track called “Summer Soldiers” for his 2020 album ““Power and Greed and Money and Sex and Death”, which I reviewed last December. Here’s a link to the song:

    • I believe she is very underrated. Although she hasn’t got a strong voice, she makes up for it with her songwriting ability. Her recent collaboration with Straccia is a match made in heaven. They both seem as weird as each other. To answer your other point I vaguely remember you featured Jonny Polonsky twice last year. Summer Soldiers is a cool track. Not sure how much influence Wiedlin had with it, but it just goes to show her interest in branching out and doing different things.

      • Zefram Cochrane

        Doesn’t have a strong voice? Hm. Really? The strength in her voice lies in its passion, its uniqueness. Something tells me a guy like Wolfie would’ve thought her voice a gem. Certainly one of the reasons we’re still talking about her, today. Apart from that, excellent article.

  2. Jane is totally underrated, and her voice is stronger than most realize. (I’ve heard her live several times, once AT MY WEDDING)

    I’m sorry you didn’t discuss her first solo record, release in 1985, which was among my favorites, then and now. I think JW is not wild about it any more, but I think it’s smashing.

    • A few words on Jane’s self titled debut is an oversight on my part. Sorry Neil. It’s fair to say she had a rocky beginning to her solo career. It definitely has some promising tracks like ‘Blue Kiss’ and ‘Modern Romance’. Overall I feel like it lacked a killer punch to cement her credentials away from her Go-Go’s fame. Jane arguably learned from her mistakes and created a wonderful follow-up in ‘Fur’ which is still one of my favourite ‘80s pop records.

      • Unfortunately, I have to disagree on “Fur”, which I felt was in some ways weak. There were some good tracks–I’m thinking “Rush Hour”, “Song of the Factory” and “Give!”–but overall I thought it just wasn’t all that imaginative. Same with “Tangled”, really, although the acoustic versions Jane later did of those songs were solid.

        Now, I am WILD about her work with Pietro Straccio. Seriously, “If You’re a Boy or a Girl” is on constant rotation at my house.

      • Electrodomestico is a riot. Great to see Jane and Pietro having a little bit of fun with it.

      • Zefram Cochrane

        I think there are many reasons discussing Jane’s first release should have been a prerequisite for this article. The cover art not the least of it. Hell of a little album. Quirky and cool as fuque. However, I must concede that her work is, to put it plainly, not for everyone. She herself is aware, and has been heard to say, “Hey, *my* solo career never went anywhere…” Also, I just now realized you have not a single mention of Jane’s association with Sparks. Oversight? Talking about Jane and not mentioning “Cool Places” or her long friendship with those two wild brothers… Perhaps a new article is in order. Pleased FroSTed got discussed, however. Jane reminds me of a friend who was “thisclose” (sic) to super-stardom. Had a wonderful video on MTV in the early 80s, a contract with a major label, and two albums…neither of them connecting to the public. Done. Excellent, solid material, but just didn’t flare. I mention it because I think her brilliant work faltered for largely the same reason’s Jane’s failed to connect in a major way (trust me, I dearly love most of Jane’s stuff, but still must be honest): there is a sort of hyper-naïveté about Jane’s music and lyrics. One would probably be wrong to call it “bubblegum,” because it’s *not* bubblegum…but it’s verging that ballpark. Doesn’t bother me in the least— love it, in fact, and it adds her personal power to the catalogue. But it is what it is, where the general public travels. Interesting that when Jane attempted to add an “edge” with Kissproof, it became her least remembered album of all. So, perhaps her success with the first two was at a level it needed to be. As I said before, we’re here talking about her catalogue almost 40 years after the fact, and I’m listening to “Fur” as this is typed— not bad for one person’s lifetime. Genevieve did good.🖖🏼

      • Your passion for Jane is second to none. I didn’t mention Cool Places and for good reason. It honestly felt like a tacky publicity stunt trying to cash in on Jane’s Go-Go fame. Her friendship whatever it may have been with Sparks unfortunately had no bearing on her career moving forward. The cover art of Jane’s debut is excellent. Thanks for your contribution.

      • Zefram Cochrane

        Call it more a passion for history. So much of it gets lost. For example, Jane has been tight with the Sparks brothers for decades. She did more than “Cool Places” with them. You should check-out the Sparks album “In Outer Space”. Also, she worked with them not as a stunt, but purely from friendship. Watch the two available videos and tell me that’s not pure joy between them. It is. I know it sounds strange for people to hear this sometimes, but having fancy friends does not always automatically provide a pathway. Trust me, I am and have been associated with “top-of-the-food-chain” types, and have enjoyed their friendship while not necessarily asking them for professional favors, nor expecting them. Just the way it is. One last thing, while we’re covering history: were you aware of Jane’s songwriting career, outside the Go-Go’s/solo world? She’s written some very successful tunes for other artists– and of course was insanely well-paid for the efforts. Perhaps much, much more than any cash ever made from Go-Go’s and her solo work. Cheers to you.

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