The Story of The Bangles

* Concert pics courtesy of the folks at the BANGLEMANIA Fanzine and used with kind permission.

The saga of the Bangles begins back in 1980, when an add in the LA newspaper "The Recycler", lead Susanna Hoffs to the garage rocking Peterson sisters. It was December 9, 1980, just a day after the assasination of John Lennon, and Hoffs and the Peterson sisters had a lengthy discussion about the tragedy. They soon discovered that they had similar musical influences, from The Beatles to the Grass Roots to Mama's and the Papa's and more. One thing lead to another, and the trio decided to form a band. Debbi Peterson played drums, sister Vicki bass, and Susanna Hoffs handled the guitars. They all sang. Soon, they were gathering at each others houses with their instruments, favorite tapes, and writing utensils, writing and recording songs. In time, they recruited Annette Zalinskas to play bass and Vicki moved to lead guitar.

The addition of Annette to the lineup allowed the possiblilty of doing live shows. So they hit the club circut. They thought of a dozen names with which to call themselves. First they were "The Colours", then the "Supersonic Bangs", before they finally decided on the name, "Bangs." The Bangs played 60's oriented indie music with lush and vibrant harmonies and tough, yet playful rock and roll. Soon, the patrons of the clubs were packing the chairs to see them.

The Bangs, along with other 60's New Wavers such as the Dream Syndicate, Rain Parade, and Hoodoo Gurus, became the core of a 60's inspired rock revival critics were dubbing the "Paisely Underground."

A self recorded and produced 7" single, "Getting Out Of Hand" garnered the band some attention and even some radio airplay. (The single was released on their own label, Downkiddie Records.) It also landed the band in hot water when another group from New Jersey, also called The Bangs, threatened to sue over the use of the name. The band then changed its name to "The Bangles". By 1982, The Bangs were well known in the Los Angeles club scene. Talent scouts for IRS President Miles Copeland, who was instrumental in the breakthrough success of the Go-Go's, were out looking for new talent, and found it in the Bangles.

They were weary of his overtures at first. Says Vicki Peterson, "I was very defensive at first. I thought, 'Oh, here it is: he wants to make us the poor man's Go-Go's,' and I wasn't interested in that at all."

Ultimately, The Bangles decided to sign with Copeland. The band then recorded a five song Ep titled simply, "The Bangles" in May 1982 and were booked as the opening act for the British group, The English Beat. That this extended play release sold some 40,000 copies soon drew the attention of other, larger record labels.

In 1983, the Bangles plans for stardom were almost derailed when the IRS subsidary label, Faulty Products, the label that released the EP, went out of business and Annette Zalinskas decamped for the country-punk outfit, "Blood On The Saddle." This touched off a search for a new bassist. They found one in Michael Steele, who had the distinction, (or misfortune, as she believes) of being The Runaways original lead singer. She won the audition through answering Vicki Peterson's question, "Describe your dream band" with "The Yardbirds with Fairport Convention vocals."

Later that year, The Bangles signed with CBS (Columbia) Records. Teamed with producer David Kahne, the band started recording is major label debut.

"All Over The Place", was released in April of 1984. The album was a critics gem, bouyed by the band's competant songwriting, rough and ranchy guitars, and those always brillant and lush harmonies. With so many great songs on the album, it was almost impossible to pick favorites. AOTP didn't burn up the charts, but it won favor with the college radio crowds. The singles, "Hero Takes A Fall" and "Going Down To Liverpool", won extensive airplay on college radio stations. The band backed this LP up with dates ranging from being club headliners to the opening act for Cyndi Lauper.

The Bangles raw edge was smoothed over slightly for their second album, "Different Light". David Kahne also produced this album, which catapulted the band into superstardom. The disc was sent to the top of the charts, assisted by the Prince-penned "Manic Monday", Jules Shear's "If She Knew What She Wants", and the wacky,angular dance track, "Walk Like An Egyptian". All three were big hits, the latter reached #1 on the Billboard charts for a history making four weeks in a row. No other all-female band ever had that honor before. The band backed this album up with a sold out national tour. They also picked up several awards, including Single of The Year, Best MTV Video Performance, both for "Walk Like An Egyptian." They also were named Best International Artist at Britan's own Music Awards.

In 1987, teamed with rap/heavy metal producer Rick Rubin, The Bangles recorded and co-produced and mixed a hard rocking cover of Simon & Garfunkle's "Hazy Shade Of Winter" for the soundtrack to the film "Less Than Zero." The song, released as a single on Rubin's Def Jam Label, became another huge hit, The Bangles second #1. "We were all so surprised that it did so well," says Michael Steele. "We didn't expect it to be released as a single."

Shortly after completing a marathon tour schedule, the band decided to lay low for a while. This allowed Susanna Hoffs the time to persue her other interest: acting. She landed the lead role in the 1987 feture film, "The Allnighter." (The film was directed by her mother, award winning short film director and writer, Tamar Hoffs.) The movie was not a big box office draw, and failed to ignite a carear in films for Hoffs. It did give Hoffs considerable publicity.

In January 1988, the Bangles set out to record their third album. First, they had to make some changes. They fired producer David Kahne, saying that the producer pushed the band in musical directions they didn't want to go. In his place, they hired Davitt Sigerson, best known for making David & David's album "Boomtown" such a smash.

Before going into the studio, Vicki Peterson had vowed that the record would be more rock and roll, a return to roots. She told a reporter from "Rolling Stone" magazine, "I am perfectly willing to accept the fact that it won't be a hit."

So the band concentrated on writing and more writing. There would be no cover songs this time around. In October, the band's third album, "Everything", was released. The album featured a harder rock sound mixed in with more pure pop and blues numbers, an indication of the growing artistic differences within the band. It's telling that while all the songs on the album were written by band members, abit mostly with outside songwriters.

Nonetheless, "Everything" almost did just that, following "Different Light" up the charts and producing two more big hits, the rocking "In Your Room" and a rare, orchestral ballad, "Eternal Flame", which went on to #1 on the Billboard charts and became the fifth biggest selling hit single for 1989. All the hidden tension and frustraitions came to a head during the Bangles' "Everything Everywhere Tour." The other Bangles were growing resentful of the "star treatment" given Susanna Hoffs by the media, the public, and by this time, the band's management and record label. This was doubly ironic because the band never had, or intended to have, one primary singer. The other members of the band saw their own contributions being overlooked. Add all the other pressures the band members were going through, and the stress of non-stop touring, and you have a receipe for a burnout.

By September 1989, the situation had deteriorated to the point that the band had to cancel the rest of its planned world tour. One month later, the decision was made by mutual agreement to dissolve the band. It was a decision that, in the least, allowed Susanna Hoffs the freedom to pursue a solo carear. It also freed the other members to find their own creative roots.

"We were together nine years, you know," said Debbi Peterson in a 1992 radio interview. "We did all sorts of tours, and just done everything together, and it's just, you know, after a while it's time to move on. You just feel like - Ok I can't do this with these people anymore, I have to find myself."

Hoffs in particular seemed to want out for similar reasons.

"There was a quota system for every single thing we did," Susanna said in post-Bangles 1991 interview. "I thought it was really hurting the music, not to mention that it was very unappealing on an emotional level to work that way. It was like: "Your gonna make a record. You are gonna have three songs. And whose to say what impact your songs are going to have on everyone elses songs because everyone was very individualized in the way they were working. Compound that with all the tension that was going on and the stress everyone seemed to be experiencing because of all that since of compromise, it seemed that it wasn't worth it."

A "Greatist Hits" collection was released in May 1990. It contained all the Bangles hits plus three non album tracks. It sold well in the U.S., but broke sales records in Britain, charting in the UK Top 10 for an increadable 97 weeks and eventually becoming the #4 album in the country at that time.

In the meantime, while the other Bangles members have moved on to other projects, the four albums that the band recorded continue to sell well in catalog sales. In July 1994, "Different Light" was certified platinum four times over, the first of the Bangles album to reach that mark. Those four albums have also spun off at least 4 Best of Packages that have sold reasonably well. Those collections have featured special remixes, but no previously unreleased material.

So What's Happening Now??

(As of 2/4/99)

For most of January 1999, rumors have been floating around that a Bangles reunion is on the way. That isn't exactly true, though Susanna Hoffs and sisters Debbi and Vicki Peterson have resumed their writing relationships. (Susanna and Debbi started writing together last fall. As confirmed from Debbi herself in a letter to John Edwards, editor of Banglemania, the Bangles fanzine.) Apparently, the three have been "jamming together" and have been working, or have worked, on writing new songs.

According to MTV news, The Bangles have been offered a slot on this summer's Lilith Fair, perhaps has headliners. Unfortunately, while Susanna, Debbi, and Vicki have starting working together again, a full Bangles reunion, is, at least for now, still out of the picture. Vicki Peterson reportedly told MTV news that a Bangles reunion will not occur unless Michael Steele agrees to take part, and she hasn't - yet.

Well, that three out of the four Bangles are writing together is great news! Whether anything official comes out of it, (Either a Bangles reunion or otherwise) we will have to see what developes!

So who knows?? Perhaps one day we will get a new album and another chance to see them live!

Until then.........


Other Bangles Links

Bangles Main Releases

Bangles Singles"

Various Bangles Publications(Fanzine info!)

Other Bangles Appearances (BRAND NEW AS OF 8/29/98)

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