Take Me Out To The Go-Go
July 8, 2005 6:11 PM   Subscribe

This is what a party sounds like. If you grew in Washington DC in the 80's anyway. Invention of go-go music, DC's home-grown version of funk, is often attributed to Chuck Brown, but it probably came closest to breaking through to the mainstream when "Doin' Da Butt" was featured in Spike Lee's "School Daze" and E.U.'s beats were subsequently sampled by Salt-N-Pepa. [mi]
posted by mzurer (23 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Violence was often associated with the clubs where bands played (and is apparently resurgent), but Rare Essence played a "go-go" in the gym of tony Sidwell Friends School every year for the benefit of those teenage residents of Upper Northwest Washington whose parents wouldn't let them go down to U Street. They also played my Junior High School Prom. Junk Yard Band was used by one of the DJ's on the excellent "Live at the Future Primitive Sound Session" recording and I caught go-go being name-checked on HBO's "The Wire" a season or two ago.
posted by mzurer at 6:14 PM on July 8, 2005

On post-view, I may not be giving Salt-N-Pepa enough credit, but I have always assumed that was the sequence of events.
posted by mzurer at 6:22 PM on July 8, 2005

thanks for that, mzurer.

i had a total misapprehension of what go-go is.

and now i know.
posted by Hat Maui at 6:23 PM on July 8, 2005

I miss that stuff...so much dance music is too fast now.
posted by amberglow at 6:44 PM on July 8, 2005

great post.
posted by greasy_skillet at 6:49 PM on July 8, 2005

Oh man that brings back memories. WPGC 95.5 in DC still plays go-go pretty regularly, usually on weekends. I just popped the radio on to see if they were playing it tonight but no dice. Nearby, Baltimore has its own unique sound too: Baltimore booty house, which is as different from go-go as you can get.

Thanks for the post mzurer.
posted by LeeJay at 6:56 PM on July 8, 2005

Hah! Good post. When I first moved here a few years ago, remember stumbling by a grocery store out in Northeast DC and hearing this band from the parking lot and thinking "What the hell kind of music is that?"

Also, for what it's worth the sample/backing tracks in that Amerie song "One Thing" is pure go-go. Apparently Amerie and the producer of the track are from DC. And just a few months ago I heard a bizarre live Go-Go cover of Ashlee Simpson's "Pieces of Me" on WPGC. But with Go-Go even that song was enjoyable.

Frank Foer of the New Republic wrote a piece about growing up in DC and Go-Go that was pretty good a few years ago. Can't find it online, but worth checking out if you're interested. Unfortunately, Go-Go concerts have had quite the history of violence, but hey that's DC for you.
posted by Heminator at 7:40 PM on July 8, 2005

EU and Troublefunk were the only two bands in the genre I owned anything by, but I thought there was some great stuff there. It was fun as hell, even for an avowed non-dancer like myself. I never heard go-go at parties or clubs, so I stumbled upon most of it from the music nerd "I just read an article about this thing called go-go" route.

I'm amazed that most people I mention go-go to now have no clue what I'm talking about. I'd kill for a nice comp with some of the best songs that I never got around to picking up before the whole damn genre just disappeared.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 8:01 PM on July 8, 2005

Thanks for this post. I grew up in DC, and remember seeing Trouble Funk at the old 9:30 on Thanksgiving in the late 80s. I've always loved go-go.

Way to represent Chocolate City.
posted by OmieWise at 9:10 PM on July 8, 2005

i have the superhill 4 record vinyl collection and always loved the go-go tracks ... why can't today's hip hop have percussion like that?
posted by pyramid termite at 9:24 PM on July 8, 2005

The new stuff is pretty great as well. This recent ILM post has a few decent DJ Flexx tracks worth checking out. Almost what pyramid termite was just asking for...
posted by hellbient at 9:41 PM on July 8, 2005

drop the bomb
posted by Fupped Duck at 10:35 PM on July 8, 2005

Great post, mzurer! I was trying to explain go-go to my SO the other day as we were driving down Florida. I should have turned on WPGC. (duh!)

I used to love all of the posters for the go-go shows back in the '80s/'90s. Unfortunately, I've never experienced go-go live, save for lost beats wafting through the streets on a hot summer night in the district.
posted by shoepal at 11:51 PM on July 8, 2005

After the first flush of hip-hop began to wane in the mid-eighties, there was a slightly bizarre attempt to turn go-go into The Next Big Thing in the British music press.

Check out Gadget Funk on The Herbaliser's new album for another example of the sound coming back again.
posted by kerplunk at 1:08 AM on July 9, 2005

I too grew up in downtown DC, and go-go (and go-go clubs) was still big well into the late `90s. When I left for school no-one ever seemed to know what the hell I was talking about. Come to think of it, I've never met another white person that knew what go-go was, even in DC.

People browsing my iTunes share always seem to say: "What the f*ck is go-go?", and then they discover it. And that, tha, is awesome.
posted by blasdelf at 1:21 AM on July 9, 2005

lovely stuff, thanks a lot, its great for a lazy saturday morning
posted by quarsan at 2:26 AM on July 9, 2005

My (future) wife and I grew up in DC, and went to go-gos in the early 90s... unbelievably great stuff. We were down there last weekend from nyc and heard some on the radio (PGC of course). Brought back memories.

Amazing how much DC has changed though... we drove around on Georgia Av, around U Street-Cardozo, up near Takoma Park -- it's amazing how much less scary certain parts of town are. Condos going up where there used to be crackhouses.

What other cities are notorious for their own 'sounds' in dance music? We all know about Chicago house and New York house music, go-go clearly hasn't made it much outside of a few folks from DC... when I was in Detroit a few weeks back, I actually heard some Detroit ghetto tech (or booty house, or whatever microgenre name you want to apply to the DJ Assault-type "ass-n-titties" house music...)

Good stuff.
posted by fet at 4:03 AM on July 9, 2005

What's all this with "was"? Go-go is still an enormous musical scene in DC, with shows every night. It's going strong - and is absolutely freakin' fascinating.

See Dave LaChapelle's new movie - Rize. (Although apparently he dubs indie hip-hop and grime like Dizzee onto the soundtrack, for unknown reasons.)
posted by Marquis at 5:47 AM on July 9, 2005 [1 favorite]

This post makes me feel like Bustin' Loose.
posted by mikeinclifton at 8:18 AM on July 9, 2005

What other cities are notorious for their own 'sounds' in dance music?

Miami, as in Miami bass.

Thank's for a great post, mzurer!
posted by soundofsuburbia at 9:04 AM on July 9, 2005

What other cities are notorious for their own 'sounds' in dance music?


Does Manchester count?
posted by shoepal at 11:35 PM on July 10, 2005

What other cities are notorious for their own 'sounds' in dance music?

New Orleans has it's own style of club music that features a mix of live-band soul, jazz, and funk with Dirty South rap vocals. It kicks much ass.
posted by rush at 12:04 PM on July 11, 2005

Damn. Pretend that ' isn't there.
posted by rush at 12:06 PM on July 11, 2005

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