Garrett has kindly allowed me to commandeer the Friday Throwback this week, and in gratitude, I’d like to offer up this juicy bit of eye-and-ear candy from a former Go-Go:

Here’s where I love Belinda Carlisle best: the very first notes she sings, in her 1989 single “Leave a Light On” where she goes from full voice to a tremulous whisper and makes the very act of singing feel like something indulgent and sensual, as if, with each note she sings, she’s biting into a big, messy, and oh-so-delicious chocolate-covered strawberry. It’s simultaneously innocent and indulgent, girl-group wholesome and black-and-white movie glamorous. But mostly, it’s just a hell of a long way from the gawky adolescence of her Go-Go years when her voice was as thin as her body wasn’t. But by the end of the decade, defying a nasty penchant for substance abuse as well as the artistically unwarranted mega-success of her sophomore solo record Heaven on Earth, Belinda Carlisle finally arrived as the woman of her own dreams with this single and video, and a wonderful, but highly underappreciated album called Runaway Horses.

“Leave a Light On” was the first single from Runaway Horses, and if the song signaled Belinda’s emergence as a newer, more self-assured, more adult artist, its achingly romantic story of a woman bidding a reluctant goodbye to her lover and imploring him to keep her in mind while she’s away proved to be just as achingly prophetic about the fate of Carlisle’s solo career. Though she continued to record and release albums intermittently throughout the 90s (her most recent effort, 2007’s lovely Voila found her covering French pop standards), “Leave a Light On” marked the last time she would see Billboard‘s Top 20 (the song peaked at #11, according to Mr. Whitburn), and almost twenty years later, it’s a largely forgotten gem in the shadow of Carlisle’s bigger solo hits.

The video’s a forgotten gem too. There’s nothing special about it, but it’s still a beauty to behold, if only because whoever directed it realized that both Las Vegas and Belinda Carlisle photograph extraordinarily well (my first draft of this little post veered dangerously close to pornography – heterosexual pornography, even) and had the wisdom to mostly leave well enough alone. Plainly speaking, Belinda is a knockout here, and the whole thing evokes a breezy, wistful nostalgia for old school Hollywood glamour, only with none of the harsh religiosity that Madonna would bring to “Vogue” just a couple months later. These four minutes hold all the delicious promise of an ice cream truck chugging through the middle of the Nevada desert, and seeing and hearing this song again feels as refreshing to me as a juicy, melty popsicle on the first day of summer. Slurp!

Thanks again, GG… it’s been fun!

-P. Lorentz