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The Bangles
Ladies And Gentlemen... The Bangles!
Omnivore Recordings

The Bangles formed in 1981 and were spiralling upwards throughout the 80s with their albums All Over the Place (1984), Different Light (1986), and Everything (1988), peaking with the hit singles "Manic Monday" and "Walk Like an Egyptian" (both 1986), plus of course the massive hit "Eternal Flame" off their third album. The band folded in 1989, but reformed ten years later 1999, and, well... they're still active. Which was news to me. Ladies And Gentlemen... is a sixteen-track collection of remastered rarities (compilation tracks, demos, live recordings) from their early days. The collection also includes their 1981 debut single ("Getting out of Hand" b/w "Call On Me") from when they called themselves The Bangs, plus the five tracks from their self-titled EP (1982). Ladies And Gentlemen... was originally released as a digital download only on November 27, 2014, by DownKiddie Records. Here it is as a physical (CD only) release.

The core members of The Bangles have always been Susanna Hoffs (rhythm guitar, vocals), Vicki Peterson (lead guitar, vocals), and Debbi Peterson (drums, vocals). This collection also includes original member Annette Zilinskas (bass guitar, vocals) who left the band in 1983, to be replaced by Michael Steele (bass guitar, vocals). Steele (who quit/retired in 2005) only plays on two tracks here: the live versions of "Tell Me" (from their debut album) and Love's classic "7 & 7 Is". However, it's the raw, primitive instrumental "Bitchen Summer/Speedway" that opens the ball. This 1982 song was written by Susanna Hoffs and David Roback (of Rain Parade, Opal and Mazzy Star). Roback was one of the main players around the so-called Paisley Underground scene in Los Angeles in the early/mid 1980s - a scene counting The Three O'Clock, Rain Parade, and Dream Syndicate... plus of course the The Bangles. The sound and mood of their early songs, such as the single "Getting Out of Hand" (written by Vicky Peterson), and the B-side "Call On Me" (by Hoffs and Peterson, co-written with Roback), is miles away from the sound of the chart-topping Bangles of the late 80s. The Bangles EP (I recall buying this some 30 years ago...) is a real nice re-visit, especially "The Real World" and "Mary Street", which are some cool, jangly guitar pop songs. Hoffs and Vicky Peterson were the main songwriters, even though Vicky's drumming sister Debbie also was a contributor. Among the demos we find two cover songs; The Turtles' "Outside Chance" and Paul Revere & The Raiders' "Steppin' Out", which both are the sound of the Bangles' playful 60s pop garage. The rough demo aura adds some proper authenticity to the songs. Same goes for the demos for the earlier mentioned (and heard, as they were released) tracks "The Real World" and "Call on Me". Yes, they do sound somehow unfinished, but that's the thing with demos, right? The 1984 live take on "Tell Me" (recorded at Dingwalls, London, UK) is punchy and energetic, showing the rock side of the poppy Bangles. The brilliant "7 & 7 Is" is even rougher and cooler, showing the Bangles nodding towards, or paying tribute to their old pop-rock heroes, Arthur Lee and his magic Love. The closing two tracks are of the more obscure type; "No Mag Commercial" and "The Rock & Roll Alternative Program theme song" (theme song for a West Coast radio program) - both sound like they were written ad-hoc for some 'advertising' purpose. However, it is exciting to dive back to the earliest recordings of/from The Bangles, to hear the rough, more ragged band they were before they developed and turned into a more refined, more 'mainstream' pop band. To quote Susanna Hoffs: 'I feel a very special connection to our early recordings. The garage of my parents' house was our musical laboratory, and we took all the flavors of our favorite bands and mixed up a concoction of jangly guitars, McCartney-inspired bass parts, grooves powered by punk energy, and harmonies galore! These songs and recordings were our musical manifesto - all that mattered and inspired us, fueled by youthful energy, hope and blind ambition.' I guess I'd better go revisit the old Bangles albums this summer.

Copyright © 2016 Howard Paisley Popeye e-mail address

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