When Belinda Carlisle first saw Mick Rock’s iconic photograph of Iggy Pop, his eyeliner-stained eyes and black lips in crimson light on the cover of Iggy and The Stooges’ third album, Raw Power, her world opened into Television, the New York Dolls, Roxy Music, the Velvet Underground, and the earlier 1970s punk and art rock that impacted her as an artist as she entered The Go-Gos.
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On Aug. 1, everything came full circle when Carlisle launched her new SiriusXM series Mad About Music with Belinda Carlisle on SiriusXM, and opened up the show with her first song: Pop’s 1977 Lust For Life hit “The Passenger.”
Exploring the music that shaped her, Carlisle’s show also blends in earlier musical influences who left an imprint on her—everyone from Cat Stevens, The Beach Boys, The Animals, and The Stylistics—and are part of her playlist of songs, along with rediscoveries, behind-the-scenes stories and memories from her solo career and her time with The Go-Gos interspersed in each show.
“This was kind of an accident because I never ever thought that I wanted to do anything like this,” Carlisle tells American Songwriter. “I’ve recorded nine shows so far, and it seems like a lot of my choices are songs that really influenced me from the late ’70s, like a lot of Roxy Music and early [David] Bowie. Music has been my life since I was 17, so it sort of tells a story, and I share some of my own.”
When first approached about hosting her own radio show, Carlisle admits that she had to think about it for a while. “I didn’t know what it entailed, and it made me nervous,” shares Carlisle. “Then I said ‘just go for it,’ and I did, and it’s been really interesting and fun and challenging. Curating the songs is challenging enough, and I only want to put songs on that I like.”
Part of the curation of playlists was rediscovering artists Carlisle hadn’t listened to in years like Grace Jones, the pre-Crowded House rockers Split Enz, and early glam influence Mott the Hoople.
“I forgot about them,” said Carlisle of the Ian Hunter-fronted band. “I’ve always listened to a lot of Roxy Music, which was influential for me and I loved them in the’70s, and of course Bowie, and then I stumbled on Mott the Hoople. I used to love them, so it was fun rediscovering their albums. I also haven’t listened to Grace Jones in years, and I always considered her pre-punk, but she’s always been a punk rocker.”
Exploring the category of cover songs was more of an education for Carlisle, who discovered that Duran Duran had covered Bowie’s 1974 single “Diamond Dogs.”
“It was a bizarre sort of choice for a lot of the artists that I love,” says Carlisle, “but bizarre in a great way. I’m rediscovering things, and I’m revisiting artists and albums that I may have forgotten about like the first Split Enz albums that I loved. I’m listening to a lot of stuff that I loved and just forgot about.”
Adding on early Bowie tracks like ‘The Bewlay Brothers’ and ‘The Width of a Circle’ are an example of some deeper cuts she hopes connects to listeners. “A lot of people, when they think of Bowie, maybe they think of ‘Fame’ or ‘China Girl,’” she says, “so I’m hoping this opens the eyes or ears of listeners, and they’ll be inspired to dig deep and also discover artists that aren’t forgotten, but they might be overlooked.”
Following the Alison Ellwood-directed documentary The Go-Gos in 2020 and the band’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2021, followed by a tour in 2022, Carlisle says the chain of events over the past few years is a perfect close for the band, if it is their end.
“If it wasn’t for that documentary, I’m not so sure that we’d be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame,” says Carlisle. “People had no idea where we came from. They just assume we came from an ‘American Idol’-type show. It really is an incredible story, so I think that created a whole new level of respect for the band. The Rock Hall was step two.”
She adds, “The Go-Gos are definitely winding down now, and I think that has definitely cemented the legacy of the band. We all have our lives going on and different things, so I don’t know if we’ll ever really do anything again, but if it ended there, that’s amazing. There’s something to be said about going out on top.”
Now working on new music for release at the beginning of 2023 and a new solo album by the end of the year, Carlisle, who recently turned 64, is enjoying the freedom of creativity at this point in her life. “I thought I’d be retired,” she laughs, “but I still feel like doing it, and I can pick and choose things that are fun and interesting, so it’s good.”
A diverse consumption of music has already led to Carlisle’s release of Voila, a collection of covers of French pop songs and standards in 2007, and her more Indian-inspired Wilder Shores, featuring a series of Sikh chants performed in Gurmukh. If the Sirius show goes beyond this initial run, Carlisle wants to explore the peripherals of her musical influences.
“I want to go really out there because my taste is very eclectic,” says Carlisle. “I’m really into Serge Gainsbourg and world music, and I love Bollywood music. I don’t know if I’ll be able to, and they’ll let me, but my influences go way beyond punk and new wave.”
Carlisle adds, “I listen to weird shit every day like ’70s Turkish music, so I’m hoping that if I do go beyond this initial run I’ll be able to introduce listeners to some wild stuff that’s really beautiful and melodic and interesting.”
Mad About Music with Belinda Carlisle airs the first Monday of every month on SiriusXM 1st Wave (channel 33), at 8pmET.
Photos: Frazer Harrison for Getty and SiriusXM