“Please keep this kind of thing for the council estates and not in the homes of decent people”
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.
Download: Painted Bird (workhouse demo) – Siouxsie & The Banshees (mp3)
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.
…the fifth of November.
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.
Download: Fireworks – Siouxsie & The Banshees (mp3)
But be careful out there!
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.
Download: Paradise Place – Siouxsie and The Banshees (mp3)
Buy: Kaleidoscope (album)
Download: Lucinda – A Certain Ratio (mp3)
Buy: Sextet (album)
Download: Carnival (Shelter In A Suitcase) – Simple Minds (mp3)
Buy: Reel to Real Cacophony (album)
Strange things happen out on the edges of cities, suburbia produces all sorts of weirdness from serial killers and cross-dressing accountants to Goth. Picture, if you can, young Susan Ballion living in Bromley in the mid-70s. A girl with a Bowie and Roxy fixation who dreams of reinventing herself a la Ziggy Stardust (Bowie grew up in Bromley too) and escaping the dreary suburban hell she lives in. Maybe she has a Saturday job behind the make-up counter at Boot’s like other girls, but she also has a taste for “outsider” culture and spends her evenings at local gay discos. Then the Sex Pistols come along and she leaps at the moment, becoming part of the infamous Bromley Contingent that follows the band around, gets herself chatted up by Bill Grundy on national television, and plays her first gig with mates Steve “Spunker” Severin and Sid Vicious under the name Suzi and The Banshees.
And 25 years later she was still going. Long after all the Toyahs, Paulines, Poly Styrenes, and Hazel O’Connors had fallen by the wayside, Siouxsie was still standing proud — the Grande Dame of post-punk and a certified icon, surviving on strength of personality and sheer bloody-mindedness.
I had a bit of a Banshees fixation myself for a few years before I grew out of the whole teenage alienation thing (in 1983 to be precise). I think I saw them live more than any other band (four times) and they were always insanely great. Siouxsie ruled from the stage like a glorious ice queen, giving withering looks to anyone who incurred her displeasure (like the punks at one gig who kept gobbing at her and calling for “The Lord’s Prayer” — if looks could kill they’d have been pushing up the daisies). She radiated that certain je ne sais quoi which makes a person a star, you couldn’t take your eyes off her.
This version of “Mirage” is from a bootleg album called “Love In A Void” which collected together the two John Peel sessions they’d taped in 1977 and ’78 before putting out any official records. A lot of fans at the time preferred that to their proper debut album “The Scream” because it was rougher and more punky. Personally I like the official album version better but this is pretty great, raw and trashy with the metallic guitar sound that used to literally make me feel a bit queasy like someone was dragging their fingers down a blackboard (which Siouxsie would probably take as a compliment.)
Four years later they had guitarist John McGeoch and drummer Budgie in the band who added more colour to their old monochrome sturm und drang. I don’t listen to much Banshees these days but this extended 12″ version of “Spellbound” still sounds incredible, a blazing barrage of drums and swirling guitars. Apparently this is a bit of a Goth Disco favourite (I swear I wouldn’t know myself), perfect for modern-day Susan Ballion’s to whirl around to while dreaming about being someone else.
Download: Spellbound (12″ version) – Siouxsie & The Banshees (mp3)
The last Banshees album I bought was “A Kiss In The Dreamhouse” in 1982 which at the time I thought was their masterpiece and the single “Slowdive” one of the best things they ever did (though it was a flop on the charts). This still sounds great too, a tense dance number with a primitive, echoey beat and stabbing strings straight from the shower scene in “Psycho.” Shoegazer band Slowdive claim their name has nothing to do with this record. I believe them, millions wouldn’t.
Download: Slowdive (12″ version) – Siouxsie & The Banshees (mp3)