THE BANGLES, DIFFERENT LIGHT (1986): Keeping the Faith in the Different Light

THE BANGLES 2
Autographed by Peterson sisters after their concert in Philadelphia. No Susanna’s autograph because she left early.

May 1986. Japan. The year that I’m so lazy to count or calculate how many years ago.
Four American girls suddenly invaded to my room in the dark from TV with their recent big hit song and brainwashed a naive junior high school student (8th grade). One black hair with an exotic look, one brown hair, one red hair, and one blonde hair singing in the park or city I had never seen while emphasizing Monday and running clock over the TV. Without notice.

Better be without notice. I didn’t expect that would be one of my life-changing moments. I just turned the TV on to kill my boredom during study for a mid-term exam (study, young me!!). I even didn’t know what the program would be. Next moment I was stoned in front of the flowing beautiful melody from TV I had never heard. “It’s just another manic ˈmanˌdeiii ♪” It was literally like I was “the only one who gets through” in my room like that girl group later sang with “In Your Room”. I even didn’t know what language they were singing and what they were singing about but they didn’t matter. I was addicted to the new music with the fresh melodies I had never heard. And the band. I had no choice of being resistance. Those four girls deeply influenced me as much as they wanted to do and left me when the song was over. I had no moment to check their name and the song’s title.

My days being crazy searching for the band and the song began. There was no internet in 1986, searching only papers with almost no advance information was extremely difficult.  Think about it. There was no program guide appeared on screen, and the TV even didn’t have a remote! 1986 was still that era. After finally finding out the band’s name was The Bangles and the song was Monic Monday by the same TV program a week after, I ran to a record store in downtown. “Manic Monday” became the sensational first single I purchased with 500 yen ($2.5 in 1986), all my one month allowance. I became poor the rest of the month but I didn’t care if I could listen to my new favorite music anytime I wanted (boy, please. I didn’t have to worry about the place to live and food without allowance that time). Indeed the single vinyl rounded and rounded on the turntable but I never got bored. After 6-7 months saving allowance, I finally bought Different Light album. Again, that was a blow out of 3,000 yen ($15 in 1986…probably about $30 value today). Too big money for 13 years old but I felt like that was a step for adulthood by owning my own album. Both the first single and album I’ve ever bought were The Bangles (for more, read “My Music Influence“).

In this 32 years, I’ve been keeping my faith in The Bangles. The Bangles is still my most favorite band. And I am still devoted. If I buy a new iPhone, the first music I listen is always The Bangles. Just like that, I didn’t think any other artists for the opening of this new “Vintage Disks” series. That had to be The Bangles.

***

Probably The Bangles was known as an all-female band singing a big hit song with popular Tutankhamen dance, “Walk Like An Egyptian”, #1 song of Billboard’s yearly chart in 1986, but The Bangles was far from a one-hit wonder. Other than “Walk Like An Egyptian”, The Bangles was a regular name within the top 20 like “Walking Down Your Street”, “If She Knew What She Wants”, “In Your Room”, “Hazy Shade of Winter”, and “Eternal Flame” in the era all-female band was very rare. Only the successful female band before The Bangles was Go-Go’s and The Runaways, Even by 2018, there haven’t been many girls group archived equivalent success.

“Manic Monday” from their second album, Different Light, was a breakout song for The Bangles. The Bangles made the first appearance in the U.S. hit chart with “Manic Monday” that ultimately reached #2. The beautiful melodious song had the dead heat for the top position on Billboard 100 with “Kiss” by Prince, who ironically wrote “Manic Monday” under his alternative name, Christopher (“Kiss” got #1. #2 was the highest for “Manic Monday”). The smash hit resulted in the chain of the further hit songs and making Different Light triple platinum in the U.S., and platinum for the following Everything, their last album before the break-up. The Bangles also became the international sensation still having many die-hard fans worldwide.

***

Listening to all contents of “Different Light” was a new adventure for a young Japanese boy who had listened only Japanese light pop until then. As well as making me excited about the new music, Different Light also gave me a mixed feeling because all songs weren’t like “Manic Monday”. The album had two sides. Pop and catchy side such as “Manic Monday”, “Walking Down Your Street”, “Walk Like an Egyptian”, and “If She Knew What She Wants”, and classic rock style with other songs. The pop side eventually became single cuts with Suzanna Hoffs’s lead vocal and attracted me quickly, but the orthodox rock side…honestly, I took a lot of time to get used to. The classic side was directly influenced by The Beatles and other 60’s rock, but I even didn’t know about The Beatles then. For a kid only listened to Japanese pop music before, that side was too adult and different with the music what I was familiar. That difference was a way big step for me.

Though I like the old school side today, I still have the same impression about Different Light. The album is not exactly easy listening because of the classic rock side. Different Light is clearly different from the debut album, All Over The Places, and very pop Everything (3rd). Despite All Over The Place expressed the band’s old rock roots more clearly than Different Light without pop songs, the debut album contained a lot of good ol’ rock n’ roll with full of young positive vibes and edges. That album was also ear-catchy with the medley of superb melodies from the first (Hero Takes a Fall) to the sixth song (Tell Me), those The Bangles still plays at their concerts.  The Bangles rolled back their roots older and more mature with Different Light, and the result was the classic side including a dark song, “Following”. If the pop side was American, the classic side was more British. Because their 3rd, Everything, went straight forward on the pop zone, Different Light was actually a unique album for The Bangles. Not making the bridge between All Over The Place‘s vintage style and Everything‘s modern pop, but bounced back to older while having hit pop songs. Different Light‘s old side even sounded more aging than the two studio recording albums after their reunion. Honestly, I like All Over The Places better than Different Light.

Still, Different Light album gave me a tremendous influence on my future music taste. The queens of 3 minutes rock made me favor the songs in 3 minutes or less. My most favorite guitar is Rickenbacker. And I like vintage style now. Most of all, Different Light album made me stop following Japanese music scene (doesn’t mean I didn’t listen to Japanese music anymore…Japan has many great artists) and put me into this long journey of searching good American and western music. The Bangles and Different Light album were clearly the origins of my musical roots. As you can find on TRIPMUZE, I like a variety type of good music. I am musically versatile. Rock, hip-hop, R&B, heavy metal, country, blues…and the branches of my music tree all started from The Bangles and “Manic Monday” and still growing. I still get back to the point my music taste completely changed anytime I listen to “Manic Monday” even after 32 years. The Bangles, “Manic Monday”, and Different Light gave me that much impact in my life. 

***

The Bangles once disbanded in 1989, shortly after “Eternal Flame” reached at number 1 and “Hazy Shade of Winter” got number 2. Literally crashed and burned at the height of their success like the last song of their last album before disbandment (“Crash and Burn” is actually my very favorite song but I haven’t seen them playing the song at their concerts). They still had a lot of potentials to release hit albums and songs. I was a high school student in Japan at that time and no way I could experience their concert. I was extremely shocked because I believed their successful future and I would see their show in my eyes one day.

The reason of disbandment was obviously uneven attention on Susanna. Despite other three members had same high skills and beauty, Susanna’s sweet pop voice and exotic pretty face were so characteristic. The lead vocal of all hit songs and important songs were dominated by Susanna, except “Walk Like an Egyptian” that all members took lead.

But Suzanna’s strong persona was actually The Bangles’s important property no matter other members didn’t want to admit. While it’s understandable that other members were frustrated by the unfair spotlight, a unique member was always important for a band to survive in the dog eat dog world. Those bands conquered on the tough competition always had charismatic members. KISS got Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, Motley Clue got Vince Neil, and Destiny Child got Beyoncé.

Fortunately, The Bangles reunited again in 1998 and has been active since then though not really much since 2017. They constantly held tours mainly in the U.S. They still have the ability to make venues sold out and make their fans crazy with their everlasting hit songs. The band has had two studio albums and one retrospective album since their reunion.

OVERALL POINTS: 85/100

  • Eternal dopeness: ★★★★+1/2
  • Songs: ★★★★
  • Originality: ★★★★+3/4
  • Song orders: ★★★★
  • Vocal: ★★★★+1/2
  • Background: ★★★★
  • Production: ★★★★
  • Strong songs: “Manic Monday”, “Walking Down Your Street”, “Walk Like an Egyptian”, “If She Knew What She Wants”

EXTRA (NOT COUNTED TOWARD THE OVERALL POINTS)

  • Title: C
  • Album cover: C

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