When I was a young kid, music was a lot harder to get exposed to. You pretty much dealt with what your parents subjected you to. At least until you started making friends and meeting people. This is when you start to notice other musicians and music styles. That is, unless you grow up in a very rural area as I did as a kid.
Most of the music that was a part of my repertoire was very pop laden. Riding the bus to school in grade and middle school allowed for hearing the radio on our ride to school. It was here that I heard one of the first Siouxsie and the Banshees songs, Spellbound. But, the impact from her set in until they released Peepshow in 1988. This album has one of the most iconic Siouxsie and the Banshees songs ever, Peek-a-boo. I am sure you are familiar with this song, as it is a reboot of the song Jeepers Creepers.
But I am getting ahead of myself.
The Beginning of Siouxsie and the Banshees
Who is Siouxsie and the Banshees? That’s a good question and one that almost every goth kid should or could have answered. They used to be quintessential to every goth music library, but they never liked the label.
In 1976, during the height of London’s punk scene, the Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren had put on a punk show called 100 Club Punk Festival. Due to scheduling conflicts, they had a last-minute cancelation that left a slot open. McLaren rushed to fill the slot and by chance
Siouxsie Sioux and Steven Severin happened to be in attendance. They had met at a concert the previous year, at a Roxy Music concert. By February 1976, they and some friends had started following a new undiscovered and unsigned band called the Sex Pistols. They fell in love with the band and heard they were going to be at a festival called the 100 Club Punk Festival. Of course, they had to go and it was a good thing they did.
Hearing McLaren’s call, they jumped at the chance to get on stage. Once there, they performed a 20-minute improvised rendition of “The Lord’s Prayer,” with Sid Vicious on drums. This, unbeknownst to them, was the beginning of their 20-year run through in the music industry.
The funny thing is that Siouxsie Sioux and Severin never intended to make a full-time band. Their success at the 100 Club Punk Festival led to frequent shows, a spot on Tony Wilson’s punk show, So It Goes. All that would change in 1978.
They released their first album two years later, The Scream. Critics at the time considered it an original music development in rock music. This album was influential on bands like Joy Division, Jesus and Mary Chain, Faith No More, and Massive Attack. This album, as some would say, was produced thanks in part to a fan who undertook a graffiti campaign across London. This person spray-painted the walls of all the major labels with the words” Sign the Banshees.” This album contained their version of the Beatles song Helter Skelter.
Members, They Come And They Go
Siouxsie and the Banshees mainly comprised of Siouxsie Sioux and Severin. Over the years, the supporting band changed often, including Ex-Slits band member, Budgie, who joined in 1980, replacing Kenny Morris, and stayed until their split in 1996. Other members included John McGeoch, The Cure’s Robert Smith, John Klein of Specimen, and Martin McCarrick.
Siouxsie was one of the few female performers to come from the UK punk scene. She recounted how her past influenced her music. She used being sexually assaulted as a child to frame the song Candyman. The song details the long-term effects of abuse in one set of lyrics, “And all the children, he warns ‘don’t tell’. Those threats are sold with their guilt and shame, they think they’re to blame.”
Strong Women And Dark Pasts
She often was compared to the likes of Madonna and Sheena Easton, even though her music and style was vastly different. Many reporters commented on her looks and trashed her fan base for copying her style. It would seem that her fashion was much more important than her musical influence on the scene, as was common for most female artists, at the time.
er music revolved around dysfunctional families, war, and mental illness, maybe this was why I seemed drawn to them. They spoke to me on levels that I understood or was scared about when I was younger. Her songs were complex mixed with beats that spoke to making your body move. Her fans dissected the lyrics to be able to understand and relate to them. It is from here that the goth scene adopted her music and fashion.
Don’t Call Them Goth
Siouxsie never liked the moniker “goth,” her music predated that sub-genre by a few years. While their music played much more to the dark pop scene, that didn’t pigeonhole them to it. They had many songs that took lighthearted approaches to deliver music. They also toyed with dance beats, and even some classified as hip hop. Their music was ever-changing and engaging.
Sadly, they broke up in 1996, 20 years after their debut on a small festival stage in London. Yet, Siouxsie and Budgie, who were a secret couple, also had a side project called the Creatures. Here they produced music for the length of their Banshees career and beyond. Their music had a great influence on many modern bands. Bands like the Smiths, U2, PJ Harvey, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
My Goth Beginnings
It was their music and fashion that spoke to me. It was the gateway fashion choice, as my guidance counselor had told me. The dress code of the disturbed and depressed. Adding music like the Cure and Siouxsie only solidified to my guidance counselor that I wouldn’t amount to much and needed help. Proof that you’re judged more on your outward visage than what makes up who you are.
Peek-a-boo, as I mentioned, is the song that solidified the group for me. According to an interview with MTV, Siouxsie said the song was about “the way women are portrayed in our Fascists media.” She equates that to how women were in the movie, the Stepford Wives. This is how the song spoke to me, a way to fight back against what I was told how I should be or dress.
“Furtive eyes peep out of holes. She has many guises. She’ll do what you want her to. Playing dead and sweet submission, cracks the whip, deadpan, on cue.”-Peek-a-boo, Siouxsie and the Banshees.
Gone But Not Forgotten
While the band broke up in 1996, it did not stop them from reuniting for concerts and new albums. They rejoined forces in 2002 for a tour and have re-released many albums with added content. They also kept the band the Creatures going until 2004, when the broke up.
Their music is a constant in many of my playlists, to this day. I cannot make a Halloween playlist without their song Halloween. I still remember the influence their music had on my own personal goth style. I left the frilly cravats for the goth kids who were way into the Cure, a favorite of mine. Instead, I opted for a look that consisted more of all black. Jeans, T-shirts, long black trench coats, fishnet, vinyl, chains, and cat eyes made with eyeliner.
To this day, their music still speaks to me and relates to events that have happened in my life or around me. They were one of a small group of bands that were ahead of their time, in both their musical styling/sound and lyrics. If you have never listened to them or may have forgotten, please be sure to check them out. Check them out on Spotify with This is Siouxsie and the Banshees. Leave a comment below and let me know what you think or tell me about your memories of them.