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Girls like Bonnie Hayes

Nearly fifteen years ago on a sunny  summer afternoon  you could have found me sitting on the stairs leading down to the Grassroots on St Marks Place smoking Marlboro Reds and knocking back black jacks and coke with Californian girl Bonnie Hayes. A coupla hours later she’d set a fuse to the Ritz and prove that the Wild Combo were a ROCK group but right now she is getting trashed with me.

I was a little in awe of her. Not only was she absolutely gorgeous (the pics don’t do her justice), she also recorded for the very hot LA based Slash record. The Germs got started at Slash, aso did X, Dream Syndicate, Violent Femmes. But more importantly, Bonnie had released her debut album Good Clean Fun a coupla months earlier and I worshipped it then and  I am listening to it now and it is a brilliant pop moment. Every song sinks its teeth into you with keyb and guitar hooks at the service of wonderful melodies. And she is really nice, really something, she has a star quality and I can see her future before my eyes…

Many years later Bonnie would emerge as a professional song writer, her songs recorded by names such as Huey Lewis and the News, Robert Cray, Bonnie Raitt, Cher, and Bette Midler. But not on this day at the Grassroots. On this day I am convinced I am speaking to a huge star in-waiting and she should have been exactly that. On the first song on Good Clean Fun she sings “They’re gonna line up for girls like me, they draw the line but they can’t stand behind it… they’re doing time for girls like me.” And she thumps her keybooards and you believe her till she adds “I’m gonna make it with the mad boys, shake it with the bad boy scouts”. It’s a funny line, first she rocks and then she pops and so it’s  great introduction to whoever Bonnie Hayes, blonde, blue eyed, wild, sweet and sour, pop goddess of the eighties really was.

“Shelly’s Boyfriend” is next and it’s even better, from the squealing  wheels of a car tearing off, Bonnie offers sage advice, “he’s just a boy, keep searching till you’re found”. A centerpiece in the Nick Cage movie Valley Girl it’s all “sha-sha-shas” and if I played it for you right now you’d flip out. You’d be singing it for days AND it includes a line I use to this day: “girls will be girls and boys will be boyfriends”. For that alone Good Clean Fun shoulda broken pop. I realize that when you’re knee deep in the music biz it can be tough to judge but I will never understand why their aren’t monuments built to Marshall Crenshaw and Bonnie Hayes.

And the next, “Seperating” has a syncopated vocal that catches you in its cool, “If you think you wanna criticise you better put it all on” then she kinda swallows her words (“all on ice” is what she doesn’t complete)  before spitting out ” Ah, ah, ah think I’m gonna tell you baby” the “gonna”  there  is pop gold “you know you’re just not the same, and if you think you wanna play me baby, you better find another game”. In an album filled with terrific vocal performances this performances is like a jazz solo -it’s all half words, and floating melody.

Really, as the songs ebb and flow from full blown ballads (and a sense of her real direction) like “Coverage” to self-fullfilling prophecy’s “Dum Fun” and “Joyride” she grabs you and keeps you and the band follows her but it follows her rock not pop style (why she was on Slash presumably). Even today, I can’t hear Good Clean Fun and not stare blankly at the radio wondering why it was on my itunes instead. It is timeless -it would be great if it was released today. Just the same.

Bonnie would follow Good Clean Fun with an excellent EP Brave New Girl and then she disappeared and I haven’t heard her two follow up albums, one in 1999 and one in 2003. I know she’s married with children, teaches songwriting, working on producing. Still a knock out to look at.

I’m sure she’s fine my dreams for her didn’t come true; she made enough of her own.

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