Dear Belinda, we are still mad about you and heaven is certainly a place on earth with you around, your sincerely…
by Mark Keen
In this two-parter we celebrate the pop majesty of Belinda Carlisle, who shares a special birthday year with another pop luminary Madonna, as they both enter their 60th year. If you want an insight into how Belinda has spent the last 60 years check out the excellent autobiography ‘Lips Unsealed’ which at times makes for shockingly honest, no holds barred reading. It’s a miracle Belinda is still with us!
Belinda Carlisle’s career got off to a punk/pop/new wave start with The Go-Gos, perhaps best known in the USA. They did tour in the UK in the early 80s and their US hit “Our Lips Are Sealed” was a big hit for Fun Boy Three, but we probably all know “We Got The Beat” as well. The Go-Gos also included Jane Wiedlin who pursued a solo career, notably with the classic hit “Rush Hour”.
In 1985 Belinda would go solo, although success was initially limited to America with her first album “Belinda” (1986). The first single “Mad About You” hit the top 3 spot and the album is well worth checking out with some quality and varied songs from contributors such as Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg (they wrote the classic Madonna hit “Like A Virgin” and another favourite of mine “I Drove All Night” for Roy Orbison, later recorded by Cyndi Lauper). I’m also rather fond of the cover of “Band Of Gold”.
Belinda really hit pop pay-dirt in 1987 with the massive “Heaven On Earth” album which was a worldwide hit and still her most successful album, especially popular in the UK selling over a million copies with five single releases. The single “Heaven Is A Place On Earth” was real power pop hitting the top spot in many countries including Blighty and the US, and is noticeable for the video directed by the actress Diane Keaton.
The singles kept on rolling with another couple of highly successful singles and a couple of more minor hits. The Diane Warren penned “I Get Weak” (US No.2, UK No.10) and “Circle In The Sand” (US No.7, UK No.4) remain two of Belinda’s most memorable hits.
It’s fair to say that after this it does appear that the light dimmed on Belinda’s career in the US, but we certainly did “Leave A Light On” for Belinda in the UK in 1989. Although a sizeable number 11 hit in the US the single would hit the top 5 in the UK and across Europe, with a stunning video and the contribution of George Harrison on slide guitar.
The album “Runaway Horses” just slipped into the top 40 in the US, but was again a huge hit in the UK with six singles released. However, certainly in the UK the singles begun to struggle a bit (perhaps the second single “La Luna” was the wrong choice and stalled momentum) with a fair few re-releases notably for “Vision Of You”. One of the most memorable hits was “Summer Rain”, although amazingly this only hit the top 30 in the UK.
After a couple of singles missing the top 40 the album was given another lease of life with the remix of “(We Want) The Same Thing” hitting top 10 in the UK in October 1990.
1990 ended on a positive note with Belinda returning to the Go-Gos to tour their greatest hits and releasing a new single “Cool Jerk”.
Belinda would return in 1991 with “Live Your Life Be Free” and whilst the album was a top 10 hit in the UK, Belinda’s solo career did hit the buffers in the US where the album failed to chart and there was only one minor hit in “Do You Feel Like I Feel?”, would be her last Billboard Hot 100 hit. The first single “Live Your Life Be Free” was a joyful affair and hit the top 15 in the UK.
Further hits would follow in the UK most notably the top 30 “Do You Feel Like I Feel?” which was another energetic affair. However, perhaps the greatest song on the album “You’re Nothing Without Me” was overlooked as a single. Perhaps it did not sit well with the positive vibe of the singles, but it was by far the best song and is an anthem for anyone ever done wrong by their man (or woman or friend for that matter). A further minor hit would follow with “Half The World” (UK No.38). However, by the end of this album campaign it did feel like a bit of energy was being lost.
What would the rest of the decade and beyond offer Belinda and her fans? You can all come back for Part 2.