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Washington City Paper Flashback: Go-Go

WCP- Go-Go
Go-go in the alternative press

Founded in 1981, the alternative

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weekly Washington City Paper highlighted aspects of life in the capital city not covered in The Washington Post or other mainstream press–a role it continues to play thirty years later. These clips from the archives demonstrate some of the ways that WCP chronicled D.C.’s Go-Go scene, which is celebrated in the exhibition Pump Me Up: D.C. Subculture of the 1980s. (Don’t miss musicologist Kip Lornell’s Go-Go lecture at the Corcoran March 18 at 7 p.m.)

1980s Culture 1-1

Listing a Go-Go concert held on July 12, 1985, at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium (still a great place to see a concert), the editors drily note how the music press took its time to catch onto the genre that spawned the acts Trouble Funk, E.U., and Class Band–“the only publication that hasn’t done a go-go story is Popular Mechanics.”

In another clip, the writer discusses an Island Records compilation featuring Chuck Brown–photographed between two identically mustached and scarved mannequins–and five other artists. The notion of Go-Go becoming as big as reggae one day is simultaneously hoped-for and dismissed. What catches our eye these days, however, is the aerobics studio ad.

1980s Culture 1-2

Finally, WCP (un)covers an entirely different kind of Go-Go–the kind of club where scantily clad women display themselves. Observing a protest by a group called Dupont Circle Citizens Against Sleaze, whose members chant, “Bistros not bimbos!” reporter William R. Rice asks, “Why are the busy professionals of Dupont Circle giving [club proprietor] LennyLowenstein so much free publicity?”

1980s Culture 1-3

Want to learn more about the scene? Listen to this radio conversation between Kojo Nnamdi and:

  • Roger Gastman (Co-curator of Pump Me Up)
  • Alona Wartofsky (Former staff writer and editor, The Washington Post and City Paper)
  • Iley Brown (Music producer; associate producer, Legend of Cool Disco Dan)
  • Clinton Yates (Columnist, The Washington Post and the Root DC).