The Bangles

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Micki, Susanna, Vicki, and Debbi

The Bangles are an all-female band started in the early 1980s. Their genre can be summed up as a combination of rock, pop, Power Pop and jangle pop, with a pronounced influence from The Byrds and The Sixties rock that lumped them in with the Paisley Underground movement. The band consists of Debbi Peterson (vocals, drums), Vicki Peterson (vocals, guitar) and Susanna Hoffs (vocals, guitar), with former members Annette Zilinksas (vocals, bass) and Michael Steele (vocals, bass). Their first album, the Beatlesque Power Poppy All Over the Place earned them some good reviews but most importantly the attention of Prince, who wrote "Manic Monday" for them. The song and its accompanying album Different Light departed from the band's sixties rock sound in favour of state-of-the-art New Wave pop and more outside songwriters, to great commercial success and another hit single ("Walk Like an Egyptian"). Then, intra-band tensions worsened, and after releasing one more album, Everything, they split in 1989.

They re-formed in 1999 to make a song for Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (whose director, Jay Roach, is also Susanna Hoffs' husband), and after that stayed together again. Michael Steele left the group in 2005 to become chairman of the Republican National Committee. (Ironically, in at least some recent live performances, the bass player for the band has been, like the "other" Michael Steele, a middle-aged black man.)

Several of their songs have appeared on movie soundtracks, including "I Got Nothing," which they wrote for The Goonies, and their hit cover of "Hazy Shade of Winter", which appeared on the soundtrack for Less Than Zero. They have also provided backup vocals for Cyndi Lauper and Tom Petty.

  • The Bangles EP (1982)
  • All Over the Place (1984)
  • Different Light (1986)
  • Everything (1988)
  • Greatest Hits (1990)
  • September Gurls (all previously-released material) (1995)
  • Doll Revolution (2003)
  • Sweetheart of the Sun (2011)

The Bangles provides examples of the following tropes:
  • AcCENT Upon the Wrong SylLABle: "Walk Like an Egyptian" has several instances where the pronounciation is strange either to rhyme, or to make them fit with the cadence (including the title phrase - "Walk like an Egyp-SHUNNN").
  • Anti-Love Song: "James" ("I must have been a masochist/to ever take up with you, James")
  • Black Sheep Hit: Darn near all of them, actually. The Bangles write the vast majority of their own songs, but of their 4 best-charting singles, "Manic Monday" was written by Prince, and as noted below, sounds like it. "Walk Like An Egyptian" was a novelty song. "Hazy Shade of Winter" was a cover, and "Eternal Flame" was the only ballad on Everything. None of these hits are really "typical" Bangles songs.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Vicki (medium blonde, though brunette before Different Light), Debbi (pale blonde), Susanna (brunette), and Michael (redhead).
  • Brown Eyes: Susanna Hoffs. Along with her musical ability, she was well known for her enormous brown eyes and the way she glanced around her audience during performances.
  • Christmas Episode: For a few years in the '80s, the Bangles released an annual Christmas/Crimble tape full of improvisation and general goofiness, to members of their fan club, Bangles 'n Mash, in tribute to The Beatles' similar offerings. In 2004, they released Holiday in Bangleonia, a limited-edition CD with both a re-release of their 1983 recording and a new one for 2004. The Bangles revived the tradition in 2009 with an annual holiday podcast.
  • Composite Character: Anna Lee in "Anna Lee (Sweetheart of the Sun)":

Susanna: Interestingly, a character sort of developed in the song. We had all just read Girls Like Us, the book about Carly Simon, Carole King and Joni Mitchell, and we were inspired by it. We sort of made up a portrait of a person based around those women -- it's kind of mythical.

  • The Cover Changes the Gender:
    • Their cover of Jules Shear's "If She Knew What She Wants" changes the perspective from first person ("I'd be giving it to her") to third person.
    • On Different Light their cover of "September Gurls," the gender is changed to "he." In more recent performances Michael Steele changed the gender back to "she" ("That's the time she makes things right/ ooh when she makes love to me...").
  • Cover Version: "Live" by Emmitt Rhodes, "September Gurls" by Big Star, "Hazy Shade of Winter" by Simon and Garfunkel. "Going Down to Liverpool" doesn't really count since it was written for them by Kimberley Rew from Katrina and the Waves.
  • Days of the Week Song: "Manic Monday"
  • Distaff Counterpart: They've said in many interviews that their original goal was to be this to The Beatles. You can even match them up if you like:

Susanna: Paul ("the cute one")
Vicki: John ("the edgy one" or "the smart one")
Michael: George ("The Quiet One" or "the dark horse")
Debbi: Ringo ("the drummer")
see also Annette Zilinskas: The Pete Best

  • Donut Mess with a Cop: "Walk Like an Egyptian"
  • The Eighties
  • Eighties Hair: In many aspects, the Bangles seemed more a '60s band than an '80s one. Hair was not one of those aspects.
  • Evolving Music:
    • When Vicki Peterson wrote "Single By Choice," it was a pretty personal song for her. After getting married to John Cowsill in 2003, she jokes about doing a "Married By Choice" version.
    • Vicki's songs seem especially prone to this trope. She wrote "Lay Yourself Down" (which appears on Sweetheart of the Sun) for her fiancé Bobby in 1990, as he was struggling to find his place in the music business. The song and its lyrics like those below became even more personal and poignant when Bobby began a battle with leukemia (to which he eventually succumbed in 1991):

Even if the battle is won
The war is not over
It’s only begun
If there’s one still standing
One still standing his ground
Don’t you lay yourself down

    • "Walk Like An Egyptian" has a different evolution. Debbi Peterson's drumming was replaced by a drum machine on the hit single, and in a particularly egregious case of Executive Meddling, she was even left out of the vocals. Now, when performing the song live, Debbi's drumming still gives way to the drum machine, but she sings and plays acoustic guitar.
  • Fake-Out Fade-Out: "Waiting For You"
  • Grief Song: "Song For A Good Son"
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: Leonard Nimoy is the band's driver in the video for "Going Down to Liverpool".
  • Mondegreen: The cover of "Sweet and Tender Romance" on Sweetheart of the Sun.

Susanna: We listened to the McKinley Sisters' recording over and over again, and could decode most of the words, but in the end we guessed a bit! What you hear on the record is actually our "scratch" vocals, and in fact Vicki and I are singing different words!