Let’s hope it’s not too manic a Monday for Vicki Peterson…because it’s her birthday! Happy 63rd to the lead guitarist from the Bangles.
Peterson was born and raised in L.A. Music was always her thing, with her first (musical) love being the Beatles, and then the Beach Boys and Byrds. Perhaps there’s little wonder her big band would be one starting with a “B.” When she was just nine, she got her parents to buy her an electric guitar, a department store copy of George Harrison’s Rickenbacker. “I was a kid who brought her guitar to every sleepover,” she says. As she hit her teens and got quite good, she admired the guitar playing of Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon as well as “the songcraft of Tin Pan Alley writers…also Lennon & McCartney and Elton John and Bernie Taupin.”
While she had some talent for the guitar, she didn’t like lessons so much. “I was lazy about practising scales and found that writing my own songs was more fun.” And she had a chance to do that with various bands she was in during high school, and then the band she and her sister Debbie formed around the beginning of the ’80s after they met Susannah Hoffs through an ad in a local publication. They became popular in the local scene playing retro-’60s style psychedelic rock and in ’81 put out their first record, a retro-sounding indie EP called “The Real World.” At the time they were The Bangs, and had bassist Annette Zilinskas along, but soon they had signed to IRS Records (very briefly) and become The Bangles as well as changed bassists to Michael Steele, who was with them through their heyday. Peterson had a prominent role in the group, co-writing a number of their songs including “Hero Takes A Fall” and even singing lead on a few tunes like “Bell Jar” and “In A Different Light”. While she was second fiddle to Hoffs in terms of star appeal and scoring the lead on hit singles, we found she had a pretty good voice of her own, and she worked doing backing vocal work on records for artists from the Hoodoo Gurus to Tom Petty. As for the Bangles success, she found it a bit surprising. “What I remember is feeling a bit out of sync with the music of the ’80s,” although she does say “I loved XTC, R.E.M. – all the acronym band names – Squeeze, Tears for Fears.”
After the band broke up in ’89, she soon joined a band called Continental Drifters with Susan Cowsill, through whom she met her husband John, of the Cowsills. And yes, worlds did collide… Vicki briefly joined the other big girl group of the ’80s, the Go Gos, replacing Charlotte Coffey while she was pregnant for a 1994-95 tour.
These days, Peterson is back in the Bangles for their infrequent tours and says she’s working on non-musical writing projects but is always thinking music. “My husband …has been trying for years to get me to sit down in the living room and sing songs with him, and I think he’s onto something there.”
Could be a pretty good rendition of “Happy Birthday” in the Peterson-Cowsill home tonight!