Take Five: A Susanna Hoffs Deep Dive

Eternally youthful singer, songwriter and guitarist Susanna Hoffs celebrated her 65th birthday on January 17. Hoffs came to fame in the early ‘80s with The Bangles; her great voice and undeniable visual appeal helped make Bangles hits like “Walk Like an Egyptian” and “Eternal Flame” (The latter of which she co-wrote) huge MTV-era hits. But Hoffs’ work in and beyond The Bangles is filled with gems, many of which may have been overlooked by casual fans. Here’s a deep dive showcasing five songs with key involvement from Susanna Hoffs.

The Bangs – “Getting Out of Hand” (single, 1981)
Before they landed a label deal with Miles Copeland’s Faulty Products, the group – then known as The Bangs – self-released their debut single. Written by lead guitarist Vicki Petersen and featuring a Susanna Hoffs lead vocal, “Getting Out of Hand” wasn’t a hit, but it did attract the attention of the music industry. (When Faulty Products folded, The Bangles landed on Copeland’s newer, bigger and more successful label, I.R.S. Records.) “Getting Out of Hand” was never released on an album during The Bangles’ initial run, but it was featured on Rhino’s landmark Children of Nuggets boxed set in 2005.

Rainy Day – “I’ll Keep it With Mine” from Rainy Day (1984)
A kind of supergroup, Rainy Day was a short-lived collaborative project featuring members of the so-called “Paisley Underground” musical movement in and around Los Angeles in the mid 1980s. Featuring members of The Dream Syndicate, Green on Red, Rain Parade and The Bangles, the collective released a self-titled album in 1984. That record featured knowing covers of classics from rock’s first folk rock and psychedelic era, including songs by Buffalo Springfield, The Velvet Underground and others. With an enchanting Hoffs lead vocal, Rainy Day’s reading of Bob Dylan’s “I’ll Keep it With Mine” was a highlight of the set.

Hoodoo Gurus – “Good Times” from Blow Your Cool! (1987)
Heroes of the 1980s “college rock” movement, this Australian group skillfully combined a ‘60s garage rock aesthetic, the appeal of power pop and an indie rock sensibility, scoring massive success at home (and critical – if not widespread commercial – success worldwide) with tunes like “My Girl” and “I Want You Back.” The band’s third album Blow Your Cool! (featuring artwork inspired by jazz man Jackie McLean’s 1965 Right Now! LP) included backing vocals from The Bangles – of course including Hoffs – on two tunes, this one included.

Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs – “I See the Rain” from Under the Covers Vol. 1 (2006)
A power pop summit took place when friends Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs embarked upon their Under the Covers project. That creative collaboration would eventually yield three superb albums, each focusing on classics of a specific decade in rock/pop history. The first entry in the series featured a number of deep cuts, displaying both artists’ appreciation for the countless great songs of the era that somehow didn’t find their way onto American radio playlists. “I See the Rain” was a 1967 single by Scottish group The Marmalade; the band was notable for its strong vocal harmonies and the fact that it has not one but two bassists, giving the music a thunderous bottom-end. On this version, Matthew and Susanna share lead vocal duties.

Travis – “The Only Thing” from 10 Songs (2020)
A Glasgow band formed in 1990 in Scotland, Travis have scored several awards in their native UK, and eight of their nine studio albums have soared into the Top 10 there. No less than 18 of their singles have made it into the country’s Top 40 chart as well. Oddly, their success stateside has been far more measured, with only two singles edging into the U.S. Alternative singles chart. But the group earned fans among The Bangles and other American groups; on this, the lead single from the band’s most recent studio long player (2020’s well-received 10 Songs), they’re joined on haunting vocals by Susanna Hoffs.