Monday, August 7, 2000

Behind the Muse-Ick

Over the years we've filled these pages with all my personal triumphs and successes so I figure it's time to reveal the flipside- my biggest disappointment. And believe it or not this moment has nothing to do with the morning I discovered that Burger King's "hash browns" are nothing but a glorified tater tot or one big potato cake depending on your perspective. So we begin this week's yarn.

I think it safe to say with CBS's "Survivor," the Food Channel's "Iron Chef," game show, and A&E repeating "Murder One," TV viewers have never had as much must see fast food TV as we do this summer. It's almost as if the TV executives are tempting us to neglect our social lives, forget about leaving the house, and spend as much time as we can absorbing those absorbing electrons from our TV screens into the neurons of the gray stuff up above.

Last Sunday night as I was doing my nightly flipping, I was finding it unusually difficult to come across a show that captured my attention for longer than twenty seconds at a time. Sunday Night Baseball featured an intriguing matchup- the mighty Chicago White Sox against the Disney friendly Anaheim Angels, but for some reason the game didn't have much appeal to me. I was just about resigned to giving up and having to read a book when luckily I came across a new episode of VH-1's "Behind the Music."

Every episode of the show I've seen has basically been the same story no matter the group or individual featured. Each story begins with a happy and sad childhood dreaming of being a famous musician; moves to the struggles of finding a musical identity; tells of the adventures of getting booked into the right venues. From there we learn of the "big break" and ensuing first time on the radio- where the featured band/star tells of the excitement of the moment, of pulling the car over and barfing. From there is a meteoric rise to fame when music fans can't seem to get enough of the band/star's music or time. We learn of ominous signs of the impending fall- either into drugs or some other personal tragedy, then we see the fall. Just when it seems all is lost we learn of the recovery and the slow turn on to the comeback trail.

What made me stop my channel flippin' and actually watch this entire episode was the band featured- the Bangles. To see the band's "story" pigeonholed into the series' format was a bit disconcerting. They told of how the Peterson sisters met up with Susanna. They told of how throughout their career the band struggled with being taken seriously as musicians as opposed to being looked at as just a girl group. Attention was paid to Prince's infatuation with Susanna and his giving them the band's first one number song, the sublime "Manic Monday." They told of the disintegration of the band caused in large part by Susanna's growing popularity and her subsequent desire to be a solo artist. The show ended (of course) with glimpses of the band's reunion as they attempt to record another CD and tour together again.

For those of us who knew the band the show seemed a tad shallow on the way things actually were. But behind Behind the Music was the music- those glorious Bangle harmonies, those lovely jangly Bangle guitars, that familiar look (the shift of the eyes, the sideward glance) from Susanna (sigh)- how could anyone turn away? It felt like 1986 all over again before we all knew the difference between a right and left mouse button.

Of course I was a tad disappointed there was no mention whatsoever of my role in the Bangles' history. It was never easy being the only boy in an all girl band. What made it even harder was the instrument I played- the whiskey jar, which in my care was both a percussive instrument- with my big toe poppin' out of the top, and also melodious instrument with that same toe rubbing around the ridge creating a flute like sound. Early on I was dubbed the "fifth Bangle" but anyone who was around knows I put the bang in the Bangles.

I wrote many of the early songs- many of which were unlike anything anyone had ever heard- about albino squirrels, love songs to Tom Snyder, and vodka collins. When we were looking for the next big sound I molded us into the in-line skating band forming those soon to be famous harmonies. My unrequited love for Susanna probably got me kicked out of the band although the girls all expressed concern when I made the decision to stop touring and focus on the songwriting. Those wild rumors of me blacktopping my living room so I could have an in-line skating track around my piano to inspire me- were not entirely accurate.

Susanna thought by getting rid of me there'd be no more songs written about her. But she was wrong. She broke my heart and that was ALL I could write about for a long long time. Of course she returned the favor- I remain convinced to this day that "Eternal Flame" was directed at me. I was told the decision to kick me out was that they didn't want to be seen as a gimmick band- which is ironic because they always fought the unfair label of a "girl group." I was saddened by the decision, especially since they told me right on the brink of our first recording session with Columbia. But I can tell you this, had I remained there never would have been that "Walk Like an Egyptian" fiasco.

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