Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 306
Fri, Nov 16, 2012
Originally a psychedelically acoustic Simon & Garfunkel single, circa 1966, over twenty years later “A Hazy Shade of Winter” was resurrected by The Bangles for the 1987 soundtrack to Less Than Zero. Usually a Paisley rock band’s cover of an iconic rock song from the sixties wouldn’t get my attention but The Bangles were different. I have to admit my teenage crush on lead vocalist Susanna Hoffs. My attraction for Hoffs was so intense she literally had me “Walking like an Egyptian.” And by the way, “Manic Monday” is a beautiful pop rendition of a Prince song. As you could tell I loved myself some Susanna Hoffs and The Bangles, they soon became the soundtrack of my teenage daydreams.
Why would the Los Angeles based Bangles cover this Paul Simon penned classic? Susana explained to Jeff Gemmill, how their cover of “A Hazy Shade of Winter” came to be, when she said, “For me a lot of it was learning cover songs, in a way, that I loved to try to figure out and just to get comfortable singing and playing. I still love playing cover songs. I still always learn something when I take on a cover song. I think that was true with The Bangles. Some of our sound came out from us doing covers. “A Hazy Shade of Winter” for example, when we were starting out we all had day jobs. I was working in this ceramic factory, by myself, in this dungeon like room. The radio was always playing and I had it tuned into the sixties station. And that song [“A Hazy Shade of Winter”] came on and I pitched it to the band to put into our set, which we did and years later we ended up releasing it. It was a hit single for us. But something about that folk rock feel of it and the harmonies really became part of The Bangles sound.”
Hoffs described how she, herself, learned the art of songwriting through her own record collection as she recalled in the same interview with Jeff Gemmill when Susanna said, “So we learned so much from doing covers, now that’s not necessarily the good way to go for everyone; some people wake up and their songwriters, they don’t need to study their favorite songs in the way that I had to. I think to just do what ever it takes to find your own voice and be patient. I never had no formal training. I learned to sing by singing to records that I loved. I learned to singing along to Joni Mitchell records, The Supremes and to Lulu that’s how I leaned. And when I wanted to play guitar and I started listening to The Byrds. I went out and got a twelve string Rickenbacker and I figured out you could pick and kind of make that Roger McGuinn sound if you just put some reverb and the treble on an— boom it sounds a little bit like The Byrds. A lot of it I figured out it doing research from the music that I loved.”
A Hazy Shade of Winter” was more than just a cover song single for Top 40 radio’s sake. The bands timeless rendition was a tribute to the spirit of Simon & Garfunkel’s genius that also help form one of the intricate pop sounds of The Bangles. Records like “A Hazy Shade of Winter” are the reason Susanna Hoffs became the pop songstress she still is today. Susanna’s storied rise to stardom is a lesson for any struggling artist to realize, no one is going to knock on your door and make you a star. You have to listen and rediscover the voice inside of you. You need to want to have the desire and the same spirited dedication that made Susanna Hoffs learn from the legends that also have inspired you. Devote yourself to your craft like Hoffs and maybe you discover riches in all you will find.
Was 1987 really twenty five years ago? The funny thing was that in L.A., today felt like a “Shade of Winter” kind of day and this Bangles post just wrote itself. That’s the magic of Don’tForget365, “Hazy” songs like this just come to me and I share them with you. “A Hazy Shade” was not only the definite highlight of the Less Than Zero soundtrack, but more importantly, The Bangles rendition of “Winter” remains one of my favorite sixties cover songs ever. Don’t be afraid, give “Hazy Shade” a little spin. The Bangles remade Paul Simon’s classic into the most brilliant pop gem, this “Winter” themed rewrite.