Siouxsie and The Banshees

Siouxsie and the Banshees were an English art-punk/goth-psych band from London that released nine studio albums, assorted singles, and a live double-LP on Polydor between 1978 and 1988, followed by two further discs during the 1990s. The band was initially assembled by vocalist Siouxsie Sioux and bassist Steve Havoc (later Severin) to perform the 100 Club Punk Special in September 1976. Sioux and Havoc, who later settled on the performance surname “Severin,” had been members of the Bromley Contingent, an informal group of young scenester/stylists that also included a pre-fame Billy Idol

The first two Banshees albums feature drummer Kenny Morrison and guitarist John McKay, who both departed acrimoniously in late 1979. During the ensuing tri-lustrum, the guitar slot was rotated between John McGeoch (Magazine, Visage), Robert Smith (The Cure), John Carruthers (Clock DVA), and Jon Klein (Specimen). The drum-seat was permanently claimed by Budgie (aka Peter Clarke), who soon became Sioux’s romantic partner. The couple formed a side-projects, The Creatures, that yielded two albums between 1983 and 1989 on self-press Wonderland.

Members: Siouxsie (vocals), Steven Severin (bass), Marco Pirroni (guitar, 1976), Sid Vicious (drums, 1976), Kenny Morris (drums, 1976-79), Peter Fenton (guitar, 1976-77), John McKay (guitar, 1977-79), Budgie (drums 1979-2002), Robert Smith (guitar, 1979, 1982-84), John McGeoch (guitar, 1979-82), John Carruthers (guitar, 1984-87), Martin McCarrick (keyboards, 1987-96), Jon Klein (guitar, 1987-95)


Siouxsie and the Banshees were the brainchild of friends Siouxsie Sioux (aka Susan Janet Ballion) and Steve Havoc (aka Steven Bailey). They first met in September 1975 at a Roxy Music concert. The two were drawn to London’s music/fashion underground and were looking for a scene to supersede glam-rock. Three months later, their friend Simon Barker informed them of The Sex Pistols, a new band he had spotted performing at Ravensbourne Art College. The three became fixtures at Pistols shows along with fellow clubgoers Sue Catwoman, Debbie Juvenile, and William Broad, who would soon adopt the name Billy Idol. Journalist Caroline Coon, who documented the nascent punk scene, dubbed this crowd the Bromley Contingent after the home turf of several of its members.

In September 1976, Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren was organizing a festival of new unsigned punk bands to take place at London’s 100 Club on the 20th and 21st. Since there weren’t enough qualifying bands to fill the two-day, eight-slot event, Sioux and Havoc assembled a band with guitarist Marco Pironni and Pistols superfan John Ritchie (aka Sid Vicious). With Havoc on bass and Ritchie on drums, the impromptu group dubbed itself Siouxsie and the Banshees and performed an improvised 20-minute set based on the Lord’s Prayer.

Though the show was meant to be a one-off, Sioux and Havoc were approached by several people who liked the set, including drummer Kenny Morris and McLaren-associate Nils Stevenson, who offered to be their manager. In January 1977, the first official Banshees lineup initiated with Sioux, Havoc, Morris, and guitarist Pete Fenton. Havoc changed his stage-name to Severin, in ode to the character in the Leopold von Sacher-Masoch novel Venus In Furs, as mentioned in the title-sake Velvet Underground song.

The following month, the Banshees played their first concert at Croydon’s Red Deer as an opening act for Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers. The Banshees’s 20-minute set consisted of five songs: the originals “Psychic,” “Scrapheap,” “Captain Scarlet,” “Love In a Void,” and a cover of the T. Rex hit “20th Century Boy.” That June, those last three songs were demoed along with three new originals: “Carcass,” “Bad Shape,” and “Make Up to Break Up.” Soon thereafter, Fenton was replaced by self-taught guitarist John McKay, whose abrupt chordal accents would underscore the band’s brash, fractious sound.

By the fall of 1977, the Banshees were one of the biggest unsigned draws on London’s punk/New Wave scene. That November, they performed on Show 8, Series 2 of ITV’s So It Goes (broadcast 11/27/77) and cut four-songs for DJ John Peel’s show on Radio One (aired 11/29/77). Included in this session are two live favorites from the period that would later appear on the Banshees’ first album: “Suburban Relapse” and the kinetic show-stopper “Metal Postcard.”

During the spring of 1978, Banshees shows drew round-the-block queues as fans spray-painted “SIGN THE BANSHEES” in terminals across London. Despite this, the band were rejected by EMI, Decca, Arista, CBS, Chrysalis, and RCA. The band found a sympathetic A&R in Chris Parry, who secured The Jam‘s deal with Polydor. The Banshees signed to the label in June 1978.


Discography:

  • The Scream (1978)
  • Join Hands (1979)
  • Kaleidoscope (1980)
  • Juju (1981)
  • A Kiss in the Dreamhouse (1982)
  • Nocturne (live 2LP, 1983)
  • Hyæna (1984)
  • The Thorn (EP, 1984)
  • Tinderbox (1986)
  • Through the Looking Glass (1987)
  • Peepshow (1988)
  • Superstition (1991)
  • The Rapture (1995)

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