Some jingle jangle morning
Several events of the last week have conspired to convince me I've been wrong, wrong, wrong about The Bangles. For too long I've dismissed Hoffs and Co. as glossy 80s three-hit wonders. For too long, I've blithely passed the evidence table, nose in the air. (To be perfectly fair, the band is responsible for some rather regrettable product: the less said about "Walk Like An Egyptian" and " Eternal Flame," the better.)
But listening to several Bangles inclusions in the recent Rhino box set Children of Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the Second Psychedelic Era, 1976-1995 (US, UK) calls for some serious reevaluation. "Real World," dates from their Paisley Underground days (the name applied to the jangle guitar- and tambourine-worshipping scene of early-80s L.A.). It begins with a vigorous drum roll, launching into a tight, catchy-as-hell rock tune with some neat tinkley electric piano and what was to become The Bangles' trademark--Susanna Hoffs' warm alto and the band's surround-sound backing harmonies. Despite it's inclusion on a psychedelic-revival box set, "Real World" is less a 60s retread than a power pop anthem in the the best Raspberries tradition. "Getting Out Of Hand," released when the girls were known as The Bangs, isn't as good--more an amateur garage-rock effort--but still an interesting early glimpse of the band.
Real World - The Bangles
Getting Out of Hand - The Bangs
The other thing that tipped my hand, Bangles-wise, was Moistworks posting "Hazy Shade of Winter," reminding me how much I love that song and how it was probably the only bright spot in the Just Say No embarrassment that was Less Than Zero. It's a Simon and Garfunkel cover, of course, and a vast improvement over the original. (Every tepid folk-pop song could use jingle bells and zippy lead electric guitar lines, right?) Which got me to thinking about that other fabulous cover, "Going Down to Liverpool," first performed by Katrina and The Waves. It's been years since I've heard the original, but if I recall correctly, the Bangles version is better--smoothing out a lot of the edges and awkwardness and infusing what's a really solid Merseybeat tune with infectious energy.
Not all Bangles covers work, of course. Their version of "September Gurls" while pleasant enough, is mediocre. But then I always think it's a mistake to try to cover Big Star.
Going Down To Liverpool - The Bangles
September Gurls - The Bangles