All I Ever Wanted:
A Rock 'n' Roll Memoir
review by Roy Peak
I'd been playing bass for a few years when the Go-Go's first album came out, so after a steady diet of Dee Dee Ramone, Bill Wyman, John Entwistle, and various surf rockers, the bouncy pop energy that Valentine brought to the punky Go-Go tunes was fun and refreshing. Solid, tight with the drums, always in motion, fluid and powerful. Definitely something my young rock & roll brain latched onto. As far as I know, I was the only one in my high school who liked them, as everyone else was into bands like Journey, Styx, and REO Speedwagon. Sigh.
It's no secret that rock & roll has been labeled as hedonistic for decades. Well, Valentine's life was more hedonistic and seditionary than most male rockers of her time even BEFORE she first picked up a guitar and dreamed of being in a band. Born of a British mother who divorced from Valentine's Texan father when Valentine was three years old, her mom raised her as a free spirit, allowing her to come and go as she pleased, do whatever drugs she felt like, go to school when and if she wanted to, and—when she was merely fifteen—allowed her to date a drug-dealing, Maserati-driving guy more than twice her age. Take that Keith Richards.
With a life full of ups and downs and all-arounds, Valentine's story is most interesting when she's young and in Texas, learning guitar and yearning for a band, and when she relates about first moving to L.A., living in squalor, hitting the clubs night after night, networking to find that one band that needs her as much as she needs them. Once she joins the Go-Go's her life is a whirlwind. Within the first six months the band played nearly a hundred shows, signed with I.R.S. Records, recorded their first album, and partied non-stop. Valentine's story is mostly drugs, drinking, rocking out, meeting new celebrities and befriending them, more drugs, and more rocking out. The typical rockstar story, only from a female perspective by someone who knows how to write well and tells her story honestly, smartly, and emotionally.
The fact that she's as capable a writer as she is a songwriter helps the story move along, fast and fun, much like a good pop song. The fact that she comes off as entirely likable and real also helps. Valentine most definitely seems like someone you could sit down and hang out with, chilling on a couch, playing guitar and sharing stories, and that's more than I can say than I got out of reading the bios of Pete Townshend, Elvis Costello, Kim Gordon, or Juliana Hatfield.
Valentine seems honest enough when talking about her own mistakes, especially after the band breaks up, her friends move on and she hits literal rock bottom. A chance to redeem herself goes awry because of her own drug use, a home invasion that nearly gets her murdered leaves her traumatized, she self- sabotages more than one love relationship, she tries again and again to get her version of the perfect rock band off the ground while she sees the other members of the Go-Go's being successful without her.
Like many a story that starts with a lot of excesses, those excesses finally get the better of our rockstar writer, and she swallows her pride and asks for help from an unlikely source: a former Go-Go. An inevitable successful band reunion followed by another breakup, and who knows what after that? Valentine has seen it all, lived the rockstar life, and continues to play music while supporting herself and a daughter. I don't know if we'll get another book from this wayward Go-Go, but I look forward to seeing what she's up to next.
Roy Peak is Sacred Chickens' Music Editor. He has played electric bass in more bands than he cares to remember for more years than he can remember. He wrote the theme song for the Utica, New York radio show "Hey You Kids, Get Off My Lawn" on WPNR-FM. His solo debut album, All Is Well, has been called "Loud, cacophonous, and beautiful by a truly unique artist." His short fiction has been published in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature and he writes music reviews for the King Tut Vintage Album Museum of Jacksonville. Roy writes music reviews for the Rocking Magpie among others.