|DOWNSIDE UP - MAGAZINE COVERS|
|DOWNSIDE UP - INTERVIEWS/ARTICLES|
|CLASSIC ROCK 06/09|
|RECORD COLLECTOR 06/09|
|VIRGIN MUSIC 07/04/09|
|RECORD COLLECTOR 01/05|
|ROCK SOUNDS 01/05|
|THE INDEPENDENT 17/06/05|
|THE GUARDIAN 17/06/05|
|THE TIMES 17/06/05|
|THE SUN 18/06/05|
|PRESS RELEASE MOJO ICON AWARD|
|MOJO MAGAZINE 08/05|
|Q MAGAZINE 03/06|
|MOJO MAGAZINE 04/06|
|RECORD COLLECTOR 05/06|
|THE SUNDAY TIMES 07/05/06|
Life & Loves of a She-Devil
She was Britain's first lady of punk and godmother of goth. Nearly 30 years after forming the Banshees, SIOUXSIE SIOUX comes clean about sex, drugs and shock tactics
"WHY'S HE ON THE COVER?" demands Siouxsie Sioux. "Fat fool!"
"He" is Robert Smith and "the cover" is that of Uncut's sister publication NME Originals, their recent edition dedicated to goth. Or "goff", as the erstwhile queen of punk snorts derisively. Maybe Siouxsie has never fully forgiven the Cure frontman and one-time Banshees guitarist for deserting her band on the eve of a 1984 world tour. As Smith recently told Uncut (Take 87), he was diagnosed with chronic blood poisoning and quit on doctor's orders. Siouxsie's having none of it.
"It wasn't like he became ill," she complains. "He was one of those people who just didn't say 'no' to anything, so when it's self-induced it's hard to have sympathy. To actually say two days before a tour that's been planned in advance that he can't do it - fuck off! What a lightweight."
Or maybe she should have been on the cover herself?
After all, this is somebody who, four years ago, came second only to Margaret Thatcher in a Sunday Express readers' poll nominating "The Women Who Shook The World". More than a cog in the punk rock revolution and a heroine to virtually every 'alternative' female singer - from makeweights like Lene Lovich and Toyah to serious disciples such as Courtney Love, Shirley Manson and Karen 0 - if measured by the generation of sour-faced Morticia Addams lookalikes reeking of patchouli oil who once worshipped her every bangle, Siouxsie is a genuine icon.
"I never could handle that," she says today. "It was frightening. Even shop dummies were starting to look like me. Everywhere I went there'd be bloody windows full of Siouxsies."
Now 47, she has the natural grace of a Hollywood vamp, something she could only achieve in her youth via an Egyptian death mask of Max Factor. The way she greets Uncut is pure 'Ice Queen', regal and stiff, but later, curled up on a sofa beside a crackling fire in a west London hotel, she becomes seductive, warmer. "I try to be as honest as I can," she purrs. Which proves very much the case.
BEFORE SHE BECAME Siouxsie, she was Susan Ballion, born May 27,1957. The youngest of three children, even from birth her predisposition towards the exotic seemed inevitable - her parents, a "snake doctor" and a bilingual secretary, had met in the Belgian Congo. She was raised in the middle-class suburb of Chislehurst, Kent, a place she describes as "knee-deep in wankers". When she was eight, she faked suicide "to get noticed by my parents". Aged nine, she and a friend were sexually assaulted by a stranger. Her alcoholic father died when she was 14. At 15, she developed ulcerative colitis, a life-threatening illness requiring that her innards be exposed through stitches in her stomach for several weeks until it was safe to re-insert them. "It sounds horrific," she says, "and it was. Surreal. It completely de-romanticised the body for me."
While recuperating in hospital, she saw David Bowie perform "Starman" on Top Of The Pops. By the time she recovered, she'd fully embraced glam as a refuge from wanker-infested Kent.
It was at a Roxy Music gig in 1975 that she met future partner and Banshees bassist Steve Severin (born Steve Bailey, nicknamed "Spunker") who would later introduce her to The Sex Pistols. By the spring of '76, Siouxsie (as she was now calling herself in homage to the Native American Sioux tribe), Severin and a gaggle of glam-dram poseurs from suburban Kent, famously christened "The Bromley Contingent" by Melody Maker journalist Caroline Coon, had become the Pistols' ubiquitous front row.
"What people don't understand is when punk started it was so innocent and not aware of being a phenomenon," she says. "The major participators didn't know they were the major players. I mean, the 100 Club Punk Festival wasn't sold out. The venues that the Pistols played weren't sold out. Not many people saw them. Punk was a minority thing."
Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren was quick to recognise the Bromley Contingent's aesthetic potential. These were arrogant youths, stylish, brash and sexually extrovert. Siouxsie herself would attend Pistols shows in a cut-out bra exposing her tits, staged her own "Sex Olympics" at a debauched house party and took gay friend "Berlin" to the pub on a leash. She was kicked out for requesting "a bowl of water for my dog". More contentious still, at a time when NF membership was on the increase, the Bromley Contingent opened up punk's wardrobe to Nazi chic. For much of 1976, Siouxsie wore swastika armbands in an attempt to enrage the Establishment's 'we fought a war for the likes of you' mindset. She succeeded, though today her naivety- what NME's Julie Burchill decried as "making a fashion accessory out of the death of millions of people"-seems unforgivable. Siouxsie is surprisingly frank, if unrepentant.
"The culture around then," she explains, "it was Monty Python, Basil Fawlty, Freddie Starr, The Producers- 'Springtime For Hitler'." She kicks out her leg in a mock goosestep. "It was very much Salon Kitty. It was used as a glamour thing. And you know what?" she sighs." I have to be honest but I do like the Nazi uniform. I shouldn't say it but I think it's a very good-looking uniform."
You shouldn't say it for fear of upsetting the PC mob?
"Yeah. It's almost like you feel like saying,'Aw, come on. Nazis - they're brilliant.' Political correctness becomes imprisoning. It's very - what's the word? It's being very Nazi! It's ironic but this PC-ness is so fucking fascist. In America they're especially touchy about Nazis and it's so Nazi! You go to LA and it's so segregated. It's very Nazi and the irony is they don't get it. They don't realise how Nazi they are about taking offence to mentioning the word Nazi."
The swastika was still on Siouxsie's arm on September 20,1976, the day she made her singing debut after cajoling McLaren into letting the band she'd only tentatively started with Severin fill a vacant Pistols support slot on the first night of the 100 Club Punk Festival. Listed as "Suzie [sic] & The Banshees" (after the 1970 Vincent Price chiller Cry Of The Banshee), their hastily assembled line-up featured future Adam Ant guitarist Marco Perroni and, on drums, the man who claimed he'd invented the pogo "so I could knock over the Bromley Contingent" - Sid Vicious.
"He only said that in hindsight," Siouxsie insists. "That's Sid being Sid later on when he was in the Pistols. Look what happened to him. He got into smack. That was very un-Sid if you'd known Sid. That's irrelevant, because we knew him and he was happy to play with us."
They were going to "ruin" The Beatles' "She Loves You" or the signature tune to Captain Scarlet, but after one rehearsal chose a 20-minute "Sister Ray"-style dirge based around "The Lord's Prayer". Later immortalised on 1979's Join Hands, their mythically shambolic performance convinced Sioux and Severin that they a had long-term potential. Unfortunately, with Sid busy with his own group, The Flowers Of Romance, and Perroni deemed incompatible, it would be five months before a remodelled Banshees played again.
The 100 Club gig increased Siouxsie's infamy in the music weeklies, beating The Slits' Ari-Up and X-Ray Spex's PolyStyrene to the position of female Rotten, but it was her supporting role in the historic Bill Grundy TV interview of December 1,1976 that would give her column inches in the tabloids. McLaren invited four of the Bromley Contingent - Sioux, Severin, Simone Thomas and Simon Barker - to form a decorative backdrop for a live Pistols Q&A session. Even the notorious svengali didn't anticipate the ensuing eruption of filth and fury.
"It backfired on him terribly," smiles Siouxsie. "He couldn't handle it. Which serves him right. If you bring all these elements in and you think you can control them, then you're the biggest fool."
The swearing had already begun before Siouxsie, pinging her braces in Bobby Ball fashion in a white clown-face, coyly told the drunken host, "I've always wanted to meet you." When Grundy lecherously proposed, "We'll meet afterwards, shall we?" the Pistols' guitarist Steve Jones let rip. "You dirty bastard. You dirty fucker. What a fuckin' rotter!"
"It's been scrutinised so much," she says, "but there's not much to it, really. It's funny that it's become some kind of pinpoint moment because if you look back at it, it's so tame. When you think about the response of people kicking their TV sets in and moaning, 'That was disgraceful!' IT WASN'T! The actual day was just us thinking, 'Let's have a laugh.' Free sandwiches and free booze in the green room. The best thing was afterwards, they still didn't know what to do with us so we went back in the green room when all the phones started ringing. The switchboard had overloaded with calls from people complaining. There'd be me or Steve Jones running around pissed, answering these phones and shouting 'Oh, fuck off, you stupid c***!"'
For Siouxsie, finding herself on the cover of The Daily Mirror under the headline "Siouxsie is a punk shocker!" marked the depressing end of a glorious era.
"I didn't relish or enjoy it," she says now. "I realised quickly this was ridiculous and they were going to make it what they wanted it to be - a cartoon. It was over by '77 'cos the Bill Grundy thing killed it. They got hold of it and made it a freakshow."
BY THE TIME the Pistols, now with Vicious, released Never Mind The Bollocks the following November, a regrouped Siouxsie & The Banshees had already established a loyal club following. Early songs like "Bad Shape" ("We're all fucking spastics/ We're all paralysed") and "Carcass" (often dedicated to the recently deceased Elvis) seemed the logical expression of Sioux's "de-romanticising" of the body. New drummer Kenny Morris and guitarist John McKay were played the soundtracks to The Omen and Psycho as a pointer to Siouxsie's musical direction.
"I just wanted something with a slight disturbance," she explains. "I still thought what we were doing were pop songs. In the way that John Leyton's 'Johnny Remember Me', where the backing vocals are the ghost of the woman that's died, and 'Terry' by Twinkle, were pop songs. I loved death pop."
Galvanised by two John Peel sessions and an errant roadie's "Sign The Banshees" graffiti campaign sprayed or carved upon the brickwork of various major label offices, they finally accepted a deal with Polydor in spring '78. In spite of their "death pop" agenda, debut single "Hong Kong Garden" was deliriously catchy Geisha punk. Taking its title from a Chislehurst Chinese takeaway, its lyrics stemmed from Siouxsie's teenage anger at the racial abuse the oriental staff suffered from local bootboys.
"I remember wishing that I could be like Emma Peel from The Avengers and kick all the skinheads' heads in," she seethes, "because they used to mercilessly torment these people for being foreigners. It made me feel so helpless, hopeless and ill."
Those who assisted "Hong Kong Garden" to No 7 in the UK chart were to be shocked if they expected the same from the LP that followed. Sandwiched between Magazine's Real Life (five months earlier) and PiL's Public Image (one month later), The Scream was the second in a triptych of '78 debuts marking the moment punk went "post". Against McKay and Severin's brutal riffs, Sioux's claustrophobic dramas of rotting flesh and suburban relapses took "No Future" nihilism to hitherto unfathomed depths.
It remains an extraordinary and uncompromising work. On its release, however, Sioux's nemesis at the NME, Julie Burchill, ignored the fact that the Teutonic death march "Metal Postcard" was dedicated to anti-Nazi propaganda artist John Heartfield and mounted a belated attack on Siouxsie's swastika phase. "Siouxsie is well into her twenties," wrote Burchill, "so ignorant youth is no excuse. Therefore she must be either evil or retarded."
Was it mutual hatred between her and Burchill?
"I've never met her," she says. "The way I saw it, it was an excuse. She didn't want to like us. It's plain old envy. Must be." She sniffs. "Fat old cow."
What about the accusation of anti-Semitism? Come on, there was that original lyric in "Love In A Void": "Too many Jews for my liking"...
"That was a Severin lyric."
You sang it.
"Yeah, I sang it, but I took it as it was meant, as 'skinflints'. Obviously a lot of people didn't get it that way, so it was changed."
Sadly, not in time to prevent the Far Right from claiming Siouxsie as one of their own. Dismayed by the NF's attendance at gigs, she resorted to wearing a Star of David T-shirt as a middle finger to the BNP.
At least she had admirers at NME to counterbalance Burchill's scorn, specifically Paul Morley, who would later pen gushing sleevenotes for 1981 's singles collection Once Upon A Time. Rumour has it that, midway through an early NME interview, Morley and Siouxsie interrupted proceedings to get down to something more intimate than journalistic banter. Is this true? For once, she's speechless.
"Oooooh!" she eventually whoops. "No comment!"
You don't want to deny or confirm it?
"No," she smirks. "I like rumours."
THE BANSHEES' career could have very easily ended on September 7,1979, the day that a disgruntled Morris and McKay absconded prior to that evening's gig in Aberdeen. Siouxsie's feelings on the matter would later be expressed on "Drop Dead Celebration", the B-side of "Happy House", which carried the sinister run-out groove inscription "Bye Bye Blackheads". Reviewing the single in NME, Uncut's Roy Carr deemed it "one of the most venomous putdowns ever recorded".
"I love that song," Siouxsie enthuses. "It's such a 'Fuck you!' But then again, if John and Kenny hadn't walked out, I'd never have met my husband."
Sioux and Severin had ceased being lovers by the time former Slits drummer Peter Clarke, alias Budgie, joined the Banshees, barely a week after the Aberdeen debacle. Budgie's relationship with Siouxsie blossomed furtively ("I didn't want us being a couple to affect the group spirit"), though by 1981 's "Mad Eyed Screamer", the first release from their side project as The Creatures, the couple's mutual infatuation was obvious. They finally married 10 years later.
Meantime, the Banshees had become, in Siouxsie's own words, "almost a different group". After Budgie came former Magazine member John McGeoch. The late guitarist's eerie, exotic playing style gave the sound psychedelic, even gothic, overtones. With 1980's "Happy House" and "Christine" (which, like its flip "Eve White/Eve Black", was a homage to the real-life split personality who inspired The Three Faces Of Eve, Christine Sizemore), the Banshees became a commercially successful UK pop act without alienating an audience that would soon epitomise the '80s alternative rock scene.
In 1982, during sessions for A Kiss In The Dreamhouse, still regarded by many critics as the Banshees' finest hour, Siouxsie awoke to McGeoch's alcoholism. "We all over-drank," she admits, "but he seemed to go further and sink deeper. With the rest of us, drinking was a phase. With him it was an illness."
Weren't you doing a lot of drugs at that time?
"I've never been interested in heroin. There's no way I want to resemble a slob. I find smack just - euch!- revolting. I like fun and I like 'up'. I loved LSD,yes. But you can't get the good stuff like you used to. I remember when ecstasy came in. Not as good. You used to get very pure LSD, and I'm sure even that stuff wasn't half as good as it was in the '60s. Blue Window Pane is great. I've had Purple Haze, too."
Ever had a bad trip?
"No. Never. I've always had an amazing time. In fact, it was because somebody tried to scare me and said, 'You don't want to take LSD, it'll make you freaky, it'll drive you mad,'that I went, 'Sounds good!' I have a theory that the people who have a bad time are the people that lie to themselves so they end up looking in the mirror and going,'Aargh!'You can't hide with LSD. It's a truth drug."
The increasingly unreliable McGeoch was eventually sacked. He died in March 2004, a passing Siouxsie sombrely describes as "simply devastating". He was replaced by The Cure's Robert Smith, whose first Banshees record, an excessively trippy cover of The Beatles'"Dear Prudence", went Top 3 in October 1983. It would be the Banshees' biggest hit, though more would follow before their split some 12 years later, including "Cities In Dust" and "Face To Face", co-written with Danny Elfman for Batman Returns.
With Severin no longer in the frame after 2002's reunion tour ("I don't hate him," she says of their relationship, "I've just given up trying to work with him"), today the Banshees moniker is officially defunct, although Siouxsie and Budgie, who today live in the south of France with their cats, continue to perform their material with a new backing band.
Following the Banshees B-sides box set Downside Up, next year sees the first solo Siouxsie album. It would have been out already had she not quit smoking and developed an allergy that left her in hospital "with two super-size tampax up my nose". There was a risk she'd never sing again, but she fought back and rediscovered her voice. "Adverse conditions bring out the best in me," she cackles. "So that's why you can't get rid of me. What people have to do is make it really nice for me, give me lots of money, put me on TV all over the place. Give me luxury, and then I might give up."
IN 1993 SIOUXSIE received an invite from Morrissey to duet on a cover of "Interlude", a late-'60s ballad originally sung by Timi Yuro. Released as a one-off single the following year, Morrissey and Siouxsie fell out dramatically over discussions for an accompanying video.
"I'd always liked him, not particularly for his material, but because he was a personality that didn't fit into any pigeonhole," explains Siouxsie. "I'd been living in France so I had no idea, until Severin told me, that he'd been doing stuff with the Union Jack. I hate nationalism, that over-the-top British thing. The original video idea was to show Ruth Ellis being led to the gallows, which I loved, but which didn't happen. Instead he wanted a bulldog, which I didn't understand. Why a bulldog? So I questioned him about his pro-British thing and told him I couldn't have that. I said, 'Pick another dog, like a Chihuahua or something. A monkey. Anything!' That's all it was about, really. But the principle was that he wanted to go along with that imagery. I don't know why he wanted to stick to his guns so much. And, no, we've not spoken since."
THE SCREAM 1978 *****
Julie Burchill never got it, but the Banshees' debut remains one of the most fiercely original LPs of the post-punk era. All suburban frustration and sonic chaos, the highlights include a Satanic attack on the The Beatles' "Helter Skelter".
JUJU 1981 ****
The voodoo artwork unintentionally cemented their goth reputation, but with Budgie and McGeoch warmed up after the previous year's Kaleidoscope, it was on Juju that the classic Banshees sound finally gelled, typified by the mystic psych-pop of "Spellbound".
ONCE UPON A TIME 1981 *****
A necessary singles roundup from "Hong Kong Garden" to "Arabian Knights" via such radio-unfriendly nerve jangles as "The Staircase (Mystery)" and "Playground Twist". Side 2's near immaculate run ("Happy House", "Christine", "Israel", the Juju singles) finds the Banshees hitting peak after peak.
A KISS IN THE DREAMHOUSE 1982 *****
Inspired by the woozy psychedelia of The Beatles' White Album and Siouxsie's discovery of recreational LSD, the Banshees' fifth was a sensual affair. The sexy "Slowdive" even suggested a band not adverse to the disco. Beyond goth.
TWICE UPON A TIME 1992 ****
"There might be other groups but this is the one that matters," wrote Uncut's Jon Wilde in the sleevenotes of this second singles compilation, covering '82 to '92. A beguiling blend of hits and misses.
All titles available on Polydor CD
Simon Goddard 01/05
"SHUT IT!" screams Siouxsie from
the stage of the 100 Club to some errant fool who has opened the doors
leading out of the packed basement venue. "You're letting the music
No, this isn't some grainy black and white footage from her first gig in September 1976 with Sid Vicious on drums, but October 2004 where the queen of Spellbound has returned to play three intimate gigs with husband Budgie - "we get divorced when we go on tour" - and a backing band featuring Japanese Taiko drummer Leonard Eto. Eyeball to eyeball with her fans and driven by thundering rhythms of drum kit and Japanese clatter, Siouxsie dances, sings and mesmerises, giving a masterclass in how to get fans eating out of the hand. By the end of the set the sweat is dripping from her face, although like Budgie, Eto and guitarist Knox she looks as if she could go another three rounds.
Nine days later at the Royal Festival Hall with an orchestra thrown into the mix, Siouxsie is screaming at the audience again to "rise up you corpses!" and get their arses to the front of the stage. Looking a decade younger than her 47 years and out-Bjorking Homogenic-era. Bjork in a stunning kimono ensemble, the face that launched a thousand female goths is riding a crest of renewed creativity. The Creatures' latest album Hai! (2003 - the title is Japanese for 'yes') features Eto who, beside a gleefully chirping Budgie, creates a maelstrom of rhythm on tracks such as Say Yes, Godzilla, Seven Tears and Around The World, over which Siouxsie whoops, hollers and croons some of her best vocals ever.
Prior to coming to the UK the Hai! tour slew American audiences, mixing in classic Creatures material with a chocolate-box selection of Banshee songs such as Dear Prudence, Christine, Arabian Nights, Kiss Them For Me, Happy House and of course Spellbound. At the two Dream Shows at the Festival Hall, many of these songs were fleshed out with orchestral backing from the Millennia Ensemble, a two-man percussion factory and even a harp, ensuring two hours of heavenly music on both nights. With a box set of Banshees B-sides,Downside Up, hitting the shops, Siouxsie is showing her fans with all other heart and soul that the past is not only part other future, but the present is well out of hand...
How did the three shows at the 100 Club come about?
We were approached first by the Festival Hall. I thought that as we were doing a tour in America and then coming back to do the Festival Hall, I would like to play somewhere where we haven't played before or just make an event of it. The 100 Club just seemed like a perverse idea which I thought would be great if fans could get along to the shows. In conjunction with the Festival Hall, they were two extremes f-or venues and atmosphere - and I found that appealing.
Did it bring back any memories when you entered the club again?
Of course! It seemed huge when I was first there and it seemed absolutely cramped going back. I suppose I was reminded about how optimistic I felt when I first played there, and what was happening around that time. It reminded me of how depressing things are now in the music business, which seems to have shrunk. There are fewer record labels, but they're bigger, more controlling and more powerful - and it's kind of gone the wrong way.
Things like spontaneity, excitement, imagination, taking risks and being creative have suffered. It's all gone down to business and making money and where there's business and making money, there are fewer and fewer risks being taken. It's more predictable there are more people saying "Yes, we want six of- what's at No. 1 and No. 2. More of the same!" I know the way the industry is run by lawyers and accountants, but I'm still going to be here!
Did you consider performing The Lord's Prayer?
No. We decided that we wouldn't play it live after we'd recorded it. We did the sin of recording it for Join Hands- and it will stay there.
The 100 Club shows were a great showcase for the band that toured Hai! in America.
We've got a really great band and it felt really good playing. The gigs were a real achievement, as rehearsals leading up to the tour were touch and go, close to being a complete disaster. I thought that we might have bitten off more than we could chew, or that it was too ambitious to incorporate Leonard Eto (traditional Japanese kodo drummer), a new keyboard player and backing singers. But all the gremlins happened in rehearsals and the music came together in the shows that just got better and better. Chris the keyboard player said to me that normally when you've been touring the peak happens at some point and then you go onto autopilot. But this tour has kept going up to another level, culminating in the Royal Festival Hall shows with the orchestra.
What was it like at those two Festival Hall shows performing with a small orchestra behind you?
Again, we didn't know how that was going to go. We had two days of rehearsal with the orchestra, plus the two percussion players who played tubular bells, timpani and marimba xylophone. Then we had the strings and the brass and the harp player. When it came to the shows, the musicians were so responsive. They weren't rigid, they watched and they listened, and that's very rare for an orchestra to do that. Afterwards a lot of people asked if I was daunted by being in front of the orchestra and I said no. I felt really at home, really comfortable. Being able to adapt to a situation is vital: too many musicians are too set in their ways and too rigid, and can only play in certain situations. To me the rest of a really good musician is someone that can react and respond to the situation.
How did you feel about the fans turning the front of the classical music stage into a moshpit?
It was great. I was so glad that that happened and people did not stay in their seats. It was great to transform the Festival Hall and make it feel alive, almost like the Speakeasy. I think the audience outside that crowd also got pulled in more because of it. They picked up on the energy.
Hai! formed the backbone of the first set. Did you then cherry-pick Creatures songs and Banshees material such as Dear Prudence and Christine as well?
Quite often we go back and do things that we haven't done for over 20 years - and it still feels fresh. The fact that you've never done it live doesn't feel nostalgic. In a way, it's like doing a cover of a great song that you have always wanted to do. We did Weathercade, which we had never performed live since recording it as a B-side for Right Now.
We also did Obsession, which worked really well - it really cut through and was really dramatic, because it's quite a sparse song, so I think it complemented The Creatures and The Banshees and that kind of transition thing. We had lots of other songs - we've got too many songs - and on the Seven Year Itch tour we'd been back to Scream and Join Hands, so I didn't feel the need to go back there so much.
It was basically doing something I'd always wanted to do, having the brass on things like Right Now and seeing what they would come up with. Some people noticed that we didn't do Fireworks or Overground - the kind of stuff that's got strings or stuff from the Thorn EP - but I said that would be too predictable. I'm not intrigued what would happen and I didn't want it to have any pompousness about it - and I thought that might possibly make it too serious. I really wanted it to have an element of fun and surprise.
Were you tempted to draft in a bass player - Severin perhaps - for the Festival Hall dates?
I didn't want Severin to be in there. He wasn't invited, so he wasn't invited. That's why it wasn't Siouxsie & The Banshees it was Siouxsie because I was drawing from everything I've ever done.
But I saw some amazing footage of the Doors playing somewhere live at the Hollywood Bowl or something. I've always loved the Doors' sound, and they had never had a bass - it was played on keyboards. I saw that at the end of last year, and it kind of sparked me off thinking that a keyboard player might be really interesting, and it might free up a lot of things as well. I love some of the adaptations like the keyboards on Christine - sometimes I get lost in them. It's really nice to hear someone take something you know somewhere else.
Leonard Eto played alongside Budgie on Hai! songs like Say Yes and Godzilla, which also takes things somewhere else.
Making that album, Hai!, was a dream come true. We didn't dare dream that that could happen and that was a fluke, a chance. On The Banshees' Seven Year Itch tour, the support band that Budgie found was called X Girl from Tokyo. It was from getting on with them and talking to them that we found out that Hoppy (the person who looked after them) knew Leonard quite well. That introduction was made when we were in Tokyo. It was like, well, shall we book a day in the studio to see what happens? That's what happened - we got the basis of that album from one afternoon in the studio.
Those tracks also sound fantastic live.
It's a very visual experience when you go and see Kodo drummers, which is something that I really love about it. Leonard had his back to the audience when he was playing, and that was so visually stimulating. The sound was almost too much - I thought, 'God, it can't get any better'.
I was amazed. It is strong. It's also great to know that if anything goes wrong with the instruments or anything, we can just bypass and just go to drums and voice! It could have gone horribly wrong, but it didn't, and it really felt like an achievement to pull it off and to have the people involved in the orchestra enjoy it. They were really into it, and it wasn't just about the notes - they became a part of it like an extension of the band. All these musicians were hooked in - every one of them, with their eyes locked in - and you don't see that often enough.
You and Budgie performed But Not Them as a duo.
It still sounds good stripping it down to drums and voice. People are still amazed how good it sounds -they can't believe it's just drums and voice. But Not Them works great live, it's powerful - you don't get that simplicity. People always try to complicate things.
How do you feel about the new box set of Banshees B-sides?
I've wanted the B-Sides to get recognition for a long time. I wanted them to be available and accessible, because obviously in America they're very hard to get hold of. I just think that they're the side to The Banshees that everyone should be aware of, because for me it is my favourite side. There's no precious- ness about them, they're all about happening quickly with very little thought - but the spontaneity is there and the idea is there. It's all about the ideas and making it happen quickly, and that's why I hold them quite dear.
The Banshees are known for experimenting with sounds in the studio.
Quite often we would play different instruments as well. Rather than stick to being a four-piece with bass, drums, guitar and voice, we said, "What's in the studio? OK - we'll play that!" What was there we used- I played more guitar on the B-sides than any of the album tracks.
Shooting Sun still sounds good enough to have been a single.
We played Shooting Sun on the second night at the Festival Hall as we'd never played it live. It's a good song - we had a lot of B-sides that were almost lost songs, or could have been developed further. Peek.A.Boo was going to be a B-side but we turned it around and made it into an A-side. Tattoo was the B-side to Dear Prudence. It was a great riposte, a great flip to the kind of sunshine and lightness and Eve White Eve Black B-side of Christine. I love El Dia De Los Muertos - our version of Supernatural Thing - and I really, really like Drop Dead.
Which was directed at Kenny Morris and John McKay who left you in the lurch on the Join Hands tour.
Bye Bye Blackheads, yeah. But I think that song is great for anyone who's been let down - it's a good anthem for that. It's a fuck-off-a-gram!
That was one of the first near-derailments of the Banshees' career, wasn't it?
It was sink or swim. We could have just folded and given up. Those two albums would still have stood up, but that's all it could have been - I think it would've been at a Joy Division sort of level. And who knows what would have happened [if Morris and McKay had stayed in the band]. Would the longevity have been there? We might have just worn each other to death. You don't know. I do believe in fate, and that there are reasons for things - and that even when things look like they're disastrous and going horribly wrong, there's usually something good that will come out of it as long as you can survive it and use it to build on.
They were replaced by Budgie and John McGeogh. The latter recently passed away: do you have any particular memories of John?
When he died this year it was strange, because me and Budgie were thinking of John when we were considering doing the shows at the Festival Hall and the 100 Club. We were thinking, we hope he's well, we must look him up - maybe it would be great for him to play or guest. So it was really sad when the news came in and that avenue didn't happen.
What kept the Banshees going when you kept having to change guitarists, sometimes at short notice?
It was almost like an obstacle course - how to survive the worst thing that can happen. People let you down. You end up with a leg in plaster, or someone says that they can't do the tour days before the tour starts. All kinds of things like chat. It's strange - I think that adverse conditions aren't the way to get rid of us! Although I moan about it, I thrive in adverse conditions.
Robert Smith had two spells as a guitar Banshee. Does he appear on any B-sides?
He did the Whole Price Of Blood, but that was like an out-take. He was hanging out with Severin a lot when we were doing Dreamhouse and so I saw him a lot as well. He really wanted to be involved with the band, I could tell. Who wouldn't, with such a fantastic band? I think it certainly taught him a few tricks!
Your B-side experimentation extended as far as the spoken word approach of Execution and the melodic instrumentals like The Quarterdrawing Of The Dog.
I can't really explain the differences. Obviously all the B-sides were done at the time. and they were done quickly with maybe a day or so in the studio, when they were recorded and mixed. They were usually written on the spur of the moment as well. I just think they're just like sponges to emotion - or any subliminal influences going on in your life at that moment at that time. They're very much of the time, whether you're reading a certain book, or you've seen a film and there's something in your head. When you spend time on a single or an album, it's a long period of time it's more worked out but B-sides are barometers. They're litmus papers of the moment.
Can you shed some light on the songwriting dynamics of The Banshees?
I think the lyrics were mainly me or Severin. Nobody else contributed, although Budgie did later, a little bit. But musically, some songs had definite ideas, although they always opened up to what everyone was going to do with them. I do feel a lot of the elements are band compositions, despite where the initial elements come from. They sound the way they do because it's all four people. It's not a Prince or a Lenny Kravitz situation, for God's sake, where you have to play every instrument or dictate to people what they are doing! I wouldn't want to work with musicians who couldn't contribute something of themselves. In that way it wasn't a fascist set-up: The Banshees had always been about allowing response, and allowing input, and keeping it as long as it was good. If it isn't good if doesn't get accepted. It's not about, you can't do this because you're you. It's open to anyone.
Severin wasn't too pleased when Budgie started writing lyrics on Hang Me High on the early Rapture sessions, was he?
Severin just didn't like if. He just didn't think that Budgie should be writing lyrics. It became a bone of contention, so it became a B-side. We were having lots of disagreements with each other at that time, musically.
Was that due to the fact that, as original Banshee founders, you'd been together so long by then?
I think differences and arguments are part of being in a band. But you really should be on the same page - and I was finding that me and Severin weren't on the same page quite often. The fundamental difference is that I don't think Severin is a natural musician, and I think there's insecurity there.
Budgie is so natural and he has no ego problem- but I find with the best musicians it's not about the ego. I can see musicians that have definite egos and are musicians for the wrong reasons, and I don't like them as musicians. When he was on the same page, and when it felt more like a band it was great. I think as the band evolved and there were newer people coming in, it put a strain on the balance. New people coming in always sparked off some thing, but you also lost something.
We were continually having to get new guitarists in, so they had to be taught anything from the past and it's quite tiring to continually have to reach someone your past. That's why we're selective in what we do now, because to do it all would rake too long to teach. And it's too fucking knackering!
Was it difficult looking back at The Banshees' history for ex- RC staffer Mark Paytress' authorised biography of the band?
That book isn't the half of it! Because some of it was quite painful to revisit, I was the least willing. I was the one that had to be bullied the most. Budgie and Severin really bullied me for it to get done - but my thinking was that I'm always being asked about the past, so maybe if I put it in a book it would clear things up and no more would need to be said. I'm not going to repeat myself for another bloody 20 years!
How does it feel to be the face that launched the female Goth industry?
I had a lot of lookalikes, more than any other person I can think of. There was a time when it was quite frightening how many Siouxsie lookalikes there were, so there must have been some kind of resonance with some girls when they were growing up. It freaked me out but I thought that as long as they don't look like this when they are in their 30s, 40s and 50s it would be OK. It was just a launch pad for them to discover themselves and that's what any influence should be. It should never be taken literally it should always propel you to your own self-awareness.
Do you have a favourite Banshees album?
I think there is a lot on the Rapture album that was overlooked - stupidly overlooked - just because it wasn't fashionable at the time. That happened to Tinderbox as well. I think my favourite recent Banshees album would be Peepshow. I remember that it felt like a band with Martin McCarrick and Jon Klein. Martin is a very versatile musician, so we had the accordion, the cello and his keyboards.
I remember the process of making that record was really pleasant, as was working with producer Mike Hedges again, not having worked with him for awhile. The shows that we did around that time were great as well. They were very theatrical, and the staging was great.
Why did the Banshees scratch the Seven Year Itch in 2002?
We were offered this one show called the Coachella festival and it was very tempting. We were thinking that Severin hadn't been on a stage for seven years, so how were we just going to get together and do this one show? So we thought that we'd do a few shows that led up to it and draw from Scream and Join Hands. It grew out of it being one gig, and then it was seven shows. Then we played in London and Tokyo - and if I'd never done the Seven Year Itch tour, I wouldn't have met Leonard Eto and there might not be Hai! And if we hadn't done Hai! we might have not done these shows.
Now that the tour is over, what's next on the Banshees' agenda?
I'm still reaching for a peak. The Festival Hall shows were quite close to that, but I'm still looking forward. I'm looking forward to finishing the next record the next Siouxsie solo record which will definitely draw on elements of what we've just been doing.
With Budgie behind the kit?
Oh yes. If it's got drums on it, I wouldn't have anybody else!
Ian Shirley 01/05
Before talking about SATB, I would like
you to say a few words about John McGeoch...
What can I say that hasn't been said before about what a visionary guitar player he was and what a lovely soul. My only wish is that I spent more time with him in his last years.
THE 7 YEAR ITCH & THE B-SIDES
Let's talk about the B-sides. You always said that those songs were as good as the others. Are you feeling relieved to see them on CD now?
I don't think it is a question of whether they were "as good" as, or better or worse. They were just not album tracks or designed to be singles, most were written in one afternoon or evening, spontaneous style, therefore, they were usually more fun. I think we have a few real gems in there and am delighted to have an "official" box set.
What is (are) the song(s) you like the most in those B-sides? Why?
So many. I think Tattoo is my all time favourite followed closely by I promise. An honourable mention should go to Supernatural Thing. It was an old funk/disco song Siouxsie loved, I didn't want to do it at the time, but in hindsight, the result is very cool.
"The Thorn" is quite apart from the other records. I personally think it's one of the best record you made, too short sadly. Recently Frank Black from The Pixies did fully re-interpret some old songs, and the result is fabulous. Could you do this kind of exercise, in a way close to "The Thorn", would you like that?
Thank you. I don't feel the need to reinterpret any of the past Banshee work, if other people want to re-interpret Banshee songs, that would be something I would be interested in hearing. As long as it is not one of those dreadful Cleopatra cover albums. Those, I can live without.
Most of the B-sides are more experimental I think, than the "usual" ones. How was the choice, at the time, putting them on a B-side or into an album, were you conscious they were different or was it just a coincidence?
The way it usually works is that, for obvious reasons, the songs that turn out the most catchy end up as singles. Back in the days of vinyl only you had to back it with a b side. I grew up on beautiful B sides by Roxy, Bowie etc. and consequently we gave them the respect they deserved. It was also a way of showcasing a "different" side of the band.
Sometimes we had left-overs from the recording session from the album, tracks that either did not fit into the flow of the record as a whole or pieces which we did not know what to do with at the time. However, if we did not already have something, we would get together and jam and see what would happen. The free flowing "experimental" style which you recognise has to do with the fact it had to be done quickly, and, because it was not a single, there was (subconsciously) no pressure for it to be, shall we say "crafted".
Those B-sides, for most of them, are completely out of today's styles of music, even if some bands like Interpol or The Rapture are restoring a kind of "dark" music. Aren't you afraid it could not interest people?
No, I am not afraid of the B side box-set not interesting people, as, for the most part, the people who would buy the box-set are already diehard Banshee fans. I'm delighted they have been restored to their former glory. Over half of the set has never been on CD before and most tracks are currently unavailable. This is an archival compilation, it has nothing to do with what is fashionable this week. The Banshees are dead, This is a reminder of how good we were.
Some people around us think it's not the best thing you've done... Are you pleased with "The Seven Year Itch"?
Not so much pleased as amazed that it happened at all. It was a fluke that the promoter from the Coachella music festival called me up, which is what spearheaded the whole thing. There had been some nebulous talk of a reunion, but nothing you could hang you hat on. I'm still not sure it really happened.
SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES, FROM 1976 TO 2004
Is there any nostalgia from you about SATB?
Oh sure, the first Lollapalooza tour was a lot of fun! Thankfully, the wondrous and humourous memories blot out the bleaker moments.
When was the most exciting period with SATB? Humanly and musically?
Musically from around 82-87 was a fantastic time as the technology moved from analogue to digital. It is such a blessing to have experience in both. Strangely, "humanly", the best time was also the most catastrophic, when Morris and McKay left the band, Siouxsie and I had to conjure up enormous strength and faith to go on. It was unbelievably stressful and it could have been the end of the band, but that strength bonded us, at least for quite a while. It was also when Robert Smith joined the band, so I had a friend.
Are you like Peter Hook who still enjoy today talking about Joy Division, does SATB still counts for much, or not?
Of course, it was 20 years of (and off) my life! The next Banshee project is to re-master all the studio albums for release next year.
Are you conscious that SATB became a reference in the "Music Story", and that there are still people listening to all your records now in 2004?
I think it is a tremendous compliment that people still listen to the Banshees.
SATB never had as much success as The Cure. Was it a wish from you, or just bad chances. Were you jealous of them?
It certainly wasn't bad chances. I don't believe in chance. The Cure toured the world relentlessly and we were either losing managers & guitarists or we couldn't be arsed :-) I love Robert and I am proud of all his achievements.
Aren't you tired to be always compared to The Cure?
I wasn't aware that we were compared to The Cure. I guess its just the fact Robert played in the band in '79 and '82. Musically we are very different from each other, maybe the comparison is a French thing:-).
If there was something to be done again, in all your career, what would it be?
I would have tried to convince the band to go into group therapy like Metallica!
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SIOUX, BUDGIE & YOU
What was the fact that lead SATB to stop, years ago, did the relation between Siouxsie & Budgie took a part in it, or was it just the logical end of something that was done?
I know Siouxsie and Budgie wanted to refocus on the Creatures and no one was truly happy anymore, but everyone knows that old story by now. There were other factors, but not really substantial enough to break up the band. Everything has its own lifespan, it just expired, and that is the only way I can look at it now.
And who was the one who had the idea to come back, and did money took a part in it?
I got the call from the promoter of the Coachella music festival and forwarded the request to Sioux and Budgie, fully expecting it to be vetoed. Of course when someone offers you money, you consider it, and it seemed like it might have been fun at the time, and the price was right, but in the end, we really didn't make much money out of it, and it wasn't fun.
As you have seen yourself on the Prémonition website, we have done last year an interview with Siouxsie and Budgie. Budgie said they were happy and feeling good about themselves, better than you... Further, Sioux said "some persons" were not honest and open, and that made impossible a come back of SATB... Was she talking about you?
I don't see how either of them could have any insight into my happiness as I have had virtually no physical contact with them for nearly 10 years. Sounds like a personal joke between the two of them. Yes, I suppose she was referring to me, although I have no idea what "some persons" are talking about. It's all irrelevant really as you can't change history. I didn't cause the break-up of the Banshees. We all agreed to stop. To blame me for keeping it broken-up seems a bit unnecessary & undignified.
They also said that at the beginning of the tour you were "back to your old tricks". What does they meant?
I have never been told what these tricks are/were, so your guess is as good as mine. I showed up, rehearsed the material, strapped on the bass and played. Other than the odd effects pedal, not sure what trickery is involved in that. We did have to change the key of many of the older songs, as Siouxsie's voice had lowered since first recording them. Maybe that was my fault. In fact, everything is/was/will probably be - my fault.
Posthumous news from SATB still goes on and on: first a tour in 2002, than the authorised biography and the live album, and now the B-sides compilation. And what about a real come-back? With real new songs? Is it just an illusion, or could it be possible?
Well, the 7 Year Itch tour ended fairly badly & dredging through the past for the biography opened a lot of "old wounds" so to contemplate another "reunion" would be mad.
STEVEN SEVERIN, FROM 1976 TO 2004
I would like to talk about your own music now. What are you working on today, and what do you plan?
Film scores. I have 3 films in the pipeline this Winter as well as producing the band Reader's Wifes. One of the films is directed by Richard Jobson, my old flat-mate and singer in The Skids.This is his third film, the second, The Purifiers, I scored last year.
Your solo career is more anonymous than the one of The Creatures, are you pleased with that, socially and financially?
I didn't release a soundtrack to an obscure film no one has ever seen (Visions was banned on the grounds of blasphemy) or minimalist electronic scores for avant garde dance troupes because I wanted to be on Top of the Pops! The very nature of the solo material is faceless and faceless material is naturally more "anonymous" and less commercial. Financially, it is so amazing that I can support myself at all through what I've done. I cannot complain that it's less than anyone else in this industry. The more you play the game , the more you are rewarded. Like a puppy.
While playing with SATB, Siouxsie and Budgie went on to form The Creatures. How did you took the thing at the time, weren't you hurt?
If I was doing the Glove with Robert at the time, how could I be hurt? Actually, I actively encouraged them to think "outside the box".
You played with Robert Smith in The Glove, a side-project that is famous today, at least for Cure and SATB fans, are there any B-sides or rare stuff of The Glove that could be re-edited like the B-sides of SATB?
I've dug up two extra instrumental tracks which I'd love to add to the remaster due sometime next year. Robert is listening to them now & has expressed an interest in singing on them. Whether that materialises or not depends on his schedule. He's touring the world at present.
You are near 50, and people still talk about SATB. How would you like things to be when you'll be 80? With SATB, in an artistic way, and in an all life days way?
In 30 years, I'll be dead and I wont care, but I'm sure my son will be proud if people are still talking about the Banshees in any way.
How does it feel becoming "old" when you are an accomplished artist: is creativity as easy as when you were 20 or have you lost some sense of revolt? What is the main thing that still leads you to create?
In some ways things are easier when you are naive. It is inevitable that you become at least a bit jaded with age, but that has more to do with the way the world works, not the essence of creativity or who you are as an artist. Creation becomes compulsory with time, you feel compelled to do it for reasons not even known to yourself. Your priorities may change, and your medium and modes of operation, but you are who you are, and that essentially does not change.
When you began in 1976, you were fighting against establishment. Don't you think you are, in a way, part of this establishment now?
Without a record deal or any corporate sponsorship, I am certainly not part of the establishment now.
Where are you now?
At home in France. Once I stop being distracted I'm finishing a solo album. After the touring we did last year, culminating at the Royal Festival Hall, I'd like to finish the album using the same 16-piece orchestra and the brilliant Taiko drum master Leonard Eto. I've never done something just as Siouxsie or without The Banshees or The Creatures. I may do some collaborations as well...
Did punk achieve what it set out to do?
It didn't have an agenda and that's why it was exciting. There was an unwritten agenda maybe, very non-careerist and of the moment. It left the industry totally bemused and I think that's always really healthy. What do these fucking A&R men know anyway? Especially at a time when it was so complacent. I would love for that excitement to be there again. People were saying. This is what I want to do and I can do it.
Did you realise that you were at the birth of something momentous?
No, not at all. Travelling in from Chislehurst, my first hangout was a lesbian club called Louise's. I discovered this underworld where places opened after 11pm which was at that time very rare. When we ended up going to see the Pistols, I introduced everyone to these places and they became our watering holes. It was a time for disparate souls.
You were the bondage fashion queen. Is that true?
I suppose so. There used to be this S&M outlet called She And Me. I did go to Vivienne Westwood's shop Let It Rock but most of the time I went to She And Me and customised from there as well as finding old bits of underwear from my mum. It wasn't for the titillation aspect - it kept people away from me. They were terrified. Punk was the first positive movement for women that ever happened.
Did punk make you a millionaire?
No. My integrity gets in the way of that.
Siouxsie Sioux, elder stateswoman
of punk, is named 'Mojo' icon of the year
Siouxsie Sioux has resisted the label for 30 years, but last night the singer who put the feminine in punk was named Mojo's icon of the year. Beating off competition from David Bowie, John Lydon, Marc Bolan and the Ramones, Sioux was presented with her award by U2's The Edge.
The Mojo awards, launched last year to recognise the elder statesmen - and women - of the music industry, also handed prizes to Paul Weller, named best songwriter, Gang of Four and Madness, winned their first music award.
Voted for by Mojo readers, Sioux's award celebrated a career that has spanned nearly three decades. Inspired by the Sex Pistols, Siouxsie and the Banshees played for the first time at a punk festival organised by Malcom McLaren at the 100 Club in London in September 1976, where Sioux infamously read aloud the Lord's Prayer for 20 minutes.
Her distinctive black-haired, black-eyed looks quickly spawned imitators, and the Banshees continued to perform for 20 years, until Sioux folded the band "with dignity" in 1996.
Sioux returned to the 100 Club last year, before fulfilling her dream of performing live with a classical orchestra in Dreamshow at the Royal Festival Hall in October. Phil Alexander, the editor of Mojo, said: "She would hate to be considered an icon, because, in her words, icons are often dead. She gave punk a feminine face and has grown old with an amazing amount of grace. At the 100 Club last year she played a full-on punkoid set."
Weller - described by Noel Gallagher in Mojo a few months ago as "the man" - was named songwriter of the year, beating The Beach Boys' Brian Wilson, Van Morrison, Kate Bush and Damien Rice to the award.
"The thing about Paul Weller is he has really grown up in the last 30 years," Mr Alexander said. "His early songs with The Jam were fiery, but not particularly skillful. To split from The Jam at the height of his powers and embark on the Style Council took a lot of courage. Some of the songs he has written have become absolutely classic tunes. 'You're the Best Thing' is an immortal song."
One of the evening's surprises was the punk/new wave band Gang of Four triumphing over the Pixies, Tom Waits, Morrissey and Neil Young in the readers' vote to win the Inspiration award.
Mr Alexander said: "It will surprise a number of people, but the Gang of Four were touring about the time of the vote. History has shown them to be incredibly ahead of their time. Their music has had an impact on bands from REM and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers to The Futureheads. In the last two years, the whole world has gone a bit Gang of Four."
Madness, often dismissed as the cheeky chappies of 1980s pop, finally received recognition, with the Mojo Hall of Fame award, which was presented to them by one of their younger admirers, the rapper Dizzee Rascal.
"They are one of the most under-rated acts of the last 30 years," the magazine's editor said. "If you were to play every hit single they had back-to-back in any pub in Britain, people would sing along to all the tunes."
The category of best new act, included to add a slightly more contemporary feel to a ceremony packed with old-timers, was won by The Magic Numbers.
The Pogues' Rum, Sodomy and The Lash was named the classic album of the year.
Grand old men, and woman, of music
* Icon award - Siouxsie Sioux
* Inspiration award - Gang of Four
* Songwriter award - Paul Weller
* Hall of fame - Madness
* Best new act - The Magic Numbers
* Classic album - The Pogues' Rum, Sodomy and The Lash
* Merit award - Sly and Robbie
* Hero award - Roy Harper
* Lifetime achievement award - Robert Wyatt
* Legend award - Dr Jon
* Maverick award - Steve Earle
* Image award - Jim Marshall
* Roots award - Chris Hillman
Ciar Byrne 17/06/05
Awards ceremony honours punk's
Winners partied like it was 1979 last night at the unashamedly retro Mojo Honours List, a recent addition to an already crowded awards calendar conceived to honour classic artists insufficiently recognised for their influence on later generations.
Siouxsie Sioux, Madness, Paul Weller and Gang of Four were among the winners at last night's ceremony in central London, which reflected the growing demand for repackaging classic artists, not only for their original fans but also for younger devotees of acts influenced by them.The Mojo icon award was presented to punk icon Siouxsie Sioux by U2 guitarist The Edge, for a career spanning almost three decades.
Like most of the other awards handed out at the ceremony, it was voted for by readers of the magazine. She beat other nominees, including John Lydon, Kate Bush, David Bowie, Marc Bolan and the Ramones. Originally part of the Sex Pistols entourage known as the Bromley Contingent, Sioux went on to become the most recognisable female voice of the punk movement and most recently appeared on an album by dance artists Basement Jaxx.
Angular Leeds new wave band Gang of Four, who also date from the late 1970s, were presented with the inspiration award by Blur bassist Alex James. They are credited as an inspiration by everyone from U2's Bono to the current crop of new wave inspired bands such as Franz Ferdinand. Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers said: "Gang of Four is the first rock band I could truly relate to."
In a collision of old and new, evergreen ska pop act Madness were presented with the hall of fame award by Mercury music prize winning rapper Dizzee Rascal. Last year the band celebrated 25 years together by playing a series of gigs at the Dublin Castle pub in Camden, where they began their career.
Paul Weller, the former leader of the Jam and the Style Council who reinvented himself as a solo singer in the early 1990s, won the songwriter category. He was presented with the award by last year's winner, Ray Davies of the Kinks.
Even the one concession to today's chart music, the best new act award, had a decidedly retro flavour. It was won by acclaimed four piece The Magic Numbers, who release their debut album on Monday and cite the Mamas and the Papas and Lovin' Spoonful as influences.
Mojo editor-in-chief, Phil Alexander, said: "In an age when music is considered to be a very disposable commodity, it's important to have something that isn't just about supersized consumption," adding that younger fans were increasingly investigating the classic albums that influenced their current heroes.
"It's a combination of the internet and back catalogues being on near-permanent sale at high street record stores. It's no longer intimidating, everything is wide open," said Mr Alexander.
Other winners included The Fall for a compilation of sessions from the John Peel show. The late Radio 1 DJ once named the band as his favourite, saying: "They are always different, they are always the same."
Owen Gibson 17/06/05
Siouxsie is Mojo Icon
PUNK star Siouxsie Sioux beat
music legends to win the top award at the star-studded Mojo Honours
List last night.
The striking musician beat competition from stars
including David Bowie, Marc Bolan and The Ramones for the Mojo Icon
award. The ceremony, staged by Mojo magazine,
honours veteran stars who have influenced contemporary music artists. U2 guitarist The Edge presented the Siouxsie and the
Banshees singer with her prize, which was voted for by Mojo
readers. Irish band The Pogues won the Classic Album Award for
landmark rock’n’roll record Rum Sodomy And The Lash. And legendary singer/songwriter Roy Harper, who worked
with Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, won the Mojo Hero Award. Other winners included Paul Weller who received the
Songwriter Award, Gang of Four who took the Inspiration Award and The
Magic Numbers who were named the Best New Act. The coveted Hall of Fame award went to Our House stars
Madness and Robert Wyatt was presented with a lifetime achievement
award. The guest-list for the London bash read like a who’s
who of the music biz with stars such as Sinead O’Connor, Blur’s Alex
James, Led Zeppelin rocker Jimmy Page and Pink Floyd guitarist David
Gilmour in attendance.
The striking musician beat competition from stars including David Bowie, Marc Bolan and The Ramones for the Mojo Icon award.
The ceremony, staged by Mojo magazine, honours veteran stars who have influenced contemporary music artists.
U2 guitarist The Edge presented the Siouxsie and the Banshees singer with her prize, which was voted for by Mojo readers.
Irish band The Pogues won the Classic Album Award for landmark rock’n’roll record Rum Sodomy And The Lash.
And legendary singer/songwriter Roy Harper, who worked with Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, won the Mojo Hero Award.
Other winners included Paul Weller who received the Songwriter Award, Gang of Four who took the Inspiration Award and The Magic Numbers who were named the Best New Act.
The coveted Hall of Fame award went to Our House stars Madness and Robert Wyatt was presented with a lifetime achievement award.
The guest-list for the London bash read like a who’s who of the music biz with stars such as Sinead O’Connor, Blur’s Alex James, Led Zeppelin rocker Jimmy Page and Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour in attendance.
Gisella Farell 18/06/05
Respect at last,
as punk is let in to the Hall of Fame
THE punk generation entered rock’s respectable hall of fame last night when Siouxsie Sioux, Madness and Shane MacGowan were honoured at the Mojo magazine awards.
Members of Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones rose to recognise the achievements of a musical peer group who in the late 1970s had vowed to destroy rock’s “dinosaurs”.
Siouxsie Sioux, who with the Banshees performed with Sid Vicious and wore a swastika armband, beat David Bowie to the Mojo Icon award. Now 48, Sioux lives a quiet life in a converted farmhouse near Bordeaux, in France. The Edge, U2’s guitarist, presented her with the award, voted for by readers, marking her “spectacular global career”.
Sioux accepted her award after witnessing a parade of male winners. She said: “I must be the token female winner. Where are all the other women? I want Sinead O’Connor and all the other female artists to join me on stage.”
The sisterhood declined her request.
Shane MacGowan was rewarded for his songwriting with the Pogues. The Irish expatriate group’s 1985 record Rum, Sodomy and the Lash received the Classic Album Award. MacGowan and his colleagues had created an “evocative” record that mixed traditional Irish themes, poetic storytelling and punk.
Madness, who sold five million singles in the early 1980s, entered the Mojo Hall of Fame. The “nutty boys” are now recognised as classic English songwriters in the tradition of Ray Davies, the Kinks frontman who also attended the cere- mony in West London.
After turning their songs into the West End musical Our House, Madness have reformed to release an album of Jamaican ska cover versions.
Davies presented the Songwriter Award to Paul Weller, whose three-minute observations on English life topped the charts with the Jam before a successful solo career.
The Magic Numbers, a London group comprising two pairs of brothers and sisters, were voted Best New Act.
GOT THEIR MOJO
Icon Award Siouxsie Sioux
Adam Sherwin 17/06/05
|PRESS RELEASE - MOJO ICON AWARD|
SIOUXSIE SIOUX WINS ‘MOJO
ICON’ AWARD AT MAGAZINE AWARDS IN LONDON.
SHE WILL BE SIGNING COPIES OF HER NEW DVD “DREAMSHOW” AT HMV OXFORD STREET ON THE DAY OF RELEASE – JULY 25TH.
Siouxsie Sioux won the Icon award at last night’s Mojo magazine awards in London. She was presented with the award by U2’s The Edge. Siouxsie, a hugely popular choice with fellow musicians in the audience, beat stiff competition for the award from the likes of David Bowie, John Lydon, Kate Bush and Marc Bolan. The award, one of the most prestigious of the night, was voted for by Mojo readers.
Mojo editor Phil Alexander said of Siouxsie today:
“Siouxsie’s contribution to modern music is absolutely immense, as is that of the Banshees – in terms of sound, image and their whole general aesthetic. But Siouxsie was the band’s totem. Of course she was the female face of punk but, above and beyond her ability to challenge sexual stereotypes, it’s her understanding of melody and music that is remarkable. It’s these qualities that have inspired so many people. That’s what has allowed her to remain such a constant musical force. She has possibly attained iconic status through her image, but it’s her music – and the humanity in it – that people connect with.”
Siouxsie has just confirmed that she will sign copies of “Dreamshow”, the live DVD filmed at her first ever solo shows at the Royal Festival Hall last year, on the day of the DVD release – July 25th.
Siouxsie will sign copies at HMV on London’s Oxford St at 6pm on July 25th.
She is currently working on her first ever solo album.
THE MOJO ICON AWARD
presented by THE EDGE
As a stellar cast of '60s and '70s rock luminaries rose to its feet to recognise their one-time punk nemesis, the delicate equilibrium of rock history wobbled. For in taking punk rock's just-do-it dictum at face value, the gloriously untrained and unabashed Siouxsie Sioux debuted at the 100 Club's Punk Rock Festival on September 20, 1976 with every intention of destroying it.
Now, almost 30 years later, the era's femme firebrand has achieved greater longevity and status than most of the "old farts" she once railed against. From cantankerous cult legend to overground pop anti-hero, with a string of important albums and a dozen Top 30 hits to her credit, Siouxsie utilised her her lack of musical training as a weapon. Innovation was all, and the Banshees blueprinted a dark, subterranean, instantly recognisable sound that was aped by many '80s inferiors and lives on in the brooding atmospheres of 2005's highest-profile post-punk revivalists. More remarkable still, "the Siouxsie look" - electrified, jet black hair, chalk-white face, blood-red lips and horror-show eyes - spawned and entire subculture, quickly canonised as "goth".
As with her own heroes and heroines - Marc Bolan, the '70s Bowie, silent screen goddess Theda Bara there remains something otherworldly and untouchable about Siouxsie Sioux. A magnificent, head-turning presence at the MOJO awards, she demonstrated that time has done little to diminish her iconic status - or the sharpness of her tongue. "The visual aspect is paramount, but without content it's pretty pointless," she warned, stroking her "cat-like" award. And those old farts? "Page, Robert Wyatt, they were great! But Bill Wyman told me to be patient at the photo-shoot. I said, Patience is not my virtue. I've tried it and I don't fucking like it!"
Mark Paytress 08/05
rock sound's guide to the bands that we just couldn't live without...
From their Sex Pistols-inspired inception to pioneering the darker side of alternative, Goth just wouldn't be the same without...
SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES
WHEN FORMED: 1976
WHERE: Bromley, London.
ORIGINAL LINE-UP: Siouxsie Sioux (vocals), Steve Severin (bass), Marco Perroni (guitar), Sid Vicious (drums) - for the 100 Club's Punk Festival, before Siouxsie and Severin were joined by guitarist John McKay and drummer Kenny Morris.
LINE-UP CHANGES: McKay and Morris left the band in 79 - the year ex-Big In Japan drummer Budgie joined. The revolving guitarist door has seen the likes of John McGeoch (80-82), John Carruthers (84-87) and ex-Specimen man Jon Klein (88 onwards). Keyboardist Martin McCarrick arrived in 88.
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Debut single 'Hong Kong Garden' hitting the Top 10 in 78 and chart success with 'Peek-A-Boo' and 'Kiss Them For Me'. Playing Lollapalooza in 91 and the band's re-union in 02 for the Seven Year Itch tour.
LOW POINTS: The band's demise in 96.
INTERESTING FACTS: Siouxsie Sioux was the reason for the legendary outburst on the Bill Grundy Show after the presenter made lewd comments at her while the Bromley Contingent accompanied the Sex Pistols on air. The Cure's Robert Smith was a Banshees in 79 and 82. Sioux recently hosted the late John Peel's programme while he was on holiday.
DEFINING MOMENTS: Being the first band of their ilk, they paved the way for many acts on the darker side of new wave and alternative and were the first act to be termed Goth.
BANDS INFLUENCED: Jane's Addiction, theSTART, Horrorpops and many Banshee clones (just check out Mick Mercer's Gothic Book Of Rock for the lowdown). "I'd like to think it was more the way we did something that was inspirational," says Severin, adding followers Massive Attack and Tricky, amongst others, have covered the band.
GENRE: Progressive punk to the experimental side of Goth.
HOW/WHERE WE CAN SEE THEIR RELEVANCE TODAY: In Sioux the band offered a strong, ballsy frontwoman, a credible feminist icon who not only encouraged women not to burn their bras, but was an advocate of killer heels (once confiscated by the police as an "offensive weapon"). A real inspiration to legions of females in rock for years to come.
WHERE TO START: The more psychedelic explorations of 'Juju' or 'Once Upon A Time' for the early single.
CURRENT RELEASE: 'Downside Up' (four-disc B-side collection. Wonderland/Polydor/Universal. Out now)
It's 76 and the face of Britain's youth culture is about to change forever. Punk has arrived and suddenly you don't have to be a virtuoso to be in a band - you can just do it! "That was the joy of it; it was all new," recalls bassist Steve Severin. "There was nobody telling you what to be or what hairstyle to have, there were no style gurus or stylists - you just did it, there was no compromising." With members gathered from the ranks of Sex Pistols' supporters the Bromley Contingent, The Banshees were one of the first bands to embrace these ideals. Their first performance at Malcolm McLaren's two-day Punk Festival at London's 100 Club was certainly non-conformist. Siouxsie, Severin and Billy Idol volunteered to fill one of the vacant slots on the bill. "The three of us had this vague idea to start a band," explains the bassist. "The day got closer. At that point Billy was playing with Tony James in what would become Generation X so backed out. Sid happened to be in the vicinity and said he would play drums - he'd never played but he was up for it. Everyone was saying it was all about doing it for yourself, that you didn't have to play, we thought we'd take it to its logical extreme with people who'd never played anything." To their surprise they weren't bottled-off and their "rendition" of The Lord's Prayer was a success earning them a manager (Nils, McLaren's assistant) and a "proper" drummer. A short while later the band attracted the attention of early advocate John Peel who gave them a Peel Session. "Peel became our champion, he loved it and we did our second session before we signed to Polydor, which included 'Hong Kong Garden' - that was the deal-clincher, really." Although picked up by Polydor, getting signed hadn't been easy - despite playing to 2000 capacity audiences, so their roadie took matters into his own hands. "one morning pretty much every record company woke up to find, 'Sign The Banshees - do it now!' written on their door," laughs Severin. "It was a pretty good ad campaign. Every little bit of hype helps." It was their willingness to embrace new ideas that enabled them to enjoy a fruitful career - even if the media didn't know which genre to post them into. "We had much wider tastes and interests," maintains the bassist. "They pretty much had to invent Goth to give us a name. For a time it was called post-punk - to this day I don't even know what new wave is! They could never really pin us down." Much less so at the start of the 80s when Siouxsie and Budgie began their percussion-based offshoot The Creatures and the other half of The Banshees (at the time, Robert Smith and Severin) recorded their unsettling pop-effort 'Blue Sunshine' under the banner of The Glove. The band were also hitting the charts on a regular basis and were constantly on the road playing anywhere from Lewisham to Llandudno, Bury to Bracknell. "I think taht's what made us so good; the fact that we played so much. It was also why we had such a long career - we made a really solid and large fan base by going to all these little places and blowing their minds." Sine the band officially split in 96, Budgie and Siouxsie turned their efforts towards The Creatures while Severin has been writing film scores. "It's something I want to be doing more. I'm also producing and doing other solo stuff." But with the release of the B-sides compilation, the bassist finds he's "always drawn back to the Banshees. You can't avoid it really - not that I'm complaining."
Ronnie Kerswell 01/05
Peek A Boo!
BANSHEES REISSUES PROFFER EXTRAS AS SIOUXSIE RECORDS SOLO.
On September 7, 1979, it looked as if Siouxsie And The Banshees' short, explosive existence had come to an abrupt end when drummer Kenny Morris and guitarist John McKay walked out hours before a gig in Aberdeen. "You have my blessing to beat the shit out of them," Sioux told the faithful with characteristic venom.
But bonus material on the band's first four albums, which are all set for re-release this spring, reveals exactly how she, together with lynchpin bassist Steven Severin, transformed the Class Of '76 anti-heroes into a formidable Top 10 rock machine.
"It wasn't scary," explains Severin. "We were so ready to show them they were wrong to leave the band."
A handful of demos for their 1980 album, Kaleidoscope, which includes an early outing for Happy House and the previously unheard Sitting Room, confirm the pair's strong determination to seek out new musical territory.
Meanwhile, Juju, the Banshees' fourth album, released in 1981, is likely to appear as a deluxe edition boosted by live material and a John Peel session.
Siouxsie Sioux is currently in France working on her first ever solo album, expected to be released sometime in 2007.
Siouxsie Sioux, photographed in Lynn Goldsmith's New York studio, 1981. Lynn Goldsmith: "I can't remember when I took this photograph and I don't think it was even for any specific assignment, I just wanted to photograph her, so I contacted the label. I found her an easy person to photograph - the chairs were just ones I had in my studio. I put them out like that because I had no Banshees to shoot, just Siouxsie."
PUNK'S GREATEST HITS
SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES
(Polydor 2059 052) August 1978 (Picture sleeve single with 10,000 copies in gatefold picture sleeve) £25
Apart from the Pistols/Clash/Damned triumvirate, it's difficult to think of a first-wave punk band with more credentials than The Banshees. It's also doubtful that RC's astute readership will need telling that singer Siouxsie Sioux (née Susan Dallion) (sic), bassist Steve Severin (at the time Steve Havoc), guitarist Marco Pirroni (later of the Models then, less credibly, Adam & The Ants), and drummer Sid Vicious (oh, come on!) made their debut on 20 September, 1976 at the 100 Club punk festival with a shambolic one-song performance lasting around 20 minutes, consisting of elements of The Lord's Prayer, Beatles songs and Lord knows what else.
And we expect you also know that Siouxsie and the Banshees were part of the infamous Bromley Contingent of early Sex Pistols followers, along with the likes of Billy Broad (later to become better known as Billy Idol), so this is just for the newcomers and sprogs, OK?
As if that wasn't enough, when the Pistols really made their presence felt to the world at large with their infamous expletive-laden appearance on hapless Bill Grundy's LWT tea-time show, young Ms Dallion, the source of much of the banter twixt Pistols guitarist Steve Jones and Grundy, found her face liberally splashed all over the front pages of the next day's tabloids.
The first Banshees line-up was started more or less as a joke, and split, as planned, straight after that famous first gig, but Sioux and Severin recruited John McKay on guitar and drummer Kenny Morris for a more serious assault on the music industry.
With such enviously cool punk credentials, fantastically skewed and imaginative material like Love In A void, Metal and Mirage, and Sioux's strikingly sexual image, the band quickly built up a massive live following. Unfortunately, the dangerous edge that made the Banshees so popular proved to be a double one, as it also served to scare the pants off all potential labels that might have signed the band, even in the feeding frenzy that for a while seemed to secure deals for outfits of far less importance.
For a long time, however, two John Peel sessions from December 1977 and February 1978 - that were taped off of the radio by fans and then subsequently widely bootlegged on vinyl - were the only properly recorded Banshees studio material available, and legend has it that the situation became so desperate that a record deal offered by BBC Records (instigated by Peel himself, no less), was seriously considered by the band.
However, Polydor eventually took the plunge in June 1978 and were rewarded amply when the band's debut single Hong Kong garden, an unusually up-beat song for them at the time, entered the UK chart on 26 August and made No. 7. Initial copies of the single were released in a much sought-after gatefold sleeve, but since as many as 10,000 hit the shops, these days it doesn't command a great price tag.
More importantly, of course, Hong Kong garden, produced by The Banshees' late manager Nils Stevenson and Steve Lilywhite, propelled the band into the mainstream, and thus into a career that would see them become one of the most successful acts to emerge from the first wave of punk's murky depths.
In answer to the question 'How did it feel to go so quickly from such small beginnings to icon status?', posed in an interview with Bizarre magazine, Siouxsie replied: 'It certainly wasn't anything that I ever took that seriously. To me it was just a continuation of where we'd come from. Nothing seemed that extraordinary until the first single. Hong Kong Garden, was recorded and we all started to hear it on the radio.
'I mean, that was quite a momentous occasion for me. It was unreal. Surreal. I felt like a gatecrasher. Like I was involved in something that I had no business to be involved in. But somehow by whatever fluke, there I was in a video on Top Of The Pops, not a spectator any more. It didn't dawn on me quite that bluntly. But God, I was ecstatically happy.'
Shane Baldwin 05/06
PUNK FILE #4
The Scene's First Disciples
In the summer of 1976 a group of outrageously attired London teenagers - dubbed THE BROMLEY CONTINGENT - brought punk to the masses before mutating into SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES. The stars of this shocking scene reveal all to MARK PAYTRESS.
BRITAIN IN THE MID '70s: THE STREETS were awash with stale, post-hippy denims and airbrushed Farrah Fawcett-Majors flickbacks. We'd become a nation of voyeurs, thrilling to John Hurt's portrayal of Quentin Crisp in the television production of The Naked Civil Servant, to Liza Minnelli's stockinged thighs in Cabaret, and to the stage production of The Rocky Horror Show. But few, it seemed, dared take their secret fantasies out onto the streets. And yet... in The Boy Looked At Johnny, their rancorous 1978 audit of the good, the bad and the ugly elements of the punk era, Julie Burchill and Tony Parsons reserved some of their most bitter bile for "a posse of unrepentant poseurs, committed to attaining fame despite the paucity of talent other than being noticed". They were, the pair snarled, "The Bromley Contingent", fashionistas who sought to achieve their aim "by displaying themselves in a manner meticulously calculated to kill".
A loose ensemble of suburban misfits from the outer fringes of south-east London, the Bromley Contingent were among the first to take up the cause of the Sex Pistols. As the group's reputation spread during 1976, so did that of their most flamboyant followers. Sometimes feared, though more often regarded with envy and suspicion. The "mysterious Bromley Contingent" were mythologised in the music press to such an extenet that Melody Maker named them Group Of The Year in their 1976 Christmas round-up. Two years later, Siouxsie And The Banshees, the band that sprang from the belly of the Contingent, had eclipsed the Sex Pistols and their third-rate imitators with a look and sound that echoed the defiant elitism that brought them to notice in the first place.
"We didn't even call ourselves 'punks' let alone refer to ourselves as 'The Bromley Contingent'," complains Steven Severin, ex-Banshee bassist and Class Of '76 ace face. "There was no such thing. It was just a bunch of people drawn together by the way they felt and the way they looked."
United in their desire for dressing-up, outré music and bringing outrage to suburban respectability, the Bromley-based peacocks created a subculture of their own. During 1975 and 1976, this artful, intelligent and often dangerously attired vanguard of proto-punk misfits did much to create the aura of illicitness and cultural degeneracy that characterised the early punk aesthetic.
THE WAS NOTHING IN BROMLEY TO CATER FOR young people," says Bertie Marshall (alias Berlin) of the dormitory town that was a 20-minute train journey to London's Victoria Station. "it was grey, desolate, nothing." But there were alternative histories to seize upon. "We were enamoured by Warhol and The Velvet Underground, Isherwood and Burroughs," he adds.
The first stirrings of camaraderie among the decadents of north Kent came on September 20, 1975, when two music-obsessed late teens, Steven Bailey (alias Severin) and Simon Barker, met 18-year-old Susan Ballion (alias Siouxsie Sioux) during the intermission at Roxy Music's sell-out show at Wembley Arena. The common currency was clothes. "Fashion was very important," says Severin, who can still recall the outfit he wore that night. So can Siouxsie, who reckons her second-hand purple and green dress with a large, fishtail-like bustle was a costume drama hand-me-down.
Siouxsie, an Emma Peel-inspired fantasist from nearby Chistlehurst, had had an epiphany of sorts while recuperating in hospital after a stomach operation. It was summer 1972, and David Bowie was performing Starman on Top Of The Pops. "He was incredible," she says, "the skinniness, the alienation, the otherworldliness."
Soon after, the schoolgirl loner began to form an identity of her own. Following he elder sister, a club dancer, to central London, she discovered the camp delights of The Rocky Horror Show and the subterranean world of gay nightlife. That made her an ideal invite to The Nuremburg Rally Reunion Party, thrown on Valentine's Day 1976 by Steven Bailey and Simon Barker, where guests were asked to "dress in Nazi uniform or drag". "Ostensibly it was a normal house party," Severin recalls, "but with home-made swastikas, armbands, brown shirts, things like that. There was no evil behind it."
"I called myself Berlin after Cabaret, which was based on those Isherwood stories," says Marshall. "I was into the look of it. Very superficially, it's red and black; great colours, and stylish. It wasn't pro-fascist, pro-Nazi. It was the worst thing you could do to fuck your parents off." The Bromley Contingent's persistent, almost belligerent use of Third Reich imagery, for aesthetic reasons and as a shock tactic, created confusion later when some wrongly interpreted their symbol stealing as evidence of punk's far-right leanings. Sioux is curt and pointed in her explanation. "High camp, not death camp," she says.
As the flashiest femme fatale in the area, the arrival of "the girl from the Roxy Music concert" was eagerly anticipated. "The door went about 1.30am," says Berlin, "and the whole room crackled. She looked like a '20s flapper, and a bit punky, with a gold and black Chinese dress, fishnets and these pink transparent stilettos from Sex. She had a crop, with blonde spikey bits around her fringe, and theatrical make-up with little swastikas on her cheekbones. She saw me dressed in drag. We clicked immediately."
"People think that Sioux is an invention," adds party host Simon Barker. "But she's always been how she is, even before she had a group. Some people have a look for the public, but when they're at home, it's back to the track pants. Sioux always looked incredible, a star even before she'd sung anything."
Stars were in short supply during the mid-70s, and in Severin's view, even the once otherworldly and cultish Roxy Music had lost their lustre. "They'd gone from small concert halls to Wembley and that was quite symbolic," he says. And their '40s GI look was deadly dull. "It was the tail end of glam and they were looking backwards," he continues. "Roxy and Bowie were getting too big. There was nothing new coming through that we could identify with."
But when, on December 9, 1975, Simon Barker caught an unknown support band, the Sex Pistols, playing at nearby Ravensbourne College of Art, he knew instinctively that this was a noisy riposte to the detached complacency of the old guard. "I was the only one of us who actually saw the show," says Barker. They were brilliant, he told his late-arriving mate Severin. "The singer blew his nose on stage!" Reckoning the band to be akin to Iggy And The Stooges and the New York Dolls, Barker and Severin went to the Marquee on February 12, 1976, when the Pistols' support slot to Eddie And The Hot Rods ended with a ban from the club. "At last we'd got a band who we really could get into," Severin remembers.
Their friends soon started coming too. Siouxsie, Berlin, even their old mate Bill Broad (alias Billy idol), who skived off from his English Literature course at Sussex University to see what the fuss was about. "Johnny (Rotten) would harangue the audience, telling them, 'Why don't you go home to your Melanie records'," Idol says. "Seeing them was an epiphany. They were a model for what you had to do. You had to go on a stage somewhere."
For the time being, the core of the Bromley Contingent was content to regard the suburban streets as its theatre. But bonds between band and fans grew fast, hastened by a memorable night in May 1976 at Berlin's family home at 8 Plaistow Grove, Bromley. (Two doors up from where teenaged David Jones - later Bowie - had lived at number 4 a decade earlier.)
"It was known as Baby Berlin's Bondage Party," recalls the host, who'd agreed to let Sioux and Steven bring along their new pals. "We had this real suburban, three up, three down house with a draylon sofa, a shag pile carpet and a wooden music centre that played Bowie, The Stooges and Patti Smith, with a bit of Diana Ross thrown in. About 60 people turned up and it was great, real chaos, people losing their minds with sulphate and alcohol. Johnny Lydon wrecked my bedroom for no reason. Everybody fucked everybody else. Siouxsie called it the Sex Olympics."
Increasingly, the suburban starlets stalked the clubs of the West End, gay discos such as Bangs in Tottenham Court Road and Louise's, a lesbian club at 61 Poland Street in Soho where they'd dance to Doris Day and disco records. "We couldn't go into a straight club at that time without encountering a bit of aggro," Barker explains.
They also frequented Malcolm McLaren' and Vivienne Westwood's shop Sex, a haunt for Siouxsie since its days as Let It Rock. "She was the first of a crowd of people who were a bit different from the rest," remembers Glen Matlock, who worked there before joining the Pistols. "they were a bit glam rock, a bit Velvet Underground, a bit Roxy Music. The forerunners of punk. The Bromley Contingent."
According to Berlin, another shop assistant, the lavishly made-up, lasciviously attired Jordan, outflanked even the Bromley crowd. "We were extreme, but how she presented herself in everyday life between 1974 and 1977, commuting every day from Seaford, was extraordinary, a mix of naïvety and bravery."
"We did find kindred spirits there," says Barker." If you wore straight-legged trousers in those days, you were classed as a poof. To go up to Sex and see people wearing the same clothes was a peculiar thing. When you're living in Bromley, you feel like you're the only ones."
McLaren soon saw the potential in this peacockish posse. "From the start, Malcolm was keen to build an entourage around the band and the shop," reckons Severin. "He would ring and tell us when the Pistols were playing." Increasingly, he and Vivienne found the 'Contingent' and their widening circle of fabulously modish friends - such as Little Debs from Burnt Oak, Philip Salon from Dollis Hill and Sue Catwoman - at Linda Ashby's flat in St James's Court, near Victoria.
"Malcolm liked the idea that he was recreating the original (Warhol) Factory," says Berlin. "Linda Ashby, the lesbian prostitute, is very important in this. Hers was the place where we could go after a night out, it was a great breeding-ground where Malcolm could spout his ideas off." her services as a dominatrix were a source of amusement:
"In the other room, there'd be a newsreader or a kids' TV presenter with a baseball bat up their arse," Siouxsie says. Both Jordan and Simon Barker would soon rent rooms from the dominatrix, whose outfits invariably came from Sex.
As a showcase for interested record companies, McLaren booked the Pistols to play a late-night set on August 29 at the Screen On The Green cinema, Islington. Media interest was high, and Sioux and Severin reacted as they best knew how - with sartorial warfare. Photographers were more interested in Siouxsie, in black cupless PVC bra and knickers, fishnet tights, swastika armband, bondage stilettos and see-through polka dot raincoat, than they were in the band. The shots suggested the Pistols were more than a band - they were inspiring a new cult.
As the band's notoriety spread, so did that of the Bromley Contingent, christened and mythologised in Caroline Coon's report on the Pistol's trip to Paris early in September. The provocatively dressed Sioux, Severin and Simon Barker had driven down there in Billy Idol's ex-Post Office Morris van. When the Pistols were hastily invited to appear on LWT's Today show, hosted by Bill Grundy, on December 1, they were there again, their peculiar glamour teased into view by the scheming McLaren. It was Grundy's ill-judged attempt to flirt with Siouxsie ("We'll meet afterwards shall we?") that set in motion the "foul-mouthed" outbursts that stunned a nation.
The Bromley Contingent were fast becoming cult anti-heroes, but in the moral panic that followed, their reign of terror was cruelly curtailed. Within days of the Grundy appearance, Siouxsie was plastered over the front of the Daily Mirror alongside a "SIOUXSIE A PUNK SHOCKER" headline. "I hated that," she remembers. "It was like a handbook of how to be a punk: they drink brown ale and they spit. Total rubbish."
Bromley's style warriors had effectively been mugged. Their mix-and-mismatch attitude to style had become a prototype, there to be aped. "It became a uniform very quickly," says Billy Idol. "Everyone looked like The Ramones."
"Look at The Damned, pur-leeze!" pouts Berlin. "I wouldn't have wiped my bum on them. Sid Vicious hated us, too. He called us a bunch of poseurs, and in a way eh was right. Looking from the outside, all we did was stand around, give off attitude and look incredible. What is posing, besides standing there being yourself and presenting your creation?"
But by late 1976, posing was no longer enough for Siouxsie Sioux and Steven Severin. They'd hastily assembled Siouxsie And The Banshees and opened the first night of the 100 Club Punk Rock Festival - with Bromley-baiter Sid Vicious sitting in on drums. Within months, and with the similarly elegant (and suburban) Kenny Morris and John McKay joining them, Sioux and Severin made the leap from larger-than-life obscurity to the fast lane of international rock stardom. There was, insists the Bromley's, no alternative. Says Simon Barker: "Soon, anyone who was seen out with us was described as a member of the Bromley Contingent."
The Banshees' fame gradually loosened the ties between the old Bromley crowd, but in recent years, they're all best mates again. Berlin, whose rip-roaring memoir of the era, Berlin Bromley, is published by SAF in May, had nothing but admiration for the pair who became as famous as they always imagined themselves to be. "They did everything with such aplomb, style and integrity," he says, recalling values that were no less crucial 30 years ago. And Siouxsie? A genuine icon, he reckons. "Just like those old Hollywood glamour stars." A timeless classic: Made In Bromley.
Mark Paytress 06/06.
OUR DAY OUT!
The Bromley Contingent's trip to Paris, September 4-5, 1976. By Steven Severin.
The trip to Paris was the culmination of nine months of slavishly pursuing the Sex Pistols around every dive in London. Some of us had been to France on school trips, but no one had been to Paris before. We'd grown used to the silent hostility of the suburbs, the twitching of lace curtains up and down avenues of boring Bromley but we were quite unprepared for the pack of razor wielding Algerian boys that greeted us at the gates of the Chalet du Lac club.
Siouxsie got a punch in the mouth while I negotiated in my best Franglais a way of queue-jumping into the relative safety of the venue. Of course, the uproar continued inside and within five minutes security was escorting us across the stage (while the band were playing) to the tiny dressing room.
Lydon, in particular, was impressed that we'd made the effort to come over for their first show outside the UK and invited us to hang out with them the next day at Deux Magots café in St. Germain. We spent the night in Billy's van and in the morning were amazed to discover that we had parked directly underneath the Eiffel Tower!
|THE SUNDAY TIMES|
Pop: Get on Down: Siouxsie and the
Universal re-releases The Scream, Join Hands, Kaleidoscope and Juju (with bonus tracks) on May 29. Strange how few people mention Siouxsie and co’s alchemical mix of punk, glam, goth, noise rock and psychedelia now. Why? As these 10 flashes of genius demonstrate, Sioux, Severin, Budgie and their motley crew of guitarists (including Robert Smith) created music to die for.
1 Happy House. Their calling card: wailing vocals and guitar, drum drills and a black-as-night lyric.
2 Dazzle. From Hyaena, a fat slab of orchestral psychedelia, with Smith majestic on guitar.
3 Metal Postcard. A nightmarish vision of life ruled by the oldest adversary of all: time.
4 Peek-a-Boo. Accordion, drums and Siouxsie ranting about pornography in advertising. Sensational.
5 Hong Kong Garden. Inspired by a takeaway in Chiselhurst, a savage but commercial critique of Southeast Asian totalitarianism.
6 Christine. “The strawberry girl... banana split lady”, honoured in 1980.
7 Arabian Knights. A martial classic featuring the late, great John McGeoch.
8 Suburban Relapse. “Whilst finishing a chore, I asked myself, ‘What for?’” Domestic meltdown in 1978.
9 Spellbound. The musical equivalent of a wind tunnel, this 1981 hit still sweeps you away.
10 Green Fingers. For every little flower in Siouxsie’s grass, there’s a snake there too.
Dan Cairns 07/05/06
THE MAKING OF...
Hong Kong Garden
The oddly light debut smash that shoved punk's dark primitives out of the shadows.
Written by: Siouxsie
Sioux, John McKay, Steven Severin, Kenny Morris
You could be forgiven for thinking that the local Chinese restaurant is an innocuous subject for a song - particularly during the insurrectionist sloganeering of punk. But Siouxsie And The Banshees' first single attracted its own share of controversy. Lyrics like "Slanted eyes greet a new sunrise, a race of bodies small in size..." met with accusations of racism, exacerbated by Siouxsie's predilection for wearing swastikas on stage at the earliest shows. In fact, nothing could have been further from the truth: visiting her local takeaway in south-east London, Siouxsie now recalls "being really upset by the skinheads who gave the staff such a hard time".
After two years hunting for a record deal, Polydor signed the Banshees after hearing "Hong Kong Garden" on a Peel session. Incredibly, they found themselves booked into Olympic Studios with US soul producer Bruce Albertine. Rejecting Albertine's version of "Hong Kong Garden", they regrouped at the Fallout Shelter in the basement of Island Records, with producer Steve Lillywhite, who subsequently produced the band's debut album, The Scream. "Hong Kong Garden" reached No 7 in the charts - "It should have been higher!" claims bassist Steven Severin. But at least, admits Siouxsie, "it paved the way for us to do what we wanted..."
SIOUXSIE SIOUX VOCALIST, LYRICIST
When "Hong Kong Garden" came out, it surprised a lot of people as it definitely did have a lightness to it. Our material was always a bit heavier. But we loved great pop songs and when John McKay came up with the intro, it was very quickly pounced upon by all of us.
I'd always been really attracted to Eastern imagery and sound. The story is that when I was growing up, the first Chinese takeaway that I went to in Chislehurst was called the Hong Kong Garden. I used to go along with my friend and just be really upset by the local skinheads that hung out there and gave the staff such a hard time - really racist, just intolerant. The Avengers was on TV around that time, and I remember us both wishing we were Emma Peel - go in there and sort them out.
The production didn't allow the song to breathe, originally, with Bruce. Steve Lillywhite brought a lot of space and lightness, with that undercurrent of the behind it pummeling away.
WE didn't know how much of a chance it would get, in terms of being played on the radio. We'd spent so long getting signed, it seemed like the industry was against us. The Pistols had had their single ("God Save The Queen") disallowed from being No 1. There was a controversy about how much punk rock would be tolerated in the charts. But the song was so accessible it opened doors for us. It enabled us to carry on in the way we wanted with the album. If "Hong Kong Garden" hadn't been a success, I don't know how much we would've been left to our own devices. It paved the way for us to do what we wanted. Polydor wanted it on The Scream, but because we felt that it was pretty standalone, we insisted that it not be on the album.
Singing it now onstage is quite surreal - it's been so long - but very refreshing in another way.
JOHN McKAY GUITARIST, CO-WRITER
"Hong Kong Garden" was one of the songs I had in progress before I joined The Banshees. It started life as a song called "People Phobia". I recorded a version, complete with overdubbed guitars and vocals, using two cassette tape recorders, in my bedroom. I played it to the band on the tour bus when we were supporting The Heartbreakers in 1977. Then I presented the song at rehearsals ready to have lyrics and other instruments added.
I first picked out the opening bars of "Hong Kong Garden" on an electronic xylophone in the Maida Vale studio. I played it with the wrong end of the beater and the xylophone switched off, to achieve the right sound.
At Olympic, we were using Eric Clapton's downtime. Bruce Albertine was an amiable American from the wrong musical tradition, and "Hong Kong Garden" didn't get out of there alive. We felt at home with Steve Lillywhite, and the studio was more intimate. He recorded us as we were. He was lively, standing to work the controls instead of lounging in the "producer's chair", and able to transfer the fire in our performance on to tape. We all had a strong idea of how the song should sound, and all contributed.
We needed to put "Hong Kong Garden" out quickly after a long time without a record deal. We wanted a successful single, but on our own terms. We refused Top Of The Pops. We Weren't gagging for celebrity - we were a gang producing a sound we loved. We were ready to embrace success to promote what we felt was the best group in the world. We were excited - this was our first step out of the crucible of revolution into the treacherous world of the mainstream! We were going overground...
STEVEN SEVERIN BASSIST, CO-WRITER
We were finding our feet not only as songwriters, but as musicians. McKay would bring in to rehearsal a chord sequence that he liked, but nothing you could call a full-fledged song. We would then work out our own parts and start arranging everything. Even though Siouxsie and I started the band in 1976 we felt it was important to credit everyone equally - it was very much in the spirit of "all for one and one for all". No one was happy with the Olympic session. We found it difficult being so far apart from each other, isolated in booths. We'd never recorded like that. We were used to hearing each other in close proximity and loud, not through headphone mixes. It was very disconcerting.
"Hong Kong Garden" wasn't written as a single, but it was the catchiest thing we'd written thus far. We grew up with our favourite singles not being on albums - "Virginia Plain", "Pyjamarama", "John, I'm Only Dancing", "Jumping Jack Flash" - and that was a precedent we were keen to follow, not least because we felt "Hong Kong Garden" was a sore thumb compared to the material that was being honed for The Scream. Once I heard the final mix, I knew it was a hit.
Oh, it was a great feeling, after slogging around the UK for two years on blind faith and little else. We felt supremely vindicated and actually a bit pissed off it didn't get higher! We had an intense and righteous belief in ourselves and what we were starting to create. We planned to be there for the long haul, to make a difference... and some of us were and did.
The version of "Hong Hong Garden", and its use in (Sofia Coppola's) film Marie Antoinette is magnificent. I'd heard a rumour that Sofia was a fan but nothing prepared me for the orchestrated intro. Brilliant.
STEVE LILLYWHITE PRODUCER
It starts with Johnny Thunders. I'm in the studio with him recording So Alone, and Johnny is friends with Nils Stevenson, who was Siouxsie's manager. Nils came to the studio and liked what he was hearing.
He said they'd recorded a version of "Hong Kong Garden" but didn't think it was good enough. Did I want to have a go0 at it? I thought, "Wow!" The vibe was so big with Siouxsie And The Banshees, it felt like it was going to happen. I said let's do it without having heard it. It wasn't so much about the song, it was about the movement - punk was really cooking - and I was at the epicenter of the whole thing.
We recorded it at the Fallout Shelter at Island Records in maybe a couple of days. There were other bands around whose interest was more in getting loaded and having a party, whereas with Siouxsie And The Banshees, it was art.
In those days, we were serious about not liking to spend too long on songs. I would never let guitar players bend a note. The moment you bent a note, it was considered like Pink Floyd - the "bad stuff". I remember getting Kenny Morris to play his drums separately so not to hit the cymbals at the same time, which is something that I've done a lot.
"Hong Kong Garden" was recorded to be a single. It was also a test to see whether we would get on, to be able to do the album. It was my first hit. I'm very proud of it. It sounds even better now than it did then. Some records in your career you think are good and are hits, but just sort die, and others have a life of their own, and "Hong Kong Garden" does a little bit of that.
KENNY MORRIS DRUMMER, CO-WRITER
There were four people in a band who could not be more compatible, who were absolutely perfect - the four of us. I thought at the time that our best song was "Love In A Void" and that it should be the first single, but our manager decided on "Hong Kong Garden" because the very first few seconds that you hear on the radio or driving in a car, you're hooked straight away. Everybody loved it. That was a good decision by Nils Stevenson, because much of our music was very dark and this was a way of bringing people in to listen to our album.
I remember we played the Roundhouse (July 23, 1978). We'd only recently signed to Polydor, but "Hong Kong Garden" had been broadcast on the John Peel show. We went to the Roundhouse and there were absolutely hundreds and hundreds of people there. I said to John McKay, "Who are all these people?" They were there to see Siouxsie And The Banshees. All of a sudden, there it was, No 7 in the charts. We were catapulted into the big time. Big Concerts. You never had to have a penny in your pocket. Wherever you went, people would throw anything at you, whatever you wanted.
The critically-acclaimed Siouxsie
and the Banshees remasters series continues with extended
versions of the classic albums A Kiss In The Dreamhouse, Hyaena,
Nocturne and Tinderbox which are finally released this week. All
remasters have been overseen by original band member Steven Severin, who
very kindly answered some questions that awestruck and slightly
intimidated Banshees fan Bob Fear emailed him…
Bob Fear: So fans are dying to know what extras there’ll be on this next lot of remasters. Can you tell us what to expect?
Steven Severin: By now it’s been leaked on the net so all I can say is that it’s similar to the last batch in that it’s very varied. For instance, we had a lot of extras for Kaleidoscope but not for Join Hands. This time it’s Tinderbox that benefits and Hyaena that suffers. There was never any set pattern to the way each album came about. More like each album “reacted” to the previous one so most of the time there just isn’t anything “extra”. Other times quality control kicks in. We have no interest in padding out the running time with any old rubbish like some do.
BF: Did you encounter any particular issues in going back and uncovering potential extras?
SS: Since we did the first batch I’ve relocated to Edinburgh so I couldn’t just pop into the vault this time and look at then listen to things to determine their worth. I have to try to “spot” things from a vast computer print out then request a scan of the tape box then get a CD-R and of course each part of the process demands I fill out 15 forms in triplicate or rather it feels like that. It’s a slow torture.
BF: Was there anything you remember which has been lost?
SS: Sore point. The lovely Hamburg branch managed to mislay the Dear Prudence master of all things. On this batch the main one that got away was a 7″ radio mix Bob Rock did of Cities in Dust. It’s completely vanished.
BF: Any surprises or stuff you’d forgotten?
SS: Is my job in all this NOT to forget. For example, I’m sure everyone else had completely forgotten about Chris Kimsey’s 12″ mix of The Sweetest Chill but I didn’t mainly because, back in the day, I flew out to Amsterdam on my own to oversee it.
BF: How did it feel going through the archives after all these years? Has it made you warmly reflective, softly nostalgic… ?
SS: Not in the slightest. I think the vast majority of the material still holds up really well. Obviously some of the actual sounds and production techniques will date it but in essence this was and still is “risky” & “timeless” music.
BF: The Banshees reunited in 2003. How was the Seven Year Itch Tour for you?
SS: I think you could safely describe it as “death of a band by misadventure”.
BF: Have your adventures in the archives given you the temptation to reunite and play these songs again with the rest of the Banshees?
SS: In a word, NO.
BF: Sorry - had to ask!
A Kiss In the Dreamhouse has been hailed by the press in particular as your classic album. Do you agree - is it your favourite?
SS: It’s one of them for sure. These days I tend to think it lacks just one more track… in particular, a killer single.
BF: What was it about the recording and timing of that album in particular that you think has led it to become so revered?
SS: I think it’s about expectation. It had been a solid 3 years of uphill work getting the band back after the defection of John McKay & Kenny Morris. The new line-up had toured relentlessly, released the mighty beast, Ju Ju and had a string of hits with Happy House, Christine, Israel, Spellbound, Arabian Knights & Fireworks. So the smart money (or rather the UNsmart money as it would transpire) was on a consolidating guitar based album that would see us battling it out with the likes of Big Country and the nascent U2. Well, that’s what the record company wanted. What everybody got instead was an album full of tape loops, recorders, mad giggling and fairground organ interludes. It was critically acclaimed in some quarters whilst others thought we’d lost our minds. Can’t win them all… God forbid.
BF: 1982-84 was a particularly prolific time for you, recording with Robert Smith as The Glove, the Nocturne live album and Hyeana studio album… were you enjoying a creative high or just constantly knackered?
SS: At the time I think we were convinced that we were doing exactly what we wanted to do but in hindsight we were being pulled in lots of different directions by people who had radically opposing agendas. Chris Parry wanted Robert back in The Cure so we had to keep filling the diary so he couldn’t escape :) Our manager Dave Woods was also our booking agent so he had a vested interest in keeping us on the road and Polydor obviously wanted us off the road in the studio cranking them out… The combined result of all this manipulation mean that we never had a moment to really stop and reflect on the real motives. So yes, we were constantly knackered… .and sometimes high.
BF: You were then a relatively long time recording the next album Tinderbox, was that a difficult album to produce in the hangover from the previous couple of years?
SS: It was down to producers and guitarists… If you look at the lineage of Banshees guitarists whenever there is a change ~ the bar is raised higher. There are more songs to learn and more of the “creative” ground has been covered. I mean seriously, you are the fourth guy in the chain what can you do to make a statement after McKay, McGeoch & Smith? John Carruthers struggled to find a new guitar voice. He got there in the end but we did a lot of routining for Tinderbox. Much more than any other album. Some of that rehearsal was done with Bob Ezrin who my first choice for a new producer. Tinderbox was the first record we had begun with Geffen on board and they were keen to add a “heavyweight” producer ~ probably as a spy cum stooge. It didn’t work. Consequently, when we were ready to record we could have banged it down in a week.
Unfortunately, we chose to go to Berlin, to the famous Hansa (by the wall) studio with the next new guy, Hugh Jones. The studio was falling apart and that put a lot of pressure on Hugh. It was hard work when it shouldn’t have been and nerves were frayed by the time we came back to London to continue on with overdubs. Hugh hired a small string section to play on one of the tracks without our knowledge let alone our consent. He was dismissed on the spot. Whilst we waited for the next choice, Steve Churchyard to become free we went and recorded “Cities in Dust” initially as a B side. Woods wanted us out on the road so we released Cities as a single in isolation and embarked on a two month tour of the UK. Barking mad!
We finished the tour with Siouxsie’s leg in plaster and spent Xmas mixing the album desperately trying to get it out fast in the New Year so that all the groundwork that the success of Cities had achieved wouldn’t be wasted… You see we tried really hard to be a “proper” band but it wasn’t to be… ’twas written in the stars, I believe…
BF: How did that lead you to then record an album of covers?
SS: The idea had come up around the time of Dear Prudence - 4 years earlier - to do a kind of Pin-Ups album but was shelved. When Siouxsie & I had a post-mortem about Tinderbox we felt we could eliminate it’s two stumbling blocks - namely the speed at which the material was written and the choice of producer - by going back to Mike Hedges and doing covers. And it worked. I could care less what the critics or fans think of that decision. It was the right (and healthy) decision for the band and in my opinion, a bloody good album too!
BF: I loved Peepshow as it came out when I was about 16 so I was soon backcombing my hair and wearing second-hand black trenchcoats to school. I know you probably need a break but can I look forward to a Peepshow remaster?
SS: No, I’m ready. Let’s see if Universal can weather the downturn/crunch/recession first!
BF: I remember using Carousel as musical accompaniment to our A-Level drama exam show (please don’t sue me – we were amateurs) and you now work on film and TV scores… was this always a direction you saw your work with The Banshees going?
SS: Absolutely. It is still a mystery to me that the Banshees were never hired to score an entire film. The music is full of drama, tension, dynamics - all essential ingredients for a successful film score. I grew up with bands like Can and Pink Floyd whose second album(s) were film music! I vividly remember during the mixing session for Hong Kong Garden saying to our manager at the time, Nils that I wanted the Banshees 2nd album to be a film score. He laughed at me… It would be another 10 years before I could finally claim to have “done a film score” when I provided the soundtrack to the short film Visions Of Ecstasy.
BF: Your mate Robert Smith has just seen The Cure hailed as godlike geniuses by the NME – do you covet such awards and recognition by the industry?
SS: Oh it’s way too late for all that nonsense. I don’t think anyone would have the balls actually. They all know we’d throw it straight back at them.
BF: Polydor unceremoniously dropped The Banshees painfully soon after The Rapture in ’95. What do you think of major label machinations – particularly at this uncertain time for the industry?
SS: Firstly, there is no “ceremony” to any band getting dropped - it’s not like some get a benefit luncheon and a gold watch for services rendered and others don’t. If the accountants say the the columns don’t add up - you’re out, no matter who you are. Polydor really had no choice - they had been negotiated into a cul-de-sac. Our sales focus had shifted from the UK and the rest of Europe to the US and in the States we were licensed to Geffen (who at that time were a separate company) so Polydor were only getting a couple of percentage points from what had now become our biggest market. They couldn’t justify the large advances and recording budget that would have become due on another album so they skulked off. Unfortunately for them “they” still owed Geffen 2 more albums so with some clever manoeuvring we were able to walk away with a nice “handshake”. Not painful at all.
BF: If they offered to sign the band up now – would you do it?
SS: Do you really expect me to answer that?
BF: Ouch - I deserved that.
Your first gig was at the 100 Club, it is now facing a difficult time and other London venues have been disappearing recently. When playing live is meant to be the key to a band’s career success what do you think needs to change in order to keep artists and their venues in business?
SS: Thankfully, I am so out of that world that my opinion would be, at best, pretty irrelevant and at worse, the ravings of an old fart :) It’s a question for new(er) bands to ponder over and hopefully fix. Whether they have the spunk and nous to do so, is another question entirely.
BF: Finally – thank you for dusting off and preserving these albums for us, thank you for The Banshees and thank you for your time!
SS: You are welcome.
How important were the BBC for
At one point nobody was picking us up to be signed and we actually considered signing to the BBC. There's a side, an underside, of the BBC, that was left to its own purposes. There was that element of the corporation that always allowed the misfits to get along with things. For us it wasn't anything to kick back against, because it was the underbelly of the BBC. We were very much left to our own devices and the engineers were always into it.
A session is a really unique process.
All the sessions were done in a day, which is a really positive way of working. I can't stand procrastination. We were novices in the studio when we first started these sessions, but you can hear us progressing. We were very much a live band but, once we were confident, we always worked well in the studio, which was another side to the Banshees. We had fun with it, using what gear was there to be inventive. It's a good way of developing, but not spoiling, the creative process with loads of gadgets.
The TV appearances DVD really shows the development of the band - and of fashions in the audience.
I like documents where you can see that pattern. If you're involved with it and doing it you're not aware of it.
How are things different for bands now?
There seem to be so few TV or radio outlets compared to what there was. There's no establishment to kick against, which for me, made it such a striking contrast. I always remember Roxy Music or Bowie on Top Of The Pops, which really stood out. Part of the fun was infiltrating and gatecrashing where you weren't invited, whereas now it's preaching to the converted. it's a dilemma for the modern day; the internet has devalued a lot of things and made it less special. It's dulled the whole process and made people very complacent.
Joe Shooman 06/09
Siouxsie And The Banshees
A lesser-known Beatles' song on the White Album, the Banshees' version passed that important cover acid-test: "Quite a lot of people thought Dear Prudence was our original," says Siouxsie.
It was the autumn of 1983, and things around Siouxsie And The Banshees were so frantic that they almost didn't notice what was happening with their latest single, Dear Prudence, a standalone release.
Guitarist John McGeoch had just crashed out of the band amid rumours of alcohol problems, and the Banshees were on tour in Europe with Cure supremo Robert Smith as his temporary replacement. At the same time, Siouxsie and drummer Budgie had just launched The Creatures, while Smith and bassist Steve Severin had set up The Glove.
"It was an insane period for us, extremely busy," Siouxsie Sioux recalls. "We were just being totally hyperactive. I think it took its toll maybe a year or so later. John had been hospitalised for stress and overworking, so he was suffering a bit. Robert stepped in, for the second time, as he did in '79, so the show was still going on, and the touring was all pretty intense and crazy. We went on to record Hyaena together, and then he imploded as well. he just couldn't cope with it."
Unsurprisingly, then, the Banshees had their eye off the ball when Dear Prudence shot up into the UK Top 3, giving them what still remains the highest-charting record of their career.
"It was a surprise, but it didn't really sink in until we'd finished the touring and we were back home for the winter," says Siouxsie. "Then we thought, 'Blimey! We got to number three!' Dear Prudence got played a lot on the radio, and of course we did the Christmas/New Year Top Of The Pops. I don't remember much about doing it except for I was wearing a new leather dress that a friend had made for me, and stripy tights." (That performance, the leather dress and the stripy tights are immortalised on the DVD included in the glorious new 84-track box set Siouxsie And The Banshees At The BBC, which also contains three audio CDs.)
Dear Prudence was a Beatles' song, and the second one that the Banshees had covered from the great double White Album. Previously the Banshees' take on Paul McCartney's rabid Helter Skelter - grotesquely linked to the Charles Manson murders - was included on their 1978 album The Scream. By contrast, Dear Prudence was a gentle John Lennon song written during The Beatles' Indian retreat with the Maharishi.
"From Manson to meditation..." muses Siouxsie, adding: "Helter Skelter was very much part of our live show before we recorded it. The great thing was that the two Beatles' songs we chose - Helter Skelter and Dear Prudence - were not originally singles by The Beatles, so it wasn't necessarily a sure-fire: 'Oh they're doing a Beatles' song.' And it was also a bit irreverent as well, I suppose. A good test of doing a cover version is when people think that you've written it. Quite a lot of people thought Dear Prudence was an original."
Siouxsie remembers approaching The Beatle's music with a mixture of respect, and Sid Vicious-inspired mischief dating back some years earlier: "When we did the 100 Club Punk Festival (1976), we were wondering: 'What shall we do?' And we ended up doing the thing based around the Lord's Prayer. And Sid and I were laughing, 'Oh we really should mess up a Beatles song!' And that attitude was still there. I remember growing up with the White Album. I loved it for their experimenting. And then it gets fucked up? Much better!"
In truth, few would accuse the Banshees of fucking up Dear Prudence, the simplicity of which lends itself perfectly to Siouxsie's velvety detachment and the band's swirling atmospherics.
"It was kind of an underdeveloped song on the White Album," she says. "and so there was a lot of scope to put in your own stuff, really. What did I want to bring? Oh, some psychedelic transformation there (laughing).
"No, I think that actual track's fairly restrained, simple and understated on the White Album. I was listening to singles like Itchycoo Park by the Small Faces, so I think it was wanting to capture the 60s, and all that kind of phasing. Also, it was where we were at that time."
Organised to fit in with the band's travels around Europe, Dear Prudence was recorded in Sweden and mixed in London, while the video was filmed - memorably for everyone concerned - in Venice. "We thought: 'We've never been to Venice so let's go there', cos we were on tour.
"You weren't supposed to film in Venice without getting permission and paying money, which of course we ignored. If you get caught, you either get stopped, or you have to pay. The video shows Severin getting escorted by some police.
"And, of course, because we were trying to get in as much as possible we were there until very late, all day. By then the wine was flowing a bit, for some more than others, and everyone was running around by the end of the evening. It goes from day shots to night shots.
"The evening ended with Budgie trying to climb a wall and falling off and damaging his foot and being in agony. He then decided to drink a bottle of brandy to take away the pain. he was carted off in a Venice ambulance - which is a wheelbarrow. I always remember him with this silk like top and pants, and he had his make-up on and he was totally legless in this wheelbarrow with his balls hanging out.
"I think he woke up in an amputees' hospital. I think they put him on a drip and gave him some painkillers and a bandage for his foot. Oh, it was funny. He was wheelbarrowed and then taken on a boat, because the transport is all by canal there. Sadly I think the cameras had packed up by then. It should have been the finale."
A Long Life
Dear Prudence is among the Banshees songs that Siouxsie still performs today as a solo artist. "I'm kind of still into playing it because nearly all the musicians I've worked with since - they all want to play it," she explains. "Their enthusiasm is infectious. It's just great seeing everyone so excited.
"It's sits in the last show that I did for the Mantaray album. That was at the end of last September. Not just Dear Prudence, but also songs like Christine and Happy House. They kind of go really well with the contemporary stuff I'm doing at the moment. You should always hope that the music you do is timeless, as opposed to specifically to an era."
Carol Clerk 06/09