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Susanna Hoffs: Why The Bangles broke up and got back together

The Bangles performing
The Bangles performing "Walk Like An Egyptian."
TheBanglesVEVO (via YouTube)

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In 1986, you had to be living in the wilderness not to have heard the song "Walk Like an Egyptian" by The Bangles at least once.

At the time, they were huge! They had a lot of success, finding themselves playing gigs around the world and going from being a popular local band to international stars alongside The Go-Go's.

But things changed quickly for them: four years later, they broke up. One of the of the most successful acts of the 1980s was no more.

What happened?

Susanna Hoffs, the lead singer of The Bangles, joined Take Two's A Martinez in the studio to talk about her ups and downs with the band and reveal what broke the band up ... and what brought them back together.

Hoffs on the moment she realized that the band was huge

When we finally had a number one song ... with "Walk Like an Egyptian." We still had no money. We hadn't seen any money from it ... which is probably why there was a disconnect.

We went to the San Remo festival in Italy, and it was Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet — Whitney Houston was there. It was just hit-makers of the time. We didn't consider ourselves that, but we were in that company.

And it was "La Dolce Vita." It was like a Fellini movie! We had a paparazzi moment where there were just flashbulbs, and people wanted to take our picture.

We couldn't connect the dots. ... We're all living in, like, terrible apartments. And I was living in a garage in Santa Monica. And we were driving beat-up cars, but we had a number one song. And we were having our photo taken by a hundred paparazzi in San Remo. And it was just like this insane moment.

On the tension that her being seen as the lead singer caused and why they broke up.

There's always going to be tensions within any team. ... I mean, The Bangles were kind of intended to function in the same kind of way that The Beatles were. There [were] multiple singers. Multiple songwriters. ...

I think that our harmonies were very important, but we did take turns [leading], if you look at the albums. I don't sing every song. And everybody sings almost an equal number of songs. 

So I think that that was one factor in adding to the tension that you would normally have, being on the road and not getting a break for close to nine years.

"Manic Monday" was the first single. ... Prince had contacted us, ... and I think that he gave me the song, and we recorded it, and it became ... our first sort of radio hit. ... I think that that might have set the idea that I was the lead singer of the band, even though I wasn't.

How "Austin Powers" helped them get back together:

My husband [filmmaker Jay Roach] had directed ["Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery"], and he was working on the second [movie, "The Spy Who Shagged Me"], and they were down to needing a song for a particular scene.

And it was a day I had gotten together with Vickie [Peterson] and Debbie [Peterson] as an attempt to sort of get The Bangles back together. And we were working on writing a little bit of music and kind of feeling it out. And Jay walks in and says, "I need a song for this scene. Will you be willing to look at this scene and consider writing something custom-made for this party scene at the end of the movie?"

We sat down, and he showed us the scene. And we looked at each other and said, "Let's try it!" We wrote the song, and we ended up getting Michael Steel to join us in the studio to record it. And I think that writing process, feeling like we were actually doing a Bangles song together, ... everybody enjoyed it so much that it kind of led to the band working together again.

Want to hear Susanna talk about partying with The Go-Go's in Vegas and what her favorite songs to perform are? Check out the interview audio above.

The Bangles will be performing two sold-out shows this weekend at The Troubadour in West Hollywood.