Thursday, January 12, 2006

Some jingle jangle morning

Bangles Liverpool

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


Blogger -tr0y- said...

"less than zero"--great book, painful movie. i also love "hazy shade"--and agree, yet again, its best to stay away from Big Star. (though i admittedly want to cover "i'm in love with a girl")

10:40 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Subversive troublemaker that I was, I wrote an optional essay on Less Than Zero (the book) my junior year of high school. And my English teacher (who had not read it, obvs.) liked it so much she asked me to read the essay in class. My classmates familiar with LTZ were in stitches. Here I was reading my scholarly, amply footnoted little paper about a book littered with casual sex and drugs--and ambivalent about them at best--our teacher smiling benignly. If only I could get away with stuff like that in the real world...

11:16 PM  
Blogger Jon said...

The Replacements pull off very "nice" things with September Gurls. If you need convincing, a post may be in the works.

6:56 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

Guess I have to hear that, Jon. Of course the Replacements had a song called "Alex Chilton," so you knew where loyalties lay there.

11:45 AM  
Anonymous david said...

I'd also argue that "Skyway" (one of my favorite Replacements' tunes) was pretty much a complete lift of Big Star's "Thirteen."

Anyway, thanks for posting "Going Down to Liverpool." My college band covered the Bangles cover, so lots of good memories here...

2:42 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

David, you're right. Skyway does bear the hallmarks of an intense Thirteen crush. The band that's ripped off Big Star more than any other, I think, is Teenage Fanclub. Bandwagonesque, anyone?

12:30 PM  
Blogger thevitaminkid said...

I was very pleased with the Bangles' comeback album, Doll Revolution. Certainly it is the equal of their previous two studio efforts. I don't remember this song from LTZ -- looking forward to hearing it.

12:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

my first exposure to big star was via the bangle's '85 cover of september gurls, so you gotta credit them for that. it took me years to realize that's where i first heard it . . .

9:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree completely that the Bangles' "Liverpool" > the original, and the Bangles' "September Gurls" < the original. One thing that should be mentioned is the Bangles' great TASTE in cover song choices (altho I don't understand how they picked "Doll Revolution" from the Elvis Costello catalog).

Amy, if you like old Bangles, you should hear their song "How Is the Air Up There". I was blown away to learn recently that Bangles bassist Michael Steele had been in the Runaways with Joan Jett back in the 1970's! -- jonhope

9:15 AM  

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