Prince Gifts the Bangles a Hit with ‘Manic Monday': 365 Prince Songs in a Year
To celebrate the incredibly prolific, influential and diverse body of work left behind by Prince, we will be exploring a different song of his each day for an entire year with the series 365 Prince Songs in a Year.
Prince was famously generous with his songs—and had a knack for identifying who would do justice to his music. But even he probably didn't expect the runaway success of "Manic Monday," which gave the Bangles their first chart hit.
Released on Jan. 27, 1986, as the lead track from the California band's second album, Different Light, the song is narrated by a woman who's running late for work on a Monday and longing for the weekend to linger a little bit longer: "Wish it were Sunday / 'Cause that's my fun day / My 'I don't have to run' day." Later, listeners learn that she also has an ulterior motive for wanting to re-live Sunday: She was up late "get[ting] down" with an irresistible beau.
"Manic Monday" is deceptively breezy, however. The beau is being supported by his lady—"Doesn't it matter / That I have to feed the both of us / Employment's down"—who in turn is worried that her boss is actually in the office well before she is. The combination of responsibility and frivolity gave the song's protagonist agency and made her complex.
The song was billed as being written by "Christopher" rather than Prince, although the moniker wasn't fooling anyone. A Billboard article touting the Jan. 13, 1986, release of Different Light casually stated, "Prince wrote the album's first single, 'Manic Monday.'" The certainty might have stemmed from the fact that "Manic Monday" was a known quantity: According to the Prince Vault, it was originally slated to be on Apollonia 6's 1984 self-titled release, and was reportedly even on several iterations of the album, before Prince decided to yank it from the final track listing.
How exactly did "Manic Monday" then land in the hands of the Bangles? Rewind to the band's first album, 1984's All Over the Place: That record featured the power-pop gem "Hero Takes a Fall," a song to which Prince apparently took a shining. From there, he contacted the band, and offered them some music as they were putting together Different Light.
"We were working with Peggy and David Leonard, a husband-and-wife engineer team who had done a lot of stuff with Prince in Minneapolis, and then I guess everybody came west, and they were working in studios in L.A.," the Bangles' vocalist/guitarist, Susanna Hoffs, recalled to the A.V. Club in 2011. "I think Peggy was working with us at the time, and David was working with Prince? Anyway, somehow word got to me to go to Sunset Sound and pick up the cassette from Prince."
That demo tape contained "Manic Monday" and another song called "Jealous Girl." When Hoffs listened to the cassette, she gravitated toward the former. "The title was really great. It just reminded me of 'Manic Depression,' the [Jimi] Hendrix song, and had kind of a psychedelic thing," she continued. "And then it had these great harmonies, and I don’t know, there were a lot of things about it where I just thought, 'This is a really good fit for the Bangles.'"
Still, the band wanted to put their own spin on it, leading guitarist-vocalist Vicki Peterson to characterize their version in 1989 as "a Banglefication of a Prince arrangement." Working with producer David Kahne, the band built on Prince's initial ideas, crafting intricate harmonies and melodic flourishes and bulking up its shimmering guitar approach. Hoffs in particular was the perfect person to play up the song's dramatic arc, as she added just the right amount of coyness to the performance.
"[Kahne] got very involved in working on vocal arrangements with us," she told Songfacts. "In the studio he would give us all sorts of new ideas that we never would have considered. We started to use our voices and our harmonies in a really, really interesting way.
"I remember going in and singing that song and being on the mic, and it was kind of like red light fever. I knew it was a Prince song and I wanted to do a great job on it. I remember David was really excited; you pick up on those vibes and it's just the best feeling in the world. Recording is so psychological, there's so much pressure, because there's a lot at stake and you want to make sure you do your very best to get it captured on tape."
The combination of Prince's raw material and the band members' talents worked like a charm. "Manic Monday" peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in April 1986, and was only kept from hitting No. 1 by Prince's own hit, "Kiss." The song's success was exciting for the Bangles, who were experiencing their first real taste of national notoriety.
"We were standing on a street corner in Washington, D.C.," Hoffs recalled to Songfacts about the song's aftermath. "We were out for a morning walk together as a band, which is so cute, and we heard this song coming out of the car stereo of this red convertible. It sounded familiar; there was that feeling of something on the tip of your tongue, but you just can't quite access it. And then all of a sudden the realization hit us simultaneously that it was our song and we just started going crazy, jumping up and down and screaming and being very silly."
Thankfully, "Christopher" himself also dug the Bangles' take on the tune. "Prince came to our rehearsal after the record was done, and he was really thrilled with how it came out," Hoffs told Songfacts. "I think he might have said something like, 'Oh, I was surprised you guys didn't use my track,' or something. But he was very happy with it."
The Purple One also performed onstage with the Bangles a few times, including at an October 20, 1986, gig in Los Angeles where they played "Manic Monday" and his beloved "Hero Takes a Fall." Audio of the latter especially is a treat, as it features one of Prince's famous blazing guitar solos.
He and the Bangles also did some post-show jamming in the studio, Hoffs told Rolling Stone in 1987. "He knew all our songs," she recalled about a 1986 session. "We sat until three in the morning just playing Bangles songs, and then he disappeared again, off into the sunset, and we haven't heard from him since."