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== Introduction ==
Growing up in the 80's I went through a few different phases in my musical tastes. At the time of first hearing The Bangles, the nucleus of my favourite band at the time; Duran Duran had just split up, I was in limbo musically. I started listening to older stuff, rummaging around my dads record collection, I picked up on the whole Elvis thing, and revisited The Beatles for a while, chart stuff didn't really entertain me, it still doesn't, although occasionally something comes along to make me sit up and take notice. That something happened one cold and frosty morning in January 1986, I was watching my usual breakfast television before heading off to school, when I saw these girls singing and playing the most amazing song I had heard in a long time, I sat up and took notice....
== The Bangles ==
The Bangles were formed in Los Angeles in 1980 with sisters Debbi (Drums, Vocals) & Vicki Peterson (Guitar, Vocals) and Susannah Hoffs (Guitar, Vocals), they underwent a number of name changes and a couple of bass players before settling on calling themselves The Bangles and with a new bass player in the shape of Michael Steele the lineup was complete. The bands influences were bands like The Beatles and other bands from the sixties, and this influence is clear on a lot of their tracks, they definitely have a sixties sound to them, with an up to date punchier sound, heavy jangling guitars a plenty. The band had minor success with their debut album 'All Over The Place', this minor success didn't go completely unnoticed though, as it brought them to the attention of Prince, who gave them a song he had written for another band of his. The song brought the band instant success and along with their 1985 album 'A Different Light' they couldn't seem to do any wrong. All seemed to be looking good from the outside, but internally there was a lot of friction, which seemed to revolve around the treatment of Susanna Hoffs as the leader of the group. On the albums, all the band members got an equal share of lead vocal duties, but the record company kept pushing for singles featuring Hoffs as lead. Nevertheless, the band continued to record and released what would be their final studio album in 1988, 'Everything'. Their final album didn't do as well as its predecessor, but it did spawn their only UK number one single and their biggest hit, ' Eternal Flame'. It was just after this album release, that the band just went their separate ways, they have since reformed and still continue to record and release new material, although it's safe to say that their best period appears on this Greatest Hits compilation, released not long after 'Everything'.
== Track By Track ==
=== Hero Takes a Fall ===
The album kicks off in style with this power pop number taken from their debut album 'All Over The Place' . 'Hero Takes a Fall' was composed by Susanna Hoffs and Vicki Peterson, with the former taking lead vocal responsibilities. This was the third single to be released by the band and the first one to actually chart, albeit at a lowly number 96 on the UK Singles Chart, this was a good taster of things to come however. The Bangles distinctive guitar sound with a nice blend of vocal harmonies was already evident on this track.
=== Going Down To Liverpool ===
What might you ask did The Bangles know about Liverpool? Well they knew The Beatles came from there, and they were big fans, as is evident from the sound of some of their songs. This song was actually written in 1984 by Katrina and The Waves guitarist Kimberley Rew. Katrina and the Waves did eventually record this the following year and it was released on the B-side to their smash hit 'Walking on Sunshine'. 'Going Down To Liverpool' features Debbi Peterson on lead vocal duties, this would be the first of two singles in which she performs lead, the other being the bands last single to hit the charts; 'Be With You'. This song didn't do great when it was first released, failing to make an impact in the charts. It wasn't until The Bangles album 'A Different Light' was released to public acclaim, that the band cashed in and re-released this, even then it only managed to reach number 56 in the UK Singles Chart. While it didn't have the same appeal as some of their bigger hits, it is still a great little sing along song.
=== Manic Monday ===
This is the song that brought the band global success, written by Prince and ironically kept off the number one spot in four countries by Prince with his song 'Kiss'. I remember when this song came out, it was like a breath of fresh air, frantically rushing to the shops to buy the latest edition of Smash Hits, to see if the lyrics were in there, (I had no dinner on Smash Hits day, buying a copy of Smash Hits and being the envy of my peers was more important than buying dinner). There was a few of us in my class (all male) that seemed to get the whole thing with The Bangles back then, there's just something about a girl playing a guitar that just does it for me. The song has a distinctive piano intro, which is played throughout, Susanna Hoffs sings lead on this track, with the rest of the band providing some really nice harmonies.
=== If She Knew What She Wants ===
Another track with Hoffs taking lead vocal duties, 'If She Knew What She Wants' was the follow up single to 'Manic Monday'. he record buying public didn't really take to this track in the same way as its predecessor, I don't understand why, I think it is a really beautiful slow number, without a doubt one of my favourites, from the nice guitar intro, to the tight harmonies, to the last beats, this is a perfect love song in my eyes.This reached number 31 in the UK Singles Chart and number 29 in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.
=== Walk Like An Egyptian ===
After the reissue of 'Going Down To Liverpool', the band were once again back in the top ten of the UK Singles Chart with this catchy number and one of their best known songs; 'Walk Like An Egyptian' is a pop song that had many a grown man and woman strutting their stuff on the dance floor, I still see it happening today in places like Brannigans and Reflex 80's Bars etc, people just can't help themselves when this comes on. Each band member takes a turn at vocals on this, except Debbi (her vocal not deemed good enough, so she has a section where she whistles and shakes her tambourine, just before Hoffs finishes the song off with the final verse). This single was released September 1986, and reached a very respectable number 3 in the UK Singles Charts and number 1 in three other countries, including the U.S Billboard Top 100. Another bit of trivia here for you, the composer of this song, Liam Sternberg, actually offered this to Toni Basil of 'Hey Mickey' fame and she turned it down, I quite like this happy little twists of fate. I can actually imagine Toni doing a good job on this.
=== Walking Down Your Street ===
'Walking Down Your Street' was written by Louis Guitterez, Susanna Hoffs, and David Kahne, with Hoffs taking up lead vocal duties. This is another poppy number, which to me doesn't sound too far off 'Manic Monday' in my opinion, it has that same kind of mixture of pop and rock through it. It is easy to see why Susanna Hoffs was kind of put to the forefront with vocals like this, she just has a certain charisma about her when she sings. This song was released as a single in 1986 and reached number 16 in the UK Singles Chart and number 11 In the U.S. Billboard Top 100.
=== Following ===
Michael Steele sings lead vocals on this song that she composed for 'A Different Light'. This appears to be just Michael performing on her own, it is a stripped down acoustic track, quite like a modern day blues number. The sound is definitely unlike any of the bands other material, and in my opinion is a nice welcome change from the poppier sounds on this album. This became the fifth single released from 'A Different Light' and only charted at number 55 in the UK Singles Chart, this was probably due to the band not promoting it, which probably lead to some of the tensions within the group no doubt.
=== A Hazy Shade of Winter ===
Next up we have a cover of a Simon & Garfunkel song, with a heavier arrangement than the folksy original, this was done as part of the soundtrack to a film called 'Less Than Zero', which starred Andrew McCarthy and Robert Downey Jnr. Each member of the band had equal lead vocal duties, yes, including Debbi this time. This song didn't appear on any of the bands studio albums and was released as a single where it reached number 2 in the U.S Billboard Top 100, surpassing the original version which reached number 13, the song also reached number 11 in the UK, whereas the original had reached number 30. Is this song better than the original? I would have to say that I do prefer the edgier sound that this version has compared to the original, but I like them both equally. I had actually heard this version before I heard Simon and Garfunkels and I was quite surprised when I heard the original at just how different the two versions were.
=== In Your Room ===
Hoffs sings lead vocals on this song which she co-wrote with Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg. The song has a sixties feel to it, with a bit of psychedelia thrown in towards the end. The vocal just oozes sexuality so much so, that you really do believe it when Hoffs sings "You won't regret it if you let me stay, I'll teach you everything that a boy should know" (c'mon, I was a teenager when this came out.). This was released as a single in October 1988 and fared a lot better in the U.S., hitting number 5 in the Billboard Hot 100, whereas over here we didn't really take to it all that well and it only managed a dismal 35 position, had The Bangles star started to wane?
=== Eternal Flame ===
.........Not a chance, there was no sign that the end was nigh, with this worldwide smash hit, 'Eternal Flame', this was also their first and only UK number one single, I couldn't believe it either. The song was written by Hoffs, Steinberg and Kelly, and happened after a visit to Memphis. The Bangles went to the site of Elvis Presley's memorial in Graceland where there is an Eternal Flame, as soon as this came up in conversation to songwriter Steinberg, he recalled a moment similar in Palm Springs, where there is also an Eternal Flame at a synagogue, and so the song was born. For this track, all the guitars and heavy drums and bass were stripped back, it has almost a girl group feel to it, will I get into trouble by saying this departure was similar to Buddy Holly when he recorded 'True Love Ways'? (Granted, Buddy was innovative in his move away from guitars and drums). I remember watching the video for this before school as I usually did on some breakfast television programme (We didn't have hundreds of music channels back then, we had to make do with the occasional snippet of music here and there). I was going through my Elvis phase big time when this came on the television and it kind of struck a chord with me, because I had read about the Eternal Flame in books about Elvis, and at first I thought it was an Elvis tribute. This is a lovely tune, that later became a number one for UK based girl group, Atomic Kitten, although The Bangles version is a lot better in my opinion.
=== Be With You ===
The band would have probably retained more dignity had they stopped with their last single 'Eternal Flame', if only they had called it a day publicly, then used the last single as their swansong, the band might have gained more respect. The bitching and backbiting had taken its toll on the group and they just seemed to be going through the motions, but they were going through them pretty well, no one on the outside knew they were imploding. 'Be With You' was the third single taken from their album, 'Everything' and was their lowest American Chart position, reaching number 30, it didn't fare much better over here either, just reaching number 23 in the UK Singles Chart. The song was written by Debbi Peterson and Walter Iglehart and is the second single on which she performed lead vocals, don't let all this deter you, this is not a bad track by any means. The song is an uptempo number and it has some lovely harmonies on it and again, a sixties feel to it, like a song I've heard before but I can't quite place where, a very underrated track.
=== I'll Set You Free ===
This song has an anthemic feel to it, with the lead vocal in the intro being performed to a backdrop of drums, before the rest of the band kick in. 'I'll Set You Free' was written by Susanna Hoffs, Eric Lowen and Dan Navarro. It is unlike any of their other much more commercial sounding singles, being the fourth taken from their final studio album 'Everything', the band were pretty much over and this reflected on their record sales, with this only managing to reach number 74 in the UK Singles Charts and failing to chart at all in the States. I still wouldn't say this was a weak track, I have heard better bands than The Bangles release stuff worse than this.
=== Everything I Wanted ===
This song was written by Hoffs for the album 'Everything', for some reason it was discarded until appearing on this compilation the following year, it was also released as a single but didn't chart. I love the harmonies in the middle of the song, before the instrumental break. This is a great up tempo number and one can't help think that had it been released during the bands lifetime it surely would have become a hit.
=== Where Were You When I Needed You ===
This track first appeared as the B-Side to 'Hero Takes a Fall' in 1984, it is a cover of a song originally recorded by The Grass Roots (an American rock band who had moderate success in the U.S between 1966 and 1975). This sounds like something I could imagine Wilson Phillips singing, it has those nice three part harmonies that were evident on their worldwide smash 'Hold On'. This is a nice folksy type of song, too good in my opinion for a B-Side, so I am glad it appeared on this album, it is a nice song to end the album with.
== Track Listing ==
1 - Hero Takes a Fall
2 - Going Down to Liverpool
3 - Manic Monday
4 - If She Knew What She Wants
5 - Walk Like an Egyptian
6 - Walking Down Your Street
7 - Following
8 - A Hazy Shade of Winter
9 - In Your Room
10 - Eternal Flame
11 - Be With You
12 - I'll Set You Free
13 - Everything I Wanted
14 - Where Were You When I Needed You
== Price ==
You can purchase this from www.amazon.co.uk for £4.10 for the audio CD, or you can buy the MP3 version for £5.99, if you don't want to wait for the CD to get delivered. Either format is a great price in my opinion, there isn't a single bad track on this album, so you are effectively getting 14 decent songs for such a low price.
== Verdict ==
This is a fantastic compilation album, all the hits are here and every one of these songs could have been a bigger hit (aside from Eternal Flame of course, that was massive anyway). What I mean is, even the earlier songs that weren't big hits, could have and should have been. This is an album that definitely takes me back to a time when girl and boy bands actually played instruments, unlike todays manufactured pop nonsense. I have all The Bangles albums, but this is the one that gets played the most, just for the sheer consistency of the tracks, there isn't a single bad song on here, each song is as good as the song that preceded it. I would say that this is a great starting point for anyone who has heard the odd one or two tracks and wants to hear more from The Bangles, there is definitely more to them than 'Walk Like An Egyptian'. Overall 5/5 stars from me!
Amidst dramas of reunions and minor disagreements the music of The Bangles has often stood the test of time and I'm often taken back to my school days in the 1980's when it comes to playing their music. Mostly remembered for their glossy voices, harmonies and to some extent the sexual thinking behind four beautiful women in a soft rock band, The Bangles were one of the first of many all women bands who weren't afraid to cruise along softly between mild post-punk/Garage sounds to soft rock. In terms of musical output, the Bangles hardly wrote a large discography too, only producing five albums before slipping off their own bangles once and for all. Much talk has always been around of a reunion although it remains to be seen what The Bangles would produce now in terms of a highly commercial album sitting against the grains of a much younger profile. Aside from Prince writing two of the more famous songs on this album there are other songs written by a writer who would also write in later years for single artists such as Cyndi Lauper (Steinberg.)
The usefulness of this album however isn't just the fact that it is really one of the most available albums by The Bangles (there is another album called "greatest hits," but its rather pricey and import only) but also serves its purpose well fitting into an "easy listening" category rather than soft rock, which 1980's band "Heart" are more famed for. The Bangles consist of: Michael Steele, Susanna Hoffs, Vicki Peterson and Debbi Peterson. All four ladies sing and play guitar, with Debbi Peterson being the drummer too - what a talented quartet! This is a long review.
** Track listings: **
1) Hero Takes A Fall
The first song on this album paves the way for a mix of styles; fast basic rock beat which is a good start to this album, echoing faders in on the female backing vocals and a rising bass line. However as much as this is a song, which is supposed to be kicking, it doesn't gel enough for me and appears as if instrumentals have just been pushed together. At times with the guitars there are similarities with the rushed rock of "The Go-Go's," but as soon as this song starts up, it is easily forgotten despite lyrics that fill out the verses. It seems ironic to think about the latter band as three members out of four from The Bangles would go onto work with "The Go-Go's" later on.
2) Going Down to Liverpool
I rather like this song not just because in some way it paves a tribute to The Beatles, but because of the general feeling of this song with good lyrics blending in and out, an easy to remember chorus and a basic change to the verse with "Hey, where are you going with your UB40 in your hand?" and it is not sung by the squeaky clean Ms Hoffs either which is a nice change from the first song and suits a lower female voice as such.
If anything the content of the song is all about going to Liverpool, living and life about nothing and as such although the song has a pleasant way about it, it moves quickly through the verses thanks to the easy to listen instrumentals. I rather like it for its basic fluidity and its quick beat, suitable for driving along to.
3) Manic Monday
This is a classic song amongst fans of this band. If you have never heard it, then where have you been? This song has always been destined to live in a timeless world thanks to constant radio air play not just because of its lyrical content to face working/life on a Monday morning, if not just for the day after a free weekend, but also the fact that "Manic Monday" does very little wrong having been written by Prince, the artist.
Infact musically it has that typical feel of a Prince song from the 1980's even if it has glissando swaying lines between guitars and synthesizers. A bonus fact though is that this song contains elements of another fast rocker song, "1999" by Prince in the verses of this song by The Bangles. No wonder its included on many 1980's compilations.
4) If She Knew What She Wants
There is a slight tinge of T'Pau in the way this song starts even though it is dissolved immediately by a similar accompaniment by "Manic Monday," standards. What is more of yet another throwback to The Beatles is a strong backing vocal chorus behind Susanna's clear voice, and as the song starts you get to hear the chorus right at the start which always paves the way for the though of whether the song gets stronger or falls down by the wayside. But the mix of backing vocals and main voice gets stronger even though the chorus comes all too sudden after a lifting middle bridge. A short guitar solo, intricate at times adds interest but generally there is a strong defiance behind Susanna's voice despite the backing vocals adding more to the story of the lyrics. The only question the listener will be faced with is "what will he give her?"
5) Walk Like An Egyptian
One of my favourite songs, not just because of its hard edged and fast rocking beat; you can't fail to hear Egyptian/Middle Eastern sounding clichés of music in the way this song develops, even though it contains plenty of tambourines which Stevie Nicks would be jealous of. Engineered to be fast moving not just by the rock and roll style bass line, the lyrics are worth checking out just to listen to the shortness of the words and how fast they actually go through the verses. At times the vocals in general are somewhat haunting but the guitars and the moving chords dissolve them too quickly.
Even though it contains a very fast bass line rock and roll style, and an unauthenticated human whistle (it's actually a keyboard) this is a song which gets your feet moving even if you pretend to an Egyptian dance and sing "Oh-Way-Oh!" in the privacy of your home, these girls will guarantee that somewhere and someway you'll end up moving or walking like an "Egyptian".
6) Walking Down Your Street
An unusual song, it uses similar architecture to the latter song, "Walk Like An Egyptian," with a moving bass line. It could well be a song that Debbie Harry threw out in lieu of better songs for her solo career, but it sits very closely to a similar commercial sound, even though some lyrics are lost. This song also has elements of "Love Shack," by the B52's, but echoes and faders on the vocals and the warmth of the female voices soon lift it even though at times they sing together in unison (all one line) as opposed to harmonies.
Following is a song that may surprise you. It doesn't have any rock beats, no fast shakes of the tambourine, but some pre-recorded vocals waving in and out against the main lyrics of this sorrowful song. Tie in an acoustic electric guitar that hasn't been ironed out to hide the frets and twinges at the end of the chords, but in a bluesy way, the song takes on a good challenge of combining rising and sustained the girl's singing backing vocals against the sadness of this song.
8) Hazy Shade of Winter
And it's not long before The Bangles are back to their hippy chick rock band style. Although the song took on a minor film promotion in the 1980's film "Less Than Zero," the song is better known for the fact that it is actually written by Simon & Garfunkel. You can't fail to notice its hard rock edged beat surrounded by the revengeful Susanna Hoffs singing this song, even though there is some funky Harpsichord throughout the song against the jarring electrical guitars, electric Hammond organ and unfortunately an electric sounding chorus of brass. Infact if you banged your head to this song, you could be forgiven!
9) In Your Room
What makes this song tick is the inclusion of timpani drums, which come in and out of music in off beats. Whilst the guitar plays out the verse, it is another fast rocker but not as fast as "Hazy Shade of Winter." The song also uses the same music architecture as most Bangles hits, even though this song feels a lot more planted without going out the window. Listen out for the middle bridge where Ms Hoffs begins to get bluesier with the music. Even though in the last sections of the song, the feeling of this song still imparts itself well even though it becomes bombarded with pre recorded overdubs at the end and an Asian sounding string section which makes no sense whatsoever. Fab!
10) Eternal Flame
Thanks to "Atomic Kitten," this is one song that you will either love or loathe. In its original basis however this is a song that I have never been shy to admit I like and I couldn't stand the wishy washy quality of Atomic Kitten's version. Whilst it has a twee sounding see saw of keyboards and an Indian bell sounding off in between the song, it could well have a slow Calypso sound if it wasn't for the synth string orchestra and electric guitar playing in between, the lyrics are extremely realistic even though it reveals some weakness in Susanna's voice as she rises upwards.
Get your lighters out then the next time you hear this song, it certainly is one of the highlights of the early 1980's in respect to slow ballads of love and sorrow. Some people I know in my generation snogged to this on the dance floor! It is one of those songs that if you allow it too, will raise a few hairs on the back of your neck but you won't be cut down for shedding a tear either.
11) Be With You
Now this is one song which sits very close to Debbie Harry, even the singer in this song could so easily have sampled Debbie's voice using a rock march beat typical of the 1980's period, glistening electric piano keyboards in and out against a deep synth group of keyboards which aren't ashamed of making their presence known.
However as easy as the lyrics are, sometimes the verses get lost and the middle bridge sounds very unsupported as the song tries to change its movement. It's an okay song but I can't believe it's a hit - it is certainly one song that passes you by for all that it has been electronically engineered against a hard rock beat.
12) I'll Set You Free
A slow ballad of sorts this time, almost an 8 beat with a good start by Susanna. However what I like about this song is that it has a decent set of lyrics in the verses, and at times they rhyme very well. Another aspect to look out for is the fact that the chorus is really easy to get along with and the acoustics of the studio when this song was initially recorded are easy to hear. I love the sound of the electric guitar, which has similar styles to the guitar played on "Highway Runner," by Donna Summer, around the 1981 period.
13) Everything I Wanted
This is a previously unreleased song on the album and was possibly included onto the greatest hits package as a way of a sweetener. Another rock and roll number, it is easy to confuse yourself with the last song's words when Susanna sings "Everything I wanted," before this song starts up again. As the song nears to the end, it's easy to hear that this is one of those songs that could really come alive if played in a live setting.
14) Where Were You When I Needed You?
Well if there was proof that The Bangles could do a slow country number then this is it, even if there are shades of Velvet Underground in this song. Whilst it adds interest to the fact that it is at the end of the album, it's a good song to include here even though its not one that I have ever heard of before until I bought this very album and suddenly that's the last song!
The inlay booklet is a delight but for the period something special with footnotes and some wonderful pictures. It is a shame though that at times there are some songs which appear dated, and sound similar to other bands - certainly the songs which made great airwaves here in the UK; "Manic Monday," "Walk Like An Egyptian," "Eternal Flame," and to some degree, "Hazy Shade of Winter," this is about the only album where you can find all the great songs of The Bangles come together as one.
When I bought my CD in Woolworths in 2006 it cost me £3-99. Now three years on the album can still be purchased from Amazon from the same price, making this glittering album a bit of a bargain. Whilst it is not abrasive, it is easy to see and hear how this album could be forgotten - but for 1980's diehards, it's an album that is very much honoured. Thanks for reading. ©Nar2 2009.
"Bangles Greatest Hits"
Released 1990 Sony Music
Cat No: 466769 2
(This is a great website where the lyrics of the songs can be seen & videos but unfortunately there are no free downloads of the actual whole album.)
http://www.amazon.com/Greatest-Hits-Bangles/dp/B00000273M (Real Player)
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Hero takes a fall
2 Going down to Liverpool
3 Manic monday
4 If she knew what she wants
5 Walk like an Egyptian
6 Walking down your street
8 Hazy shade of winter
9 In your room
10 Eternal flame
11 Be with you
12 I'll set you free
13 Everything I wanted
14 Where were you when I needed you