Nickel Romeo

Nickel Romeo (M.Steele/B.Ray/S.LeGasnick)

Year: 1994/2003
Band: Crash Wisdom/Bangles
Album: Doll Revolution
First Live Performance: 5/12/94
Last Live Performance: 10/17/03



Hey Sugar I had that dream again
I saw you in your red crushed velvet suit
Rolling on my feather bed
A Cheshire cat in yellow Beatle boots

(but) who’s that stranger lying in your arms
her fingers running down your tattooed chest
Valentino’s cranking up the charm
And it’s coming like a freight rain
These pictures in my head

Hey Mister Nickel Romeo
Everybody knows your name
Hey, hey Mister
Tell me Mister, what’s your game?

Falling, yes she will fall
Your latest victim bites her lips and sighs
She’ll do these nasty things for you
Insinuating kisses on the sly

Oh, I remember how you get your kicks
Preying on the innocent at night
Strange desperation-you gotta cop that fix
Making every little girl is keeping you alive

Hey Mister Nickel Romeo
Everybody knows your name
Hey, hey Mister
Tell me Mister, what’s your game?

Oh, Nickel Romeo you got no shame

Hey mister Nickel Romeo
Everybody knows your name
Hey, hey Mister
Tell me Mister, what’s your game?

Hey Mister Nickel Romeo
Everybody knows your name
Hey, hey Mister
You’re the master of this game

Because you got no shame
I think I’m going insane
And you’re to blame


Nickel Romeo is a song that is filled with visual imagery and detail but nevertheless open to interpretation. The title for instance is deceptively simple in that even besides the question of exactly what a ‘Nickel Romeo’ refers to, it helps the listener presume that the song will be entirely about this character. Like several of Michael’s other songs however, Nickel Romeo has rather ambiguous lyrics, and can even be read as being more about the narrator and her thoughts. For example, ‘Nickel Romeo’ is seen as a character that may or may not exist, in that from the song’s opening he appears to be a dream image.  In this sense, he may be a general symbol, based on actual persons, or may be nothing more than ‘these pictures in my head’.

As a character, Nickel Romeo is described with a blend of images, these ranging from a description of his goofy retro fashion sense (‘a red crushed velvet suit’) before references that present him as a sexual predator (“Oh, I remember how you get your kicks/preying on the innocent at night”) and even use classic vampire imagery in referring to the fall of his ‘latest victim’. He is described as dominating anonymous women in relationships, this anonymity suggesting that his ‘latest victim’ is only the latest in a long line of women, a situation that clearly disturbs the narrator. The chorus relates to this by directly talking to him and saying that his exploits are well known, though the lyric varies between asking ‘tell me Mister, what’s your game?” and in the last chorus stating ‘You’re the master of this game’) Even in its closing, Nickel Romeo’s driving the narrator ‘insane’ is more ambiguous than it may first appear. Although explained as being ‘because you got no shame’, whether Nickel Romeo actually had a relationship with the narrator or is merely haunting her thoughts is left a mystery. In providing enough visual detail to picture Nickel Romeo himself while remaining somewhat mysterious, the lyrics hold up to close reading and multiple listens.

On a musical level, Nickel Romeo resembles Glitter Years in that in that it includes numerous references to other songs. While GY referred to the glam rock of the early 1970s, Nickel Romeo chiefly associates itself with the music of the 1960s, and in particular The Beatles. Beyond the lyrics’ mention of ‘beatle boots’, several features of the song refer to Beatles tunes, such as its psychedelic production style and nods to previous songs (‘Valentino’ featuring as a character like in the opening of Manic Monday can be seen as similar to referential lyrics in late Beatles songs such as Glass Onion or Savoy Truffle). Even Jamie’s star turn on canine backing vocals in the fadeout can be seen as a Beatles reference, in that songs such as Good Morning Good Morning also feature animal vocals.

Its also worth noting that while largely similar and featuring near-identical lyrics, the Crash Wisdom and Bangles versions of this song have different arrangements. The chief differences are the use of added backing vocals in the Bangles version, and the Crash Wisdom rendition featuring a wordless vocal solo prior to the final chorus. A final small detail worth noting is that the 6/2/94 Crash Wisdom version also features of brief tease of ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ (Rolling Stones) prior to the song proper.


Q:On the Nickel Romeo song, did Jamie bark cause you asked to him, or did he do it, while the microphone was open, without any one expected it?

A: We secretly recorded him as I tormented him by knocking on the walls. he thought somebody was at the front door. I hope I don’t have to pay him royalties. – ‘Greetings Intrepid RPers and Friends’.

1 Comment

  1. The song “Nickel Romeo” may hark back to Micki’s time with Brad Shepherd of the Australian band Hoodoo Gurus. The ‘Gurus first album was “Stoneage Romeos”, released in Australia in 1984. The band subsequently toured with the Bangles in the US in 1986 and 1987 and Europe in ’89. Micki features in the 1987 ‘Gurus music video for “Good Times” along with Debbi and Vicki, sans Sue who was possibly unavailable due to her “Allnighter” filming commitments. You Tube also has the clip: “Interview with The Bangles – Amsterdam 1989” which features all of them with Micki wanting to visit the Van Gough museum and the prospect of the Berlin Wall coming down is also discussed.

    Brad had the reputation of a heartbreaker, (arse/ass hole) in today’s “Me Too” revelations. When the Bangs broke up in late ’89, only Debbi had married (there was a future (tough in cheek) Bangles baby year alluded to in the Amsterdam vid which had previously been mentioned in the Arsenio Hall show interview in early ’89). Post the Europe tour, Micki and Sue returned home, Debbi got married as previously planed in England with only Vicki attending. The die was cast, Sue was CBS’s favourite “lead vocal’ that didn’t need the band, Micki was heartbroken, Vicki couldn’t understand what happened to her band and her and Debbi couldn’t forgive Micki and Sue for not turning up to the wedding. Fortunately Debbi and Sue reconnected when they both had kids and Sue worked hard to get the others on board during the rest of the ”90’s with the Austin Powers movie shoot in ’98/99 being the catalyst for reforming. Unfortunately the three original Bangs were then all focused on motherhood and Michael was left out. She wanted to tour to support the “Doll Revolution” album like the old days. What we all want is her to come back and make the band complete. Even Annette (although always welcome) making guest appearances isn’t the classic group. I am sure the three Bangs would love to be made back into Bangles (no disrespect to current bassist Derrick Anderson, who the Bangs, together with Kim Shattuck of The Pandoras and The Muffs backed for his recent vid of “When I Was Your Man”, – have a look!).

    Keep the Micki faith alive, she survived The Runaways and she knows that 5 cents isn’t worth anything anyway!

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