David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 189: The Bangles (Following)

October 9, 2022

The danger with obsessive fans analyzing their favorite songs, albums and artists is that they can create their own narratives for the music/musicians and refuse to budge from them.

Luckily, that ain't me at all.

On a completely different subject, you ever hear "Following" off of The Bangles' Different Light? Talk about something in a different light. All of the other eleven songs on the album are pop pastiches, invoking any number of pop artists through the years: The Beatles; The Beach Boys; The Mamas and the Papas; even The Monkees. Harmonies all over the place, more than found on All Over The Place (their previous album). Then there's that song that's "following you around" long after the pop evaporates into thin air.

"Following" is dark, mostly acoustic, barely sung, sounding more like a Rickie Lee Jones song than a Davy Jones song, notes plucked as if angrily removing petals from a rose stem in the dark, percussion tapping in and out like a cat burglar.

"Following" is the only song on the album written entirely by bassist Michael Steele (she is co-writer on only one other song), the last member to join The Bangles and the one who always seemed slightly off center from Hoffs and the two Petersons. If you look at most pictures of the band, she is usually at one of the two ends. Do I dare say, she seems often to be "looking over the shoulder?" Steele appeared to steel herself more against the sexualized imagery that Hoffs frequently presented, and to a lesser degree, Vicki Peterson. Is "Following" her identity outing? 

Did Steele see herself as a follower to her more outwardly breezy bandmates? Is her song a plea to fit in . . . or to tell the others to get out, after all "I know you look for me/why do your eyes follow me the way they do?" Lyrically, it speaks to deeper passions than most of the songs on the album, starting with "you think I'm crazy/always following you around/you say I'm a hopeless case/running obsession into the ground." Note the implication in that line that obsession is not a bad thing, only a problem when it is run "into the ground."

Everything that follows in "Following" are Red Flags: "causing all the trouble back in high school," as if any of us need those schooldays still looming not so far in the past. Ghosts of a past relationship "haunting you" to "hold me responsible."  Whoah, Michael, that is some pretty serious shit (she has said the song was written about a past flame).

This is the first song Steele will compose (or at least have featured) for a Bangles' album. By Everything, she had three songs featured, including the probably apt titled, "Complicated Girl," but for her first song to be about stalking seems even more apt.

Everything (not just the next Bangles' album) seems really calculated with "Following." It is the second to last song on the album, following all of those poppy hits that were bringing the band lots of money and attention. It sounded like absolutely nothing else on the album, following a different drum than everything else. Ultimately, someone associated with The Bangles, whether band member, producer, whomever, had a sense of humor. "Following" is, well, followed by "Not Like You," the final track, a subtle reminder that "Following" was not like everything else.  And the album is all the better for it. I'm not sure, despite the absurd number of hits, Different Light is even memorable all these years later if not for Steele's voice following us around.

At least that's the narrative I see. You can call me "crazy or something" if you must.

"Following." The Bangles. Different Light. Columbia, 1986. Link here.

Day 188: Paul McCartney & Wings "Let Me Roll It"

Day 190: Elton John "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues"

See complete list here.