Mary Lucia interviews Go-Go's bassist Kathy Valentine about new memoir

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Kathy Valentine press photo
Kathy Valentine has been a working musician and songwriter for more than 40 years, starting her first band in her hometown of Austin and making a name for herself in the iconic band the Go-Go's after moving to Los Angeles. (Christopher Durst)
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Mary Lucia interviews musician and author Kathy Valentine
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Kathy Valentine is a working musician and songwriter known for being part of the all-women band the Go-Go's. She wrote or cowrote many of the band's most renowned songs, including "Vacation" and "Head Over Heels." In addition to playing music, writing songs, and her work as an actor, public speaker and spokesperson, and producer, Valentine has written a memoir, All I Ever Wanted, published in March 2020 by the University of Texas Press in Valentine's hometown of Austin.

Valentine recently connected with The Current's Mary Lucia to talk about the book. Listen to the interview using the audio player above, and read a transcript of the interview below.

Interview Transcript


MARY LUCIA: Kathy, this is Mary Lucia at The Current. Good morning; how are you?

KATHY VALENTINE: I'm good. Hi!

You big, giant author, you!

(laughs) Well, first-time author.

It's pretty impressive, Kathy. I mean, of course, the musical career is stellar, but I'm so impressed with anyone who writes a book. Everybody thinks, you know, "Oh, a rock memoir…" but yours is so much more than that, because it really definitely delves into life pre-music, during, after. All of it. And you get a real sense about who you are.

Yeah, I felt like the context was important, because I don't think any of my readers would really get how important this band was to me, or how devastated I was at losing it, if they didn't understand where I came from and how profound it was all for me.

And it seems cliche, but in your case, it really did make sense that it felt like a family, and perhaps the family you had always longed for or wanted but didn't have.

Yeah.

It makes a lot of sense. And on top of that, how is your mom?

Yeah, my mom is still very much a big part of my life, and still here in Austin with me. She's gone through some pretty intense stuff that would make very compelling portion of a second memoir.

There you go! Well, when anybody writes a memoir and they want to be truthful — and who doesn't, really? — but you have to consider, "Oh, crap, this is going to completely destroy so-and-so when they read that this is what I thought about that." How much of that consternation was in your mind when you were retelling stories and memories from your point of view?

Well, I felt like there was nothing that couldn't be taken out and still have it be a very compelling story. Like with my mom, who I think had the most at risk, I asked her everything. I said, "I'm going to write about this; are you OK with that?" Because if I wanted to write about it, it was because it was meaningful to me. I mean, I cut a hundred pages out, so there was a lot I did take out.

And the stuff with anybody in the band, I made sure that it had been discussed either in interviews in the press, in the documentary, or in Belinda's book. I didn't want to drop any bombshells in terms of people's personal stuff, and I really was trying to tell my story, not anyone else's story.

I mean, you write a fantastic memoir, then normally, you'd go on a book tour, and then, of course, the world went into the toilet. So has it been a relief that you get to do these in your jammies, at home?

No! I was so excited. Because I did a soundtrack to the book, and I was very interested and excited about the intersection of storytelling and using song to illustrate some of the prose I'd written. So I was going to do some music and speaking, and just kind of really interact. I'm a social person. I like meeting people. I think people are generally pretty interesting. And so, I was really looking forward to kind of going out there, just being Kathy Valentine, talking about my book, my story, hearing from people face to face what resonated with them. I've been hearing in Q&As online and through social media, just how many people found things in the story that they just identified with strongly, and I would have enjoyed that experience in person.

I think it's true that when women write memoirs and they are truthful about everything that happened, sometimes the readers glom on to one particular part of your life or incident, and think, "Oh, I can't believe this wasn't more of a focus, or wasn't more in depth." Certainly, you had some sexual abuse.

Yeah. I mean, it was a different era, for sure. And it was interesting, because the soundtrack, like there's the chapter that I write about basically being raped when I'm 14 years old, and in my whole life, I never thought of it as rape. When I was writing it, I'm like, "Wait a minute … I'm a mom to a 14-year-old; I was raped." So that was one level of intensity. But when I wrote this song that accompanies that, like tapping into those feelings through music opened up a portal to a grieving and a mourning, that even writing the chapter hadn't quite tapped into. So I cried for almost three days writing the song that accompanied that chapter.

So when you guys had this sort of … we're going to maybe — whomever approached you about the doc — was this the same person who made the Eagles documentary?

Yes, Allison Ellwood. Now first, we were approached by a production team. And we were very iffy and back and forth, and it shifted; you know, one person might be into it and then go, "Aw, I don't think so." I advocated from the top, because I felt like we just didn't have anything really out there telling our story that we approved. So there was some back and forth for a long time, but when they brought Allison in as the director, that really tilted it towards everyone being on board.

Our band is really reliant on chemistry. I feel bad for anybody that saw the band and didn't see it—

Original.

Yeah! With the classic lineup of what we are, because that's the deal.

Kathy, I'm so happy to talk to you, and I'm so grateful that you — so intelligently and thoughtfully and funny — you put this book together about your experience, because some of this could not have been easy to revisit, and I think you did it with such aplomb. I am so happy. All I Ever Wanted, Kathy Valentine of the Go-Go's. Thank you so much!

Thank you, and I love Minneapolis. I just want to put that out there.

Thank you.

Love that city. And thank you for talking to me. It was a pleasure. Bye!

External Links

Kathy Valentine - official site

Kathy Valentine - All I Ever Wanted - University of Texas Press

Kathy Valentine, All I Ever Wanted: Soundtrack - Bandcamp

The Go-Go's - official site

The Go-Go's - documentary on Showtime

Related Stories

4 Photos

  • Kathy Valentine's 'All I Ever Wanted.'
    Kathy Valentine's 'All I Ever Wanted: A Rock 'n' Roll Memoir.' (University of Texas Press)
  • The Go-Go's press images from Showtime
    The Go-Go's backstage at The Rolling Stones gig in Rockford, Illinois, on October 1, 1981 (L-R): Kathy Valentine, Jane Wiedlin, Gina Schock, Charlotte Caffey, Belinda Carlisle. (Paul Natkin)
  • Kathy Valentine press photo
    Kathy Valentine has been a working musician and songwriter for more than 40 years, starting her first band in her hometown of Austin, Texas, and making a name for herself in the iconic band the Go-Go's after moving to Los Angeles. (Christopher Durst)
  • Kathy Valentine, 'All I Ever Wanted: Selections from the Sountrack'
    Musician Kathy Valentine composed a soundtrack to accompany her memoir, 'All I Ever Wanted,' published in March 2020 by University of Texas Press. Each track is inspired by a corresponding chapter title in the book. (courtesy Kathy Valentine)