Monday, May 10, 2010

Susanna Hoffs "Eternal Flame"

I think if you say “The Bangles,” your mind, like mine, probably goes straight back to the 80s. The warm wave of nostaglia washes over you with images of Big Hair, chunky jewelry, and your ridiculous attempts toward making those “Walk Like An Egyptian” moves somehow danceable.

And then, perhaps, you dismiss it. The band. The music. The era.

One of the absolutely most rewarding parts of my job as a DJ, is that, from time to time, you find yourself in a situation where need to go well below the surface of an idea, and you come to appreciate why something that could easily be dismissed as nostalgia or fluff, has substance and soul. It goes a long way to explaining longevity, among other things.

Last month, I was pitched the idea of doing an interview with someone involved in the “Keep The Light Alive: The Songs Of Lowen & Navarro” album, a project which is raising money for Lou Gerhig’s Disease research and treatment. I’d naturally assumed that I’d be speaking to Lowen, or Navarro, or perhaps my initial contact on the project, Claudia Stuart Navarro. But after a bit of back and forth, Claudia said, “I am going to put you in touch with Susanna Hoffs, of The Bangles.” The Bangles contributed a song on this project, and Claudia thought Susanna would be an interesting and appropriate spokesperson.

And here’s where it happens. You have to start preparing yourself for this interview. Really listen to the music. Think about the performer and how you’re going to relate to them. And you examine them in a whole new light.

I think for most folks, Susanna Hoffs and The Bangles are some kind of totem for the 80s, that doesn’t go much deeper than 2 or 3 songs. But when I starting thinking about, and listening to, the music of her nearly 30 year career, I realized that there are so many songs I like, that I have history with, and mean more to me than just some one-hit-wonder.

So all this week, I think I’ll write a bit about Susanna Hoffs, and maybe get you to think about her in a Different Light (ugh, did I just make that joke?).

And you know, this isn’t the first time I found myself reconsidering her work.

Back in the mid-90s, Susanna was on the bill at Lilith Fair. I hadn’t planned on checking out her set, but I was headed from seeing this up-and-coming singer named Kacy Crowley, in one of the small tents, to catch Emmylou Harris on the main stage, when I found myself passing a side stage that had Susanna doing an acoustic solo set.

And hearing some of those songs I’d heard a thousand times before (or, actually, had seen a thousand times before, on MTV), done with a simple guitar and voice, caused me to stop and really listen.

I have two distinct memories of the show. One was that she covered “September Gurls.” At that time, I'd become obsessed with Big Star, a band that seemingly few people knew. And I further realized that The Bangles had covered this song in the 80s, and that at that time I didn’t know who Big Star was. If they were into Big Star, how could I write them off?

The other song that I clearly remember is “Eternal Flame,” which, when it was released, I wrote off as a chick song that had nothing to do with me. My ears were closed.

But my ears were open that day---I was there to hear new music, right---and I remember thinking to myself, “That’s actually a great little song.” Beautiful in its simplicity.

So let me reconsider Susanna Hoffs with you this week, and hopefully, you’ll do the same.

To hear a clip from Lilith Fair, jump to track 10 on the pop up player.

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