Belinda Carlisle, pop star as a solo artist and punk rock/new wave idol with the Go-Go’s (as well as muse of mine since childhood), published this memoir, titled ‘Lips Unsealed’, in 2010. Throughout this incredible, unbelievable memoir, we learn many of the highs and lows of Carlisle’s long career in popular music. Man, oh man, have there been a lot of lows. Many of which she had never shared up until the release of this memoir. There are many things that allow this memoir to differentiate from many other tales of rock n’ roll debauchery and this is primarily due to the character of Carlisle. It’s also highly probable that many of the events detailed throughout this memoir will be shocking enough in that few had any sort of suspicion about them. Contrary to what the current reality of the adult contemporary radio format will hint at, Carlisle was much more than just another pop singer in the ’80s.
There are, of course, many instances featured in this memoir to prove this idea, one of which being a hilarious account of Charlotte Caffey, Go-Go’s guitarist, being kicked out of Ozzy Osbourne’s dressing room at Rock in Rio. As pondered in the memoir, just how extreme do you have to be to be considered too extreme for Osbourne? Carlisle, as to be expected, starts from the beginning of her life, pointing out how significantly a role moving around a lot as a kid, as well as the alienation she felt from her birth father had on her early development. Perhaps another interesting contrast between Carlisle and and other pop stars is that, interestingly enough, she reveals that being constantly out on tour never bothered her, even in the early going, because she was so used to moving around a lot from her childhood. About this time in the memoir, she also reveals that becoming a superstar was never a question in her mind. She always knew she was going to make that an inevitability. This sort of self-assurance serves as the central irony and contradictory nature of her personality. In many ways, she’s a perfect example of a personality that has both a superiority and inferiority complex.
As the memoir progresses, so does her cocaine addiction. This serves as the single most heartbreaking aspect of the memoir. It becomes very difficult throughout the reading not to shout “Stop!” into the pages of the book, because her charm and her writing style is so irresistible. The thing about her is that she is one of the most lovable performers of the 20th century. That’s not up for debate (especially in my book). As a fan, it’s difficult not to cringe or even shed tears at some of the memoir’s more grimacing moments. It’s evident that writing this memoir was quite therapeutic for Carlisle, who clearly had a ton of things to get off of her shoulders. The writing is evidence enough of this. It’s also nice to hear the stories of triumph that she endured. Hearing the story of the success that her debut solo record, ‘Belinda’, became, for example, was quite a triumphant moment in this memoir. However, the large portion of the middle section of this memoir proves that fame, success, and excess doesn’t, in fact, go on to make you a happy person. There are many different rock n’ roll memoirs you could read to figure this out, but the way that she handles the material with her angelic charm, her wry sense of humor, and her direct honesty about her persistent confusion throughout the many years of her struggles, are things that separate this from its average contemporary.
After an absolutely heartbreaking episode featuring a monstrosity of a cocaine binge, the story of her salvation and rebirth begins to take hold. Her trips to India and what she experienced there are revelations of pure beauty that will have fans grinning ear-to-ear as she unveils to us the spiritual significance that began to envelop her life. This, along with the patching up of relationships with both her longtime husband (who I worked very hard not to be jealous of throughout the memoir) and her son, whose very existence turns out to be something of incredible magnitude, serve as the main victories that her rebirth and change of direction allowed her to take. There is truly no shortage of tears to be expressed throughout the reading of this memoir, both from a place of triumph and disaster. The one consistent thing throughout is Carlisle’s good-natured presentation of the facts of her often chaotic life. By the very end of the memoir, she reflects and reveals, once again, her own unique self-assurance that, it turns out, carries much more legitimacy now than it ever did in the past.
All in all, this is an absolutely incredible memoir, an undeniable cut above the rest. Much of the criticism surrounding this memoir was that Carlisle focused way too much on her cocaine addiction and that that became repetitive. Bullshit. Without the persistence of this fact, the memoir wouldn’t have been as easily capable of relaying the scope of its intentions to the reader. The language that she uses throughout the writing is also something of a strength in this memoir. As she has consistently been able to portray throughout her career as a recording artist, she simply has a way about her when it comes to getting her intentions across. Her warm charm and her self-awareness serve as fully-loaded weapons in relaying tales of her younger self, who was always full of a contradictory nature that, as it would turn out, had enough character and power to carry on and win the war. There is absolutely nothing about her that isn’t a triumph in one way or another. Many contemporary memoirs can only hope to be half as revealing, honest, and good-natured as this wonderful piece of literature turns out to be.