So the other day I'm watching the usual nitwits nattering on about the Mohammedan Menace over at Fox News when it dawns on me that in today's media-political climate, the chances of an oldies station giving any airplay to the Bangles hit "Walk Like an Egyptian" are probably a little slim.
And I don't even want to think about why I haven't heard Gene Pitney's "Mecca" on the radio of late. Sheesh.
But back to the Bangles, a group that doesn't get nearly as much respect as I think they deserve. A lot of that stems, I suspect, from the aforementioned "Walk Like an Egyptian," or more specifically the endearingly goofy video that accompanied it, which most people probably remember more than the song itself. It's such an iconic 80s artifact I guess folks find it an embarassing period piece nowadays, an unpleasant reminder of an era when Judd Nelson or Ally Sheedy could actually open a movie.
Another probably more important reason, however, is that the Bangles kind of devolved as they got more successful. Their first album is a classic, a near perfect confection of jangly guitars, soaring harmonies, and beautifully put together songs based on all the best 60s pop-psych and folk-rock models, the whole thing overlaid with a smart, subtle feminist lyrical perspective. Didn't sell that much, but as debuts go, it was the best thing of its kind since Marshall Crenshaw, and it's held up equally well. (And for those of you who missed it, here's a killer live version of one of its best songs, "Going Down to Liverpool", in which our heroines simply drip sex appeal and charisma).
Unfortunately, the second album (the one with all the breakthrough hits, including "Egyptian") while entertaining, was dangerously over-produced by comparison (the guitars seemed to disappear from the mix, a sure sign of trouble to come). And the third and final one was basically a crass attempt at glomming a bigger mainstream market share, with all the rough edges smoothed out and a plethora of horrific power ballads penned by hacks like Desmond Child (or at least that's the way I remember it). Sold like grits in Valdosta, but once the dust cleared the Bangles were pretty much over.
Which was a shame, because through it all the gals remained a kick-ass live band, and when given their head their pop instincts remained strong; it's no accident that they did a great cover of "A Hazy Shade of Winter", the obscure Simon and Garfunkel tune that for over a decade had all but sat up and begged for a hot rock re-wiring (A NYM fave!!). And I think it's a safe bet that more than a few of the Riot Grrls of the 90s were closet Bangles fans, so it's not like they weren't influential.
Oh well, the saddest words, might have been, blah blah blah.
Consumer Note: For a while, I thought I had to choose between two clips of "Liverpool." Originally, I was going to post only the official MTV video, directed by and co-starring Leonard Nimoy(!!!!). But then I saw the live one upstairs and frankly I just swooned. Man, did I have a crush on aubergine-tressed bassist Michael Steele. So finally I linked to both of them. Sue me already.
Ladies and gentlemen -- The Bangles!!!!!