It was 1989 and not all was well within the popular all-girl band The Bangles. In-fighting dramas among the members, coupled with a push by the record label for singer Susanna Hoffs to launch a solo career, saw the biggest American girl-group of the 1980s melt down in spectacular fashion.
In the midst of the break-up, the band was also preparing for a music tour. It was to be their first visit to Australia, a country where they had enjoyed considerable success with hits like Manic Monday and Eternal Flame.
After the bitter split, The Bangles could barely stand to talk to each other, let alone work together, and so the Australian tour was promptly cancelled.
I still meet Australians who say to me, -˜I had tickets to your concert and then you cancelled the tour,’ recalls lead guitarist Vicki Peterson from her Los Angeles home on the eve of The Bangles’ first ever Australian shows at The Enmore Theatre on 3 and 4 November.
While the name of this tour is -˜Here Right Now’, it could also be called -˜The Better Late Than Never Tour’ or the -˜All Apologies, Our Plane Was Stuck In Traffic Tour’.
After a decade of estrangement, The Bangles reunited in 1999 and have been successfully touring ever since, as well as releasing the album, Doll Revolution, in 2003. It has taken 16 years for Australia to be back on The Bangles’ touring agenda, but Peterson says they are excited about finally making their live Australian debut.
We have all had to wait for everything to fall into place the right way as we all now have families and kids and other issues to work out, but we are heading down and this time, we will definitely make it -“ I promise, she laughs.
The Bangles formed in 1981 in Los Angeles and were part of the garage-band rock movement of the time. The original line-up was Susanna Hoffs and Vicki and Debbi Peterson, with Michael Steele joining in 1983.
Their 1984 debut album All Over The Place attracted the attention of Prince, who wrote the chart-topping Manic Monday for them. The hit album Different Light and the singles Walk Like An Egyptian, Hazy Shade Of Winter, If She Knew What She Wants and Eternal Flame followed in succession.
The day the Star spoke with 47-year-old Peterson, her house was full of music. She is married to John Cowsill of the 60s folk music act The Cowsills, and his band was rehearsing for a TV appearance. While Peterson spoke about The Bangles tour, The Cowsills could be heard rehearsing their 1969 chart hit Hair.
Between Vicki and her fellow Bangles sister Debbi Peterson, there is a maze of musical connections through American rock of the past 20 years. Once The Bangles split, Vicki worked with former Go-Gos singer Belinda Carlisle in the wake of that girl-group’s break-up, while Debbi worked with former Go-Gos drummer Gina Schock.
It all sounds so good, doesn’t it? All very rock’n’roll and all with strong ties, laughs Peterson. It is hilarious when the bands get together as it is all very high energy and there are plenty of stories to tell.
We have shared stories and found we have similar stories to tell, but I really don’t think it is gender-specific. I have seen a lot of boy bands fight and deal with each other and while there are things that might be similar, I think it is up to the individual.
I talked to the girls [Go-Gos] about the ways of approaching coming back toÂ working with someone you have not worked with for a while. You get so close, you are like sisters. But you are on the road so much and forced to be in the same place for so long, you have to learn how to deal with each other.
Peterson says The Bangles have been dealing well with each other the second time around. She says the heady days of the 1980s came at a cost, and these days it is a much easier experience, both on and off stage.
We had to learn to say no and you don’t have to do everything that is offered, which is what we did. We were on the road all the time and when we were not, we were working on a record. We needed a break at that time, not just from each other, but also from the lifestyle. The stuff we bring [to the band] this time around is actually really great.
But it is the old Bangles hits which still bring the crowds in, and Peterson says she never tires of watching the audience reaction to the various songs.
By the time we get to that point of the evening when we play Eternal Flame, we have these people in front of us making out, including women and women, and men and men. This song has gained all this romantic weight as it was so many couples’ song’, so it has some nostalgia to it.
But I do love to watch people try to dance to Walk Like An Egyptian, as it is not a good dance song in my opinion, but people always get up and jerk about, she laughs. You really can’t dance to it, but people get up and give it a good go. I love that.
The Bangles play at Enmore Theatre on 3 and 4 November and Newcastle’s Civic Theatre on 5 November. Bookings on 9550 3666 (Enmore Theatre) or at the Ticketek website.