The Bangles' Michael Steele

Bassist/singer Michael Steele already had a small place in rock history before she found herself in the Bangles, one of the most successful all-girl bands of the '80s.

In 1975, Steele (known then as Micki Steele) was an original member of

the Runaways, the pioneering all-female hard-rock band featuring singer/guitarist Joan Jett, who later went on to solo fame. Steele left the Runaways early on, but she joined the Bangles in the '80s, right before the group enjoyed all its hits.

Steele was born 45 years ago today in Newport Beach, Calif. She was singing and playing bass in her boyfriend's band when producer/manager Kim Fowley asked if she would front an all-female, punk-metal band he was putting together.

Steele agreed and was soon recording with the Runaways. After finishing the Runaways' 1976 demo, Born to Be Bad, Steele was fired from the band reportedly because she was a few years older than the rest of the girls. Fowley apparently wanted the Runaways to have a teen image, and Steel was in her 20s at the time.

Steele then played in such bands as the Slow Children, Eton Duck and Snakefinger before successfully auditioning in 1983 to replace departing Bangles bassist Annette Zilinskas. The Bangles had been together for two years and released a self-titled 1982 EP. The band included sisters Debbi and Vicki Peterson on drums and guitar, respectively, and singer/guitarist Susanna Hoffs.

Though the Bangles were more power pop than punk rock, Steele fit right in. She was present on the group's first LP, 1984's All Over the Place, produced by noted power-pop producer David Kahne. The album featured such critically acclaimed Bangles tracks as "Hero Takes a Fall" and "Going Down to Liverpool" (which was written by Kimberley Rew of the Soft Boys and Katrina and the Waves).

Prince became an admirer of Hoffs and gave the Bangles the tune "Manic

Monday" (RealAudio excerpt),

which he wrote under the pseudonym Christopher. The song went to #2 in

1986 in the U.S., heralding the success of the Bangles' breakthrough LP,

Different Light. The album also spawned other hits, such as the

Jules Shear-written "If She Knew What She Wants" and the #1 "Walk Like

an Egyptian," which was accompanied by a popular video.

While the Bangles enjoyed a smash hit with a 1987 cover of Simon and Garfunkel's "Hazy Shade of Winter" from the soundtrack to "Less Than Zero," they were falling apart. Everything (1988) produced another #1 in "Eternal Flame," but Steele and the Petersons were angry about the growing creative domination of Hoffs, who also got the lion's share of attention due to her pouty good looks and movie appearances. The Bangles broke up in 1989.

Though Hoffs was the most visible ex-Bangle thanks to a moderately successful solo career, Steele has kept busy. With Vicki, Steele performed two songs at a 1994 Byrds tribute concert in Los Angeles. Steele also played in Vicki's bands the Psycho Sisters and the Continental Drifters, who also included Susan Cowsill of the '60s group the Cowsills.

Also in 1994, Steele was a member of the L.A. band Crash Wisdom. Two years later, she briefly joined the goth band Eyesore. Steele also has appeared on LPs by Chynna Phillips and Jan Krist.

Last year, she appeared with Peterson and the Continental Drifters at a tribute to the late Fairport Convention singer Sandy Denny in Brooklyn, N.Y. Steele reportedly is working on a solo album, though she did join her three former Bangles bandmates to record "Get the Girl" for the soundtrack to the new movie "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me." The Bangles reportedly are considering reconvening for a new album.

Other birthdays: William Guest (Gladys Knight and the Pips), 58; Charlie Watts (Rolling Stones), 58; Antone "Chubby" Tavares (Tavares), 52; Lydia Lunch, 40; Tony Hadley (Spandau Ballet), 39; Thór Eldon Jonsson (Sugarcubes), 37; B-Real (Cypress Hill), 29; and Charles Miller (War), 1939-1980.

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