Friday, 31 October 2014

50 songs to take to my grave #20: Our Lips Are Sealed

The Go-Gos (l-r): Charlotte Caffey, Kathy Valentine, Belinda Carlisle, Jane Wiedlin & Gina Schock.
For what it's worth, Jane was my favourite, Belinda a close second...

Our Lips Are Sealed is one of those songs that really needs little written or said about it; you simply need to hear it to realise what's so good about it. It has rather ominous beginnings however. During the Specials' US tour in 1980, Terry Hall had an affair with Jane Wiedlin, guitarist with support band the Go-Go's! Later, Hall sent Jane a letter to Wiedlin. She set some of the lines from that letter to music, added some lyrics of her own and Our Lips Are Sealed was born.

The following year it became the Go-Go's debut single, making the US Top 20 and launching the career of one of the most successful all-girl rock bands of all time. Arguably, this version remains the best. Wiedlin's teasing muted guitar and Belinda Carlisle's girlish vocal form the focal point of the song and give it that sunny Californian pop sound that would become so prevalent throughout the 80s. They set the benchmark, for sure. It sounded so innocent which totally belied both the origins of the song, and the notoriety that would soon follow the Go-Go's around.

Two years later, on the other side of the Atlantic, Hall recorded a version of his own with his new band Fun Boy Three. Essentially they were 50% of the Specials, though their sound differed in many respects. Our Lips Are Sealed featured on their second and final album 'Waiting' and featured drums and backing vocals from June Miles-Kingston (formerly of the Mo-Dettes, and later a member of the Communards). Wiedlin describes this version as "gloomier" than her band's effort, but has anyone ever seen Terry Hall smile? While the Go-Go's version stalled outside the UK Top 40, Fun Boy Three fared somewhat better, making number 7. It was their final hit.

A few years later, a college friend had leant me a tape featuring lots of early Soup Dragons songs. It included their cover of Our Lips Are Sealed and resembled the Go-Go's poppy version more than the Fun Boy Three's more downbeat one. It reminded me just what a great song it was, and as the Go-Go's version had never been a hit over here, I hadn't actually heard it played like that before. It became an instant fave of mine.

As far as what the essence of a great pop song is, Our Lips Are Sealed has it nailed. Upbeat and sunny, or gloomy and cloudy, a great song can translate just as well whatever the mood or setting. If I had to choose the version to be played at my funeral, it would probably be the Go-Go's, but to be honest I wouldn't mind too much if the Fun Boy Three version was played instead. Not that I'd be in much of a position to do anything about it...

Sunny Claifornian video for the Go Go's...

Bleak, dour Midlands video for Fun Boy Three. Can you spot Bananarama?


  1. can't beat (cos they've got it) the go go's version. ... sorry, someone had to say it ... and i do think it's true - great song

  2. oddly enough one of my favourites also