Bangles, The

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Bangles, The

Bangles, The, the “paisley underground” girl group of the 1980s. Membership:

Susanna Hoffs, gtr., voc. (b. Newport Beach, Calif., Jan.17, 1959); Vicki Peterson, gtr. (b. Los Angeles, Jan. 11, 1958); Michael Steele, bs. (b. June 2, 1954); Debbi Peterson, drm. (b. Los Angeles, Aug. 22, 1961).

Guitarist Susanna Hoffs loved the rock music her parents listened to while she was growing up—The Beatles, The Byrds, and Simon and Garfunkel. She first worked in a band with David Roback (who went on to form Mazzy Star). In 1981, she put an ad in the Orange County weekly, The Recycler, and found guitarist Vicki Peterson and her drum playing sister Debbi. Along with bassist Annette Zilinkas, the group, named the Bangs, started playing the Southern Calif, new-wave scene, falling in with the loose affiliation of “paisley under-ground” bands like Dream Syndicate. They released an independent single, which attracted the attention of both Miles Copeland, who put out an EP on his own Faulty Products label, and the Bangs, a N.Y.-based band who had the name first.

They changed the name of the band to the Bangles. Zelinkas left to join another band and was replaced by former Runaway bassist Michael Steele (b. June 2, 1954). The group signed to Columbia and released their debut, All over the Place. While singles like the original “Hero Takes a Fall” and their cover of Katrina and the Waves’s “Going Down to Liverpool” failed to chart, the band spent a huge amount of time on the road. The album charted at #80 and the band made a lot of fans.

One of those fans was Prince. Occasionally (and erroneously) linked romantically with Hoffs, Prince brought them the song “Manic Monday,” which they recorded for their second album, Different Light. The song hit #2 in both the U.S. and England. The follow-up, “If She Knew What She Wants,” only broke the top 30, but the next single, “Walk Like an Egyptian” went gold and topped the charts for four weeks, largely due to a very creative video clip. The final single, “Walking Down Your Street,” peaked at #11. The album went triple platinum and spent two weeks at #2. The group followed this with a #2 single from the Less Than Zero soundtrack, a version of Paul Simon’s “Hazy Shade of Winter.”

After selling three million albums, most bands would be happy, but there was great dissent in the Bangles after the success of Different Light. For one thing, they prided themselves on their songwriting, but their biggest hits were covers. Also, the lead singer on “Manic Monday” and the focus of the “Walk Like an Egyptian” video happened to be Hoffs; this conveyed the message that she was the band’s leader. This was only exacerbated when the first two singles from their next album Everything featured Hoffs on vocals. “In Your Room” became a #5 hit and “Eternal Flame” topped the charts again, going gold in the process. Despite this, the group was clearly loosing momentum. “Be with You” was a disappointing #30 on the charts, and the last single, “I’ll Set You Free,” didn’t crack the Top 40. By the end of the year, the band had broken up.

Hoffs did some acting (her mother is a film director) and released a solo album, When You’re a Boy, in 1991, that produced a top 30 single, “My Side of the Bed.” She married in 1993, and spent the next few years at home with family before returning to the recording wars with her eponymous second album. Vicky Peterson joined forces with Susan Cowsill and Peter Holsapple in the Continental Drifters, and her sister Debbi recorded with Kindred Spirit.

When they got together, one of their goals was to be the Beatles of the 1980s. In 1999, they sort of got their wish, reforming for a program of Beatles music at the Hollywood Bowl, conducted by Sir George Martin.


All over the Place (1984); Different Light (1985); Everything (1988). susanna hoffs:When You’re a Boy (1991); Susanna Hoffs (1996). Kindred Spirit: Kindred Spirit (1995). THE CONTINENTAL DRIFTERS: The Continental Drifters (1995).

Hank Bordowitz