The Bangles :: Different Light (1986)
My last year of high school was my only year at public school. The Summer prior I had begged and pleaded to be released from the repression and hypocritical contradictions of private parochial school, and either I wore my mother down with the begging, or my valedictorian level good grades helped my case; whichever the case may have been, the 1986-87 school year, my Senior year, I got to spend in public school, Foothill High School, to be exact. It was at Foothill High School that two very significant things happened, a) I discovered my love of theatre arts and acting, and b) I met one of my lifelong best friends.
We met in theatre class, seated one in front of the other, and our initial conversation was started by my soon-to-be-friend’s blunt question of “do you always wear so much make-up?” At that time I did wear a ton of make-up and also dressed in layers of thrift shop clothes, all pieced and patterned together with meticulous thought and consideration. She, on the other hand, seemed to be wearing pajama bottoms paired up with a Madonna tee-shirt, mussed up short hair, and no make-up to speak of sans Marilyn Monroe lipstick painting her lips. Regardless of her haphazard get-up, she was beautiful.
For whatever reason I did not take her question as an insult (which it was not), and we ended up heading out of that class and off to lunch together, pretty much sticking to each other’s side from that afternoon forward. She taught me to relax into who I was and to let go more. I taught her the fun of hair dye, in all its change-your-look-in-an-hour glory.
We stayed at each other’s houses, partaking in countless sleepovers spent listening to stacks of music and watching rented VHS movies.
She was the first one I ever got drunk with. I was the first one she ever saw full frontal male nudity with (Richard Gere in Breathless). And, together we fell in love with girl groups of the 80’s together, mainly The Go-Go’s, Bananarama, and our agreed upon favorites, The Bangles, who we would see play live together twice that year, once opening for Duran Duran, and once on their own.
That year I felt like we were going through a coming of age crash course on how to be a girl, so what better soundtrack to have for that time then an album like Different Light, by The Bangles?
Following are my three sentence reflections of each song, from that last year in high school, and from now:
Even at seventeen the weight of Mondays can be overwhelming, and this is without a doubt the quintessential Monday song which sets to music that hefty burden that Monday can be. We both took the bus every morning and knew how it felt to miss it, though we were still trying to figure out what it would be like to miss the bus because you were busy making noise with a boy the night before. This is still my go-to song for those mornings when I just cannot seem to get it together, often a Monday.
In a Different Light
We saw each other differently than any one had ever seen either of us before, and we learned from that, and thrived off of it. We challenged each other in the way we saw the world, and in the way we saw ourselves. Our paths diverged after that year, and we took on our own paths and goals, but we never lost touch with each other, reaching out when we needed that other perspective, or when we just needed to be us again.
Walking Down Your Street
Often we chose to walk home from school instead of taking the school bus to the city bus. This choice was always taken when we walked together, on the way to one or the other’s house. One such walk home that I can recall so vividly whilst listening to this song consisted of an exchange of first crush stories, our voices lowering in confessional tones, than exploding in laughter over the little errors in life one makes when they crush for the first time.
Walk like an Egyptian
Dancing in my room with hair brush microphones and our heads wrapped in towels, hair dye setting in our hair. We would turn the music up loud, my mother out with her friends and my younger brother watching cartoons in the living room, singing and dancing a-long. I do not recall the dance we made up to this one, though I know we had one, and that it was silly enough that we broke out into a fit of laughter when they played the song live, with us in the audience.
Standing in the Hallway
As part of our theatre class we had been invited to participate in a competition held at a local community college, and we two were paired up to perform our take of a pivotal scene in the movie The Turning Point, a scene in which we had to get angry at each other, angry to the point of one of us (me) throwing a drink in the other’s face (hers). This kind of angry was such a struggle until one late afternoon out in the hallway, empty as school had been let out for hours, she said something hurtful, but true, to me and I slapped her. It was a miserable moment, despite it breaking through our creative stalwart, and when she laughed saying she was only joking in an attempt to get a rise out of me I had half the mind to slap her again (I laughed instead).
I was always writing in composition books back then, filling page after page with diary entries and awkwardly penned poetry. I wrote letters to friends from the school I left behind, pen pals and sometimes I wrote fan letters to bands and artists I admired; we wrote one those kinds of letters together one night, drunk off a disgusting mixture of root beer and Vodka stolen from her Grandfather’s liquor cabinet, both of us more sick than drunk. We never did mail it.
If She Knew What She Wants
Still my favorite from this album, I remember thinking I was nothing like this girl when I first listened to this song. Funny, as I would be this girl many times over I my life. It took about 40 years for me to finally start knowing what I wanted, and still there are some days when I sit confused and conflicted, wondering what it is I want.
Let It Go
So many things I let go of that year and so many fears were faced head-on and overcome, often with the help of my newfound friend. I started having a voice that I was not afraid of using, and a confidence that had me on-stages and at auditions, both at school and out in the world. I also started to get over a first love that was going nowhere at all beyond a hurting me place, at least for the moment I felt myself letting him go, as well.
We used to sing this one together, taking turns as to who would sing lead and who would take up the harmony. It was later, at my first record store, where I would hear the original song that this is a cover of, while shelving a Big Star album, which I would come to prefer. Still, this version is more fun to sing-a-long to.
Angels Don’t Fall In Love
Oh my stars how I love this song, more now than I think I ever did when I first listened to this album. There is a character in the book I am writing who this song fits so completely, and who is based loosely on this friend. When we left high school, and she went off to New York on her own, I always pictured her sprouting those wings I always suspected she had and flying off to a new, exciting life, without me.
I always loved Michael Steele’s voice so much, most especially since she was right in my vocal key and there were so few female voices out there singing in low, deep tones. If the last song was how I pictured my off to see the world friend, this was the one that I related to most after high school. Not that I was that desperate, per se, but there was such a sadness and insecurity to the song that I could so deeply related to, in those years following high school.
Not Like You
Maybe it is because it is the last track on the album, or perhaps it is just a song that does not stick with me, but this is the forgettable song on the album, to me. I do know all the lyrics, and I do sometimes catch myself singing-a-long, but I also am known to sometimes hit skip to start the album over middle of the way through, or change the album altogether. Even today, it still is not a favorite, though I now do enjoy the harmonizing of Debbi Peterson and Susanna Hoffs.