Bangles lead singer Susanna Hoffs wrote this with songwriters Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly. Says Steinberg, "Tom and I met Susanna Hoffs and we set out to write several songs for their next recording. When we got together with Susanna, she admired a song that Tom and I had written for Cyndi Lauper called 'Unconditional Love.' I think she liked the song because it was highly melodic and resembled a ballad that would not have been out of place on The Beatles' Revolver album. She was sort of envious of that song, she said she wished we could come up with something as good as that song. I told her, 'Susanna, we're going to write something better than that song.'"
There is an Eternal Flame at the gravesite of Elvis Presley in Memphis. Says Steinberg:"Susanna was talking about The Bangles having visited Graceland, and she said there was some type of shrine to Elvis that included some kind of eternal flame. As soon as those words were mentioned, I immediately thought of the synagogue in the town of Palm Springs, California where I grew up. I remember during our Sunday school class they would walk us through the sanctuary. There was one little red light and they told us it was called the eternal flame. When I was a child I remembered thinking it never burned out, that it was something like the sun or something beyond our capacity to even contemplate. It seemed like a very profound thought when I was a child. I thought, 'Well that's a great title for a song,' so very quickly I wrote the rest of the lyrics for the song based on that title."
Steinberg: "Tom started to write the chords and the melodies on an acoustic guitar at my house. The bridge to the song, or the middle eight as the British would say, the part that starts, 'Say my name, sun shines through the rain,' that part in particular is very Beatlesque. Tom, who's a great lover of harmonies, worked with Susanna to create almost a tribute to The Beatles and Beach Boys background harmonies in our demo and The Bangles recreated them on their record. One of the unusual things about that song, which is also attributable to its Beatlesque roots, is the fact that it really doesn't have a chorus. The part that starts, 'Close your eyes, give me your hand, do you feel my heart beating, do you understand,' that part sets out to be the verse of the song and then the title is incorporated in the last line of the verse when it says, 'Am I only dreaming, or is this burning an eternal flame.' By the end of the song when all The Bangles chime in and resing the first verse at the end of the song, the whole verse feels like a chorus. The Beatles used to write in that way, for example, 'We Can Work It Out.' The line, 'We can work it out,' is sort of a tag in the verse. The verse ends with, 'We can work it out, we can work it out.' It isn't a chorus, it doesn't begin with the line, 'We can work it out,' which would be more traditional pop hit structure. The whole song 'Eternal Flame' is so melodic that it doesn't really miss a traditional chorus, it just works the way it is. In one more Beatle type arrangement decision we do the bridge after two verses and then there's a guitar solo and then we do the bridge again. Again, The Beatles would often do that. In the song 'We Can Work Out,' the bit that begins, 'Life is very short, and there's no time for fussing and fighting my friend' - I think that happens twice in the song. Sometimes if you have a bridge that's really good, it's nice to repeat it, and also if a song doesn't have a traditional Pop chorus you almost need to repeat the bridge so that the song is long enough and that's what we did in 'Eternal Flame'."
Steinberg: "One of the main differences between our demo and what was to become The Bangles' record is that we based our demo on the acoustic guitar while The Bangles' record, which was produced by Davitt Sigerson, is based on a simple piano. I think we based our demo on the acoustic guitar because there was no keyboard player in The Bangles. When you're a songwriter and you're trying to write something for a particular project, you very self-consciously do whatever you can do to see that it gets on the record and to ensure getting it on the record you want to make it sound like something the band could play. For that reason we tried to leave keyboards off our demo, but then we were very pleased with Davitt Sigerson's production and the way it featured the piano. I know Tom and I both loved Davitt's production, we both loved Susanna's lead vocal and all The Bangles' harmonies and were very pleased with the way the song turned out."
The Bangles broke up soon after this was recorded.