BANGLING (Memory Lane: The Bangles In the Eighties)

Back in the mid-eighties, some curmudgeonly grad-student who reviewed music for my local college newspaper (now long-defunct…I don’t know about these days, or even if they still have college newspapers anymore, but in those days curmudgeonly grad-students were pretty much standard issue for the music gig at a college paper), mentioned that the newly popular Bangles had left their best days behind them (as pretty much all bands do, of course, when they sell too many records to be a secret curmudgeons can keep to themselves anymore), and those of us not in the know should really hear their first LP, the one that hadn’t sold, or better yet, their one-and-only EP (which featured the standard “departed member”) or even better still, the truly obscure cover they had done of Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released.”

I either already had, or soon acquired, that first LP which really is their best and also really is one of the greatest albums ever made.

Soon after that, I found their EP, which was pretty fine, too.

Then I spent the ensuing thirty years buying whatever else they made and keeping a permanently frustrated eye out for that elusive Dylan song.

Since I couldn’t find it–or even a reference to it–anywhere, even in the age of YouTube and the internet, I finally decided that the curmudgeon must have made a mistake and meant to refer to their non-LP version of the Grassroots’ Dylanesque knockoff “Where Were You When I Needed You,” which had showed up on the band’s various best ofs over the years.

In other words I thought I was done with it.

Then this week arrives and I’m idly searching for something or other that leads me to a Greil Marcus column which is posted at his website (and which I would have seen a few years ago if The Believer, God love ’em, had let out another entry or two from behind the firewall) and, lo and behold, I find I’m not done with it at all.

Turns out the Bangles (or maybe just Susanna Hoffs), had done a Dylan song in 1984. Only it wasn’t “I Shall Be Released,” but “I’ll Keep It With Mine,” meaning I either misread, misremembered, or relied a bit too foolishly on the reading or remembering skills of a curmudgeonly grad student way back when).

And because we live in an age when YouTube is pretty much the only step forward mankind has made since at least 1980, I was even able to follow the link and hear the actual song, which, at least when you listen to the video version Marcus recommends, is everything he says it is and everything I might have wanted it to be after thirty years of waiting. (And in case you don’t care to follow the link, you can see and hear it in it’s all-everything-ness right here and now…)

Then you can go back, pre-fame, pre- anything but the naked ambition to forget the seventies ever happened and pick up the thread everybody else had let go and see where it could take them….

..or you can go forward, to five minutes before the standard-issue acrimonious breakup, when they were everything they ever wanted to be, including quite possibly the best rock and roll band in the world….I mean, laugh if you want, but do you really think anybody else could have come this close to proving it by way of Simon and Garfunkel?

Yeah, me neither….


3 thoughts on “BANGLING (Memory Lane: The Bangles In the Eighties)


    In 1984, I was living in Scottsdale and was a wee bit enamored of the Psychedelic Furs. When they came to play at the Mesa Amphitheatre, E and I sprung for tickets. This was a big deal for us, as we tended not to like LOUD live music (was there any other kind in the ’80s?) and the often rude (passive aggressive?) behavior of “concert” goers.

    It was a damn near perfect Arizona evening and we got there early to find choice spots on the grassy incline looking down into the stage. We were almost certainly high and possibly sharing a half a piece of acidized paper (those were the days).

    We had done no research and were unaware of who or what was opening for the Furs: even the tickets didn’t mention a second act. (–I/AAAAAAAChhw/NvxAqTH0Msc/s1600/psy_fur_stubs0001.jpg)

    So it was that an anonymous group of girls with instruments found their way onto the stage. I choose those words carefully: “girls” because they looked young, dressed young—like girls rather than women. And I say “found” because I swear they all looked and acted like they had just been jarred out of a long nap.

    E and I prepared for the worst . . .

    I really don’t remember their opening number nor do I care what their “set list” was. But I remember them (faultily perhaps) doing something by the Grass Roots (“Where Were You When I Needed You”?) and a few other ’60s classics (Yardbirds? Paul Revere & the Raiders?). We were pleasantly surprised by the lead singer’s ringing voice, the rough but fine harmonies, and the band’s instrumental chops.

    And how could we NOT like anything that even hinted at sounding like the Sixties?

    Somebody parked near us on the grass told us they were the Bangles and their first album come out recently. Said that if we liked this then we would like the album. And she was correct: we bought the album and played it all over the place for months!

    And how could we NOT like anything that sounded/felt like the Sixties?

    So I share your enthusiasm for their first long-player and thank you for including the video of “I’ll Keep It With Mine,” which I may have left this life-cycle without ever having been aware of otherwise.



    PS: The Furs followed the Bangles and were fab! I still think their second album TALK TALK TALK is one of the highlights of the 1980s.

    PPS: I like this little bit of remembering and I am gonna post it on my site with a couple of photos. hanks for the inspiration!!!

  2. Good stuff Neal. It’s funny because I’ve always liked the Bangles but I really didn’t bond with them completely until maybe the last five years or so…I’m going to have a long post up on the Go-Go’s in the next month or year that will partially explain the complicated reasons why! In my dream world, Susanna Hoffs would have been the lead singer in the Go-Go’s and Vicki Peterson’s best friend Susan Cowsill would have had Susanna’s place in the Bangles…Then again, who knows about that thing called chemistry. Maybe it wouldn’t have worked out for either band if it didn’t happen exactly the way it did. (I developed some of those thoughts here, coming from the other direction)

    I liked the Furs’ first two LPs BTW (and a fair amount of the usual-suspect cult bands of the time–Replacements, Husker Du, The Minutemen, etc.), but, for whatever reason, I’ve never found the last measure of love for any band that didn’t sell records after the Velvet Underground and Big Star (and even there, Lou Reed and Alex Chilton sold big in other contexts)…I suspect myself of being a “commericial snob” but I’ve never done the full investigation that would lay the matter to rest.

    Anyway, thanks for the notice and the link…I’ll wander over there at some point to take a look!

    P.S. (I know the Furs sold pretty darn well but I always had a sense any band that called themselves The Psychedelic Furs was planning to stay within certain limits!…which is my defintion of “cult”…arguable I know.)

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