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POP EYE

November 01, 1987|PATRICK GOLDSTEIN

MUCH LESS THAN ZERO: It's no big deal when a band covers an old pop classic, right? Just ask the Bangles' Vicki Peterson--who is very nervous about the reception to the band's new rendition of Simon & Garfunkel's "Hazy Shade of Winter," just out as the first single from the sound track to "Less Than Zero." (Other sound-track tunes will include an Aerosmith cover of "Rockin' Pneumonia & the Boogie Woogie Flu," Poison's version of "Rock & Roll All Night," Slayer's remake of "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" as well as "Goin' Back to Cali" by L. L. Cool J and "Bring the Noise" by Public Enemy.)

For starters, Peterson still remembers the lukewarm reception the band got when they used to play "Hazy Shade" in their early club days. "It didn't always go over very well," the Bangles' guitarist recalled. "I still remember reading a Robert Hilburn review where he called our version really mediocre." (For the record, Times pop music critic Hilburn dubbed it "plodding" and "punchless".)

Then there's rap-master Rick Rubin, who produced the song (along with several other sound-track cuts), only to have the band remix it on their own. "Rick was very positive, energetic and he really knows his pizza and pasta," Peterson said diplomatically. "But we did sort of reorganize the song--we just had a different concept of what it should be. Rick did a real minimalist version, and we fattened it up a bit."

And most importantly, the band has Paul Simon to worry about. After all, what will he think of the Bangles' "modernized" rendition, which Peterson describes as having a "gnarly guitar tone with a pop choral feel--sort of a cross between the Mamas & the Papas and Whitesnake."

"It is a little nerve-wracking," Peterson acknowledged. "He was one of my childhood idols. So you don't mess with one of his songs--it would be like messing around with a John Lennon tune."

Of course, the band did end up cutting out a few lyrics, including the lines "looking over manuscripts of unpublished rhyme, drinking my vodka and lime."

"We did take some liberties and we're kinda worried about what he might think," Peterson said. "So we sent him a tape of the song, with a bottle of good vodka and a sack of limes, and wrote a note saying: 'Dear Paul, Sorry about the vodka and the limes--here's the replacement!' "

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