L.A. girl groups featuring "chicks" who could actually play all their instruments made a big splash on the pop charts in the 80s, none as slickly and glamorously as Bangles, who formed in 1981. They went through several wild name changes (Colours, Supersonic Bangs, Bangs) before springing from the L.A. Paisley Underground scene (where they played garage-rock and primped a lot) to become a multi-platinum phenomenon.
The Bangs' first recordings were made on their own Downkiddie label and then for Miles Copeland's Faulty Products set-up, which resulted in a flawed self-titled EP and the final change in band name. Singer Susanna Hoffs, along with sisters Debbi (drums) and Vicki (guitar) Peterson, welcomed aboard former Runaways singer Michael Steele as bassist in 1983, shortly after Annette Zilinskas ditched the band for Blood on the Saddle. The quartet then signed with CBS, joined forces with power-pop producer David Kahne, and recorded All Over The Place, which sprouted the semi-hit "Hero Takes a Fall."
They built a loyal following with their live shows, and achieved superstardom upon releasing the #2 single, the Prince-penned "Manic Monday," an anthem for the 80s working woman, and the album Different Light. Upon seeing the video for "Hero," Prince had become infatuated with Hoffs and offered them the song written under the pseudonym Christopher. MTV staples like the #1 single "Walk Like an Egyptian" and the 1988 cover of Paul Simon's "Hazy Shade of Winter" (from the Less Than Zero soundtrack) followed, making Hoffs' sexy pout all the rage.
Not surprisingly, the media glommed onto the photogenic Hoffs as leader, stirring up tensions within the ranks while their sales grew. The third album, Everything, generated the Top Five U.S. hit "In Your Room" and the controversial "Eternal Flame" in the spring of 1989. With its use of strings and very little musical contribution from the band, "Eternal Flame" was viewed by the other band members as an unnecessary departure. It also once again compounded the illusion in the public's eye that the Bangles were Hoffs' band.
"Be With You" and "I'll Set You Free' failed to meet with their predecessors' success, and by the end of the year the decision was made to dissolve the band. Susanna Hoffs embarked on a hit and miss solo career, while the remaining members failed to make any impact with their respective projects. Hoffs recorded When You're a Boy in 1991 with some help from Cyndi Lauper and Juliana Hatfield, and her 1996 self-titled release boasted an all-star lineup, including Mick Fleetwood.
After the Bangles' split, Vicki Peterson joined the Psycho Sisters' and later, Continental Drifters. Then in 1994 she joined the Go-Go's' reunion tour, filling in for a pregnant Charlotte Caffey. Meanwhile, sister Debbi Peterson formed the band Kindred Spirit and released a self-titled album in 1994. The Bangles re-formed in 2000 for live dates and had further exposure in 2001 when Atomic Kitten took their cover of "Eternal Flame" to the top of the UK chart.