From Simon & Garfunkel to The Bangles: The Evolution of “A Hazy Shade of Winter”

A year after Simon & Garfunkel released their 1964 debut Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M., Paul Simon relocated to London, England. During his time abroad, Simon was writing songs, many of which would make their way onto the duo’s next album Sounds of Silence. During this time, Simon also wrote another song “A Hazy Shade of Winter.”

Released as a stand-alone single in 1966, “A Hazy Shade of Winter” was later added to Simon & Garfunkel’s 1968 album Bookends and went to No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100.

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Seasons Change

The lyrics transition from fall to winter, the idea of searching for something or someone throughout the different “seasons’ of life, and the feeling that time is running out.

Time, time time, see what’s become of me
While I looked around for my possibilities

I was so hard to please
Don’t look around
The leaves are brown
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter

Hear the Salvation Army band
Down by the riverside’s, there’s bound to be a better ride
Than what you’ve got planned

Simon uses the different seasons throughout the song as metaphors for the cycles of life.

Carry your cup in your hand
And look around
Leaves are brown, now
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter

Hang on to your hopes, my friend
That’s an easy thing to say
But if your hopes should pass away
Simply pretend that you can build them again
Look around
The grass is high
The fields are ripe
It’s the springtime of my life

1987: The Bangles

During The Bangles‘ earlier days, the band started covering “A Hazy Shade of Winter” live, and it became a staple at their shows by 1983. Susanna Hoffs remembered being instantly drawn to the song from the moment she heard it.

“I’m listening to K-EARTH 101, an oldies station … alone in this dark room and all I had was the radio,” remembered Hoffs in 2021. “‘A Hazy Shade of Winter’ came on one day. I thought I was a Simon & Garfunkel aficionado but I, somehow, had missed that badass folk-rock song of theirs. I ran to our band rehearsal that night and was like, ‘We have to cover this song.’ It became a staple in the Bangles set for years and years.”

When director Marek Kanievska began working on the film Less Than Zero, which was loosely based on Bret Easton Ellis’ 1985 book and starred Robert Downey Jr., Andrew McCarthy, and Jami Gertz, The Bangles were approached to contribute a track. By this time, the band had already released their breakthrough album Different Light, and hits with “Walk Like an Egyptian” and the Prince-penned “Manic Monday.”

Hoffs immediately thought of the song they had been covering live for years and never recorded. “We were told that the film was going to be filled with music and the producers were looking for songs,” said Hoffs, “so I went to the meeting and I’m like, ‘Oh, I have this song that the Bangles have covered for years in our club days, and we always love playing it. I think it might fit for your movie.’”

[RELATED: 3 Songs You Didn’t Know The Bangles’ Susanna Hoffs Wrote for Other Artists]

The next thing they knew, The Bangles were recording the song, titled “Hazy Shade of Winter,” with producer Rick Rubin. “There’s something about the energy of the song,” said Hoffs. “We did a more rock and roll version of it, and I like how our voices are all layered together. It’s one of those Bangles songs that stands out because it has a weird history to it, but also it never fails to be fun to play live. We often open our set with it.”

Hoffs said the song was a special one since it went back to the early days of The Bangles and likened The Bangles’ version of the song to something out of some ’60s psychedelic rock album.

“I would also say that our version of “Hazy Shade of Winter” is a little bit psych-pop, too,” said Hoffs. “It was very much like the Electric Prunes’ version of the song.”

The Bangles’ version of “A Hazy Shade of Winter” went to No. 2 on the Hot 100.

Photo: Left: Portrait of American folk rock duo Simon and Garfunkel (Art Garfunkel [L] and Paul Simon) sitting on a carpet in front of a light-colored background, 1983. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images); Right: Photo of Bangles, 1986 (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

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