That Time I Got Serenaded by Susanna Hoffs

By David Weiner

Like many young men of my generation, I had a massive crush on Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles in the ’80s.

I was ahead of the curve with my fascination, as I really got into the music of The Bangles in 1984 right after the release of their first major-label album, All Over the Place. Two years later, with the release of Different Light, the rest of the world caught up thanks to the convergence of their hit singles “Manic Monday” and “Walk Like An Egyptian” with the power of the MTV juggernaut. Music videos featuring Susanna’s sultry, sidelong glances were in heavy rotation — and legions of fluttering hearts were beguiled by her sorcery.

The Go-Go’s kickstarted my appreciation for the punk attitude and energy of certain all-girl groups three years earlier. With The Bangles, I immediately took to the many Beatles-esque compositions of such songs as “Going Down to Liverpool,” “Live” and “Dover Beach” — and especially the tunes driven by Susanna’s sweet vocals.

I’ve seen the band several times in concert, in both massive venues from far away seats (Poplar Creek in Illinois) and in small ones standing up close (House of Blues in Hollywood). Amusingly, the first time I ever saw The Bangles, at Poplar Creek in June of 1987, my older sister (who by then was steeped in the music industry, having worked in promotion for major labels and managed a variety of rock bands) enthusiastically encouraged me to meet Susanna — simply walk backstage and ask to interview the band “for the school paper.” Because that’s the kind of stuff she did all the time — say anything to meet her musical heroes. First off, I didn’t write for the school paper. And second, I simply didn’t have the balls at that age to pull off such a feat. What would I do once I met her, if the plot even succeeded? But I tried it anyway. And I completely lost my nerve when some hairy guy opened the backstage entryway. Still, the Bangles management was considerate to the poor 19-year-old soul hanging at the door like a lost puppy, and handed me an unsigned promotional glossy pic of the band. Clearly a reward for my limited moxie.

Cut to 25 years later: I’m writing daily for ETonline at Entertainment Tonight as senior editor. Often times, in search of interesting and exclusive content, I’d connect with the show’s producers to do interviews for online, or cover stories for the show, especially ones that the syndicated program had no timeslot for. Since the show had become relentlessly tabloid-centric over the decade-plus I’d been there, and the farts and stumbles of reality stars were always top priority, I was essentially doing show producers a big favor if I could cover content on ETonline as a “catch-all” — and they’d be able to stay in the good graces of their various industry reps/contacts.

When Susanna Hoffs came out with a brand-new solo album, Someday, after a 15-year break, I received a press release about it. I asked ET’s music producer if the show was going to bring Susanna in to talk about it, and the answer was “nope.” They didn’t care. But I sure did. So I suggested that I could speak to her for ETonline, unless there was some weird conflict of interest, and I received an enthusiastic, “Yes! That would be perfect.” So I reached out to Susanna’s rep. And next thing I know, I’m lining up an on-camera interview. And I’m asked, “Would you like her to sing too?”

Now, wait. Hold for a minute. I’m a pretty seasoned interviewer at that point, having interviewed easily a hundred stars/filmmakers/artists for ET. But the butterflies of my inner 19-year-old fan, standing like a fool at the backstage door, swarmed in my stomach. Not only was I going to have an opportunity to sit down and talk with SUSANNA HOFFS. One on One. On camera. But she was now going to PERFORM LIVE. For. Me. Well, to be fair — for the cameras, and ET, and a for a sizable audience. But still, this was happening all because I wanted it to happen.

So, she serenaded me.

At least that’s how I looked at it.

The day we filmed, I put my inner fanboy in check. Susanna, her accompanying guitarist Andrew Brassell, and her small team of reps arrived on the CBS lot in Studio City, CA where the ET soundstages are. We bypassed the main stage for a more intimate setting, as the show was busy filming the daily show. I essentially functioned for the next two-hour stretch as if I was having an out-of-body experience. The whole thing was a “bucket-list” moment.

Susanna greeted me pleasantly and asked me if it was okay for her to sing first, explaining that it was more nerve wracking for her to perform than interview, and that she preferred to get it out of the way. No problem, you can sing first, Susanna. So she sang her new, melodic tune “Picture Me” from Someday flawlessly. And I got chills.

Relieved to have the new-tune performance behind her, Susanna loosened up and we then sat down to chat for about 15 minutes, talking about her motivations for returning to a solo project after 15 years, motherhood, The Bangles, her health regimen (you have to ask those types of things for ET) and her other fun side gig, Under The Covers with Sid & Susie (I chose not to be fully on-camera, with the hopes that the show might pick it up; it’s something I regret now). After the surprisingly easy chat came to a close, Susanna declared, “Cool! That was a really fun convo.”

The ultimate compliment.

After packing up her gear, Susanna headed out with her team and thanked me again. We took a picture together. I rarely ask any of the talent that I interview for an autograph, simply because one has to maintain an air of “no big deal chatting with you” when you work for ET. But for Susanna I had to make the exception. She signed her new disc for me with a “peace” sign.

Moments later, she was gone.

And I melted into a puddle.

Below, I reposted the accompanying ETonline article I wrote about Susanna’s interview/performance, which contains the edited version of our interview and her musical performance.

As a bonus below that, I posted the entire interview, uncut. Complete with, “Cool! That was a really fun convo.”



Bangle Susanna Hoffs Soars Solo with ‘Someday’

By David Weiner

August 2, 2012

Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles is back with a brand-new solo album, Someday, and the busy mom and musician stops by ETonline to perform an acoustic version of her single Picture Me just for us – and explain why 15 years have gone by in between solo efforts!

“I had this shoebox full of cassettes of things I’d been working on … but I just kept back burner-ing it — somewhere between juggling being a Bangle and a mom and a wife and just a person trying to get through the day — I think that might be why I called it Someday,” says the timeless, 53-year-old star.

The arrival of young guitarist Andrew Brassell in her life, a friend of Susanna’s niece who “sort of had a guitar glued to him,” provided an opportunity for Susanna to stop “washing dishes” in the kitchen and revisit the box o’ songs she had put off recording for so long, not to mention create a bunch of new ones.

“[We] would just start singing in my living room and playing music all the time,” she explains. “I would just hear these melodies in my head … So we sat down, and the first song we wrote was Picture Me, and it kind of just flowed from there. … On this record I had the opportunity to kind of explore, using other instrumentation that might not have been the obvious choice for The Bangles — we got to really dive into that 1967 kind of orchestration that was popular then.”

A child of the ’60s, Susanna drew inspiration from that decade for the breezy, infectious Someday, explaining, “I’m just always amazed at how emotional and melodic that music is, and I think that it’s just a very special period of time when people weren’t afraid to wear their heart on their sleeves. … That’s when I fell in love with music, so I don’t think you ever get over your first musical crush. That music was just unabashedly emotional, and that’s kind of what I was going for with this.”

In addition to her solo work (this is her third entry), Susanna is still an active member of The Bangles, who are a little more “under the radar” these days, but still playing festivals in Europe and Canada this month before Susanna tours solo to support her new disc. Looking back on the all-girl band’s ’80s heyday, does she wince a bit with all that big hair and over-the-top fashion?

“I do cringe, quite a bit – and YouTube doesn’t help, because you cannot escape it; you cannot escape your past now,” the Manic Monday and Eternal Flame singer says with a laugh. “You have to have a sense of humor about it. The fashion was sometimes just dreadful.”

And that big hair? “Oh my god! I’m so glad I don’t have to inhale hairspray anymore!” she smiles. “But those were the days, and you know, I look back fondly. … I think Walk Like an Egyptian has sort of been turned into a bit of an ’80s anthem now, and even at the time it struck me as a rather quirky song. We were all completely confounded when that was picked as a single, because as much as we thought it was a cool song, we thought, ‘You know what? This doesn’t sound like anything on the radio.’ But, that was always true for The Bangles. We lived a little bit outside the box of what was going on in the ’80s.”

Watch the video for Susanna’s performance of Picture Me with Andrew Brassell — as well as more of her ETonline interview. Someday is available now…

My full, uncut interview with Susanna Hoffs for Entertainment Tonight:


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