September Gurls

September Gurls (A.Chilton)

Year: 1985
Band: Bangles
Album: Different Light
First Live Performance: 2/10/86
Last Live Performance: 1/10/04

Tabs
Guitar
Bass


Lyrics:

September girls do so much
I was your butch until we touched [and for so long, until we touched]
I loved you, well, never mind [I loved you, boy, never mind]
I’ve been crying all the time

December   boys got it  bad
December   boys got it  bad

September girls, I don’t know why
How can I deny what’s inside?
Even though I keep away
They will love all our days

December   boys got it  bad
December   boys got it  bad

When I get to bed  late at night
That’s the time  she [he]  makes things right
Ooh, when she [he] makes love to me           Oooh…

September girls do so much
I was your butch until we touched [and for so long, until we touched]
I loved you, well, never mind [I loved you, boy, never mind]
I’ve been crying all the time

December   boys got it  bad
December   boys got it  bad
December   boys got it  bad

Analysis:

At this point in time, Big Star’s 1974 tune ‘September Gurls’ is widely regarded as among the greatest power-pop songs of all time. Its interesting then that for several years after its release, the song itself and Big Star were relatively little-known. As argued by most recent analysis however, Big Star’s musical reputation increased greatly during the 1980s, with the Bangles cover of September Gurls being among the most important events of this shift. Beyond royalties on the tune making Chilton a large amount of money for the first time in his career, the broader audience that heard Different Light as opposed to Radio City resulted in greater exposure for Big Star’s music.

As for the cover itself, it retains the basic feel of the original while going for an arrangement that emphasises keyboards and bass at the expense of the thundering drums of the Big Star version. Additionally, the guitar solo (believed to be played by studio musician Rusty Anderson) is far flashier than the original’s. Live versions however sound far closer to the original in this regard.

The most obvious point to be made about the lyrics is the alterations made in the Different Light version, with several lines changed to keep the song as a heterosexual romance.  As with the live version sounding closer to Big Star’s in musical terms, many live performances of the song feature the original lyrics, something that surprised some listeners (and even the other Bangles on the Return to Bangleonia commentary track) who were by that point used to Michael singing the altered lyrics.

Quotes:

“Bangles bassist Michael Steele was a big Chilton fan, and she insisted that the Bangles record Chilton’s “September Gurls.” She sang it beautifully, too.

You’d think Chilton would have appreciated the gesture, especially since the album racked up sales in the multimillions. But as Steele herself reported in a 1986 interview, Chilton was less than impressed, let alone grateful.

“After years of idolizing him, I finally got to meet Alex,” she said. “But he was so cold. I told him we had recorded one of his songs, and all he said was, ‘Good. I need the money.’ Later, I heard that when a DJ asked him what he thought of our version of ‘September Gurls,’ his only response was, ‘No comment.'”-Bill DeYoung, ‘California Dreaming’, Goldmine magazine, September 2000.

Reviews:

“The three other non-originals on the record revert to the Bangles’ usual terrific taste in outside material… At any rate, the band has become deliciously facile with instrumental and arranging minutiae. They’re also becoming more choosy about what they try to squeeze into a song… the jazz underpinnings and Link Wray guitar solo on Alex Chilton’s “September Gurls.”- Laura Fissinger, ‘Different Light’, Rolling Stone, March 13 1986

1 Comment

  1. One of my favorites on cover songs that Michael singing We can hear alternately different sound on studio version and listen on live performance closer to the original guitar solo by Vicki.What interesting in is points of view standing in woman position for boy’s song as heterosexual Michael had to sing altered lyric

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