|KALEIDOSCOPE - THE FILE
|CHRISTINE/EVE WHITE/EVE BLACK
unveil the origin of 'Christine/Eve White/Eve Black, it is necessary to
backtrack to early '79, around the time the Banshees recorded 'The
Staircase (Mystery)/20th Century Boy single.
Following the discovery of (via a friend) of an article in 'The Observer Magazine' (30/10/77 issue), about the strange case history of Christine Sizemore, Kenny decided that a slightly altered photograph (with the eyes and mouth blacked out) of Christine as a ten year old child, would be an ideal picture-sleeve of 'The Staircase (Mystery) single. After consideration his idea was rejected, as there was no apparent connection between 'The Staircase (Mystery) and Christine Sizemore, to substantiate the use of such a photograph. Eventually, a still from 'The Staircase (Mystery)' video was used, for the single's picture sleeve (in the aftermath of their departure, John and Kenny explained to the press, that one of the reasons, they quit the band was due to the disagreement regarding the picture sleeve of 'The Staircase (Mystery)'). Although Kenny's idea was rejected, Steve was sufficiently enthralled, to make further investigations into Christine Sizemore's background. He sought out the book 'I'm Eve' co-written by Christine Costner Sizemore (and her cousin), Elen Sain Pittillo. In the book Christine (when the book was written she had only one personality, but there is always the possibility of a relapse), with the aid of medical records (few of which still remained), a variety of memorabilia, and whatever memories she still possessed, retraces her life to her childhood companion Elen. It explains in extensive detail, of the mentally disturbing incidents that occurred in her early childhood and which continued throughout her life, that so shocked and engulfed her, they produced emotionally crippling injuries which altered the whole pattern of her life. Having suffered at such an impressionable age by the harshest that life has to offer, her ability to cope with raw reality was seared and warped, causing the burgeoning creative within her to soar to its zenith, producing her greatest work of art - her defence mechanism. When faced with a reality problem she couldn't tolerate, she avoided it by splitting off part of herself. Upon doing so, her ego denied that part of herself, and let it (her) do what she was incapable of doing. In doing this, she was able to create other selves to endure what she could not absorb, view what she could not comprehend, have what she'd been denied, and to do what she's been forbidden. This defence mechanism however, had one great fault: It was so fine and exquisitely wrought, that Christine herself was unable to recognise it, and claim it as her own. Which left her in utter bewilderment and despair, faced with the impossible task of explaining denied and dissociated behaviour, to a judgmental and disapproving world. Although the book extensively describes the coming and going of her various personalities, the scandals, and the mysteries which surrounded them and affected other people (some of whom took advantage of her condition); the end result is merely a description of her life, which leaves the conclusions to the reader. Personally, I believe that the book's major accomplishment, is that it represents one tiny light, shining in the dark mysterious maze of mental illness.
So Steve, inspired by her fascinating (though mentally tormented) life, conceived the lyrics to 'Christine'.
Whereas 'Christine' relates to the entire twenty-two personalities that emerged throughout her life (so far), the b-side of the single, 'Eve White/Eve Black' is representative of a confrontation between the two major personalities known to the doctor who initially made her case famous (though she remained unknown), and around which a film was based 'The Three Face Of Eve', and of the battle for possession of Christine's body.
The single was recorded in February 1980 at 'Surrey Sound' studios, and produced by Nigel Gray and Siouxsie & The Banshees; although contrary to the information on the label, 'Eve White/Eve White' was produced entirely by Siouxsie & The Banshees. This information is only relevant, if you obtained a copy of the single from the initial pressing released, as the error has since been corrected on subsequent pressings.
Billy 'Chainsaw' Houlston
to the appearance of Robert Smith and the resumption of the 'Join Hands'
tour, the band had drawn up a list of possibilities that might be
suitable, temporary replacements. Amongst those on the list were,
Robert Fripp, Chris Spedding and John McGeoch - with a definite preference
for McGeoch, they attempted to contact him through the usual record
company channels, but discovered that he was unavailable, due to touring
commitments in the U.S.A with 'Magazine'.
During the Christmas festivities whilst attending 'The Blitz', McGeoch was informed by a friend that Steve was attempting to contact him. He obtained Steve's phone number from the informer, and on New Years Day telephoned Steve, and a meeting was arranged for the following day. So Siouxsie, Steve, Nils and McGeoch met, and (over a drink) casually discussed the possibility of him appearing as their guitarist on future recordings and tours. Although at the time McGeoch was in the middle of rehearsals with 'Magazine', in preparation for their 'Correct Use Of Soap' album, he agreed to do some recording with them. Rehearsals time was booked for 5th and 6th January, and to say that things went well would be a gross understatement! By playing along with, and adding his own individual intricacies to the bass and drums that Steve and Budgie had worked out during the intervals in auditions, McGeoch aided the band in writing 'Happy House', 'Drop Dead', 'Hybrid' and 'Desert Kisses'. It had already been decided that 'Happy House' was to be the first Banshees' single without the aid of Morris and McKay, so preparations began on the sleeve's artwork.
Things were really gaining momentum now, and the next weekend following two more rehearsals with John (to tie up lose ends), they entered Polydor Studios, and with the aid of Dave Moore, did demo tapes of the four tracks mentioned.
With the demos 'in the can', they rehearsed together once more, then on 22nd January they entered Phil Manzanera's (guitarist with 'Roxy Music') studio, and with Nigel Gray at the controls recorded 'Happy House' and 'Desert Kisses'. Although the tracks were recorded on 22nd January, they weren't actually mixed until 4th and 5th February (during which time John was totally committed to rehearsing and recording with 'Magazine', and they decided to use the demo tape of 'Drop Dead' for the flip-side of the 'Happy House' single. They were pleased with Nigel's work on the single, but still kept an open mind as to who would produce their future material, hence the name of Norman Smith cropped up in conversation. The main reason for this was (at the time), the band were pondering over doing a cover version of the 'Pink Floyd' classic 'Arnold Layne' as a single. Well Norman Smith was the producer for the 'Pink Floyd' during the Syd Barrett days. Unfortunately nothing ever came of the suggestion, pity really, it could have been an interesting combination. By February 14th, Siouxsie and Steve had begun working in 'Chappells' studio, on demos of material in preparation for an album; and began composing in a fashion that had previously been alien to them. Aided by her new toy, a synthesizer, Siouxsie worked out a tune they chose to give the working title of 'Arabia', which later became the track 'Lunar Camel' on the album 'Kaleidoscope'. As a duo, with Steve on bass and drum machine, and Siouxsie providing the vocals 'Christine' was composed; also with Siouxsie on piano accompanied by Steve on bass and drum machine, they worked on another piece of music, but that was shelved and has never been worked on since.
The duo return again to 'Chappells' on 19th February where with Siouxsie on piano, and Steve on bass and drum machine, they worked out 'Eve White/Eve Black, which aptly emerged as the flip-side of the 'Christine' single.
Following their stint in 'Chappells', rehearsals were arranged with Budgie and John, and the groundwork for 'Trophy' was laid down (but it bore little (if any) resemblance to the track that appeared on the album). With the demo as a guide, they also worked out 'Christine'.
Two days later, satisfied with what they had achieved so far, the band returned to Phil Manzanera's studio, and did backing tracks for 'Christine' and 'Hybrid'. The following day, they did various overdubs, and a new backing track for 'Desert Kisses'. On 29th February, 'Happy House' received an airing on national radio via the BBC's 'Roundtable' programme, which prompted the stations disc-jockeys into playing the single for a good two weeks before its actual release.
With the impending date of the single's release drawing ever closer, the band began a series of interviews with the music press, and the week following its release (7th March) they appeared on 'Top Of The Pops', their premier performance with Budgie and John in their ranks - but only just. When it was first suggested that John appear in the 'T.O.T.P's recording, Virgin weren't at all pleased, but they eventually gave him permission to appear. The day prior to the actual television recording, as it's standard proceedure for all bands that are scheduled to appear on the programme, the band had to spent time in the studio recording a backing track (to which they later mime to on the show), in order to prove that it is actually them playing on the record; but the Banshees had other plans! Instead of re-recording the backing track, they chose to put the free studio time to further work on 'Trophy'. In order to make it possible for them to do so, the bands record company representative had to keep the BBC rep occupied (usually with the aid of a drink or two), after which time, the studio tapes are switched, and the original backing track used in its place (incidentally, this is a proceedure undertaken by many of the groups that appear on T.O.T.P's).
Surrounded by the bizarre 'crooked house' set specially constructed for the band, and with Siouxsie wearing a rather stunning Harlequin costume, the weekend following their 'T.O.T.P's' appearance, the band recorded the 'Happy House' video. This time as a trio, due to the intervention of 'Virgin' preventing John from appearing. As was the case with the 'Playground Twist' video, 'Happy House' was never screened on 'T.O.T.P's'. Instead the BBC chose to repeat the footage they shot of the band 'miming' to the backing track in the television studios. (nonetheless, the single remained in the charts for eight weeks and climbed to the number seventeen position, proving to be more successful than their previous two single, when McKay and Morris were still Banshees). There was one minor consolation regarding the 'Happy House' video, it was screened as a musical interlude during afternoon television, on the commercial station, but that was after it had dropped out of the charts.
Around this time John's commitments with 'Magazine' allowed him to give Nils notification of a period during when he would be able to tour as the Banshees' guitarist. So four days of rehearsals were immediately booked, and the foursome began preparing a selection of both old songs and new songs, to take on the road and perform 'live' for the first time in almost six months!
With the successful mini-tour behind them, and with 'Christine' already chosen as the next single, the immediately began getting the sleeve artwork together. Then on 5th April, the band went to 'Surrey Sound, studios, and with Nigel Gray at the controls yet again, they started getting the single together.
On 27th April, in order to prepare demo tapes of material for the forthcoming album, Siouxsie, Steve and Budgie went into Polydor studios. Steve and Budgie arrived at the studios ahead of Siouxsie that day, and immediately began a somewhat unorthodox (to their usual methods) 'jam' session. Steve had rigged up a drum machine to play through an amp, whilst he played lead guitar, accompanied by Budgie on bass guitar and flanger. Whilst all this was going on, Siouxsie had arrived at the studio, and was listening to their efforts from the control room. Interested by the sounds they were creating, she instructed the engineer present, to switch on the tap and record it all. She then waited silently and patiently until they'd finished playing (a duration of about 30 minutes), then played the tape back to them. Discovering the potential of the track, they cut it up, and generally messed about with it (adding an extra drum track played by Budgie), and the result was two versions of the backing track for 'Tenant'.
During the same session they also recorded a demo of 'Eve White/Eve Black', which in turn became the flip-side of the 'Christine' single.
On 8th May, a return visit to 'Chappells' studio by Siouxsie, saw the emergence of an extremely raw version of 'Paradise Place'. Raw, because it only consisted of her singing and playing guitar.
With sufficient tracks on demo tape, on May 13th, Siouxsie and Steve returned to Surrey Sound studios, and with Nigel Gray as the chosen producer for the task, they began recording their third album, 'Kaleidoscope'. They decided on a totally different approach to the album, which was also partly dictated by the situation that they were in at the time, minus a permanent guitarist. Whereas in the past when it came to album work, every track would be recorded consecutively, and only after that would they be mixed. For 'Kaleidoscope' they chose an alternative method, in that each individual track was mixed immediately after it was recorded.
The process was as follows:-
Day 1: Siouxsie and Steve recorded 'Lunar Camel'
Day 2: They mixed 'Lunar Camel' and recorded 'Red Light'
Day 3: Budgie joined them and the trio recorded 'Tenant'
Day 4: (the following Monday), Join McGeoch joined them, for what was to be his one day contribution throughout the whole 'Kaleidoscope' session, and together they recorded 'Trophy'. The reason for John's limited studio time during the session, was due to the fact that besides 'Trophy', the only other tracks that feature him on the album are 'Happy House' and 'Christine' which had already been released as singles, and 'Desert Kisses' and 'Hybrid', which had previously been recorded during the session at Phil Mansanera's studio on 25th and 26th February, and they only needed to be mixed, which John helped to do.
Day 5: With John off on his travels in the direction of France, Siouxsie, Steve and Budgie recorded 'Skin', and a track with the working title of 'Kaleidoscope' (which they had planned to use as the opening track on the album), both without a lead-guitar track.
Day 6: They started work on 'Paradise Place', but left it unfinished over the weekend.
Days 7 & 8: The band did some mixing.
Day 9: Steve Jones joined them on guitar, for the recording of 'Paradise Place' and 'Clockface' (the track that had previously gone under the working title of 'Kaleidoscope').
Day 10: The band mixed the tracks that Steve Jones had played on the previous day (the only track that required even further mixing was 'Clockface'). Then all that remained was for the band to decide on the running order of the album.
So having recorded the album virtually track by track, it finally reached completion on May 30th, the very same day that 'Christine' was released ('Christine' stayed in the charts for five or six weeks, and peaked at number twenty two).
Billy 'Chainsaw' Houlston
|THE THIRD ALBUM
a result of repeated listenings during the past few weeks, what was
originally intended to be an exclusive review of the forthcoming
Siouxsie and the Banshees album 'Kaleidoscope', has transformed into a
comprehensive collection of visual impressions, combined with a
commentary of the obvious developments that have occurred in the band's
musical direction (due to my inability to unveil the slightest fault
throughout). Whereas (in retrospect) the last album 'Join Hands',
was representative of the extents in sound structure which could be
achieved in that particular format (in many ways making 'Join Hands' the
ultimate Banshees album of that period), 'Kaleidoscope' transcends that,
due to the extensive variety of musical structures encapsulated therein.
Although in numerical terms 'Kaleidoscope' is the band's third album, it is actually the first album of the new direction; in that as opposed to continuing where they left off, with the application of new ideas combined with their new approach, Siouxsie and the Banshees have started again.
Faced with the black hole created by the departure of McKay and Morris last September (07/09/79), by taking an immediate grip of the situation, in realising it was down to them to prove themselves, Siouxsie and Steve have become hardened survivors, and resisted that all engulfing darkness the hole represented. Although the intervention of various outstretched hands (thanks chaps, you know who you are!) amicably aided in their survival, it was sheer determination, and complete conviction, that forged the outcome of the situation. At the same time (retrospectively speaking), I think McKay and Morris's departure proved beneficial, in that it provided added incentive, and forced the change in direction and approach, that has eventually laid waste all the bigoted remarks regarding The Banshees ability to compose (and/or play) music, and led to the awesome 'Kaleidoscope', a monumental achievement, considering so much weighed against them.
The application of a wider range of varying elements, is responsible for the creation of a more expansive atmospheric feel (accentuated and increased in depth, by Siouxsie's further exploration of her vocal range (which she applies in ways other than lyrically), and combined with the multitude of instruments used) throughout the album. Using Siouxsie, Steve, and Budgie as the pivotal force around which the others (McGeoch and Jones) alternatively rotate (and add their individually styled ideas), instead of following any particular set course, the music develops a tendency to splinter, 'Kaleidoscope-style', and branch off in all directions; although none so diverse as to distract from the overall sound and feeling, of any particular song. So the overall nature of the album is truly representative of it's title, being truly Kaleidoscopic, in that although it's fragmented, each individual fragment is strong, bright, and positive; reflecting the new multi-faceted band structure
Whilst listening the album, I was mentally escorted down a corridor with many bends, awash with an intense dread, unsure of exactly what lay in wait, around the next bend. Positive proof, that the band have managed to capture that (often elusive) element of unpredictability, and in doing so, not lost the element of surprise which has become such an identifiable trait in their music.
Side one aptly opens with 'Happy House', the record on which McGeoch and Budgie made their debut, and which heralded the band's triumphant return to vinyl. The jaunty precision of the music, combines with Siouxsie's (dare I say) slightly refined vocals, to create an overall singalong atmosphere (aided by the present inmates of 'The Happy House'), which although containing a certain commercial quality, it doesn't lack any of The Banshees foremost convictions, definitely a danceable solution. With a gently fading whistle, Siouxsie saunters off into the shadows... where her haunting OOOH's and Budgie's mumbling bass-lines juxtapose with Steve's hypnotic electronic rhythms to set the scene for 'Tenant'; immediately sending the senses meandering through shadowy interiors, where they're drawn in and grasped as tightly as the tenacity the song evokes. A compelling synthesis of the animate and inanimate, that tugs and clutches at the nerve-ends with pulse-like precision. The density of the proceedings, is intermittently interrupted (but never broken) by Siouxsie and Steve's underlying guitars and sitar, whilst Siouxsie's voice alternates between a whisper and a shout. Nightmares are made of this, sshhhh...
The pace changes for the self explanatory 'Hybrid' (it was formulated during the soundchecks (on the tour with Robert Smith as guitarist), and used as a tester at the auditions), as the unrelenting beat of the military precise drums set the pace for the marching bass-lines, and John's slashing, strident guitar playing (and intermittent sax). Conflicting senses of ease and unease abound, at the mood winds down with breathy vocals... only to (unexpectedly) leap back out with conviction, and eventually drift away to the sound of solitary drumbeats.
The upfront combination of Budgie's drums and Steve's bass-0lines, swing pendulously, regulating the rhythm of the 'Clockface' (an instrumental all but for the injection of Siouxsie's chant-like intonations); whilst the whirring oscillations of Jones's guitar, undercut the sound, as it accelerates forever forward in a race against time.
An alteration in temp, and John's strident 'elephantine-sax', herald 'Trophy'. A song unwaveringly steps out it's awe-inspiring beat, as Siouxsie's tremulous vocals seem to exert a warning to us all.
Side one closes with the ebb and flow of 'Lunar Camel'. Against a droning dromedarian backdrop, the hauntingly, melodious (lullaby) vocals, invite you to climb aboard, and travel up and beyond the realms of reality to participate in a gently sweeping night flight over a phantasmagoric fairy-tale world. All this courtesy of Steve's mystic rhythms, and Siouxsie's experiments with her new toy, the synthesiser. No abrupt end to this one, just a gentle dispersion that leaves you wondering if it's really happened... or was it all a dream?
The strum of John's guitar opens side two, with the mystifying tale of a lady with multiple personalities, 'Christine'. The predominant pulse-beat of bass and drums, provide the foundations upon which the varying pace of the guitar reflects and rotates, while Siouxsie builds face upon face, in this infectious piece of perfection. Passionate and possibly yet another warning... never underestimate the human mind.
Following the gradual disintegration of 'Christine', comes 'Desert Kisses', in which Siouxsie adopts the role of balladeer, the desolate romantic, portraying a love song of all engulfing loneliness, Scorched and windswept, every instrument combines to create the atmospherics, while the addition of John's sitar and string-synthesiser, add that touch of exotic, eastern magic. As the wailing Sirens accompany the chanting Legionnaires, the music marches forever onwards... to forget?
Change of scenery, and of sound, as the whirring camera shutter punctuates the hypnotic monotony of 'Red Light'. The repetitious, electronic precision of Steve's synthesiser, and the sound of the rhythm-box and drums, produce an appropriate and ominous glare, to accompany Siouxsie's vocals; until the listener is overpowered, and drawn into the very core of the camera, where the soul is stripped bare and the faults revealed - not a pretty picture.
Scattered guitar, sparse melodian, and gun-shot drumming, combine to tingle the 'Skin'. The slow build-up gains momentum around Siouxsie's menacing lyrics (which she spits out with venomous fury), until with tribal fury, and an animalistic urgency, it crashes along at the same break-neck speed (the bass signifying the accelerating heart, beating fit to burst) -0 and all hell is let loose. The vocals reach an all time intensity, as Siouxsie reveals how distasteful and unnecessary the situation is (as someone relating to the pain and wanton slaughter personally), becoming increasingly rawer and feverish. Struck and spinning, the song climaxes but the adrenalin refuses to ease-up.
From animal suffering, to human suffering, in 'Paradise Place', which benefits by avoiding the obvious inclination for the band to make the sound clinical and antiseptic, alternatively choosing to make the sound transform the atmosphere decidedly tragic (more fitting to this tale of an actual place in 'Beverley Hills' (America), where cut-price cosmetic surgery often results in tragedy for the patient). As Siouxsie ventures up and down her vocal scale, the bass and insistent drum-beat provide a nerve-tugging tension, intensified by the scalpel-sharp cutting-edge of the guitars; as they slice cleanly through, exposing the rawness of the proceedings. The dying sounds signify the end of the album, leaving no loose ends, and the listener breathless, such is the pace of the album.
People are going to have to reassess the band on this outing, but I can confidently predict 'Kaleidoscope' will reaffirm them as a force to be reckoned with, even amongst previous non-believers - you have been warned!
Billy 'Chainsaw' Houlston