Great Rock Albums of 1986: Jackson Browne- Lives in the Balance

Posted in Uncategorized on November 17, 2019 by 80smetalman


One tightrope that many rock artists from the 1970s had to walk in the 1980s was the one between what their traditional rock sound was and the new synth pop sounds of the new decade. If they were too rock, the top forty brigade would accuse the artist of becoming too heavy metal. Believe me, that happened! On the other hand, if the artist went more towards the trendy pop sound, the artist was in danger of being accused of selling out by his more loyal fans. However, there was one artist who walked that tightrope as if he was the Great Walenza himself, Jackson Browne. His 1986 album, “Lives in the Balance” is proof of that.

The very first track of “Lives in the Balance” gives all the clues needed that Jackson Browne was continuing to do what he had done so successfully for over a decade prior. “For America” opens with a great guitar solo intro and holds the interest with some good guitar hooks, similar to his previous album, “Lawyers in Love.” For me, it’s the best track on the album. “Soldier of Plenty” follows on with some intricate guitar playing while “In the Shape of Your Heart” is a bit more tender but the Jackson Browne stamp is definitely on the song. This song suits me more in my more melodic older age and the bass line is pretty good as well as the decent guitar solo and keyboard interlude. If I wasn’t so obsessed with power chords back in 1986, I would have appreciated this track more.

“Candy” is probably the most 1980s track on the album because of the synth hook on it but the guitar hooks works well with it too. It’s a cool combination. In contrast, “Lawless Avenues” is the biggest straight ahead rocker on the album. Not hard enough to head bang but definitely one you can bob your head along to.

Then we come to the title cut. It is this song where Jackson criticized for his naive political lyrics. As I was becoming more politically aware then, these lyrics weren’t naive for me. They were warning about possible US war in Central America, which was something I was opposed to. Therefore, they spoke to me on a personal level and they were sung to a pretty good tune. Penultimate track, “Till I Go Down,” is done in a reggae type vibe but Jackson makes it sound good. Then things finish on a good traditional Jackson Browne sounding closer in “Black and White.”

Track Listing:

  1. For America
  2. Soldier of Plenty
  3. In the Shape of Your Heart
  4. Candy
  5. Lawless Avenues
  6. Lives in the Balance
  7. Till I Go Down
  8. Black and White

Jackson Browne

Jackson Browne- lead and harmony vocals, guitar, piano

Jorge Calderon- bass, harmony vocals (track 5)

Phil Chen- bass (track 7)

Jennifer Condos- bass (track 1)

Enrique ‘Quique’ Cruz- zampona (track 6)

Debra Dobkin- harmony vocals (track 6)

Craig Doerge- synthesizer (track 3)

Kevin Dukes- guitar (track 8)

Bob Glaub- bass (tracks 2,3,4,6,8)

Doug Haywood- harmony vocals (tracks 3,4,7,8)

Jim Keltner- drums (track 5)

Phil Kenzie- alto saxophone (track 1)

Danny Kortchmar- guitar (track 5)

Ross Kunkel- drums (tracks 2,4,6,8)

Bernie Larsen- guitar, clavinet (track 7)

David Lindley- guitar (tracks 5,7)

Steve Lukather- guitar (tracks 2,4,8)

Stan Lynch- drums (track 3)

Kevin McCormick- guitar, harmony vocals (track 7)

Ian McLagan- organ (track 7)

Gary Myrick- guitar (track 1)

Bill Paine- synthesizer (tracks 2,4,6) piano (track 8)

Hugh Pedroza- charango, tipple (track 6)

Bonnie Raitt- harmony vocals (track 4)

Walfredo Reyes Junior- congas (track 5)

Mindy Sterling- harmony vocals (track 6)

Jorge Strunz- acoustic guitar (track 6)

Rick Vito- guitar (track 3)

Ian Wallace- drums (track 1,7)

Waddy Watchel- guitar (track 5)

Jai Winding- synthesizer (tracks 1,4,5,6,8) piano (tracks 1,5)


If I wasn’t so caught up in metal in 1986, (I don’t regret that), I would have appreciated “Lives in the Balance” more. It’s a good album from Jackson Browne, who knows how to use the hooks well.

Next post: Rolling Stones- Dirty Work

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Great Rock Albums of 1986: Clarence Clemons- Hero

Posted in Uncategorized on November 14, 2019 by 80smetalman


In spite of my adamant stance of being a metalhead in 1986, there were still a few non-metal albums which caught my attention in the right way. One of these albums was the solo album, “Hero,” from Bruce Springsteen’s famous saxophonist, Clarence Clemons. Here’s my controversial statement for the week: While Bruce deserves all the honours he has received for more than the past four decades, his E Street Band hasn’t gotten so much of the honour they deserve for making him sound so great for so long. Of course, everyone who knows Bruce knows Clarence and what he could do with the sax. That alone made me want to check out this album.


Let me dispel one myth some people had about Clarence’s solo album. That myth was that it would be nothing but saxophone instrumentals. True, there is one such song, “Liberation Fire,” and it proved that a saxophone could make an 80s synth pop song sound good, but the big man does sing on all the other tracks and he has a good voice. On the second track, “Temptation,” he combines his vocal and saxophone talents very well.

“Hero” did produce a couple of singles for the top forty crowd. MTV gave “Your a Friend of Mine” quite a lot of airplay back in the day. What made this song single-worthy was that Jackson Browne produced it and sings on it as does film star Daryl Hannah. Actually, her vocals are pretty good. “I Wanna Be Your Hero” was also released as a single. This tune sounds a little more like Bruce Springsteen although, I’m convinced that Clarence wanted to make his own sound with this album. Although the start of the song eerily reminds me of “Mickey” by Toni Basil.

The remainder of the tracks follow the 1980s pop/rock formula. No song more so than “It’s Alright With Me Girl.” Not a bad song but it could be called ‘dated’ these days. Although Clarence does his magic with the sax making it a little better than the average pop song. However, being my contradictory self, the cover of the Walker Brothers hit, “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” is performed well by Clarence and his band. I’d like to know which lady accompanies him on the vocals. The jazzy blues sounding “Cross the Line” is also another great combination of Clarence’s sax playing and vocals and “Kissin’ On You” has a great funky vibe. I think Clarence has a lot of fun on this one.

Track Listing:

  1. You’re a Friend of Mine
  2. Temptation
  3. It’s Alright With Me Girl
  4. Liberation Fire
  5. The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore
  6. I Wanna Be Your Hero
  7. Cross the Line
  8. Kissin’ On You
  9. Christina


Clarence Clemons

Clarence Clemons- vocals, saxophone, percussion

Jackson Browne, Daryl Hannah- vocals on “You’re a Friend of Mine”

Kitty Beethoven- vocals

Princess Loria- vocals

Jennifer Hall- vocals

Liz Jackson- vocals

Sundari- vocals

Brenda Joy Nelson- vocals

Tina B.- vocals

Richard Walsh- vocals

Craig Thomas- vocals, saxophone

Lotti Golden- vocals

Darlene Love- vocals

 Norman Mershon- vocals

Tony ‘Rocks’ Cowans- guitar

Carlos Pepper- guitar

Lewis West- guitar

Billy Loosigian- guitar

Corrado Rustici- guitar

Vernon ‘Ice’ Black- guitar

Stuart Kimball- guitar

Bob Messano- guitar

Maurice Starr- bass

John Siegler- bass

Doug Wimbish- bass, drums

Preston Glass- acoustic guitar, keyboards, vibraphone

Booker T Jones- keyboards, organ

Walter Afanaseiff- keyboards, sound effects

Frank Martin- keyboards

David Sancious- keyboards

David Scher- keyboards

William Beard- drums

Anton Figg- drums

Premik McFly- saxophone, baritone sax

Greg ‘Gigi’ Gonaway- glockenspiel, percussion

Bill Sebastian- glockenspiel, percussion

Randy Jackson- bass, drums, percussion

Michael Rado- harp

Back in 1986, Clarence Clemon’s “Hero” album wouldn’t normally have been my cup of tea but there’s just something about it. It’s an easy listening, enjoyable album whether you’re a Springsteen fan or not.

Next post: Jackson Browne- Lives in the Balance

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Great Rock Albums of 1986: The Firm- Mean Business

Posted in Uncategorized on November 10, 2019 by 80smetalman


Before I start, I would like to bring up one amusing point I forgot to mention when I wrote about Van Halen’s “5150” album. It wasn’t about the band nor the album but about Eddie Van Halen’s marriage to Valerie Bertinelli. If you read People Magazine back then, it seemed that every other week, there was some comment in the mag that their marriage was ending. There were also stories in People stating that Val was going through a personal hell for not having had a child yet. These stories got so frequent to the point of being tedious. Besides, history proved People wrong because Eddie and Val did have a child and their marriage lasted for another 20 years or so.

Now onto the second album from The Firm, “Mean Business.” Unfortunately, this album was commercially doomed from the start. That was on account of the first album where many metalheads rejected it because it wasn’t the Led Zeppelin/Bad Company hybrid they were expecting. As a result and in spite of the debut being a great album, many weren’t prepared to give the second album a chance. I was one of those at the time, partly because the first album didn’t match up to my expectations, partly because the single from “Mean Business,” “All the Kings Horses,” didn’t move me and partly because a friend of mine bought the album and said he wasn’t impressed.

Fortunately, as you all know by now, the post millennium 80smetalman is more open minded and culturally aware than the one from 1986. Let me begin by stating that there is some Led Zeppelin influence on this album, definitely on the first  two tracks, “Fortune Hunter” and “Cadillac.” The guitar solo on the opener screams Jimmy Page all over it and the second track has Led Zeppelin all over it. In fact, “Cadillac” is my favourite track on the album.

On the other hand, Paul Rogers brings his Bad Company influence on the fourth track, “Live in Peace.” He had previously recorded it on his 1983 solo album but I am completely impressed by what The Firm did to it here. Especially another killer guitar solo a la Page. Chris Slade’s drumming is pretty intense on the song too. But if you want a song which highlights the efforts of the entire band, then the winner is “Tear Down the Walls.” The album has some cool Page licks, a quirky but solid bass line from Tony Franklin and the same solid drumming from Slade and do I need to mention Paul’s vocals? I don’t think I need to, they’re great as always.

While I mentioned that “All the King’s Horses” didn’t bowl me over back in 1986, in no way is it a bad song. Probably a good choice for a single but unfortunately, in 1986, metal and mainstream music were becoming two separate entities. A better choice for a single would have been the Franklin penned, “Dreaming.” It’s sort of a ballad which opens with a cool Page guitar solo and there’s more of those to be had in the song. On the downside, the song is six minutes long which would have made it too radio unfriendly. Anyway, “Spirit of Love” is a very good closer indeed.

Track Listing:

  1. Fortune Hunter
  2. Cadillac
  3. All the King’s Horses
  4. Live in Peace
  5. Tear Down the Walls
  6. Dreaming
  7. Free to Live
  8. Spirit of Love


Paul Rogers- vocals, guitars, piano

Jimmy Page- lead guitar

Tony Franklin- bass/keyboards

Chris Slade- drums

The Firm is the prime example of how a band was demolished by misplaced expectations. People, and I was partially guilty of this, pooh-poohed them because they didn’t sound much like the bands they came from. In fact, The Firm disbanded a few months after this album was released. With the benefit of hindsight, I think this was a tragedy because who knows what they could have been if given a fair chance.

Next post: Clarence Clemons- Hero

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Great Rock Albums of 1986: Van Halen- 5150

Posted in Uncategorized on November 7, 2019 by 80smetalman


A couple of weeks ago, when I posted about 38 Special’s “Strength in Numbers” album, I mentioned that I accused the band of ‘selling out’ back in 1986. I also stated that the term ‘sell out’ was brandished about quite liberally back then, especially by me. However, one band in 1986 which was accused of selling out by many metalheads around the world was Van Halen when they released the album “5150.” Gone were many of the power metal riffs from Eddie Van Halen and replaced by synthesizers. While synths were seen as the commercial friendly thing to do, it alienated a lot of metalheads who remember the glory days of Van Halen’s earlier metal albums.

80smetalman opinion: Many people blamed the ‘sell out’ on singer David Lee Roth leaving the band and being replaced by red rocker Sammy Hagar. I reject this claim. I’ve heard several of Sammy’s solo albums before his joining VH and saw his kick ass live show in 1984. Therefore, I was quite excited at the fact he was replacing Diamond Dave in the band. While I was disappointed the first time I heard “Why Can’t This Be Love” on the radio, I never attributed the synth sound to Sammy. Even before he joined, evidenced in Van Halen’s previous album, “1984,” Eddie Van Halen was already incorporating keyboards in the band’s sound. Maybe he was trying to experiment but let me bring in another piece of evidence. Even before “1984,” Eddie’s then wife, actress Valerie Bertinelli, had gotten him to play on Michael Jackson’s song “Beat It.” My thought and I have stated this in other blogs, was that Eddie had become so henpecked by Val, that it was getting into his music and that could be why he went more into softer synth pop. I know that sounds very sexist but at the time, I knew quite a few ladies who thought the same thing.

Regardless of the cause, “5150” is definitely a departure from what Van Halen sounded like in previous albums and if I had based the entire album on “Why Can’t This Be Love,” than I never would have listened to it. I mean there isn’t even a cool Eddie guitar solo on that song. Contrast this with the second single, “Dreams.” It too is synthed out way too much but at least there’s a good Eddie guitar solo on that song. The same can be said for “Love Walks In.” This one is more of a ballad but I must admit that there’s a cool Eddie guitar solo on it.

Fortunately, not every song is a synth oriented pop sounding song. My favourite track on the album, “Hot Summer Nights” is definitely a throw back to the Van Halen of old. Everything you remember and loved about them is all there in the song. Great guitar riffs, the ever so strong rhythm section of brother Alex and Michael Anthony and a killer of a guitar solo from Eddie. In addition, Sammy’s vocals on the track only makes it sound that much better. Coming second on my favourite track list is the following one, “Best of Both Worlds.” This too is another throwback to classic times and is just a pure rocker. Every time I listen to this album, I ask myself, “Why can’t the entire album sound like these two songs?” Then again, “Get Up” is pretty good too so make it three songs, possibly four with the title track.

Track Listing:

  1. Good Enough
  2. Why Can’t This Be Love
  3. Get Up
  4. Dreams
  5. Hot Summer Nights
  6. Best of Both Worlds
  7. Love Walks In
  8. 5150
  9. Inside


Van Halen

Sammy Hagar- lead and backing vocals

Eddie Van Halen- guitars, keyboards, backing vocals

Michael Anthony- bass, backing vocals

Alex Van Halen- drums, percussion

In all fairness, I have come to the conclusion that Van Halen’s “5150” album is half a hard rocking album. Four, possibly five if you count the opener, are good rocking tunes. The other four give lots of weight to the notion that this album was a sell out album for the band. Whatever side you’re on, the album really isn’t that bad.

Next post: The Firm- Mean Business

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Great Rock Albums of 1986: Robert Palmer- Riptide

Posted in Uncategorized on November 4, 2019 by 80smetalman


One of the most memorable images of early 1986, compliments of MTV, was Robert Palmer’s video for one of his most successful singles of all time, “Addicted to Love,” from the album “Riptide.” It wasn’t Rob, it was the five lovely ladies in the video who made up his ‘band.’ That video was very heavily requested back then and I suspect most of those calls came from young men. However, even if the video was never made and we didn’t get to see those ladies, “Addicted to Love” is the best single on the album. While the guitar riff was toned down to meet the synth pop requirements of 1980s, it still is prominent in the song and it was enough to satisfy a metalhead in search of heavier power chords.

Even though my search for power chords was satisfied over three decades ago and I listen to “Riptide” with a more open mind, I still think the rest of the album is too synth pop for my liking. The proof in the pudding is the second track, “Hyperactive,” a total pop tune. I even prefer the night club act sounding opening title track to this one.

Further evidence that popular music and I were heading in different directions is presented in Robert’s second and to my surprise, more successful in the singles charts, single “I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On.” It might have been a success back then but it had no influence on me to the point I had forgotten about it. Give me “Addicted to Love” any day.

Being the split personality Gemini that I am, (note: I don’t go for that zodiac nonsense), there are some decent non synth pop tracks on here. Robert returns to his blues influences on “Get It Through Your Heart.” Not a great tune but better than the synth pop. There is one hidden gem on “Riptide,” which comes in the form of “Trick Bag.” It’s a cover of a song from jazz artist, Earl King, who Palmer sites as one of his influences. But even that’s not enough to make up for the synth pop on the rest of the album.

Track Listing:

  1. Riptide
  2. Hyperactive
  3. Addicted to Love
  4. Get It Through Your Heart
  5. Trick Bag
  6. I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On
  7. Flesh Wound
  8. Discipline of Love
  9. Riptide- reprise


Robert Palmer and his famous MTV band

Robert Palmer- vocals

Tony Thompson- drums, except tracks 5 & 8

Dony Wind- drums, tracks 5 & 8

Bernard Edwards- bass, except for track 8

Guy Pratt- bass, track 8

Eddie Martinez- guitar

Andy Taylor- guitar, track 3

Wally Badarou, Jeff Bova, Jack Waldman- keyboards

Lenny Pickett- saxophone

Benny Diggs, Fonzi Thornton- backing vocals, tracks 3 & 8

Chaka Khan- vocal arrangement, track 3

In spite of what I’ve said about “Riptide,” it doesn’t take away from the fact that Robert Palmer is an excellent singer. Even on the synth pop tracks, his vocals show his talent and that too contributed to the album’s commercial success. Still, it wasn’t an album for most metalheads.

Next Post: Van Halen- 5150

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Great Rock Albums of 1986: Divinyls- What a Life

Posted in Uncategorized on November 1, 2019 by 80smetalman


Like with previous years, there are albums which came out the year before which didn’t come to my attention until early the following year. Such is the case with Australia’s Divinyls and their album “What a Life.” This was also another lesson on not to judge a band on account of one song. When the video for the first single, “Pleasure and Pain” came to MTV, I have to admit that I wasn’t overly thrilled with it. It didn’t suck but I thought it was just another fly by night 80s pop band. Then, not too far later on, I discovered that the Divinyls were on tour supporting the mighty Aerosmith. I came to the conclusion that any band worthy of supporting the mighty ‘Smith.’ was not a pop outfit and deserved a fair listen.

Having given “What a Life” the fair listen it deserved, I can say that it is not an 80s pop album. While it’s not a great heavy rocker, I can see why Aerosmith would have taken the Divinyls on tour with them. After the single opens the first track, the second, “Don’t  You Go Walking” is a nice little light rocker. The guitars are heavier, in fact, guitarists, Mark McEntee and Bjarne Ohlin, do shred a little on the song thus making it my favourite song on the album. Things don’t let up on the next track, “Good Die Young,” either. What separates the two is that on “Good Die Young,” there are parts on the track where the band tries to sound too much like Berlin. Still, it’s a pretty decent song.

A cool intro begins “Sleeping Beauty” before the song goes rather new wave. While back in 1986, keyboards made this metalhead a little nervous, they are used very effectively here. Cool intros continue with “Motion.” On this song, McEntee and Ohlin might be trying to copy East Bay Ray because there is a Dead Kennedys sound to the guitars on this one. Quickly following on is my second favourite track, “In My Life.” This is the hardest rocker on the album and the only reason why it didn’t take number one is that the guitar solo on “Don’t Go Walking” is better. “Casual Encounter” and “Heart Telegraph” both have a new wave sounding edge to them but “Guillotine Day” rocks. I can almost headbang to it and that leads perfectly to the ballad like closer, “Dear Diary.” This a very eerie song to say the least, especially with the carnival sounds in the background. I’ll have to check but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it appeared on some horror film soundtrack.

Anyone who remembers the Divinyls from back in the day might have already noticed that I’ve made no mention of their lead singer, Christina Amphlett. The reason why is that her vocals are pretty consistent through all of the songs, so there was no need to comment on them on individual ones. True, she does contribute to the Berlin sound on “Good Die Young,” but her vocals are sound on every track. Whether it be the fun rocker In My Life” or the new wave infected “Casual Encounter” to the ballad closer, “Dear Diary,” she produces the goods on each and shows that she has a variety of singing styles to use to fit any song. I’ll even venture the thought that Christina is possibly the most underrated female singer from the 1980s.

There were two versions of “What a Life” released, a US one and an Australian version. The four different tracks on the Australian release, “Talk Like the Rain,” “Old Radios,” “Para Dice” and “What a Life” have a more 80s new wave synth sound to them but are okay as far as the album goes.

Track Listing (US)

  1. Pleasure and Pain
  2. Don’t You Go Walking
  3. Good Die young
  4. Sleeping Beauty
  5. Motion
  6. In My Life
  7. Casual Encounter
  8. Heart Telegraph
  9. Guillotine Day
  10. Dear Diary

Track Listing (Australia)

  1. Pleasure and Pain
  2. Sleeping Beauty
  3. Good Die Young
  4. Guillotine Day
  5. Talk Like the Rain
  6. Heart Telegraph
  7. Old Radios
  8. In My Life
  9. Para Dice
  10. What a Life
  11. Dear Diary



Christina Amphlett- lead vocals

Mark McEntee- guitar, vocals keyboards

Richard Harvey- drums

Bjarne Ohlin- guitar, keyboards, vocals

Rick Grossman- bass

By the time Aerosmith’s tour had come to Philadelphia, the Divinyls were no longer touring with them. At the time, I didn’t mind because of who the opening act was that night. Not long after, a friend of mine saw the Divinyls on a co-headlining tour with The Cult. From what I remember, my friend said they were all right. Thinking back, it might have been cool to have actually seen them live but this album does give me good memories.

Next post: Robert Palmer- Riptide

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Great Pop Albums of 1986: The Bangles- Different Light

Posted in Uncategorized on October 28, 2019 by 80smetalman


Clear cut proof that I’m mellowing a little with old age. When the Bangles’ second album, “Different Light,” came out in early 1986,  I pretty much ignored it. The first single, “Manic Monday,” proved to me that they had gone from the new wave sound of their debut album, “All Over the Place,” and had become a top forty band. My thoughts at the time was while the piano sound of the song was unique, it lacked the power chords I was so seeking that year.

Now that I am older and more musically open-minded, I decided to give the album a chance. After a couple of listens, I will be first to say that it doesn’t change my thoughts that the Bangles were going for commercial success. There are no tracks I can say really rock out. The closest comes with the third single from the album, “Walk Like an Egyptian” and the track “Angels Don’t Fall in Love.” The former is the only real track where lead guitarist Vicki Steele does any real shredding.

It is on the non single tracks where any resemblance to the new wave sound of the debut album can be found. This does not go onto mean that the album totally sucks. I like what they did on the track, “Standing in the Hallway,” with the jazz sound. Have to give the girls credit for stretching out on this one, as it’s nicely done. They go sixties meets new wave on “Return Post.” When you listen close enough, the talent of the band does show. But if I have to pick a favourite track, and it was easier than what I’m leading on, it has to be the second single, “If She Knew What She Wants.” It’s presented as a ballad but there is a guitar sound on the song which captures my attention. It’s almost a power ballad.

“Different Light” does explode one major misconception I’ve always had about the Bangles. It is widely held that Susanna Hoffs does most of the lead vocals. True, she sings most of the singles, but on the album, the vocal duties are pretty much split between the four of them. Something which has been pointed out about the Beatles and KISS. One must give them credit for the vocal talents. In fact, three members of the band sing lead on “Walk Like an Egyptian,” and they sing as a group on “Let It Go,” which is the closest song to the new wave sound of the previous album. It would have been a match if it wasn’t for the piano, not really needed there.

Track Listing:

  1. Manic Monday
  2. Different Light
  3. Walking Down Your Street
  4. Walk Like an Egyptian
  5. Standing in the Hallway
  6. Return Post
  7. If She Knew What She Wants
  8. Let It Go
  9. September Gurls
  10. Angels Don’t Fall in Love
  11. Following
  12. Not Like You

The Bangles

Susanna Hoffs- lead and backing vocals, rhythm guitar

Vicki Petersen- lead and backing vocals, lead guitar

Michael Steel- lead and backing vocals, bass

Debbi Petersen- lead and backing vocals, drums, percussion

Additional Musicians

Prince- all other instruments on “Manic Monday”

Rusty Anderson- additional guitars

Barbra Chapman- harp, additional guitars

Mitchell Froome, David Kahne- keyboards

Carlos Vega- additional drums

William Jones- electric sitar

For me, the argument is put to rest. The Bangles’ “Different Light” album is not the new wave rocker the band’s debut was. I will say that it does stand above many of the other pop albums that were coming out at the time. These ladies were all great singers and musicians and if they had been allowed to rock out more, I would have counted them among the greats.

Next post: The Divinyls- What a Life

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