The biggest hit for the Bangles, "Walk Like An Egyptian" gave them a new level of notoriety, but not the kind they wanted. Formed in 1981, they wrote their own songs and were a big part of the Los Angeles Paisley Underground movement, which included eclectic acts like Rain Parade and The Dream Syndicate. These Paisley bands did well with critics but never broke big, except the Bangles.
Their first album, released in 1984, had a '60s sound with lots of clever, well-constructed songs written by their guitarists, Susanna Hoffs and Vicki Peterson. It did well and earned them a spot opening for Cyndi Lauper. Their second album, Different Light
, was their breakthrough, but the big hits were songs written by outsiders. First came "Manic Monday
," written by high-profile Bangles fan Prince. Then "If She Knew What She Wants
," written by Jules Shear.
Then came "Walk Like An Egyptian," a goofy romp written by another outside writer that the band didn't think would get released as a single because it was "too weird." It shot to #1 and became a sensation, but the group's rock pedigree took a hit. Suddenly they were known for this quasi-novelty song instead of their own compositions.
The song does have their stamp on it though: every Bangle could sing, and three of them get a verse on "Egyptian." The guitar riff is also their distinctive sound, something Vicki Peterson had been developing for a while (check out "He's Got a Secret" from their first album).
The Bangles didn't have a problem with the song itself, but when it made them famous it also made them miserable - they were burned out and their friendships fractured. The hits kept coming ("Eternal Flame
," "In Your Room
") until they couldn't it anymore; they broke up in 1989 at the peak of their powers.
Hoffs launched a solo career that didn't get very far, and Vicki Peterson joined a roots-rock band called the Continental Drifters. In the late '90s, after enough water had passed under the bridge, the Bangles re-united. They still had some bitter feelings about "Walk Like An Egyptian," which came out in a VH1 Behind The Music
where they talked about the song as a catalyst for their demise. But as years went by, the song took on a feeling of nostalgia and the group made peace with it.
"These days I feel very differently about it than I did in the '90s, because to me it was such an odd moment," Vicki Peterson told Songfacts
in 2018. "I actually loved doing it. I thought the song was brilliant, in the strangest way. I had fun recording it, minus a few hiccups here and there, because it wasn't a great time for us. But, the song itself, I thought, 'OK, we will never write anything like this. This takes the record to another level, so let's absolutely do this.'"
She added: "It's so fun to do live because of how it's received by our audience: They are completely in love and having a blast. It reminds them of that time in high school, that time in college, whatever it is that connects to a moment of sheer fun and joy and silliness and dance moves. So, at this point in time, when we do it, I just have a blast."