Susanna HoffsVocals, guitar
Vicki PetersonGuitar, vocals
Debbi PetersonDrums, vocals
Michael SteeleBass, vocals1983-1989, 1998-2005
Annette ZilinskasBass, vocals1981-1983, 2018-
Originally called The Bangs, they had to change it because another band had that name. That band offered the name to the girls for $20,000, but they refused. Some brainstorming led to "Bangles," which sounds like "Beatles" and is also the name of a song by the Electric Prunes.
Their first manager was Miles Copeland, who managed The Go-Go's and The Police. He is the brother of Stewart Copeland from The Police.
In a Songfacts interview with Vicki Peterson
, she described their sound: "We did a lot of faux 12-string arpeggios. We did a lot of strumming, almost like a folk-rock approach to guitar, and then mixed that in with the punk attack, which was very much a part of our sound, as it was for most of the bands. We definitely played with punk energy, if not necessarily the same kind of nihilistic attitude. We had that energy going behind us. The guitar was attacked more than it was stroked."
Michael Steele, despite having a boy's name, is a girl. She was in The Runaways with Joan Jett and Lita Ford.
The group formed in 1981 when the Peterson sisters were looking for another band member and Hoffs was looking for a band. They bonded over their love of The Beatles and John Lennon, who had recently been killed.
Hoffs emerged as the group's focal point, but that wasn't the plan. All four members sing and write songs, although Hoffs and Vicki Peterson did most of the songwriting. They pushed for equal billing in promotional materials and stage presence, with no member getting priority placement. But the press gravitated to Hoffs, who sang lead on their biggest hits. This gave the impression she was the leader, or at least the lead singer, and it caused a rift that led to their breakup. The whole proved greater than the sum of its parts: Hoffs released solo albums in 1991 and 1996, but they both underperformed.
In 1987, Hoffs starred in the poorly received movie The Allnighter, which was directed by her mother, Tamar.
Hoffs and Vicki Peterson share a love of literature that informs their lyrics. This can be heard on "Dover Beach
," from their debut album, inspired by a Matthew Arnold poem. Peterson studied at UCLA, but dropped out because she didn't like the way classes were taught. "You had to just accept what you were being told and pretty much regurgitate it back," she said.
I wasn't crazy about that."
Hoffs married director Jay Roach in 1993. The Bangles got back together to write a song for Austin Powers 2, The Spy Who Shagged Me, which Roach directed.
In the early '80s, the Bangles were part of the Paisley Underground, a group of independent-minded Los Angeles acts with '60s influences. Paisley acts like The Three O'Clock and The Dream Syndicate got a lot of positive press and grew a devoted fan base, but only the Bangles broke through. By 1986, the Paisley scene was pretty much over, but the Bangles were huge.
Hoffs sang with Randy Newman at the 2001 Oscars. They performed Newman's "A Fool In Love" from the movie Meet The Parents. Hoffs got the gig because her husband directed the movie.
Vicki Peterson married musician John Cowsill of The Cowsills on October 25, 2003.