Bonnie Hayes: Brave new girl

Posted: February 27, 2019 in music, Record reviews
Tags: , , , , , ,

Good Clean Fun

Bottom line:
Forgotten bands finishes with Bonnie Hayes, who emerged from the San Francisco punk scene of the 1970s and with Bonnie Hayes & The Wild Combo produced an ’80s landmark that was buried by bad breaks and marauding girl groups.

Moment of glory:
Hayes has supported herself as a musician, songwriter, record producer, and songwriting teacher since she left high school. She has written for Bonnie Raitt and Robert Cray, but she’s also written for Cher and Bette Midler. OK, a girl’s gotta eat.

The one album to own:
Good Clean Fun (1982). If you don’t like this record, you don’t like yourself or your so-called life. There are just as many hooks, high spirits, and musical chops on this platter as on the debut efforts by her ’80s competition:

The Go-Go’s, Beauty and the Beat (1981)
“Our Lips Are Sealed”
“We Got the Beat”

Bananarama, Deep Sea Skydiving (1983)
“Shy Boy”
“He Was Really Sayin’ Somethin’ ”
“Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)”

The Bangles, All Over the Place (1984)
“Hero Takes a Fall”

Book of Love, Book of Love (1986)
“I Touch Roses”

Salt-n-Pepa, Hot, Cool & Vicious (1986)
“Push It”

I like The Go-Go’s, Bananarama, The Bangles, Book of Love, and Salt-n-Pepa. But Bonnie Hayes was just as good and in most of these cases probably better.

Talk about bad breaks:
Yeah, let’s talk about them. Hayes’ record label lacked the muscle to promote her disc. They couldn’t even give her a decent album cover (exactly what happened with The Flamin’ Groovies). What the heck is that cover supposed to be? Bonnie doesn’t even look like herself. She looks like Elizabeth Warren.

On top of this inability to execute, the director of Valley Girl (1983) chose two of Hayes’ songs for the movie – “Girls Like Me” and “Shelly’s Boyfriend” – but the soundtrack wasn’t released until TEN YEARS LATER. And when it was finally released, Bonnie Hayes wasn’t on it!

(These two songs finally appeared on More Songs from Valley Girl. Who buys a record called More Songs from Valley Girl? Would you buy More Songs from 2 Fast 2 Furious?)

“Shelly’s Boyfriend” is a 300-word story about teenage love that beats the crap out of anything these other groups dished up all those years ago:

Girls will be girls
And boys will be boyfriends
You go around the world
Shelly, in the end you will see
It is not all that they led us to believe it would be

Good Clean Fun is not just a good record from a forgotten band, it’s a forgotten minor masterpiece. It’s catchy, it’s fun, it’s musically and lyrically advanced, and if you listen to or buy just one of the records I’ve been writing about in this series, I hope you’ll make it this one.

Other Bonnie Hayes records worth listening to:

Brave New Girl

Brave New Girl (1984)
Show me the woman who doesn’t look good dressed in an American flag! The perfect title for an album released in 1984. Shorter and not as good as her debut, with way too much reliance on the synthesizer; “Wild Heart” sounds like a Prince outtake. But it rewards multiple spins, especially the title cut, the Cyndi Lauper-like “After Hours,” and “Night Baseball.”

Love in the Ruins (2003)
Uneven, but Hayes rocks harder than I’ve ever heard her. It’s a very ’90s kind of hard rocking, built for people who never liked grunge. Don’t miss “Keeping the Hum Going” and “Money Makes You Stupid.”

What’s next:
What I realized as I was writing about forgotten bands is that I could extend this project into forever. It’s a black hole for human attention. We already have the internet for that.

Where, for example, do you draw the line? (A former boss, who never mastered his native language, used to say to us, “Where do you cross the line?”)

If I had continued this series, I would’ve backtracked to the early ’70s and Fanny, which may have been the first all-woman band. Then I was going to get into some cage matches:

  • ESG (“UFO”) vs. EMF (“Unbelievable”)
  • ABC (“Poison Arrow”) vs. MFSB (“T.S.O.P.” and “T.L.C.”)
  • The Jaggerz (“The Rapper”) vs. Fischer-Z (“Remember Russia,” theme music of the Trump administration)

I would’ve tackled the free-for-all of funk bands from the early ’70s, particularly any band started by George Clinton. I would’ve untangled that amorphous blob of English New Wave bands that all begin with a C: The Chameleons, The Charlatans UK, The Church, Crowded House.

And then there’s the ultimate question about U.S. band The Call: political rockers or secret Christians?

I was planning to end with Diesel Park West, a British band of the ’80s and ’90s. There’s only one point to make about them, so here it is. At first hearing, they don’t appear to be of much use to anyone. You’ve heard this before, haven’t you? You sure have: They are U2 without The Edge and with Bono turned down about 50%, just like your microwave.

But this, it turns out, is Diesel Park West’s strength. DPW produces the perfect background music when you need the front part of your brain for thinking. It’s all the comfort of U2 without having to engage with U2.

Achtung, babies. Thanks for reading and see you next time, hopefully with exclusive Run-DMSteve news.

Comments
  1. Jerry Kaufman says:

    Fanny! Yes – I have one or two of their albums – did they do more than two? I’m too lazy to go upstairs and check what I have. I remember the band as being built around two sisters – June and Jean Millington? I am full of questions, but I can say that they deserve to be remembered.

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