Friday, 3 July 2015

50 songs to take to my grave #33: September Gurls

 Now here's a song that gives me goosebumps. Those gorgeous jangly guitars, those wonderful harmonic "ooohs" - just perfection. That Big Star did not achieve worldwide megastardom is one of the great crimes of the 20th century. At least they have become far more appreciated in subsequent decades, especially as they were obvious influences on bands who were far more popular than Big Star could ever have hoped to be - R.E.M., the Bangles, Teenage Fanclub, Tanya Donelly, Ryan Adams to name just a few.

Their second album 'Radio City' is one of those great lost records that did sod all at the time it was released, but came to be renowned as a classic. While it contains many gems, for me September Gurls is the band's absolute apex. For an album whose recording process was so simple, September Gurls sounds so marvellously intricate. There are several guitar layers, including Alex Chilton's 12-string Rickenbacker (my all-time dream instrument - oh Lord, won't you buy me a 12-string Rickenbacker...) and the obscure Fender mando-guitar. It creates a glorious multi-chime effect that resonates through me, swirling around with that charming melody and those "oooohs"... turns me to jelly, it really does.

The very first time I heard the song, it wasn't actually the original, but the Bangles cover on their second album. I was 14 and actually fancied bass player Michael Steele.[1] She sang lead vocal on that version of September Gurls, and I don't recall it registering with me that much. Of course, 30 years on, I realise two things: one - Susanna Hoffs was actually the hottest member of the Bangles (those eyes!); and two - September Gurls is a work of profound sweetness and glory in its original form, making any attempt at covering it a pretty futile task.[2]

If it rains at my funeral (which I'm pretty sure it will), this song will be the sunshine that breaks through the clouds and lightens the day. I'll be basking in its beauty in my coffin.

[1] I never understood why she called herself Michael, especially as her real name is Susan. A retort to Johnny Cash perhaps?
[2] Even the version featured on the reformed Big Star's 'Live In Memphis' album (recorded in 1994, released last year) is a poor, clunky take that should never have been allowed to see the light of day.


  1. Nothing I can add Robster - you have nailed it

  2. Can't argue with this - stunning.

  3. Spot on. The Bangles cover is pretty decent, but they would never have been able to better the original.

  4. And you're right about Susannah Hoffs too
    Swiss Adam

  5. September Gurls is SUCH a great song that not even The Bangles could ruin it.