“The Staircase (Mystery)” was The Banshees’ 1979 follow-up to their classic debut single “Hong Kong Garden” and I’ve never thought it was anywhere near as good as that. I kept the single all these years because of the flipside though, Siouxsie showing her Glam love with a cover of the T.Rex track which is a lot of glitter-stomping fun.
This is another b-side that was unavailable anywhere for years until the 2004 release of the Downside Up collection of Banshees’ b-sides. That seems to be out of print now so this has gone back to being rare again.
I love this photo. Siouxsie looks like an Amazon warrior all dressed up for battle which is appropriate given her aggressive “don’t fuck with me” persona on stage. But I often wondered if behind the fetish gear, death’s-head make-up, and wild hair was a nice, quiet girl who liked nothing more than to curl up with a cup of cocoa and a Jane Austen novel.
I saw The Banshees live several times in the early 80s and they never failed to be brilliant. I had one of those Star of David t-shirts too, it went very well with my black jeans and suede Chelsea boots. It looked better on Siouxsie though.
Blazing guitar work by John McGeoch in this clip too.
If The Clash’s debut album sounded like being hit over the head with a brick, Siouxsie & The Banshees’ was like being stabbed with broken glass. The screeching, fingernails-dragging-down-a-blackboard guitar sound on it seemed to literally have sharp edges and slash at you like Norman Bates in a bathroom. It was the first time I’d heard music that put my teeth on edge and made me feel disoriented and a little bit sick — but in a good way!
The term “Post-Punk” was actually coined to describe The Banshees and they were one of the first bands to show the way beyond the simple three-chord thrash into darker and more choppy waters, something I don’t think they quite get enough credit for. I can only assume that’s because important, pioneering bands aren’t supposed to have long and successful careers, and being tagged with the “Goth” label later on probably didn’t help — I know that whenever I’ve called anyone a Goth I haven’t meant it as a compliment.
It’s not often these days that I have the same reaction to records that my 16-year-old self did, especially the darker stuff (like all teenagers he was rather more serious than me), but “Jigsaw Feeling” still cuts me to ribbons with the same assaulting, slashing power it had back in 1978. When it’s over I have to check if there’s any blood on the floor.
Bonfire Night is one of those times I wish I still lived in England (though I know that, like so many things, it’s not what it was), so if you’re having some fireworks fun tonight light a sparkler for me – or maybe stick a banger in someone’s letterbox. Not that I ever did anything like that.
As you can imagine coming back to work after a whole week off means I have a mountain of shit to deal with and a looming deadline next week so the pages and pages of new posts I’ve started writing will have to wait even longer to be finished. I’m going to call myself a Slow Blogger from now on, it sounds so much better than “lazy bastard”.
While I was at home last week I did some digging around in the neglected corners of my record collection and pulled out some albums I probably haven’t played in over 20 years, specifically the sort of gloomy post-punk I used to listen to when I was a tortured teen and these days wouldn’t play when the wife and kid were in the house. In the process I rediscovered a few real gems of album tracks I’d forgotten all about. Why, I almost felt 18 again, but without the black clothes and severe haircut.