Song Of The Day – “The Hero Takes A Fall” by The Bangles

banglesPower pop doesn’t get any better than this!

Along with The Go-Go’s, The Bangles were the main purveyors of the 1980s girl group sound. But while The Go-Go’s were lightweight and effervescent, The Bangles’ brand of rock was rooted in the sound of The Byrds and early Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, giving them much more clout with critics and music aficionados alike.

After forming out of the Los Angeles “Paisley Underground” music scene and changing their name from The Bangs to Bangles, sisters Vickie Peterson on guitar and Debbie Peterson on drums, plus Susanna Hoffs on guitar and Michael Steele (formerly of The Runaways) on bass (replacing original member Annette Zilinskas) brought the girl group sound into the modern rock era with All Over The Place, their full-length debut album for Columbia Records. (The group had already released an EP on the independent Faulty Products record label produced by Miles Copeland.)

While the album only got up to number 80 on the U.S. charts, it did include the classic single “Going Down To Liverpool” which was written by Kimberly Rew of Katrina & The Waves and received heavy rotation on MTV. Also included were a few other classic FM radio staples that helped establish The Bangles as an underground hipster band, including “All About You” and their superb cover of the Merry-Go-Round’s 1966 hit “Live,” that in a perfect world, would have been a chart topper. Across the pond, “Going Down To Liverpool” climbed into the British top 40 and won a BPI Award (the British equivalent of The Grammy) for the album.

Even though their 1984 album All Over The Place received pretty good exposure on MTV and sold respectively well, it took the involvement of Prince to break the band big. Prince had written the song “Manic Monday” (under the pseudonym Christopher, his character in the movie Under the Cherry Moon) for his girl group, Apollonia  6 in 1984 and then left it unreleased in the can. After hearing The Bangles’ recording of today’s Song Of The Day, Prince contacted Hoffs and offered the group the song.

With some very commercial sounding production courtesy of David Kahne (who has produced everyone from Bruce Springsteen and Paul McCartney to The Strokes and Sugar Ray), their next album Different Light was the one that made them worldwide sensations. It included their version of “Manic Monday,” which went all the way to number two on the pop charts, plus it also featured the Jules Shear-penned hit “If She Knew What She Wants” (a top 30 hit), “Walking Down Your Street” and “Walk Like An Egyptian” which ultimately topped the American singles charts.

“Walk Like An Egyptian” was written by Liam Sternberg who initially offered it to Toni Basil to record. After she turned the song down, it found its way into the hands of producer David Kahne, who in turn, shared it with the Bangles.

If The Bangles drew you in with the jangly brand of power pop of All Over The Place, they certainly lost you by the time of “Walk Like An Egyptian.” Kahne gave the group’s sound a radio-ready sheen that smoothed out all of their edge. As a result, they soon conquered the charts again (#2) with their cover of Paul Simon’s “Hazy Shade Of Winter” from the Less Than Zero film soundtrack, and their 1988 album called Everything (which contrary to its title, wasn’t).

The group became MTV darlings and turned into one of the many faceless entities churning out successful chart pabulum like “In Your Room” which climbed to #5, and even worse yet, “Eternal Flame,” which topped the charts, while totally losing their credibility and the lion share of their original fan base.

Meanwhile behind the scenes, acrimony was brewing within the band over the fact that Hoffs was singled out as the leader by the press because she sang the lead vocals of most of their singles. In reality, the group evenly shared the vocal duties, and co-wrote most of their songs together as well.

Shortly after Everything, the group broke up and Vicki Peterson went on to replace Charlotte Caffey in The Go-Go’s. She would also join The Continental Drifters and record alongside her future sister-in-law Susan Cowsill of The Cowsills. Meanwhile, Hoffs tried her hand at a solo career, releasing two albums that went nowhere, and Debbie Peterson formed the group Kindred Spirit with British singer/songwriter Siobhan Maher.  Steele retired from the music industry and settled down in California.

The group reformed again in 1999 to record the song “Get The Girl” for the movie Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, and in 2003 they recorded the Elvis Costello penned single “Doll Revolution” which was the title track to their comeback album. Their latest album, Sweetheart Of The Sun, was released in 2011.