As Bangles' singles go, this one was only beaten for chart performance by "Walk Like An Egyptian
" and "Eternal Flame
." The Bangles rocked up the song, giving it a modern production and more urgent sound. They used all four of their voices, giving the vocals a much richer sound as well.
The Bangles recorded this for the soundtrack to the 1987 movie Less Than Zero, a film about rich Los Angeles yuppies struggling with drugs. It does make a connection with that culture: the Bangles are from Los Angeles and were generally a hit with Southern Californians from the first album.
Speaking of Southern California music culture, the Bangles as good as minted the "Paisley Underground" movement, which is part of "jangle pop." This musical sub-genre included groups like The Dream Syndicate, Green on Red, and The Long Ryders, amongst others. The movement was a backlash against the anger and nihilism of punk rock and heavy metal, recalling instead an updated version of the positive hippie music of the '60s. Indeed, these were the very first children of the Baby Boomers, getting nostalgic for mon 'n' dad's Love Generation and looking to cultivate that in the '80s, but also updating it with power pop and garage rock. Notable artists such as Prince would approve and contribute.
In a Songfacts interview with Bangles guitarist Vicki Peterson
, she talked about coming up with the riff. "That was a tough one because the original was performed on a 12-string acoustic," she said. "That was a struggle to figure out how to play it so it sounds as cool but different. The answer was to rock it up, but it wasn't easy."
The Bangles were between tours and very busy when they were asked to contribute a song to Less Than Zero. With no time to write something new, they decided to cover "A Hazy Shade of Winter," which they played on stage soon after they formed in 1981.
AM Radio fans almost can't hear this song without thinking of flying saucers and ghosts; the Bangles' version serves as bumper music for Coast to Coast AM, a radio talk show running through the wee hours of the morning which focuses on paranormal discussion. Coast to Coast AM, started by Art Bell in the mid-'80s, was initially a call-in political discussion show, before Bell tired of the genre and switched it gradually over to paranormal discussion. The show is now an (anti-)intellectual carnival of the occult, conspiracy theories, Bigfoot sightings, Doomsday predictions, and all manner of niche speculation.
In the original Simon & Garfunkel version, the bridge is twice as long. When Vicki Peterson met Paul Simon, she apologized. "I asked his forgiveness for cutting the bridge in half," she said. "He was very gracious."
Here's a bit of movie trivia: A young Brad Pitt was an extra in Less Than Zero (Partygoer/Preppie Kid At Fight). He earned $38 for his appearance.