In 1987, The Bangles were approached to record a song for the soundtrack of the film Less Than Zero. They chose to record a cover of "A Hazy Shade of Winter," a song they had been performing since their early days as a band.
Their cover, simply titled "Hazy Shade of Winter," was vastly different from the original, turning it into a harder-edged rock song, and removing most of the bridge section. The record, like the rest of the soundtrack album, was produced by Rick Rubin. After a fruitful but disappointing experience with the producer of their Different Light album, David Kahne, where they were given little input in the production of the songs, the group decided to take more control for the recording of this song, and they were given an additional producer credit. Michael Steele later commented that "we sounded the most on this record the way we actually sound live", and that "If we hadn't been so messed up as a band, it could have been a turning point for us"
Lead vocals were performed jointly by all four members of the group, with a short solo led by Susanna Hoffs towards the end of the song. This was a rare occurrence in the Bangles songs, as they mostly had just one member singing lead on their songs. Due to pressure from their record label, The Bangles removed the verse from the original song that contained the line "drinking my vodka and lime." According to liner notes on the Soundtrack album, Steve Bartek from the band Oingo Boingo played guitar on the track.
When released as a single in November 1987, "Hazy Shade of Winter" became a huge hit, surpassing the popularity of the original version, peaking at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, only behind "Could've Been" by Tiffany, and also #11 in the UK. It was also a hit around Europe.
The music video for the song featured the band singing in a studio surrounded by television screens on the walls, similar to a scene of the Less Than Zero film. Scenes of the film also appear throughout the video.
"Hazy Shade of Winter" was not included on any of the band's studio albums, but was later included on the band's first official Greatest Hits in 1990, and on many of the band's subsequent compilations. The accompanying Greatest Hits video compilation did not feature the "Hazy Shade of Winter" video, due to complications with the licensing of the movie rights of the Less Than Zero scenes that appear on the video clip.
The Bangles version was commonly used as bumper music for late night radio talk show Coast to Coast AM hosted by Art Bell in the mid to late 1990s.