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Siouxsie & the Banshees

Siouxsie and the Banshees were a British rock band that formed in 1976. Led by the singer Siouxsie Sioux and the bassist Steven Severin, the band's only constant members, the Banshees formed at the advent of the British punk scene and soon became one of the major bands in the post-punk movement. Their music influenced a large range of very diverse bands over the years amongst them The Cure, Tricky and more recently LCD Soundsystem. The group released a total of eleven studio albums from 1978 to 1995.


The band was originally formed to fill an empty space on a bill at the first UK based "international punk rock festival". This show was organised by Malcolm McLaren at the 100 Club on London's Oxford Street on September 20, 1976. Other bands on the bill for the night's performances included Subway Sect, The Clash and the Sex Pistols.

The initial line up consisted of "Bromley Contingent" members Siouxsie Sioux, Steven Severin, Marco Pirroni (later of Adam and the Ants and Rema Rema) and John Simon Ritchie, later infamous as Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols, on drums. On this occasion their set consisted of a lengthy and chaotic improvisation based around "The Lord's Prayer", which also included lines from songs such as "Deutschland, Deutschland über alles", "Knockin' on Heaven's Door", "Smoke on the Water" and "Twist and Shout".

Style and notoriety

Siouxsie courted much controversy in the band's early days with her dress, often wearing bondage clothes and fetish wear. She was also heavily criticized for wearing swastika armbands, although she always maintained that this was intended to be for shock value and not for political reasons. She later wrote the songs "Metal Postcard (Mittageisen)" (to the memory of the anti-Nazi artist John Heartfield) and the single "Israel".

Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones' infamous "you dirty bastard...what a fuckin' rotter?" comment during the band's December 1976 interview with Bill Grundy, which helped to fuel their notoriety, was sparked when Grundy attempted to "chat up" Siouxsie on prime time TV.


By February 1977 the Banshees were taking themselves seriously as a musical unit. They recruited Kenny Morris and Pete Fenton to their line up, which was by now gigging regularly and had attracted a solid fan base. Fenton was subsequently sacked and replaced in July by John McKay. It was not until 1978 that they obtained a record contract with Polydor Records, whereupon they released their first single "Hong Kong Garden" (which reached the top ten in the UK), followed soon after by their first album.

Nick Kent wrote in the NME about The Scream: the band sounds like some unique hybrid of the Velvet Underground mated with much of the ingenuity of Tago Mago-era Can, if any parallel can be draw. At the end of the article, he added this remark :Certainly, the traditional three-piece sound has never been used in a more unorthodox fashion with such stunning results.

Their second album, Join Hands, was released in 1979, and included a version of the "Lord's Prayer". Two days into a tour promoting this album, Morris and McKay quit the band. They were replaced by Robert Smith (whose band The Cure were supporting the Banshees during the tour) on guitar and Budgie (real name Peter Clarke, formerly of The Slits) on drums. After the completion of the tour, Budgie stayed on as the Banshees' permanent drummer, whilst John McGeoch, formerly of Magazine, joined as guitarist.

McGeoch played on the albums Kaleidoscope including the singles "Happy house" and "Christine" singles and in 1981 on Juju. His third album with the band was 1982's A Kiss in the Dreamhouse. The British press greeted it enthusiastically.

Richard Cook in the NME finished his review with this sentence: I promise. This music will take your breath away. But the guitarist, worn by the recording process of these songs, was hospitalized on his return to a promotional trip to Madrid. He was replaced on tour by Robert Smith, who became a full-time member between 1982 and 1984. Smith contributed to the live album and DVD Nocturne and to the studio album Hyæna as co-composer, but quit the following year to concentrate on The Cure.

Ex-Clock DVA guitarist John Valentine Carruthers replaced Smith. The Banshees recorded The Thorn EP with Carruthers and cellist/keyboardist Martin McCarrick, who later became a full-time member.

1986 saw the release of Tinderbox and the single "Cities in Dust", followed in 1987 by the covers album Through the Looking Glass.

Following a lengthy break, the rest of the band recruited McCarrick and the ex-Specimen guitarist Jon Klein and recorded Peepshow. The hit-single "Peek-a-Boo" used harsh hip-hop sounds over a pop texture: it was their first real breakthrough in the United States. After the most impressive tour of their career, the band stopped for a while and the second band of Siouxsie & Budgie The Creatures reappeared with another album, the critically acclaimed Boomerang. One of the most languorous songs from this record, "Killing Time", was covered live by Jeff Buckley a few years later .

In 1991, the Banshees returned with the single "Kiss Them for Me", mixing Beatles strings over a dance rhythm. This single peaked in the U.S. singles charts at number 23, allowing them to reach a new audience.Melody Maker praised the last two studio albums Superstition and The Rapture. For their last tour in 1995, Klein left and was replaced by ex-Psychedelic Furs guitarist Knox Chandler. Morrissey recorded a duet with Siouxsie called "Interlude" during that period of time : this one-off single was published under the banner of the two artists names.

In 2002, Sioux, Steve Severin and Budgie reunited briefly for the Seven Year Itch tour, which spawned the 2003 Seven Year Itch live album and DVD. The group's 1978 single "Hong Kong Garden" features on the soundtrack of Sofia Coppola's 2006 film Marie Antoinette.

In July 2006, it was announced that Sioux had signed a record deal as a solo artist with Universal.

Her first solo album Mantaray was released on September 10, 2007 in the UK and preceded by the "Into a Swan" single one week earlier. The album will be available in U.S. on October 2.

The album has already gained critical acclaim. The influential site Pitchfork wrote 'She really is pop' before to finish the review by 'It's a success'.

Concerts are now planned In London and in europe for this autumn.

Influence on other artists

The band in their twenty years influenced many musicians of all kinds and genres.

They had a strong impact on trip hop acts :

  • Tricky covered "Tattoo" to open his second solo album Nearly God. The original version of "Tattoo" was recorded in 1983 and is available on the Banshees Downside Up box set.
  • Massive Attack covered and sampled "Metal Postcard" on their song "Superpredators (Metal Postcard)" for the movie soundtrack The Jackal

The band also influenced the following artists :

  • Lcd Soundsystem covered "Slowdive" for a compilation in 2006
  • Shirley Manson of Garbage wrote in the foreword of the official Siouxsie and the Banshees biography in 2003 by Mojo magazine journalist Mark Paytress : I learned how to sing listening to The Scream and Kaleidoscope" and "today, I can see and hear the Banshees' influence all over the place. The singer of Garbage also stated that her all-time favourite singers are Siouxsie and Frank Sinatra. Manson also told the Melody Maker that she has a special liking for the first Siouxsie album.
  • Dave Navarro of Jane's Addiction also makes a parallel between his band and the Banshees in Siouxsie's official biography: There are so many similar threads : melody, use of sound, attitude, sex-appeal. I always saw Jane's Addiction as the masculine Siouxsie & the Banshees.
  • The Cure leader Robert Smith declared in Mark Paytress's Siouxsie biography : Being a Banshee really changed my attitude to what I was doing. He also talked about the band to Steve Sutherland in 1985 to describe "The Head On the Door" : It reminds me of the Kaleidoscope album, the idea of having lots of different sounding things, different colors.
  • Morrissey stated this in 1994 : None of them are as good as Siouxsie and the Banshees at full pelt. That's not dusty nostalgia, that's fact.
  • Ana Matronic of Scissor Sisters said at the 2005 Brit Awards that she wouldn't be a singer without Siouxsie. She also stated in Metro that the Banshees are her all time favourite band.
  • The Beta Band sampled "Painted Bird" on their track "Liquid Bird" from the Heroes to Zeros album
  • Jeff Buckley covered live a Siouxsie / The Creatures song called "Killing Time", originally composed in 1989 on the album Boomerang.
  • U2 are also fans of the band and The Edge presented an award to Siouxsie at a Mojo ceremony in 2005.
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers covered "Christine" live at the V2001 festival.
  • Radiohead bassist Colin Greenwood claims that while recording their song "There There", producer Nigel Godrich tried to get guitarist Jonny Greenwood to sound like the Banshees' John McGeoch. .
  • Arcade Fire singer Win Butler suggested to the band Devotchka to cover the 1988 Siouxsie song : "The Last Beat Of My Heart".
  • Sir Mix-A-Lot uses a sample from "Peek-a-Boo" in his song "The (Peek-a-Boo) Game" from his 1989 album Seminar.

Musical Genre

Shirley Manson of Garbage stated she never considered the band as goth.

(In 1981), the press began to describe them as a goth band. I never thought of them as goth. Goth has never been particularly angry, just a little dismayed. It had a weak, submissive side to it. Siouxsie & The Banshees always had a real edge to what they did. There was so much articulated spite, humour, politics with a small 'p' there that I never felt they went down that simple, gloomy path. People try to pass them off as a goth band because they find them dangerous and don't understand them.

Shirley Manson, excerpt of the Foreword of the Siouxsie & The Banshees biography by Mark Paytress (2003)


For a complete list of albums, EPs, singles and videos see Siouxsie & the Banshees discography.