The Bangles Band History

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When The Bangles come to mind, most people think of their singles, such as “Walk Like an Egyptian.” In reality, The Bangles are so much more than that. Formed in 1981 in LA, they’re one of the most pivotal bands pioneering the pop-rock genre. They were also famous for only having female band members, and they stood out among other bands of the era.

But who were The Bangles? How did they form and become famous? Read our guide on The Bangles band history to learn all about the band that brought you hit songs like “Eternal Flame.”

Quick Facts

  • Notable Band Members: Vicki Peterson (guitar and vocals), Debbi Peterson (drums and vocals), Susanna Hoffs (guitar and vocals), and Michael Steele (bass and vocals).
  • Genre: Pop-rock
  • Years Active: 1981-1989, 1998-present
  • Origin: Los Angeles, California
  • Most Successful AlbumDifferent Light
  • Website: The Bangles
  • Last Updated: August 2023

Band Formation

the bangles

If it weren’t for two ads in the classifieds section of The Recycler, The Bangles would never have formed. Singer Susanna Hoffs placed the first ad.

In an interview, Hoffs describes the feeling of discovering rising artists of the time, such as Blondie and The Ramones, from her older brother. The “garage band” movement appealed to Hoffs, who started playing in a band with her then-boyfriend in college. After they broke up, the band inevitably disbanded. This led to Hoffs posting an ad in The Recycler. She only received a response from Annette Zilinskas, the original Bangles bassist.

Lynn Elkind posted a second ad in the same publication. Elkind was a member of the band Those Girls but departed around the same time she posted the ad. Hoffs saw Elkind’s ad and called in response. Elkind lived with The Peterson sisters, and Vicki Peterson answered Hoff’s phone call. The two talked on the phone and discovered they had much in common.

Still, Peterson gave the message to Elkind, who called Hoffs back. Elkind and Hoffs didn’t connect as much as Hoffs and Peterson, the Peterson sisters joined the new band. This was the original Bangles lineup, but at the time, they were called The Colours. Soon, they renamed themselves to The Bangs.

Early Years

The Bangs were part of a movement called the Paisley Underground scene in the 80s, where bands played 60s-inspired music. In that same interview, Hoffs said she rediscovered obscure 60s bands in college, specifically The Blue Magoos, The Beau Brummels, and The Syndicate of Sound. She also admits she’s a huge Patti Smith fan. The Bangs fit perfectly with this scene and soon started recording music.

After recording the singles “Getting Out of Hand” and “Call on Me” on the B-side, the band was signed to Miles Copeland’s label Faulty Products.

When the band recorded their first EP and started playing shows, they realized there was already a band called The Bangs. Their sound engineer, Erik Visser, suggested they switch their name to The Bangles, saying the “-les” ending had a Beatles flair.

As a result, the band had to change the name of their EP (to “Bangles”). Around this time, Zilinskas left The Bangles to focus on her band Blood on the Saddle and was replaced with former Runaways bassist Michael “Micki” Steele.


the bangles success

The Bangles were signed to Columbia Records after perfecting their 60s-inspired pop-rock sound. Around this time, the band started touring more; they joined Cyndi Lauper for her Fun Tour and also captured the attention of other notable artists, such as Prince.

All Over the Place

With The Bangles’ debut album, they proved they’re excellent songwriters and talented musicians. You can hear the 60s pop influence, with the catchy choruses and Beatles-esque guitars. The songs are also short, sweet, and to the point. While their next album would take the limelight, their debut is seriously underrated.

“Hero Takes a Fall” is by far the most famous song on the album. This is one of my favorites on the album; it has that chill, beachy feel, and harmonizing vocals–an ode to The Beach Boys. It’s still catchy and fun enough to dance to. All band members stand out in this track–especially Steele, whose bass lines really stand out here.

Different Light

Different Light is The Bangles’ most successful album. And it’s no wonder why! First, look at all the amazing songs on this album: “Manic Monday” and “Walk Like an Egyptian” are the most iconic. But seriously, every song on this album is so good.

“Manic Monday” is one of the most crucial 80s anthems. It has everything that represents the 80s: a catchy chorus, great melodies, pop vibes, and serious synths. It quickly became a hit and put The Bangles in the spotlight. Prince wrote this song originally for his band Apollonia 6.

This song also aged well; I’m listening to it in 2023, and it still sounds as good as when I first heard it. “Manic Monday” received the number 2 spot on the Billboard charts. The single also performed well in Germany and the UK.

You can’t forget “Walk Like an Egyptian.” While the dancing is super cheesy, the song is still a guilty pleasure for me. The Bangles have better songs than this one, but it’s no surprise that “Walk Like an Egyptian” got famous. It’s a fun anthem that anyone can sing and dance to. Plus, it’s a song that gets stuck in your head for hours. Because of this fact alone, I’m sure anyone can’t help but do that classic dance when they hear this song.

As The Bangles’ biggest single, it’s no surprise it topped the Billboard charts. The single alone put the band at mainstream success, specifically among young women.

The other singles from Different Light include “Walking Down Your Street,” “Following,” and “If She Knew What She Wants.”


The Bangles experienced some changes with the album Everything, notably because they worked with producer Davitt Sigerson instead of David Kahne.

Still, the album was an overall success, and I consider it another timeless record in their discography. The songwriting and talent are on another level here.

This album produced one of The Bangles’ biggest hits, “Eternal Flame.” I can see why this song is successful–it’s your typical pure love song. Even though this song was released in the 80s, anyone can relate to the lyrics and remember what that first love was like. As a power ballad, the song is very soft and not as catchy as their other hits. But this is arguably Hoffs’ best vocal performance.

Not surprisingly, “Eternal Flame” reached the top spot on the Billboard Top 100 charts. The album also produced the single “In Your Room,” which peaked at the number five spot.


Just as quickly as The Bangles skyrocketed, they came crashing down. Tensions rose between the band members, mainly from music industry pressures.

First, it’s important to note all members of the band co-wrote and contributed vocals. But toward the end of the band’s tenure in the 80s, Hoffs was the main singer. That’s because the media began referring to Hoffs as the lead singer.

After The Bangles broke up, the band members still pursued music. Susanna Hoffs embarked on a successful solo career. Vicki Peterson joined the band Continental Drifters and filled in for The Go-Go’s. Michael Steele joined the band Crash Wisdom, which disbanded shortly after she joined.


Even during the breakup, The Bangles members still kept in touch. It should be no surprise that nearly 10 years after their breakup, the band reunited and started working on new music.

The first project they worked on was a cover of the Dusty Springfield song “The Look of Love,” performed for the soundtrack for the film Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. From there, the band went on tour and had other successes, such as an induction into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.

Doll Revolution

Shortly after the band’s reformation, they recorded and released Doll Revolution. What I find interesting about this album is it better fits the indie rock trend of the early 2000s rather than the catchy 80s style that The Bangles is best known for. I’m sure for those in my generation who never heard of The Bangles before, this album appealed more to that demographic than previous Bangles fans. It made this album seem more like a reinvented band than a comeback.

That said, this album lacks the magic that the 80s material held. The production is great. There’s nothing wrong with the songwriting and playing. But it lacks those jams that they wrote in the 80s, and the songs sound pretty generic. I’m sure others feel the same way, so this album was lost in their discography.

Still, there’s some interesting trivia about this album. For example, Elvis Costello wrote the track “Tear Off Your Own Head (It’s a Doll Revolution).” It was originally supposed to be featured on his album When I Was Cruel.

While Doll Revolution was lost in their discography, it did well in Germany. They performed on the TV show Wetten Dass and played successful shows in the country.

In 2005, longtime bassist Michael Steele left the band. This was due to artistic disputes during recording and touring. While The Bangles didn’t immediately hire a permanent bassist, they did onboard Abby Travis, who performed live with them.

Sweetheart of the Sun

The Bangles released their fifth and final album, Sweetheart of the Sun. Since Steele left before the album’s recording, the band wrote and recorded the album as a three-piece, hiring Derrick Anderson as a session bassist.

I like this album because it reminds me of what The Bangles should sound like–before they developed the mainstream style. Sweetheart of the Sun goes back to their 60s pop days.

The songs are lighthearted and beautiful; they’re catchy in their own ways but nothing like you would hear on the radio. You really hear the songwriting talent in this album. I like to think Sweetheart of the Sun is the obscure vinyl you come across in the back of a record store–you buy it on a whim, and you wonder why it’s not more famous.

Too bad this is the last album the band released because I would have loved for them to continue in this direction.

The Bangles toured to support the album, even playing a Paisley Underground reunion with the Three O’Clock, Dream Syndicate, and Rain Parade. They played the Filmore in San Francisco and a benefit show at the Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles. These shows were massive; although The Bangles has long been reunited, The Dream Syndicate had recently reformed, and the other bands hadn’t played in years.

In 2014, original bassist Annette Zilinskas filled in bass for a few songs, but she officially rejoined in 2018.

The Bangles Today

the bangles today

The Bangles are technically still active today, but they haven’t released music in years. They recorded three new songs in 2018 for a compilation album with the other Paisley Underground groups, and they played at the Grammy Museum in 2019.

Still, every source I read says The Bangles are still active, but the rest of the band is busy. Susanna Hoffs has a successful solo career, and Zilinskas and the Peterson sisters also play in other bands.

Facts about the Bangles

While digging for facts on The Bangles, I learned some interesting facts about them. I figured fans would also appreciate reading these interesting facts!

Some Big Rockstars Wrote Songs for Them

Earlier, I mentioned two big-name musicians with songwriting credits for The Bangles: Prince and Elvis Costello. What led these musicians to write songs for The Bangles?

Let’s start with Prince since the song he wrote (“Manic Monday”) is one of The Bangles’ most popular tracks. After doing some digging, I discovered Prince was a fan of the band and wanted to perform a song with them. Susanna Hoffs liked Prince’s music and described playing with him as “mind-blowing.”

Prince originally wrote “Manic Monday” for his band Apollonia 16 but decided to let The Bangles use the track. The Bangles did admit they changed the track to make it their own but were grateful that Prince wanted to collaborate with the band.

Since Prince’s death, his estate released the original demo that he originally showed The Bangles.

Elvis Costello also wrote “Tear Off Your Own Head (It’s a Doll Revolution)” originally for his album When I Was Cruel, but gave it to The Bangles. However, I can’t find exactly why.

Michael Steele Was in Another Iconic Band

Before joining The Runaways, Michael Steele was one of the founding members of The Runaways. She formed the band with Joan Jett and Sandy West. However, she was fired shortly after recording their first demo. Steele was older than the other girls in the band, and manager Kim Fowley wanted the band to have a “teen” image (it’s so weird writing that in 2023). Steele was in her 20s then, so she was older than he wanted (again, super creepy and weird).

Two of the Members Are Sisters

As you can tell from the last names, Vicki and Debbi Peterson are sisters. Debbi is the younger sister of both of them. Debbi and Vicki were natural musicians–Debbi only had one formal drum lesson! Both sisters found their older sister Pam’s vinyl collection and fell in love with music. Vicki and Debbi played in bands throughout their youth and were at a pro level by the time they met Hoffs and formed The Bangles.

vicki and debbi sisters


Question: Why are The Bangles famous?

Answer: The Bangles are most famous for the singles “Walk Like an Egyptian,” “Manic Monday,” “Eternal Flame,” and “In Your Room.”

Question: Do The Bangles play their instruments?

Answer: Yes, the band confirmed in an interview that they play their instruments. Many people didn’t think they play their instruments because they have additional musicians on their records. Coming from a music journalist, hiring session musicians is a common practice, and artists in nearly all genres do this.

Question: Who sings in The Bangles?

Answer: Technically, they all sing. The band never had an official singer and never wanted to. Look at The Beatles–all members sang, not just one member.

Bottom Line

The Bangles are most popular for bringing us singles such as “Walk Like an Egyptian,” but the band is so much more than that. Susanna Hoffs, the Peterson sisters, and Michael Steele are influential musicians who revolutionized pop-rock music. With their 60s-inspired pop tracks, The Bangles released unique, catchy songs that captivated fans worldwide.

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