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The Bangles

The Bangles

Beware of novelty songs. It may be fun to do one. A goofy idea. But bands rarely think it could be the song they are remembered for. Despite other great performances, the Bangles and "Walk Like An Egyptian" are eternally linked. The Bangles had two #1 songs, the aforementioned novelty and the dreamy ballad "Eternal Flame." Based on that, it would be easy to dismiss the Bangles as a simple pop/rock confection. Actually, they had a more going for them.

For an earlier group, guitarist Vicki Peterson bought a drum set for her sister Debbi. They were joined by singer/guitarist Susanna Hoffs. Annette Zilinskas handled bass. First as the Supersonic Bangs, then the Bangs, they began their recording career with an indie label. Nothing happened. On top of that, they had to change their name again because there was already a group recording as the Bangs. Participating on a Rock radio station compilation album brought them to the attention of Miles Copeland head of I.R.S. Records. Another mini-project resulted. After that they landed with Columbia Records.

Figuring there was a better opportunity with Blood On The Saddle or perhaps artistic differences, who knows, Zilinskas soon left and was replaced by Michael Steele.

"All Over The Place" was the Bangles first full CD. While it never really did that well, all the key elements were in place. Namely, clean, tight rhythms, jangling guitars and Hoff's expressive voice.

"Different Light" was a virtual "best of" album. "Manic Monday" was written for the Bangles by Prince and was kept out of the #1 pop spot by the Artist's own "Kiss." Songwriter Jules Shear contributed "If She Knew What She Wants." Overall, it was the best song and performance. Then there was "Walk Like An Egyptian." Believe it or not, one hit wonder Toni Basil rejected the song. The fourth single was the loping good-time Rocker "Walking Down Your Street."

"Hazy Shade Of Winter" was probably the toughest song Simon and Garfunkel recorded in their '60s Folk-pop heyday. For the "Less Than Zero" soundtrack, the Bangles blasted it. The guitar riff, acoustic on the original, got Peterson's full-on electric treatment. It was one of the best covers ever. The "Everything" album appeared next and had "In Your Room" and "Be With You." Both were hard charging Rock 'n' Roll songs. The album also contained the ballad "Eternal Flame." The Bangles parted company shortly thereafter. They'd probably lost the will to perform "Walk Like An Egyptian" in concert anymore. Hoffs pursued a modest solo career. But like numerous groups, the Bangles returned. Perhaps Rock retirement isn't all it's cracked up to be or the royalty checks had dribbled to nothing. Either way, "Doll Revolution" arrived in '03.

Steele quit in '05 and was replaced by Abby Travis for live appearances, but she was not an official member. To wrap up the year, Hoffs, Travis, and the Petersons performed "Hazy Shade Of Winter" and "Eternal Flame" at Times Square as part of Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve 2006.

Five years later, "Sweetheart Of The Sun" came out. "As we were finishing the record, we started to realize there was a unifying theme - paradise lost in Southern California, the perception juxtaposed with the reality of it," explained Hoffs. "L.A. is like paradise - the sun shines 360 days a year, the flowers are always in bloom - but meanwhile, so many people are walking around alienated, depressed and anxious."
The Bangles Discography

1984 All Over The Place
1986 Different Light
1988 Everything
1990 Greatest Hits
1995 September Gurls
2003 Doll Revolution
2011 Sweetheart Of The Sun

After releasing an EP on the Faulty Products label and contributing to Rough Trade's "Rainy Day" compilation, the Bangles made their major label debut with "All Over The Place." This album is a serious Rocker. The catchy put-down of "Hero Takes A Fall" and the hard charging frustration on the cover of Katrina & the Waves' "Going Down To Liverpool" are impressive. "Different Light" and the group's last album "Everything" ("Be With You" and "In Your Room") have plenty to recommend them and little to criticize. The "Greatest Hits" is just that.

The Bangles' trademark sound is in place on "Doll Revolution." After a lengthy time away, many groups either try to re-image themselves or recapture their sound. These efforts usually end as embarrassing failures. However, the Bangles have done a dead-on impersonation of their younger selves. The CD opens with a strong cover of Elvis Costello's "Tear Off Your Own Head (It's A Doll Revolution)." "Something You Said" and "Ride The Ride" are pure Bangles while "Single By Choice" sounds like the other side of "Manic Monday." The album breaks no new ground but that really wasn't an expectation. For fans of the group's '80s sound this is a treat.

The Bangles veer toward Folk ("Anna Lee") and Country Rock ("Ball N' Chain" and the ballad "Through Your Eyes") on "Sweetheart Of The Sun." The jangling guitars from their heyday are largely absent - album closer "Open My Eyes" is the closest they come to vintage Bangles. Rather, "What A Life," with a double time feeling, is pure fun. "I'll Never Be Through With You," a song of longing, and the captivating "Sweet And Tender Romance" have surprising emotional depth.

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