Go-Go's: They've Still Got The Beat -- Reunited Group Knows First- Hand How Far Women In Music Have Come

------------------------------- Concert preview

The Go-Go's, Berlin, Lunachicks, 7 p.m. Saturday, Summer Nights at the Pier, Pier 62/63, Seattle ($35; 206-628-0888). -------------------------------

If the 1990s can say anything, it can say it was the decade in which women in rock became business as usual.

The Lilith Fair, the brainchild of singer Sarah McLachlan, has become just another summertime event. Courtney Love is not a female rocker, but a fearless rocker. Susan Tedeschi is at the top of the blues game. Lauryn Hill is not an accessory but a focal point in rap and hip-hop. Men are buying Jewel CDs.

The gender wall in music has all but eroded, and that makes the Go-Go's guitarist, Charlotte Caffey, happy.

"A lot of the girls (in bands) today pay compliments to us and say we've inspired them and it's just wonderful," Caffey said by phone from her home in Hollywood. "Back in 1981, the chances of a punk-rock girl band from L.A. doing what we did was completely nil. There were a lot of obstacles and a lot of sexism. It was really different than it is now."

That summer, when Caffey was 27, marked the beginning of the band's brief rise to stardom. The band (Caffey, Belinda Carlisle, vocals; Jane Wiedlin, guitar; Gina Schock, drums; and Kathy Valentine, bass), was signed by Miles Copeland's I.R.S. Records (R.E.M., General Public) and released the chart-topping "Beauty and the Beat."

"We were up for a Grammy, we sold millions of records and we

toured the world I don't know how many times," Caffey said. "It was insane."

That's when things got shaky. The constant touring, interviewing and playing was stressful, Caffey said. She said the Go-Go's were just a baby band, unable to get a handle on the newfound fame and unable to turn down offers that constricted the band's schedule further. By 1985, after their third CD "Talk Show," it was over.

"We imploded. That's basically what happened. Sprinkle a little partying on the road and it is impossible to do," Caffey said, now 45 and whose 4-year-old daughter is already playing the drums. "We were very young. We know that what happened to us was like capturing lightning in a jar."

They parted ways in 1985, ending a seven-year union. After helping Carlisle with a successful solo career, Schock and Valentine started the Delphines. Wiedlin took a chance in Hollywood and landed a few small parts. Caffey played guitar for Carlisle's solo debut before starting the Graces with singer Meredith Brooks.

Then Caffey started arranging and writing with women of the new generation. She helped arrange Jewel's "Pieces of You," and most recently wrote material with Love for Hole's "Celebrity Skin."

"Courtney is completely charming," Caffey said. "She's just great and will basically say anything. I love working with artists who know exactly what they want."

And now Caffey and the Go-Go's have a chance to bring it all back, on their terms and in a world that doesn't blink when women hit the stage.

The original band got together to rehearse for a new tour, including Schock, who in 1997 filed a lawsuit against Caffey. She claimed Caffey wasn't giving Schock her share of Go-Go's royalties, and sought more than $100,000. Caffey has since signed a confidentiality agreement with Schock and would only say the lawsuit "is in the past" and that she is just glad the band is back together for the tour.

"We love working together," Caffey said. "We're a band and we just happen to be chicks, that's the way we've always thought of ourselves. There's nothing like playing with these girls. I mean the chemistry is just undeniable."