September 28, 2006
Susanna Hoffs walks like a --
rockstar no, a mom -- rockstar/mom
(Page 2 - Previous Page)Hoffs embraced that aesthetic -- she is proud to recount that she attended the Sex Pistols' legendary last performance in San Francisco -- but she gave the form another twist, a California-bred sensibility. The songs The Bangles wrote and performed, and the 1960s classics they covered, all shared what Hoffs characterizes as "pop melodies with a dark side."
In the 1970s, California rock (Jackson Browne, CSN&Y, The Eagles) took the 1960s' New York coffee house folk movement and added a layer of emotional wistfulness, a chord of melancholy to the otherwise cloudless California days. Similarly, what The Bangles did in the 1980s was to take '60s pop harmonies and infuse them with an edge, both musically and emotionally (case in point: listen to "Hero Takes a Fall" or their cover of Simon and Garfunkel's "Hazy Shade of Winter" from the "Less Than Zero" soundtrack).
The Bangles broke up in 1989. The details have been memorialized in a VH1 "Behind the Music," which is worth watching just for the parade of '80s hairstyles. What Hoffs says now is, "We needed to go off and have our own lives."
Hoffs says that when you are young a band becomes your family, and that at a certain point: "It was part of our growing-up process. We had to rebel against each other."
Hoffs spent the 1990s pursuing solo projects. She also married Jay Roach, and they became the parents of tho
se two children who are the reason I see Hoffs around school. Roach, who during that decade went from TV writer-producer to one of the most successful directors in Hollywood ("Austin Powers," "Meet the Parents"), is also partly responsible for the events leading to The Bangles' reunion (Roach asked Hoffs to write a song for the Austin Powers sequel, for which she enlisted her former bandmates' help, after which they played at a 1999 Beatles tribute before formally reuniting in 2000); Hoffs' current collaboration with Matthew Sweet (he was part of Ming Tea, the Mike Meyers/Austin Powers band); and for another OMYGOD moment -- performing at the Oscars for a billion people ("My heart was beating like in a cartoon," Hoffs recalled).
Hoffs said that being a Bangle again "is very fun." What she came to realize is that "if you are in a band for a long time, you have a sound." It was a sound that she realized she couldn't make with others.
She said that audiences have "a certain appreciation for what we do that's grown." Hoffs explained that she feels good that The Bangles decided to work together again, and she is happy because it seems to mean something to people. At the same time, Hoffs sees playing with Matthew Sweet as "a chance to enjoy making music in a different way." There are already plans for a Vol. 2 of covers, this time from the 1970s. Hoffs feels that "when you do a cover song," it brings it into the culture again, "giving a new generation of kids a chance to access the song."
Which is exactly what The Bangles will do when they perform this Friday. I'll just have to explain to my daughter that while "Hannah Montana" isn't real, Susanna Hoffs is.... She's the real deal -- all mom/part rock star.
Tom Teicholz is a film producer in Los Angeles. Everywhere else, he's an author and journalist who has written for The New York Times Sunday Magazine, Interview and The Forward.
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