Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Music Box: Susanna Hoffs

While just about every band that went out of style at the beginning of the '90s wants to blame Nirvana for ending their music career (I'm looking at you, Mike Reno), it's hard to believe that Susanna Hoffs wouldn't have been a bigger solo star if Kurt Cobain's stars hadn't aligned just so. Already a superstar fronting the biggest true female band of all time (I think it was Belinda Carlisle who said that the Go-Go's may have been first, but the Bangles "sold way more records"), Susanna had the voice, the talent and the star quality to go on to be if not the Joni Mitchell, certainly the Carly Simon of her generation. (Have you EVER met a man who wasn't IN LOVE with Susanna back in the day?)

This Oingo Boingo cover gets me every time ...

But then her debut solo album, "When You're a Boy," stalled at No. 83 on the Billboard charts in 1991, despite the inclusion of the great No. 30 hit (and sexiest video ever), "My Side of the Bed." And an even-better self-titled follow-up, sometimes known as "Version 2.0" or "The Wallace Album," was shelved in 1994, and featured some of her best work to date including the greatest song about mental illness of all time, the Mark Linkous-penned "Ghost," the tender "Turning Over" and the rocking "Enormous Wings." By the time a revamped eponymous CD came out in the fall of 1996 -- equally good, but nearly all of it co-written by Susanna and even darker than the original despite the exclusion of "Ghost," but with the addition of her finest song ever, the John Lennon assassination epic "Weak With Love" -- Susanna was a fading '80s memory ready to replaced by a new Lillith Fair generation of lesser singer/songwriter chicks, like Sarah McLachlan, Paula Cole, Jewel and Fiona Apple.

When her tour in support of the album came to Georgetown in May of '97, I swear my then-boyfriend Rafael, my friend Jean and my friend Paul (who showed up halfway through it) and I were the only people in the audience besides what I'm nearly certain was Susanna's mom (Tamar Hoffs, who directed Sue in her sexy-but-failed screen debut, "The All-Nighter"). It had to have been an unbelievably humbling if not completely humiliating experience.

But by this point Susanna had married director Jay Roach ("Austin Powers" and "Meet the Parents") and had become a mother, so being a rock goddess was probably something she was getting more comfortable putting behind her, even if she still looked every bit the part. (You may recall the recent wire photos from the "Recount" premiere where Jay was the star and she was referred to as Susan Huff in the captions!) But ever the artist, she recorded another solo album in between 1997 and 2000 (working closely with Charlotte Caffey, Jane Wiedlin and Char's brother Tom) and that too was never released. At this point a Bangles reunion seemed to be the best way to get back in the game and sure enough "Doll Revolution" -- featuring some of those 2000 solo songs -- came out and the Bangles have been touring successfully ever since, albeit without Michael Steele in more recent years. (Susanna's Sid 'n' Susie project with Matthew Sweet has been enormously fun with a rumored '70s-heavy sophomore album due any time now.)

So here's to the wonderfully gifted and strikingly beautiful brown-eyed girl who made a nation want to walk like an Egyptian. Your solo career may not have panned out like you'd hoped, but your fans' devotion keeps on burning, one might even say in the style of an eternal flame ...

Unreleased works: I have the complete 1994 album and all but four of the 2000 album. If anyone has "Under a Cloud," "The Anti-Breakup Song," "Living Alone With You" and "I Will Take Care of You," please contact me HERE. You can also e-mail me if you're interested in receiving MP3s of the songs I have. Please put SUSANNA HOFFS in the subject of your e-mail and I will try to get back to you (until anyone threatens to sue me).

1994 Album
(Also known as "The Wallace Album" or "Version 2.0")
Producer: Matt Wallace
Never released

1. Enormous Wings
2. Darling One (original recording)
3. Sunshine
4. Happy Place
5. Right By You
6. Catch The Wind
7. Without You
8. Go
9. Sleep
10. Ghost
11. Turning Over

Untitled 2000 album
Executive Producer: Bill Bottrell
Produced by Dan Schwartz, Susanna Hoffs
*Original production by Susanna Hoffs, Charlotte Caffey and Tom Caffey.
Never released

1. Under A Cloud
2. The Anti-Heartbreak Song
3. Who Will She Be?
4. Grateful
5. Take What You Take
6. Living Alone With You
7. November Sun
8. As It Falls Apart
9. Life On The Inside* -
10. Jealous* - (C. Caffey/ J. Weidlin)
11. I'll Never Be Through With You*
12. Something That You Said*
13. Love Doesn't Have To Hurt*
14. Austintatious*
15. I Don't Know Why
16. I Will Take Care of You

  • See all Music Box posts HERE.


    Dave said...

    I'm assuming the stress of the holidays must be getting to you, so I'll forgive the comment you made about Sarah McLachlan being a lesser singer/songwriter. And I'm only doing that, you know..."'cuz it's 'tis the season".
    Now fix yourself a nice cup of cocoa, take a soak in the tub, and reflect upon the error of your ways.

    Anonymous said...

    12 Years later, does this offer still stand? The link to to contact you "HERE" doesn't work.

    Kenneth M. Walsh said...

    @Bedazzler: Send me your email address.