Susanna Hoffs joined sisters Vicki and Debbi Peterson to form a band in Los Angeles in December, 1980. The trio briefly christened itself The Colours, then renamed itself The Supersonic Bangs, and shortly afterwards The Bangs. The band was part of the Los Angeles Paisley Underground scene, which featured groups that played a mixture of 1960s-influenced folk-rock and jangle pop with a more modern punk–ish/garage band undertone. In 1981, the threesome recorded and released a single ("Getting Out Of Hand" b/w "Call on Me") on DownKiddie Records (their own label). In 1982, the trio was signed to Faulty Products, a label formed by Miles Copeland.
The early Bangles line-up of Susanna Hoffs (vocals/guitars), Vicki Peterson (guitars/vocals), Debbi Peterson (vocals/drums) and Annette Zilinskas (vocals/bass) recorded an EP in 1982, and released the single "The Real World". A legal issue forced the band to change their name at the last minute so they dropped "The" and added the letters "les" to the end to become Bangles. Their first EP was retitled Bangles and released. In 1983, Faulty Products issued a 12 inch "remix" single of "The Real World" to radio and media, but another setback came as the label folded. I.R.S. Records picked up distribution and re-issued the EP. After Zilinskas left the band to focus on her own project Blood on the Saddle, she was replaced by Michael Steele, formerly of the all-girl band The Runaways, Toni & The Movers, Slow Children and Elton Duck.
1984–1986EditThe Bangles' full-length debut album on Columbia, All Over the Place (1984), captured their power-pop roots, featuring the singles "Hero Takes a Fall" and the Kimberley Rew-penned Beatlesque "Going Down To Liverpool" (originally recorded by Rew's band Katrina and the Waves). The record received good reviews, and the video for "Liverpool" featured Leonard Nimoy, which helped to generate further publicity.
All this went some way to attracting the attention of Prince, who later wrote "Manic Monday" for the group. "Manic Monday" went on to become a #2 hit in the US, the UK and Germany, outsold at the time only by another Prince composition, his own "Kiss". The band's second album Different Light (1986) was more polished than its predecessor and, with the help of the worldwide #1 hit "Walk Like an Egyptian", saw the band firmly in the mainstream.
There was friction among band members after the media began singling out Hoffs as the lead singer of the group, due to Columbia Records practice of releasing mostly singles on which Hoffs sang lead vocal. In fact, the group's albums were fairly evenly divided among all of the band's members, all of whom wrote or co-wrote their songs. In 1987, Hoffs starred in a film, The Allnighter, which was directed by her mother, Tamar Simon Hoffs, and was critically panned. That, and the firing of their manager Miles Copeland, further exacerbated the dissent among the band members. But they soon had another US #2 hit with a cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "Hazy Shade of Winter" from the soundtrack of the film Less Than Zero, and the melancholic "If She Knew What She Wants," written by Jules Shear, reached the U.S. Top 30 and the German Top 20.
1988's Everything was another multi-platinum smash and included their biggest-selling single, the soft ballad "Eternal Flame". Co-writer Billy Steinberg came up with the title after Susanna Hoffs told him about the band's visit to Graceland, Elvis Presley's former estate in Memphis, Tennessee. An "Eternal Flame" in memoriam to Presley is maintained on the site, but on the day the band visited, the flame had gone out and its clear-plastic enclosure was flooded. When they asked what was in the box, they were told, "That's the eternal flame.". The single became another worldwide hit.
The working relationships within the band had broken down, however, and they split shortly after, with Hoffs embarking on a solo career and Vicki Peterson touring as a member of the Go-Go's and the Continental Drifters.
Hoffs released a solo album When You're a Boy, produced by former Bangles producer David Kahne. The album spawned a minor hit "My Side of the Bed", and a Cyndi Lauper penned "Unconditional Love", but it stalled, and Hoffs was dropped from Columbia during the recording of her second solo album. The second solo album Susanna Hoffs, released in 1996, fared better critically, but it too had disappointing sales. Hoffs married film director Jay Roach (Austin Powers and Meet the Parents), and their union led to the Bangles' reunion of 2000. Vicki Peterson joined and contributed songs to the New Orleans band the Continental Drifters, which received rave reviews. Debbi Peterson had a short-lived career with Siobhan Maher under the name of Kindred Spirit, while Steele lived in semi-retirement in California.
Re-formEditThe Bangles re-formed to record a song for the soundtrack of Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, at the behest of the film's director (and Hoffs' husband) Jay Roach. The song chosen for the album was "Get The Girl"; it was released in 1999. The reunion continued with a tour in 2000. The group was also inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2000. In 2001–2002, they recorded a new album Doll Revolution. Doll Revolution, featuring such songs as "Stealing Rosemary", "Ride the Ride", "Nickel Romeo", and the single "Something That You Said", was released in early 2003. The title track was written by Elvis Costello, who initially recorded it for his 2002 album When I Was Cruel. Doll Revolution was a solid comeback success in Germany after the Bangles had performed in Germany's biggest TV show Wetten dass, but failed to make any impact in other important markets such as the UK, the U.S. and Australia.
In July 2004, The Bangles were made Companions of the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts.
In 2005, the Bangles announced the departure of Michael Steele. Steele was replaced by Abby Travis for live appearances. Travis is not an official member of the group. On December 31, 2005, they reunited to perform "Hazy Shade of Winter" in front of Times Square and later performed "Eternal Flame" as part of Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve 2006. Their third single, "Light My Way", is available as a download via iTunes. August 2007 saw the release of their first official live DVD, Return to Bangleonia - Live in Concert.
In 2008, the band toured the US with dates in Las Vegas, Louisiana, Austin, Glasgow, and Ojai. Further tours included Germany, the Netherlands and at the popular Cornbury Festival in Oxfordshire, England on July 5 and 6.The Bangles returned to the studio in spring of 2009 to begin work on a new album. During an interview with Music Geek Media in May 2009 Debbi Peterson indicated that the album was in the early stages of production. The album, Sweetheart of the Sun, was released September 27, 2011.
Past and present members of the Bangles include:
- Susanna Hoffs – vocals/guitars
- Vicki Peterson – vocals/guitars/bass guitar
- Debbi Peterson – vocals/drums/bass guitar
- Annette Zilinskas – vocals/bass guitar (1982–1983)
- Michael Steele – vocals/bass guitar/guitars (1983–2005)
- Abby Travis - vocals/bass guitar (2008)
Main article: The Bangles discography
- All Over the Place (1984)
- Different Light (1986)
- Everything (1988)
- Greatest Hits (1990)
- September Gurls (1995)
- Doll Revolution (2003)
- Sweetheart of the Sun (2011)
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