Monday, February 18, 2013

Bangles -- "Hero Takes a Fall" (1984)

Wasn't it me who said
There'll be a price to pay

Three O'Clock, Rain Parade, Green on Red, Dream Syndicate -- does anyone remember the "Paisley Underground" groups from Los Angeles whose music was inspired by the Byrds, the Beach Boys, the Buffalo Springfield, the Doors and the other great L.A. bands their parents had listened to in the 1960s?

Michael Quercio, the lead singer of Three O'Clock (the band's name was inspired by an F. Scott Fitzgerald line: "In the darkest part of the mind it's always three o'clock in the morning"), gave the Paisley Underground genre its name during a radio interview.  

"Basically, we were all record collectors who played music," said Quercio.  Classic pop albums like the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds were "certainly a big deal to us," he added.  

So it should come as no surprise that the Paisley Underground bands played a lot of covers of sixties songs -- the songs that their parents had listened to twenty years earlier.  (The Rainy Day album, a collaboration between members of several Paisley Underground bands that was released in 1984, featured covers of songs by Bob Dylan, the Byrds, Neil Young, the Beach Boys, the Who, Lou Reed, and Jimi Hendrix.) 

The Paisley Underground band that had the most commercial success by far was the all-female group, the Bangles.  All Over the Place, the band's major-label debut album, is one of the great power-pop records of all time.

The second Bangles album, Different Light, featured "Manic Monday" (which Prince wrote for them), "Walk Like an Egyptian" (the first single by an all-female band playing their own instruments to make it to #1 on the Billboard singles chart), and a cover of Big Star's "September Gurls."

But just when the Bangles were blowing up, they blew up.  All four of the group's members were singers/songwriters, but Susanna Hoffs began to attract the lion's share of attention from the media, so the band's record label began to release songs on which Hoffs was the lead singer as singles. 

The Bangles: Susanna Hoffs, Michael
Steele, Debbi Peterson, Vicki Peterson
Hoffs started to get all the attention in part because she was featured in the 1987 movie, The Allnighter -- a huge box-office and critical bomb that was directed by her  mother.  Here's the trailer for that movie, which also featured Joan Cusack (you remember her from Working Girl) and Michael Ontkean (you remember him from Slap Shot):

The most famous scene from the movie features Susanna undressing in front a mirror and dancing around in her knickers.  If the movie has consisted of two hours of this kind of thing, it would have made about a zillion dollars.  Boys and girls, Susanna Hoffs is not only a great pop singer but a grade-A hottie . . . although it's a little creepy when you realize that her mom directed this scene.

The Bangles broke up shortly after the release of their third album, Everything, in 1988.  It was a commercial success, and included the group's biggest-selling single, "Eternal Flame."  Hoffs recorded that song in the nude because the album's producer told her that Olivia Newton-John always was naked when she recorded vocals.

(You know, I wanted to be a record producer but my parents would only pay for law school.)

The Bangles got back together ten years later.  They toured extensively last year in support of their 2011 album, Sweetheart of the Sun.  

Susanna Hoffs is still drop-dead gorgeous.  She recently turned 54, but I think she is even more beautiful today than she was back in the eighties.

Here's "Hero Takes a Fall," the first track from All Over the Place.  It's full of jangly guitars and glorious harmonies and any of you who don't like it are banned from 2 or 3 lines for life.  The music video for the song is really goofy -- as were a lot of the music videos from that era -- but the song itself is three minutes of perfection:

And take a gander at this live (not lip-synched) performance of the song on David Letterman's show -- Susanna plays a pretty mean rhythm guitar.  (What was Letterman thinking when he got dressed for that show?)

Click here to buy the song from Amazon:


  1. Oh my! The "All Over the Place" cover with the record player built into a decommissioned vacuum cleaner! I was listening to the radio one night and heard "Live" by the Bangles--it was one of those songs (like "You and Me and Mexico") that had rattled around in my head for years but I never had an artist or an exact title. It was after 9PM, but I raced up to Canterbury Records in Pasadena and found a copy. I also saw them (or 75% of them--they had a replacement bass player) at a music festival in Alhambra a few years ago. They sang "Live", as well as "Manic Monday" and "Walk Like an Egyptian". For those not familiar with Los Angeles area geography, Alhambra is the city just east of downtown LA that was Phil Spector's home until the State of California became his housing provider. My day job took me to the vicinity of his "Pyrenees Castle" abode when I was sent to repair a truck radio for a crew working nearby. Another live music experience on the other side of Alhambra was a church festival featuring Marcy Levy (a.k.a. Marcella Detroit). I had seen her at Art Fein's Elvis Birthday Bash a number of times, and spotted a notice of this gig in a weekly newspaper. Apparently the man in charge of the festival knew Ms Levy's manager and engaged her for the show. She sang several numbers from her then-new CD "The Upside of Being Down". Back in the 20th Century, she sang background on some of Eric Clapton's albums and co-wrote several songs, including "Lay Down Sally". Getting back to Ms. Hoffs--I'm probably one of the few people who actually saw "The All-nighter" in a movie theater. During this same period I also saw Joan Jett in "Light of Day". And yes, Ms Hoffs is indeed a foxy lady. Thanks for the video link--the Bangles can rock your socks off!

  2. "Live" (originally by the Merry-Go-Round, which was fronted by Emitt Rhodes) is a GREAT song, and I almost featured it instead of "Hero Takes a Fall." (If you paid good money to see "The All-Nighter," you obviously have almost as big a crush on Susanna Hoffs as you do on Evie Sands! :-)

  3. I have never had a chance to chat with Susanna, while I have known Evie for over 12 years now, and could go on for quite a spell with stories about "The Inimitable Empress of Soul/Pop". She is a truly nice person who has led me down many musical paths.