Introduction to one of the few successful all-girl rock acts
The Bangles are an American all-girl rock group who won both critical and commercial appeal during the 80s music era. Formed in California, the classic Bangles lineup consisted of Susanna Hoffs, sisters Debbi and Vicki Peterson and Michael Steele. Their breakthrough album Different Light arrived in 1986, and yielded their first big singles “Manic Monday” and “Walk Like an Egyptian” (which went to #1). The Bangles scored their second #1 hit with the classic “Eternal Flame” (from their albumEverything) in 1989. The group disbanded in the late 1980s, but reunited in the early 1990s, and they have recorded and toured ever since. They released their latest album, Sweetheart of the Sun, was released in 2011.
Beginnings and gradual ascent to success
The career of the all-girl rock group The Bangles started on the West Coast in 1981 with the original lineup consisting of guitarists/vocalists Susanna Hoffs and Vicki Peterson and drummer/vocalist Debbi Peterson, Vicki’s sister, and bassist Annette Zilinskas. They originally called themselves The Colours, The Supersonic Bangs, and then The Bangs.
After playing in a series of local concerts, The Bangs signed to I.R.S. Records subsidiary Faulty Products label owned by Miles Copeland, and later released an EP and a single called “The Real World.” Legal issues, however, forced the band to change the name The Bangles after discovering a New York-based group with the same name.
Early in 1983, The Bangles signed with CBS’ Columbia label. Zilinskas left The Bangles to form her own act Blood on the Saddle; she was replaced by Michael Steele (who’s a woman, in case you don’t know yet), who had previously worked with The Runaways among other bands.
The Bangles released their first full-length album All Over the Place on the Columbia label. The singles from the album, their original composition, “Hero Takes a Fall” and their cover of Katrina & The Waves’ “Going Down To Liverpool” didn’t make much of an impression. However, All Over the Place managed to climb to #80 on the Billboard 200 album chart and #86 on the UK singles chart due to glowing critical reviews, as well as a considerable amount of exposure from college radio and MTV.
The Bangles released their second album Different Light in 1986. It was to be the Bangles’ breakthrough album, peaking at #2 on the Billboard 200 (#3 on the UK album chart). It eventually went platinum. The success of the album rested on the single “Manic Monday,” which was written for them by superstar Prince (credited under the name Christopher). “Manic Monday” was the group’s first big hit, reaching its peak at #2 both on the US Billboard Hot 100 and UK singles charts.
Different Light‘s second single, a cover of Julie Shear’s “If She Knew What She Wants,” became only a moderate success (at #29). However, the album’s third single “Walk Like An Egyptian” shot to #1 on the US singles chart (#3 on the UK), becoming the group’s first chart-topper.
Another single from Different Light “Walking Down Your Street” was just one position short of making it into the Top 10 on the pop chart.
The band’s rock cover of Paul Simon’s “Hazy Shade of Winter” appeared on Less Than Zero motion picture soundtrack. Released as a single, “Hazy Shade of Winter” peaked at #2.
The Bangles released their third album Everything in the fall of 1988. It reached #15 in the US, and #5 in the UK. The lead-off single, “In Your Room,” climbed up to #5 on the Hot 100. But it was their second single “Eternal Flame” that became far more successful, topping both the US and UK singles charts. It reached #1 on the US adult contemporary singles chart. “Eternal Flame” might be the Bangles’ signature tune.
By that time, despite the success they Bangles were attaining, friction had surfaced among the band members as well as between the band and their management. Lead singer Hoffs was getting the greatest amount of media attention. And this partly caused the dissent — when in fact the singing and songwriting were evenly assigned to all the band members.
The Bangles parted in the late 1980s, with Hoffs beginning a solo career and Vicki Peterson joining as a member of another all-girl group The Go-Go’s and then The Continental Drifters.
The Bangles reunited in 1998, and their first project again was recording a track for the Austin Powers film. In 2000, the band staged their reunion tour, and later that year were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. The band recorded their first album since reuniting, Doll Revolution, which also marked Steele’s final work with the band. A new bassist Abby Travis came in to replace Steele as The Bangles continued with their tour.
In 2011, The Bangles released their latest effort Sweetheart of the Sun and supported it with a tour later that year. Up to now the Bangles has continued touring, with their latest San Francisco gig in December 2013 featuring them with other bands The Dream Syndicate, The Three O’clock and The Rain Parade.