Siouxsie and the Banshees

Siouxsie and the Banshees

Formed: London, England, UK

Band Bio / Lineups / Discography

Amongst the first and most original of the early punk bands, Siouxsie and the Banshees were the brainchild of bored middle class kids Sue Ballion and Steven Bailey, who were key members of the famously posey "Bromley Contingent", a bunch of rather snooty Sex Pistols fans at a time when there weren't many Sex Pistols fans. As part of this bunch of very photogenic and fashion-conscious individuals, Ballion and Bailey were firmly ensconced in the punk rock elite, with McLaren actually phoning them up to notify them of Pistols gigs and inviting them over to see them in Paris and Amsterdam. Siouxsie was a particularly controversial figure, going to gigs in fetish gear with her tits on display and sporting Nazi armbands. (It was actually her Nazi armband that convinced Bernie Rhodes to refuse the Banshees the use of The Clash's amps and gear at the 100 Club festival.) Pistols photographer (and McLaren co-conspirator) Nils Stevenson became the Banshees manager in late 1976 and remained in that position until 1982.

Ballion and Bailey had already reinvented themselves as Siouxsie Sioux (often referred to as Susie Sue in the mainstream press) and Steven Havoc (later Severin) when they formed to play at the The 100 Club Punk Festival in September '76. To this end - and initially for this occasion only - Siouxsie & The Banshees came together just one day before they were due to play. Billed as "Suzie and the Banshees", they proceeded to batter out a 20-minute version of 'The Lord's Prayer', only stopping when they got bored. Audience approval was apparently somewhat limited and mixed, but it was the unlikely start for one of the period's more innovative and distinguished combos.

The 100 LCub Punk FestivalBilly Idol: I told Malcolm McLaren during the Screen On The Green festival in Islington, August 29, which featured the Sex Pistols, The Clash and the Buzzcocks, that he should book the band Siouxsie, Steve and I were forming for the show he was promoting at the 100 Club on September 29. By the time of the 100 Club show I was already committed to Chelsea and couldn't play with both.

Siouxsie Sioux: There was a vacant space and Malcolm was saying, 'We need another band'. I said, 'We've got a band'. We hadn't. The next day we rehearsed with Sid Vicious on drums. Marco Pirroni we knew, as a friend, of Sue Catwoman's, so it was him, Sid and Steven. We'd seen Cry Of The Banshee on TV a couple of nights before and thought Banshee was a great word.

Marco Pirroni: We'd had an abortive rehearsal at The Clash's place on Monday. We realised then there was no point in trying to learn any songs.

Caroline Coon, Melody Maker, 1976: The prayer begins. It's a wild improvisation, a public jam, a bizarre stage fantasy acted out for real. The sound is what you'd expect from, er, novices. But Sid, with miraculous command, starts his minimal thud and doesn't fluctuate the beat from start to finish of the, er, set. Against this rough corrugation of sound, Siouxsie, with the grace of a redeemed ghoul, rifles the senses with an unnerving screeching recitative. 'Twist and Shout' and Knocking On Heaven's Door' creep into the act. Sid flickers a smile, Marco, his guitar feeding back, rolls up his sleeves and Two-tone Steve two-tones. The audience, enjoying the band's nerve and audacity, eggs them on, gets bored, has a laugh then wonders how much more it can take. Twenty minutes later, on a nod from Marco, Sid just stops. The enthusiastic cheering is just a part of the recognition of their success. If the punk rock scene has anything to offer, it's the opportunity for anyone to get up and experience the reality of their wildest stage-struck dreams. The bar-flies are horrified. "God it was awful", says Howard Thompson, an A&R man from Island.

Captain Sensible: Siouxsie was utterly useless. Appalling. They didn't deserve to be allowed anywhere near a stage. Most of the bands, even people like the Buzzcocks, knew three or four chords, but they didn't have a clue. As far as I could make out she was just this kid with loads of dosh from a well-to-do family. She was the only person I knew then who could afford to spend £200 a time on S&M outfits from Malcolm's shop in the King's Road.

Steven Severin, Punk Rock: An Oral History, by John Robb: People say it was an iconic gig, but Marco always had the right attitude about it. He said it was just a load of racket.

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It took another couple of months before Sioux and Severin decided to resurrect the Banshees, and to this end they recruited drummer Kenny Morris and guitarist Peter Fenton. Classically trained violinist Simone - who can be seen in the background stood alongside Sioux and Severin during the Bill Grundy interview - was also briefly involved but dropped out after two or three rehearsals, when it became clear that their attempts to ape The Velvet Underground weren't going anywhere. This lineup played its first gig on February 24th 1977 (at the Red Deer Pub in Croydon) and stayed together long enough to play eleven gigs and record two studio sessions, the first at Track Studios in March '77, the second at Riverside Studios in June. During this period the band played a number of tracks which were, sadly, never committed to vinyl, relegating the likes of 'Scrapheap', 'Bad Shape', 'Psychic' and 'Captain Scarlet' to shitty-sounding-bootleg status. The only recording from these sessions to achieve a legitimate release was the classic 'Make Up To Break Up', which is now available on hi-fi on CD.

Fenton was sacked from the lineup in May '77 for playing a guitar solo that was deemed too long, and his replacement was the self-taught amateur John McKay, whose completely individual approach to guitar would become a crucial component of the group.

Siouxsie (from the Paytress biog): Fenton didn't really fit in. He had an orange lead on his guitar and that really annoyed me. He was a real rock guitarist, always trying to put licks into songs and pulling funny faces when he played. We spent most of the time trying to make him forget what he'd learned.

Steve Severin: [Fenton] was a bit too rock 'n' roll. He would throw in too many licks, now and then. He was fired mid-set at Dingwall's. Siouxsie just said, 'This is crap. You're fired'. And that was it.

And so Sioux/Severin/McKay/Morris became the definitive early lineup of the band, playing together on their first three Peel Sessions, two classic albums - The Scream (1978) and Join Hands (1979) - and a pair of stunning standalone singles, the surprisingly poppy debut Hong Kong Garden (1978) and the menacing The Staircase (Mystery) (1979). All of these releases were characterised by McKay's icy sheet metal, angular guitars, Siouxsie's icy and occasionally tuneless wail, Morris' pounding tom-toms (no hi-hat allowed) and Severin's resonant bass. All were brilliantly produced and stylishly packaged, and with Polydor's marketing might behind them all were UK hits, with 'Hong Kong Garden' even making it into the UK Top Ten.

The road to the Top Ten however, was not easy, as the group had spent the whole of 1977 and the first few months of 1978 being referred to as the best unsigned band in England, with the major record companies choosing to avoid them or offering them insultingly bad deals. Eventually, Polydor stepped in and gave them the money and artistic control they demanded. This explains why their discography (bootlegs excepted, of course) was not filled with useless live albums, and their records were (usually) beautifully packaged.

Siouxsie Sioux, Smash Hits, May 1980: The press have always enjoyed labeling us as posers. Like when we held out so long for without accepting a record deal. They said we were trying to put over a pose, that we could easily bring out records on a small independent label. We could have, but what's the use of bringing out records that aren't available everywhere? Our music is written as much for the young kid in Scotland who buys her records from Boots or Woolies as it is for the guy who shops in Rough Trade. Anyway isn't it fashionable to be on a small label these days?

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The first half of 1979 was spent touring, with shows all over Europe, and promoting the second and third singles, The Staircase (Mystery) and the masterful Playground Twist which rose to #24 and #28 in the UK charts in March and June respectively. Another, rather unusual single was also issued during this time: Mittageisen (Metal Postcard) / Love In A Void. For a forward-thinking band like the Banshees it seemed odd to release two old tracks as single, and even odder to release it not in the UK but in Germany. 'Mittageisen' was a track off of The Scream sung with lyrics in German; 'Love In A Void' was a holdover from their earliest sets, thankfully replacing the controversial lyric "Too many jews for my liking" with "Too many critics for my liking". This provided extremely popular on import, and was subsequently issued in the UK. Neither did much to allay some peoples' perception of them as being fond of the Nazis (well, they appeared to like the Nazi's sense of style, anyway).

Album number two, Join Hands, came out in August to mixed reviews. The tour to promote it got off to the worst start possible when Morris and McKay famously quit after the third show of the tour, each of them sliding into obscurity thereafter.

Nils Stevenson, NME, September 1979: They were just pathetic. The band were growing apart, John and Kenny we going off into ga-ga land, totally abstract nonsense. They seemed to become more immature. I had high hopes for John, until he got tight in with Kenny. The more he got involved with Kenny the more Kenny fucked him up.

Siouxsie Sioux, NME, September 1979: Well, me, Nils and Steve were totally aware that 'The Scream' as it finally came out was not what we wanted, but John and Kenny either weren't aware of its failings or wouldn't admit it.

Steven Severin, NME, September 1979: Yeah, because after 'Staircase' and 'Playground Twist' John was talking about getting Steve Lillywhite back because he felt our attempts to find another producer more suited to our sound were getting less and less successful.

Siouxsie Sioux, Smash Hits, May 1980: They never really acted like part of the Banshees. Both of them came into the band quite late and I think they created some tension by sticking together and putting a gap between them and me and Steve. We tried to make them feel more a part of the band, although we always wanted them to express themselves however they wanted musically. John was worse, maybe, because he'd seen the group live before he joined. We were sure they were right for the Banshees, but as it turned out we were wrong! What are they doing now? I don't know. They're probably trying to be very modern. Trying to be Eno. I don't know and I really don't care.

Siouxsie Sioux, 1988: Did I start worrying about body odour after our guitarists all started leaving the band? No, I think they should have worried about B.O. since they were all asked to leave.

Ex-The Spitfire Boys/Big In Japan drummer Budgie, then currently currently playing with The Slits, and The Cure's Robert Smith filled in for them on the rest of the tour. Which was quite some feat, seeing as the support act on the tour was...The Cure! Budgie quickly became a permanent member and this core trio became the sole constants of the Banshees from then on, as they went through a succession of guitarists. Steve Jones (yes, that Steve Jones) and John McGeoch (Visage, and also ex-Magazine) acted as guest musicians on 1980's Kaleidoscope, with the latter joining the band full-time soon after.

Steven Severin, Record Collector: We didn't have time to take on an apprentice. We knew we had to poach somebody. So when I saw John McGeoch on TV with Magazine doing 'The Light Pours Out Of Me', I thought, "That's the man". I don't think Howard (Devoto) ever forgave us for taking him, though. We quickly got the music as coherent as possible, and it immediately paid off. Also, in Nigel Gray (who had produced The Police) we had the right producer. What's strange is that, while everybody could immediately see what a brilliant drummer Budgie was, it took longer for people to 'get' was McGeoch was doing. Now it's easy to talk about how amazing a guitarist John McGeoch was, but at the time people people didn't speak in terms of him being the new Jimmy Page, which he clearly was.

(Note: McGeoch is often spelled McGeogh, even on some of the band's official releases. For my sanity, I have referred to him on this page as McGeoch, regardless of how the source spells it.)

Siouxsie and the BansheesSiouxsie and the Banshees

Two singles from the LP, Happy House and Christine, were sizable UK hits and caught the band in a slightly lighter and more playful mood, although the subject matter was still dark and gloomy - 'Christine' was based on the true story of a mad woman with 22 personalities. However, to demonstrate Siouxsie was still capable of being pissed off as hell, check out 'Drop Dead/Celebration' on the B-Side of 'Happy House', which shows she was not about to lay down the grudge against McKay and Morris.

McGeoch continued to shine on their next couple of studio albums, the full blown Goth/horror movie masterpiece Juju (1981) and the weirdly psychedelic A Kiss In The Dreamhouse (1982), but suffered a nervous breakdown in mid-1982, so the band re-enlisted Robert Smith for gigs in the closing months of the year. Despite their protestations that they were nothing of the kind, by this time the Siouxsie was the Goth queen (her look influenced a legion of girls) and the band was the Goth supergroup (maybe alongside Bauhaus), but don't hold that against them.

Siouxsie and the BansheesSiouxsie and the Banshees

Punky Gibbon has chosen this point to stop documenting the Banshees, partly because I don't like their remaining releases half as much as these, and partly because of the morass of utterly tedious variations of each release: 7" singles, 12" singles, limited 12" singles, CD singles. I trust you understand.

DISCOGRAPHY

Subsequent Official Albums: Nocturne (1983), Hyena (1984), Tinderbox (1986), Through The Looking Glass (1987), Peepshow (1988), Superstition (1991), The Rapture (1995).

Singles & Albums 1978-1982 / Extraneous Releases / Bootlegs / Various Artists

Siouxsie and the Banshees - Hong Kong GardenHong Kong Garden (7", 1978)

Siouxsie and the Banshees - The ScreamThe Scream (LP, 1978)

Siouxsie and the Banshees - The Staircase (Mystery) The Staircase (Mystery) (7", 1979)

Siouxsie and the Banshees - Playground Twist Playground Twist (7", 1979)

Siouxsie and the Banshees - Join HandsJoin Hands (LP, 1979)

Siouxsie and the Banshees - Mittageisen (Metal Postcard) / Love In A Void Mittageisen (Metal Postcard) / Love In A Void (7", 1979)

Siouxsie and the Banshees - Happy HouseHappy House (7", 1980)

Siouxsie and the Banshees - ChristineChristine (7", 1980)

Siouxsie and the Banshees - KaleidoscopeKaleidoscope (LP, 1980)

Siouxsie and the Banshees - IsraelIsrael (7"/12", 1980)

Siouxsie and the Banshees - SpellboundSpellbound (7"/12", 1981)

Siouxsie And The Banshees - JujuJuju (LP, 1981)

Siouxsie and the Banshees - Arabian NightsArabian Knights (7"/12", 1981)

Siouxsie and the Banshees - FireworksFireworks (7"/12", 1982)

Siouxsie And The Banshees ‎– SlowdiveSlowdive (7"/12", 1982)

Siouxsie and The Banshees - A Kiss In The DreamhouseA Kiss In The Dreamhouse (LP, 1982)

Siouxsie And The Banshees ‎– Melt! / Il Est Né Le Divin EnfantMelt! / Il Est Né Le Divin Enfant (7"/12", 1982)

Extraneous Releases

Siouxsie And The Banshees - Once Upon A Time/ The SinglesOnce Upon A Time/ The Singles (LP, 1981)

Siouxsie and the Banshees - Interview Disc Limited EditionInterview Disc Limited Edition (12", 1984)

Siouxsie and the Banshees - The Peel SessionsThe Peel Sessions (12", 1986)

Siouxsie And The Banshees* ‎– An Interview With 'Siouxsie Sioux'An Interview With 'Siouxsie Sioux' (7", 1987)

Siouxsie And The Banshees – An Interview With 'Siouxsie Sioux'An Interview With 'Siouxsie Sioux' (3x7", 1987)

Siouxsie And The Banshees ‎– An Interview With Siouxsie & The Banshees, June 1978 (Part One)An Interview With Siouxsie & The Banshees, June 1978 (Part One) (LP, 1987)

Siouxsie And The Banshees ‎– An Interview With Siouxsie & The Banshees, June 1978 (Part Two)An Interview With Siouxsie & The Banshees, June 1978 (Part Two) (LP, 1987)

Siouxsie and the Banshees - Interview Picture Disc - Limited EditionInterview Picture Disc - Limited Edition (LP, 1987)

Siouxsie and the Banshees - The Peel Sessions - The Second SessionThe Peel Sessions - The Second Session (12"/CDS, 1989)

Siouxsie And The Banshees - Twice Upon A Time - The Peel SessionsThe Peel Sessions (CD, 1989)

Siouxsie And The Banshees - The Peel Sessions 1977-1978The Peel Sessions 1977-1978 (7"/12"/CD, 1991)

Siouxsie And The Banshees - Twice Upon A Time - The SinglesTwice Upon A Time - The Singles (2xLP/CD, 1992)

Siouxsie And The Banshees ‎– The Best Of Siouxsie And The BansheesThe Best Of Siouxsie And The Banshees (CD/2xCD, 2002)

Siouxsie and the Banshees - Downside UpDownside Up (4xCD Box Set, 2004)

Siouxsie and the Banshees - GoldGold (CD, 2005)

Siouxsie And The Banshees ‎– Voices On The Air (The Peel Sessions)Voices On The Air: The Peel Sessions (CD, 2006)

Siouxsie And The Banshees - The Best Of Siouxsie and the Banshees: 20th Century Masters The Millennium CollectionThe Best Of Siouxsie And The Banshees: 20th Century Masters The Millennium Collection (CD, 2006)

Siouxsie and the Banshees - At The BBCAt The BBC (3xCD+DVD Box Set, 2009)

The Cure / Siouxsie And The Banshees ‎– Punk+Punk+ (7", split with The Cure, 2014)

Siouxsie and the Banshees - Spellbound: The CollectionSpellbound: The Collection (CD, 2015)

Siouxsie and the Banshees - Classic Album Selection Volume OneClassic Album Selection Volume One (6xCD, 2016)

Bootlegs (Excludes CDRs and Cassettes)

Siouxsie and the Banshees - Love In A VoidLove In A Void (LP, 1978)

Siouxsie And The Banshees ‎– Metal ShadowsMetal Shadows (LP, 1979)

Siouxsie And The Banshees ‎– Official Live Tour Album 1980Official Live Tour Album 1980 (LP, 1980)

Siouxsie And The Banshees ‎– Siouxsie Live In Sweden 79/80Siouxsie Live In Sweden 79/80 (LP, 1980)

Siouxsie and the Banshees - HalloweenHalloween (2xLP, 1981)

Siouxsie & The Banshees ‎– Siouxsie & The BansheesSiouxsie & The Banshees (LP, 1981)

Siouxsie and the Banshees - Static DisplayStatic Display (LP, 1981)

Siouxsie & The Banshees ‎– Elephant Fayre FestivalElephant Fayre Festival (LP, 1982)

Siouxsie & The Banshees ‎– Overground - Live In London 1982Overground - Live In London 1982 (LP, 1982)

Siouxsie And The Banshees ‎– Happy HauseHappy Hause (LP, 1982)

Siouxsie and the Banshees - Strawberry GirlStrawberry Girl (LP, 1982)

Siouxsie And The Banshees ‎– Out-takesOut-takes (LP, 1983)

Siouxsie and the Banshees - The Signals SessionThe Signals Session (7", 1983)

Siouxsie and the Banshees - Peek-a-TwoPeek-a-Two (7", 1984)

Siouxsie and the Banshees - Track Rehearsals 1977Track Rehearsals 1977 (7", 1985)

Siouxsie and the Banshees - Live At The Roundhouse 1978Live At The Roundhouse 1978 (7", 1986)

Siouxsie And The Banshees* ‎– Polydor DemosPolydor Demos (7", 1987)

Siouxsie and the Banshees - Live In London Hammersmith Odeon 29/12/1982Live In London Hammersmith Odeon 29/12/1982 (LP, 1988)

Siouxsie and the Banshees - Break UpBreak Up (CD, 1989)

Siouxsie & The Banshees ‎– Overground - Live In London 1982Overground - Live In London 1982 (CD, 1991)

Siouxsie & The Banshees ‎– Love In A VortexLove In A Vortex (LP, 2009)

Siouxsie & The Banshees ‎– Songs From The VoidSongs From The Void (LP, 2011)

Siouxsie & The Banshees ‎– Live In Germany 1981Live In Germany 1981 (CD, 2013)

Siouxsie & The Banshees ‎– Hallowed HouseHallowed House (CD, 2013)

Siouxsie and the Banshees - Live At De Nieuwe Kade, The Netherlands July 7, 1981Live At De Nieuwe Kade, The Netherlands July 7, 1981 (LP/CD, 2015)

Siouxsie and the Banshees - Stand On Your Heads: San Francisco Broadcast 1980Stand On Your Heads: San Francisco Broadcast 1980 (2xLP/CD, 2018)

Siouxsie and the Banshees - So It Goes 17-12-77So It Goes 17-12-77 (7", 2020)

Siouxsie and the Banshees - Revolver/Something ElseHong Kong Garden / Love In A Void (7", 2020)

Siouxsie & The Banshees ‎– Live In Stockholm, Sweden 1980Live In Stockholm, Sweden 1980 (LP)

Siouxsie and the Banshees - Live In LondonLive In London (7")

Siouxsie & The Banshees ‎– Spellbound LPSpellbound (LP)

Siouxsie & The Banshees ‎– Love In A VoidLove In A Void (CD)

Siouxsie And The Banshees ‎– Love And Romance - BBC 77 & 78Love And Romance - BBC 77 & 78 (LP)

Siouxsie & The Banshees ‎– Live Tour AlbumLive Tour Album (LP)

Siouxsie & The Banshees ‎– Live In Turin 1980Live In Turin 1980 (LP)

Various Artists

Watch The Wave Norway LP 1980 (Polydor): Happy House

New Wave Of The 80's Norway LP 1980 (Vertigo): Christine

New Wave Vibrations Hong Kong LP 1980 (Polydor): Hong Kong Garden / Happy House

Rock & Ska Italy LP 1980 (Polydor): Hong Kong Garden

On The Wave Spain LP 1980 (Polydor): Happy House

The New Wave Times Brazil LP 1980 (Polydor): Helter Skelter

Music For Young Moderns Australasia LP 1981 (Mercury): Spellbound

The Best Punk Album In The World ... Ever! 2 UK 2xCD 1996 (Circa): Hong Kong Garden

1-2-3-4 Punk & New Wave 1976-1979 UK 5xCD 1999 (Universal): Hong Kong Garden

No Thanks! The '70s Punk Rebellion US 4xCD 2003 (Rhino): Hong Kong Garden

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Links

Siouxsie & The Banshees

The Banshees And Other Creatures

Mital-U - Banshees Discography with Images

Vamp - Banshees Discography with images and lyrics

Gods And Alcoves

Punk 77

 

You can add stuff and make comments/corrections by emailing me at:

jane@punkygibbon.co.uk

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