Long before they were walking like Egyptians -- and it's 30 years since that famous single dropped, folks! -- and ages before they were lighting eternal flames, The Bangles were a rock band called The Bangs. It's rare enough to find someone who can look all the way back to "Hero Takes A Fall" but even harder to find someone who knows who The Bangs were.
Well now we're all in for a very pleasant musical education thanks to the fine folks at Omnivore Recordings as they are releasing Ladies And Gentleman...The Bangles, a superb compilation of early recordings from this band, this week. The collection, which drops tomorrow (June 24), is easily one of the most listenable -- is that an adjective? -- releases of 2016. Pure power pop goodness from start to finish, that's the only way to describe this one.
The liner notes credit David Roback (Rain Parade, Opal, Rainy Day) as a co-writer on early cut "Call On Me" but the song, pure Bangles-like goodness, is, like other numbers from the era on offer here, the sort of crunchy guitar-based pop that a lot of skinny tie bands were cranking out in the aftermath of the New Wave boom. "The Real World" chimes in equal measure and is clearly one of the very first classic cuts that this band would record. Somehow more robust than some of what ended up on All Over The Place (1984), the Vicki Peterson/Susanna Hoffs-penned rocker is the highlight of this release for me and, luckily, there's also a demo version of the song here on Ladies And Gentleman...The Bangles.
By the time they recorded the supple "I'm In Line", the 3-piece Bangs had become The Bangles with guitarist Vicki Peterson's sister Debbi joining on the drums and bassist Annette Zalinskas handling the duties that Michael Steele would soon take over. The Byrds-esque touches of "Mary Street" hint at the band's connections via that Rainy Day project with the other members of the then current so-called Paisley Underground of the era, while the cover of obscure Sixties stomper "How Is The Air Up There?" (originally by The La De Das in 1966) allows Hoffs and crew to show their chops at updating that sort of material for modern audiences. That the song doesn't sound like a cover attests to the talents of this group at adapting earlier styles and making them their own.
Elsewhere, on a cover of the Warren Zevon-penned Turtles jam "Outside Chance", The Bangles line themselves up next to the Beatles of the "I Feel Fine" era. The cut, a demo version here, positively rocks, as does a later live version of Love's "7 And 7 Is", recorded by the time that Michael Steele had joined the band.
The collection is rounded out with a few radio commercials that the band recorded and one gets the sense that Ladies And Gentleman...The Bangles is meant to serve as a sort of round-up of all the band's pre-Columbia Records recordings. Not quite sure it succeeds on those terms but it certainly works as just a fantastic set of tunes that are all the equal of any of the Sixties-inflected flower power-pop and the sort of West Coast New Wave-influenced guitar-rock that peers like The Three O'Clock were also making at the time.
Of equal appeal to fans of Nuggets-era pop tunes as it is to simple fans of The Bangles, Ladies And Gentleman...The Bangles offers up as much listening enjoyment as the band's official first album release (All Over The Place) did in 1984. Nearly flawless and full of ringing guitars, Ladies And Gentleman...The Bangles, out tomorrow via Omnivore Recordings, is the first absolutely essential reissue of 2016.