Regular readers and fellow '80s music obsessives will remember the Catholic Girls, who put out a self-titled LP in 1982 then disbanded shortly thereafter. I'd always assumed they were a short-lived outfit that MCA signed in an attempt to cash in on the success of the Go-Go's, but after connecting with lead singer Gail Petersen earlier this year, I was finally able to get the full story -- including details on the band's latest album, "Exposed." (Order CD HERE or download HERE.)
Gail contacted me after reading my belated review of the CD reissue of the band's debut -- and told me that she was "very happy to know that you no longer think I'm a transvestite!" She then agreed to the following interview:
Q. As you know, I bought the first Catholic Girls LP back in '82. Now I've read the Catholic Girls bio on your Web site, but I've still never understood exactly how the MCA deal came to be. "Beauty and the Beat" was a HUGE hit by then, but I don't believe the Bangles had achieved much success yet. (Their EP was re-released by IRS in 1983.) How and when did the Catholic Girls get signed?
A. Well, back before 1982, in fact, in 1976-77, a couple of years before the Go-Go's formed, we were playing original songs under the name Double Cross, which came from myself and Roxy Andersen having attended 12 years of Catholic private school. Our music was not intended to be religious, but did have overtones of our bad experiences in a classic religious learning environment -- and we had a lot of not-so-good things to say about it. We were young and full of angst and rebellion, so by '79 we renamed ourselves The Catholic Girls and started wearing school uniforms. We soon created uniforms that were jet black with a sexual “shortness” not seen in the real uniforms. We kept playing out, getting a bigger and bigger following in the east and some major record labels were very interested and talking with us. At that point, we put out a self-produced single including "Private School" and "Where Did I Go Wrong," and it really kicked things up and we were getting some exceptionally good gigs for a non-major label band, opening for the likes of R.E.M. and The Clash which in turn added to our audience. It was in '81 when a friend mentioned he could get our demo and single to someone at MCA Records. And they did it. We were surprised, but it went to Ray D’Ariano, at the time VP of A&R at MCA, who gave it over to Leon Tsilis, a younger associate. Leon loved it, gained support from Ray, and they made an offer. We took it and were scheduled for a release. As the contractual process is a long one the release date was delayed a bit … until September '82. And by then the Go-Gos had arrived and they had hits from "Beauty and the Beat" in July of '81.
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