If you can believe it, “If She Knew What She Wants” was the first Bangles 45 that I bought. I knew “Manic Monday” and loved “Manic Monday”, but for whatever reason, I didn’t buy the single. This was because the spring/summer of 1986 was a very transformative year for me in terms of my music listening. I’d already branched off from my all-Olivia-all-the-time listening habits and started to listen to the radio more. I’d watched the MTV Top 100 Video Countdown on New Year’s Eve of 1985 (#1 was “Money For Nothing”) and had really started becoming the Dan you know and love today. That was the first time in my life that I really CONSUMED music. I would sit and watch MTV for hours on end. I loved looking at charts and seeing how things moved around. This was when I thought that every song had it’s time to be the number one song – silly Dan – and I think one of the first songs I watched NOT be #1 was the Bangles’ follow-up to their ubiquitous ode to Mondays.
When I look back on summers in my life, there are very few that are as vibrant musically as that one. Its importance to my musical development and, consequently, my development as a person, cannot be underestimated. I was 14 that summer and between junior high and high school. Madonna’s True Blue was released in late June and became the first Madonna album I experienced in real time as a fan and turned from a casual fan to a die hard. I listened to Casey Kasem’s Top 40 show on the weekends. I loved flipping through record albums at Sernetts department store and it was during this summer that I saw my first compact disc – David Lee Roth’s Eat ‘Em & Smile, if memory serves.
But back to the Bangles. Truth be told, I like “If She Knew What She Wants” more than “Manic Monday” or any of the other singles off of Different LIght, the breakthrough second album from The Bangles. Maybe because it’s a pretty solidly written song set to a breezy summer tune. Maybe it’s because of its classy, almost entirely black and white video – although I had no idea until today that an completely different video existed for the UK release of the single. It’s pretty much permanently on my Favorites playlist on my iPod. And although “Walk Like An Egyptian” was the bigger hit and “Manic Monday” is better remembered almost 30 years later, “If She Knew What She Wants” with its #29 peak on the Billboard Hot 100, is the one that still speaks to me after all these years. I was sad that the ultimate focus on Susanna Hoffs more or less broke up the band – even though she was easy on the eyes, she always reminded me of my of one of my cousins, so it was hard for me to see her as a sex symbol. I was always intrigued by bassist Michael Steele (not to be confused with the former head of the Republican National Committee), who had a compelling voice that went well with her dark lyrics – the song “Following” being a prime example.
Back in the Napster days, my sister downloaded a track of Duran Duran performing the “If She Knew What She Wants” with the Bangles in 1987. It’s one of those takes on a song that could have possibly been lost forever had it not been for the advent of digital music and file sharing as it was never commercially released anywhere. When I think back on Napster and what I like to refer to as “the Wild West days of the Internet” it’s those kinds of things that I miss vs. being able to download whole albums for free. It met a need for die hard fans of an artist – in this case, it was Duran Duran for my sister – to find all the rare live tracks, remixes and B-sides that might otherwise be lost to time – that still hasn’t been fully met today by the various legal means that exist.
That’s what I want, and no one’s giving it to me.