Happy 35th Anniversary to The Bangles’ debut album All Over the Place, originally released May 23, 1984.
In December 1980, dual advertisements appeared in the Recycler—a popular classifieds weekly in Los Angeles, California—each seeking members for an all-female band. One had been placed by vocalist/guitarist Susanna Hoffs, the other by Lynn Elkind, roommate to vocalist/guitarist Vicki Peterson. In true serendipitous fashion, Hoffs and Peterson would intersect. Their shared love for 1960s band oriented pop-rock led to the creation of The Colours in 1981, an embryonic form of what was to become the Bangles and whose line-up included Hoffs, Annette Zilinskas (bass, harmonica), Peterson and her sister Debbi (drums).
Assuredly indebted to the pioneering efforts of The Runaways and the Go-Go’s, The Bangs—the group’s second working title—were more closely aligned in sound to the Paisley Underground scene that had taken hold in the City of Angels. A vibrantly esoteric movement, it embraced the aural principles of Love, The Byrds, and The Mamas and the Papas among others from that epoch in popular music. So, for the quartet with an abiding affection for this era and all its trappings, it was an ideal breeding ground for them to sharpen their vintage-contemporary garage rock approach.
By 1983, the foursome had not only become darlings of the Paisley Underground, they’d also cut a single, secured a manager, drafted an EP and undergone one final line-up switch and band name change. Zilinskas’ departure to explore other career pursuits saw her void quickly filled by former Runaways bassist Michael Steele which cemented the classic roster of the Bangles. Assistance from I.R.S Records founder—and their manager—Miles Copeland got the four young women their first, non-independent recording contract. In just three years, the Bangles had gone from concept to Columbia Records signees.
Despite the breakneck pace of their journey, the Bangles never lost sight of translating their distinctive sound to their inaugural effort; the writing and recording for All Over the Place was soon underway. Excluding their excellent covers of The Merry-Go Round’s “Live” and Katrina and the Waves “Going Down to Liverpool,” the remainder of All Over the Place finds its Venusian fueled content scripted wholly by the Peterson sisters and Hoffs. The uniform excellence of the songwriting was due to the cohesive nature of the working relationship between the Bangles and their knowledge of each other’s strengths comes through vividly in the music too.
For example, the variegated tempos heard throughout All Over the Place—from the punky “All About You” to the airy funk of “Going Down to Liverpool”—evince Debbi Peterson’s percussive abilities aren’t restricted to just one mode of operation. Debbi’s pacing sets the tone for how her bandmate Steele seamlessly partners her textured bass playing to any of the songs present on the LP. Subsequently, Hoffs and Vicki Peterson employ their spangled guitar lines in cooperation with Debbi and Steele’s rhythmic work to aid in granting further dimension to “Hero Takes a Fall,” “Live” and “James”—a gorgeous three-song opening salvo for All Over the Place, establishing a fetchingly tough, but melodic energy as their staple mark.
Equally as important as their crackerjack musicianship is the singular singing style the Bangles possess, both collectively and individually. Whether it is Hoffs using her sweet and spicy phrasing on “Hero Takes a Fall” or the emotive, dusky tones of Vicki and Debbi on the string laden closer “More Than Meets the Eye,” each of them shines. And while Steele does not take any specific vocal or songwriting leads for herself here, she more than comes into her own space as singer-songwriter on the other Bangles LPs to follow All Over the Place. However, Steele is accounted for within the pristine harmony matrix the Bangles form to support whomever does take lead duty.
With these striking ingredients in action on All Over the Place, producer David Kahne brings it all together succinctly behind the boards, wisely keeping the production uncluttered and focused. The resulting package is an album that announced the foursome as an exciting new act in the girl group oeuvre and beyond.
All Over the Place debuted on May 23, 1984 and yielded two commercial singles in “Hero Takes a Fall” and “Going Down to Liverpool.” Though the chart traction for the singles and their host album were modest, notices were positive and helped—along with the Bangles’ continually strong live shows—to bolster an ever-growing profile for the ladies with the record buying public. Soon enough, the group found stratospheric success on their sophomore set A Different Light in 1986. However, the transition from underground favorites to major label players began with All Over the Place, an album that, sonically, remains one of their finest moments in their accomplished body of work.