Quintessential Album Series :: Different Light (1986) :: The Bangles
A Little History:
Different Light is an album by The Bangles released in January 1986. It is their sophomore album, their best known album, their album with a Top 5 hit single and a # 1 hit on it. The album’s Top 40 sound was a departure from their earlier 1960s-style sound on their debut, All Over the Place. This was the first album in which bassist Michael Steele sang lead vocals on selected tracks.
Three of five singles were written by someone other than The Bangles: Manic Monday was written by Prince under the pseudonym Christopher), If She Knew What She Wants was written by Jules Shear, and Walk Like an Egyptian was written by Liam Sternberg. The other two singles were Following and Walking Down Your Street, which The Bangles penned.
Though the album would be considered a slicker, more commercial move for The Bangles at the time of release, it is packed full of the bands inspirations, paying homage to The Mamas and The Papas harmonies, The Doors style carnival-like keyboards and quirky guitars (see Standing in the Hallway and Return Post), and Following, which plays like a darker Joni Mitchell folk tune with 80’s pop/punk sensibilities weaved within.
What Makes This “Quintessential” to me?
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 it 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 theater arts and acting, and b) I met one of my lifelong best friends.
We met in theater 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 wrinkled and worn 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 meant as, she would tell me later), 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?
My Top 5 Favorite Songs:
1. If She Knew What She Wants
“Some have a style that they work hard to refine,
so they walk a crooked line.
But, she won’t understand,
why anyone would have to try,
to walk a line when they could fly.”
2. Angels Don’t Fall In Love
Live version – I cannot find the album version
“I can see it when I look in your eyes,
when you think of love you think of compromise.
It’s not big disgrace,
there’s no loss of grace.
The trouble is there always someone there to take your place.
And, the trouble is you don’t believe that it’s true,
when the sun goes down there’s something left for you.
The trouble is I see you missing so much,
while you’re knocking all the wrong doors,
for some angel’s touch.
You think she’s everything you’re dreaming of,
the trouble is those angels never fall in love.”
3. Manic Monday
“Six o’clock already,
I was just in the middle of a dream.”
“Yeah, you call me a loser,
you call me a shadowing fool,
but I was a good girl,
till you taught me what it means to be true.”
5. September Gurls
“December boys got it bad.”
(oh, how I always have it bad for a Big Star cover!)