There are impressive ways of arriving in San Francisco for the first time, but few could match the campy grandeur of Baltimore-bred percussionist Gina Schock in 1979, when she blew into town to play the Warfield Theatre with Edie and the Eggs, backing late character actress Edith Massey, one of John Waters’ revolving cast of colorful Dreamlanders film stars.
“She was such a doll, such a great lady to work with, and sometimes I even had to help her with her crazy stage costume,” recalls Schock, who moved to The City in 2015 after hitting the big time in Los Angeles as drummer for the all-girl punk-pop outfit The Go-Go’s.
The band’s full tale is told in ‘The Go-Go’s,” a documentary by “Laurel Canyon”-renowned director Alison Ellwood airing at 9 p.m. Friday on Showtime. The Warfield gig — along with other punk-era shows on that tour in New York and Los Angeles — gave Schock some much-needed creative motivation.
“I went back to Baltimore and thought, “OK, I’ve got to move, I’ve got to get out of here, and it’s now or never,’” she says. She tested the post-Waters waters, spending three weeks in L.A., three in the Bay Area, and adding New York to her wish list, as well.
“When I returned to Baltimore, I said, ‘All right, I’m leaving.’ I had decided on L.A. because I felt like I could handle the cost of living out there. It was just too difficult in San Francisco and New York. So I came out to California knowing three people in L.A. and I knew two people in S.F. So it all worked out for me, thank God.”
That’s where Ellwood wanted to pick up the story, she adds — charting The Go-Go’s unlikely rise from the male-dominated punk rock scene rumbling through the state at the time.
To commemorate the movie’s completion, The Go-Go’s composed a new retro-snappy anthem, “Club Zero,” by phone and email from their various residences: Guitarist Charlotte Caffey lives in Los Angeles, co-guitarist Jane Wiedlin in Mexico, bassist Kathy Valentine in Texas, and vocalist Belinda Carlisle in Bangkok.
To record it, every member but Carlisle met up in San Francisco for a rapid-fire session, with vocals tracked when Carlisle was in Hollywood. Despite the difficult composing process, Schock says, “I think we did a great job, and just the fact that we hadn’t recorded together in 20 years and we went in the studio and knocked that thing out in two days? Now that is a testament to our professionalism. It finally shows after all these years!”
Schock first gave Ellwood the thumbs-up when producers suggested her for the Go-Go’s project. An admitted documentary junkie, she had seen the Australian’s film “American Jihad” and the two-part “History of The Eagles,” and was duly impressed.
“She hadn’t even done her ‘Laurel Canyon’ thing yet, but I was like, ‘Jesus Christ! We have to get this girl to work with us!’ And you could just tell when you met her. She’s got heart, she’s smart and she’s an amazing storyteller. So we were putting our whole career in her hands.”
The two worked closely together, as the drummer had become de facto group archivist. She not only hung on to every last ticket stub, backstage pass and set list, she also was taking candid backstage photos the whole time, from 1981’s chart-topping “Beauty and the Beat” debut on, when they skyrocketed from playing dive bars to Madison Square Garden in one frenetic year.
Her collection helped Ellwood immensely, and much of it will find its way into the Go-Go’s coffee table book Schock is publishing next year. A Go-Go’s reunion tour, originally scheduled for this summer, will take place next year, too.
Meanwhile, the drummer has put everything on hold, including her profitable songwriting partnership with Trey Vittetoe, to help care for her 96-year-old father, whom she moved to San Francisco for that purpose five years ago.
To cheer herself during the pandemic, she listens to an all-Bollywood radio station and rescues elderly dogs from Sherri Franklin’s local shelter Muttville.
“I currently have just one senior dog, but I have had many, many, many,” she says. “There are so many boxes sitting next to my bed right now. But God, How I love having these little angels around me!”
As for coronavirus, Schock believes it’s Mother Nature giving humanity a wake-up call, and there’s an obvious first step. She says, “We have to get rid of this motherf——- that’s in the White House now. Everybody has to get out and vote and get rid of him. He should be charged with murder, as far as I’m concerned. I hope he goes to jail, that bastard!”