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The story of Susanna Hoffs' most famous song "Eternal Flame": the song that changed the singer's career

About how the brightest hit ruined the career of an entire group, or the success story of Suzanne Hoffs.

How the song "Eternal Flame" was created, and what it cost to its authors

"Eternal Flame (Eternal Flame)" is a song by the American band The Bangles, written by Suzanne Hoffs, who also performed it at one of their concerts. The song was very popular, became number one hits in a number of countries and acquired many covers. Today we will tell the story of this composition and its author Suzanne Hoffs.

background

Suzanne has loved music since childhood. When she was little, her mother played Beatles compositions on the guitar for her, and of course, this did not go unnoticed: in her teenage years, Suzanne had already learned to play the guitar. Inspiration did not leave her when she became an adult.

Suzanne Hoffs
Suzanne Hoffs

In the late 70s, Suzanne received a bachelor's degree in art from the University of California at Berkeley. Interestingly, initially, Suzanne wanted to be a dancer, not a musician, but studying at the university and attending concerts of famous rock bands at that time shifted her priorities. Since then, Suzanne knew for sure that she wanted to play in a band.

Inspired by the work of punk rock bands such as The Ramones, Hoffs formed his own band with Debi and Vicki Paterson. At first, the group was called The Bangs, but, as happens quite often, it turned out that such a group already exists, and it turned out this the day before the release of their first album. So from The Bangs it turned out The Bangles.

Bangles 1988
Bangles 1988

Song creation

At a concert in 1986, Suzanne met songwriter Tom Kelly. Kelly wrote music with fellow songwriter Billy Steinberg. So their trio was born. Working with these writers was very interesting for Suzanne, because they took the exact opposite approach to songwriting than she did: Suzanne matched the words to the melody she composed, while Kelly and Steinbeck started from the lyrics, and already selected melody.

The first song they created was "I Need A Disguise", which was sung by Belinda Carlisle. The trio then went on to work on the album "Everything" for The Bangles.

The song "Eternal Flame" was inspired by two eternal flames. One of them was in Graceland at the grave of Elvis Presley. A private tour was held especially for the members of the group. However, it was raining that day and the "eternal" fire did not burn. When Suzanne told Steinberg about this, he immediately remembered attending Sunday school as a child and seeing the eternal flame for the first time during a tour of the synagogue in Palm Springs.

It was after this that Steinberg got the idea to write the song. He and Suzanne composed it at his house and then brought Kelly in to finish composing the music.

The style of the song was largely influenced by the Beatles' "We Can Work It Out": like it, "Eternal Flame" lacks a chorus, and both verses end with the title of the song. Steinberg explained in an interview that this was normal for songs from the 60s. Therefore, in "Eternal Flame" there is a touch of retro style.

However, the recording of the song at first "did not stick." The demo of the song was performed on the guitar, despite the fact that it would be more suitable for a keyboard instrument. Only the Bangles didn't have a keyboardist. Ultimately, producer Davit Sigerson and the other members of the band decided not to include the song on the next album. Susanna was very upset, but she decided to accept her friends' choice.

However, a few days later, Sigerson approached her and said that this song was in his head. He even came up with a new arrangement for the song, which would sound like a music box. They decided to give Eternal Flame another chance. Sigerson found keyboardist John Philip Shenale and they re-recorded the song. Sigerson knew that Suzanne liked vintage Patsy Klein recordings and was inspired by their sound to arrange the song "Eternal Flame".

However, that's not all. Next, the band's manager, Michael Copland, heard the recording and didn't like the sound of the drums. As a result, the song was re-recorded again, with a stronger beat.

They really worked hard on the song and there is nothing surprising that very soon "Eternal Flame" became a hit.

Composition Success

In nine fears of the world, the song was at number one, including the Billboard magazine chart. The song was called a beautiful and tender ballad, it felt the influence of groups such as The Byrds and The Beatles.

However, ironically, the popularity of the song itself had a negative impact on the popularity of the group as a whole. The song highlighted the talent of Susannah Hoffs too brightly, while the rest of the group looked more like a support group. In the next singles, the girls tried to restore the balance of power and Debbie Paterson took over the vocals. But this attempt was unsuccessful, and less than a year later the group broke up.

The composition itself flourished, not even suspecting the impact it had on its creators. Later, covers of "Eternal Flames" were recorded, the most successful of which was the version of the group "Atomic Kitten", which were able to give the old ballad a completely new reading.

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