Episode 164: Susanna Hoffs

Episode 164: Susanna Hoffs
Pat sits down with guest Susanna Hoffs to discuss her musical career with The Bangles and beyond.
From September 4, 2014

With your host:

Pat Francis

00:00:00 Pat welcomes us to the show. Producing today's show is Rock Solid original Matt Belknap! He's here for today's special guest. It's founding member/lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist of The Bangles, the beautiful and talented Susanna Hoffs!
Susanna is nervous to be here. With a obsessive fan like Pat bothering her to get on the show for the past few years, I can understand why. Pat's been trying to get Susanna on Rock Solid for a looooong time. Susanna's schedule has been crazy. Pat has been a Bangles fan since the beginning, but only saw them for the first time last year at the Whiskey. He compliments them as being good musicians live. Girl bands don't really get the street credit that they deserve. Pat also loves their most recent album Sweetheart of the Sun. It's his favorite Bangles album. Susanna says that Sweetheart captured a lot of the sunshiny jangle guitar sound that they always wanted to produce.
00:05:00 Let's start back at the beginning when we first heard Susanna's voice. This was when they were known as The Bangs. It's their first single, 1981's "Getting Out of Hand". Susanna had to revisit her old music for the live shows. There is a rerelease of the first EP coming out soon with special bonus rarities.
The Bangles soon got signed to Columbia Records. Bruce Springsteen vetted them for the label. The Bangles were performing at Magic Mountain. Bruce came to the show and gave them the thumbs up. Then he rode a few roller coasters and ate some cotton candy. At least, that's what Pat thinks. Does Bruce have any songs about theme parks? It's probably buried somewhere in the pile of 10 million songs he's recorded and hasn't put out. The Bangles didn't get to meet Bruce.
00:10:00 The Bangles got signed to Columbia and released their first album, 1984's All Over the Place. We listen to "Hero Takes a Fall". The debut album didn't really do much. The Bangles opened for Cyndi Lauper and Huey Lewis. Well, Pat says that they opened for Huey Lewis. Susanna doesn't really remember because it was 30 years ago. She did sit on a plane next to Hutch from Starsky and Hutch, however, so there's that.
The album got the attention of Prince, a.k.a. Christopher. Prince saw the band and liked them. The video for "Hero Takes a Fall" is quintessentially 80s cheese. Susanna blames the stylists and make up people for their weird fashion choice in the video. Susanna is good friends with Fred Armisen, who does a great Prince impression. Susanna's never seen it, which boggles Pat. Fred also played drums at the Whiskey show.
00:15:00 David Kahne produced the first two Bangles album. The second album, 1986's Different Light, is the breakout hit. Four Top 40 hits. Susanna is amazed at her own accomplishments. She is also amazed at the amount of Kojak memorabilia in the room. They're recording this at Never Not Funny Studios, and that damn Jimmy Pardo keeps laying his Kojak stuff around. Clean your room, Pardo, there's a lady present! We get some quick Kojak discussion too.
Pat plays a song from Different Light, "Walking Down Your Street". The music video features both Randy Quaid and Little Richard. There's also a Valley of the Dolls reference in there too.
00:20:00 For the Less than Zero Soundtrack, The Bangles recorded a cover of Simon and Garfunkel's "Hazy Shade of Winter", which is also on their Greatest Hits. Pat didn't realize it was a cover. Susanna was working in a ceramic factory that her aunt and uncle owned. She had to sand these ceramic things while listening to the radio. "A Hazy Shade of Winter" came on the radio and Susanna liked the song. We listen to the Bangles' version of it. Rick Rubin produced it. He's more of an entity than a hands-on producer. Will he ever come on the podcast? You have a better chance of reforming The Beatles.
The third album, 1988's Everything, was produced by Davitt Sigerson. Davitt had a different, more rockin' energy.
00:25:00 Pat plays "In Your Room". Pat loves that song a lot since he's played it a bunch on this show. It's a "come hither" song. Susanna looks exactly the same as she did from back in the day. Super beautiful. She is very modest and says it wasn't her intention to make teenage boys' heads explode. She got inspired by listening to "Mony Mony" by Tommy James and the Shondells. "In Your Room" is a good song to play live. Meanwhile, "Eternal Flame" goes to number one on the charts. Susanna gets flustered. She has mixed feelings about talking about herself. The record company was picking Susanna's songs as the singles. Debbie says it's because Susanna is cute. Susanna says that it's a whole big process to pick the singles.
00:30:00 "Eternal Flame" almost didn't make the album. "Walk Like an Egyptian" was an afterthought. The band became who they were through their covers. Their manager listened to "Eternal Flame" and said their needed to be drums on it because it was the 80s and Power Ballads were big. They said no and it ended up working. You never know what will catch on.
After Everything, The Bangles split up. Vicki and Debbie were banded together. Susanna and Michael were burnt out. Bands get tired of each other, it happens. There was also a management change, which added flames to the fire. It was an uncomfortable sit-down between the four. It was more of a hiatus than a real break up.
00:35:00 Susanna stayed on with Columbia. She released a solo album, When You're a Boy in 1991 with David Kahne producing. It was a throwback to the earlier albums. We listen to "My Side of the Bed". The album didn't do as well as The Bangles' albums. Susanna says it was what it was. Susanna got to tour with Don Henley and played with Henley and Sting. Pat's said some things about Henley and Sting in the past, so let's not dwell on those two charming personalities. Even though the album didn't sell well, she got to play in front of a bunch of people. She says that "the work is always the thing." As long as you have a show to do, you can focus on that and not on the negatives.
00:40:00 On that album, Susanna worked with Rusty Anderson who went on to be in Paul McCartney's band. She did two covers: one of "Unconditional Love" by Cyndi Lauper and one of "Boys Keep Swinging" by David Bowie. We listen to the latter. Susanna hadn't heard of the song before recording it. And the internet wasn't around to look it up. Does Susanna miss the old days? She says that you can't stop the Internet. It has its positives and its negatives. Pat chastises microfiche, whatever the hell that is. He's an old man, in case you didn't realize it.
The Bangles also contributed background vocals for a song by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Off the compilation album Anthology: Through the Years, it's "Waiting for Tonight".
00:45:00 Susanna got to know Mike Campbell at the end of the 80s when they worked together. They formed a connection that lasts to this day. Mike's the nicest guy in the world. He helped co-write a song for Susanna's most recent solo album Someday called "Raining". Mitchell Froom produced it.
00:50:00 Susanna released her self-titled second solo album in 1996. She left Columbia Records for London Records. David Kahne left. David Baerwald and Jack Joseph Puig came in to produce it. A few big names are on it like Mick Fleetwood, Jim Keltner, and the Haden Sisters. Sean Penn came to the studio one day. Susanna got to sing a song with Joni Mitchell. George Harrison once called the house that they were recording in.
00:55:00 Pat plays a song from the second solo album called "All I Want". Like the first solo album, this one did not do well commercially. Susanna also played Lilith Fair. Pat has a hard time pronouncing "Lilith" because of his Pennsylvanian accent. Susanna is starting to get more comfortable. Every time something new comes her way, she gets excited and panicky. Pat plays an acoustic version of "Eternal Flame" off of the compilation album Lilith Fair: A Celebration of Women in Music.
01:00:00 The Bangles got back together in 1998 for Austin Powers 2. Susanna is also in the fake band from the movie, Ming Tea, where her name was Gillian Shagwell. How subtle. Her husband is director Jay Roach. He needed a song for the Austin Powers 2 soundtrack. The Bangles recorded "Get the Girl." They reunited full time in 2000.
They put out their fourth album Doll Revolution in 2003. We listen to "Tear Off Your Own Head (It's a Doll Revolution)". Susanna sang the demo with Elvis Costello, then recorded a cover of it with The Bangles for the album. This is the last album with Michael Steele. Where is Michael? Just living life. She's tall, at least in comparison to Susanna. Susanna acknowledges that she is "the short Bangle."
01:05:00 Pat asks Susanna about working with Matthew Sweet. They met when they were both in Ming Tea. They got together to make an album of 60s cover songs in 2006 called Under the Covers, Vol. 1. They thought it was going to be the only one, but the record company added on "Vol. 1" at the end. Pat intends to play their version of "Alone Again Or" by Love. Robert Plant likes Love, maybe we can get him in studio. Pat devises a devious plan to trick Rick Rubin and Robert Plant to come on the show. We hear "Alone Again Or". Then we listen to a cover of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' "Here Comes My Girl" off of the 70s themed album Under the Covers, Vol. 2.
01:10:00 Susanna had to step up and sing songs that she didn't think she could sing. She had to learn to go with the flow. Working with Matthew is very loosey goosey and a real hang. We listen to a cover off of the 80s themed Under the Covers, Vol. 3, which is "Kid" by Pretenders. What does Susanna listen to in her spare time? A lot of old songs.
01:15:00 Susanna is overwhelmed by all the new music out there. There's too much, she can't keep up with it. She needs people to send her playlists. Pat recommends Chrissie Hynde's new album Stockholm. We listen to another song from Under the Covers, Vol. 3, "Train in Vain" by The Clash.
Susanna is a born and bred California girl. Pat is from Pennsylvania. Matt is from New York. Susanna's mom is also from Pennsylvania. Susanna's parents came to California in the late 50s. Susanna met Debbie and Vicki Peterson when she answered an ad. There were immediate sparks.
2011 saw the release of the latest Bangles album Sweetheart of the Sun. It has a real 60s Laurel Canyon sound. Pat plays "Anna Lee (Sweetheart of the Sun)".
01:20:00 Pat gives the plugs. You can find Susanna Hoffs on Twitter @SusannaHoffs. Her website is SusannaHoffs.com and The Bangles' website is TheBangles.com.
Will there another Bangles' album? Probably. Will there be another Susanna solo album? Definitely. Pat thanks Susanna for being here. Susanna says that this was really great. She'll sign some albums for the listeners. Matt plays us out with a song from Someday called "One Day".
Time Song Album Artist Who
00:05:00 Getting Out of Hand Single The Bangs N/A
00:10:00 Hero Takes a Fall All Over the Place The Bangles N/A
00:15:00 Walking Down Your Street Different Light The Bangles N/A
00:20:00 Hazy Shade of Winter Greatest Hits The Bangles N/A
00:25:00 In Your Room Everything The Bangles N/A
00:35:00 My Side of the Bed When You're a Boy Susanna Hoffs N/A
00:40:00 Boys Keep Swinging When You're a Boy The Bangles N/A
00:40:00 Waiting for Tonight Anthology: Through the Years Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers feat. The Bangles N/A
00:45:00 Raining Someday Susanna Hoffs N/A
00:55:00 All I Want Susanna Hoffs Susanna Hoffs N/A
00:55:00 Eternal Flame Lilith Fair: A Celebration of Women in Music The Bangles N/A
01:00:00 Tear Off Your Own Head (It's a Doll Revolution) Doll Revolution The Bangles N/A
01:05:00 Alone Again Or Under the Covers, Vol. 1 Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs N/A
01:05:00 Here Comes My Girl Under the Covers, Vol. 2 Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs N/A
01:10:00 Kid Under the Covers, Vol. 3 Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs N/A
01:15:00 Train in Vain Under the Covers, Vol. 3 Matthew Sweeta and Susanna Hoffs N/A
01:15:00 Anna Lee (Sweetheart of the Sun) Sweetheart of the Sun The Bangles N/A
01:20:00 One Day Someday Susanna Hoffs N/A