Thursday, February 11, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter B, Part 3)

I could almost take the copy from that Bananarama post the other day and paste it right here. I was really into the SoCal version of the Paisley Underground scene for a few minutes in the mid '80s, and I started buying up everything I could by bands like Rain Parade, Green on Red and the Three O'Clock. It's a little tougher to remember just how great the Bangles were in their infancy, many moons before they were trying (and succeeding) to get the world to saunter like a person from a certain North African country. Even now, I can't seem to be able to type that song title. Susanna's eyes weren't enough to keep me in the fold at that point, but let's remember the good times, long before major-label meddling and slick production created a hit-making monster.

Like the aforementioned Bananrama, I only own one proper album from the Bangles and, again, it's the debut. There are a few fine moments on 'All Over the Place,' especially the cover of "Going Down to Liverpool," but I think the band's best recording came before that. In 1982, there was a fabulous five-song self-titled EP. Back then they were simply known as Bangles without the article in front of it. Miles Copeland put it out on his Faulty Products label, and it was the perfect middle ground between a lo-fi DIY sound and the less rewarding commercial schlock they would adopt a few years later. If you have this one on I.R.S. and are wondering why, it was reissued by Copeland on his big label in 1983 after Faulty Products failed. Happy to say I have a copy on Faulty. Here are the first two songs from 'Bangles.' "The Real World," penned by Susanna and Vicki and sung by Susanna, is the standout, but I have a soft spot for "I'm in Line" as well. That's Vicki's younger sister, 21-year-old drummer Debbi, taking a turn at lead vocals. She sang "Going Down to Liverpool," too.

"The Real World"
"I'm in Line"

There was one other recording before the EP. In 1981, Susanna, Debbi and Vicki went by the Bangs and self-released a 7" on Downkiddie Records. They would end up resurrecting the Down Kiddie name (two words this time) when they released the albums 'Doll Revolution' and 'Sweetheart of the Sun' in 2002 and 2011, respectively. As you would expect, both sides of the single were simple and a bit rough, but listening to them now you can't help but think there was just the tiniest hint of something special going on, especially with those harmonies. Vicki wrote the A-side. The B-side was co-written by David Roback, Susanna and Vicki. If you're into Paisley Underground, you may recognize Roback's name from Rain Parade. If you're lucky enough to have this single on your shelf, then you probably already know it fetches around $100 these days.

"Getting Out of Hand"
"Call on Me"

13 comments:

charity chic said...

Siobhan and now Susannah Brian! You are spoiling us this week

The Swede said...

Sid Griffin makes regular contributions to Radcliffe & Maconie's shows on 6Music, where he's usually called upon to comment on his particular area of expertise, Dylan, Byrds, Gram etc. Very occasionally, he'll discuss the Paisley Underground movement that he himself was so intimately involved with, and when he does he never fails to give credit to The Bangs (he always refers to them as The Bangs) for their contribution to the early scene. Quite right too. These tunes still sound as fresh as a daisy.

TheRobster said...

These early tracks are precious, it has to be said. I'm sorry though, I can't but help love the first two Bangles albums. With the occasional exception, 'A Different Light' is laden with good tunes. Polished and perfected as it is, I can't help but look back on it with fondness. Susie's eyes never fail to make me weak at the knees whatever the era. She's still absolutely stunning.

kevinpat said...

Oh I can never give up on things. Long past their over due date. I stuck with (The) Bangs (les) all the way through, even the over productions that smothered the charm & jangle that made them so sweet. I'd cringe at times but I knew those eyes were behind it all (and the LEGS. The LEGS!!) So of course one of my favorite Bangles songs is "Complicated Girl" from Everything. That cascading rhythm gets me every time. I think this might the song that blew out my car speakers. And Different Light just can't be denied by anyone who doesn't like sparkly guitar pop tunes with sweet California harmonies by pretty girls. LOVE the early years but s'all good. S'all good.

And yay on the Paisley Underground sound!!!!

kevinpat said...

PS Any band that covers Jules Shear, Prince, Elvis Costello, Kimberly Rew, the great Emitt Rhodes and of course my beloved Big Star gets extra bonus points!!!

Brian said...

Wow! I tempered my Bangles love a bit because I assumed I would be skewered. Y'all have made my day.

kevinpat said...

In the supermarket today I heard that song-that-should-not-be-mentioned, and of course I laughed, drop the avocado and thought of y'all. Woh hey oh. Hahahaha. It will not be silenced!

Brian said...

Good point on those covers, Kevinpat. Anybody out there get those two more recent albums?

kevinpat said...

If you mean Doll Revolution & Sweetheart of the Rodeo, then I do! And I like them both! All the bombastic production is gone and both albums sound like the earlier (great) stuff. Just great pop songs served w sweet harmonies over a bed of sixties rock and sprinkled with lots of jangle. The Sweetheart set was produced by Matthew Sweet which makes it all ummm sweetER…??? And they cover Todd Rundgren/Nazz "Open My Eyes" too! There also is a reissue of sort of the Bangs work with live & demo tracks called Ladies & Gentlemen…The Bang(le)s, which is nice and goes with this post. Just to bring things full circle there are two tracks out there some of the Bangles did with Emitt Rhodes who comes out of hiding after decades with really lovely songs. Still McCartney-esque after all these years! Any love of Emitt out there??? Damn! I always wanted to had The Bangles do "Time Will Show the Wiser". Anybody got Susanna's number??

Swiss Adam said...

The Walk Like An Egyptian video- I can type the words- has a famous moment where Susanna looks at the camera and then to the left. Which did very strange things to me as a teenage boy.

Brian said...

SA, Oh, do I know that moment. I have been out of town the past few days and just saw your 1,000,000 views post. Congratulations to you!

Kevinpat, I had a feeling about those albums. Have heard two songs from each and really liked them. It was cool when the gals backed up Costello on stage with their wonderful voices a few years back too.

George said...

These songs, especially The Real World, are surprisingly good.

Brian said...

Robster, nobody should have to apologize for liking the Bangles. Even the worst moments are still pretty good.

George, The Real World is my favorite song from the Bangles. Period.