Category: siouxsie sioux

Siouxsie and the Banshees “The Passenger” 1987. Wonderland Records. 12″ single, “lllllloco-motion mix.” The single version of “The Passenger” – a fantastic cover of Iggy Pop’s version from 1977 (on Lust for Life, released as a single in ‘98) – appeared on Siouxsie and the Bashees’ 1987 all-cover album Through the Looking Glass and went to #41 on the UK charts. About a million other artists have covered “The Passenger” (well, not exactly, but there are a lot, and I do like the 1997 version by Lunachicks that’s on the We Will Fall: The Iggy Pop Tribute record), and Siouxsie’s is the best. Her voice is a great counterpoint to Pop’s masculine monotone growl, all clear soaring gothic gloss and mirrors, and a whole lot of horns. Pop quite liked Siouxsie’s rendition, stating, “She sings it well and she threw a little note in when she sings it, that I wish I had thought of, it’s kind of improved it. The horn thing is good.“ The “lllllloco-motion mix” is significantly longer than the single – I think about double in length – and seems to have even more horns plus what I think are tubular bells (well, bells at least). The B-side has two tracks, “She’s Cuckoo” and “Something Blue,” a lush lament that is perfectly and gothically sorrowful. 

Siouxsie and the Banshees “Candyman” 1986. 12″ single. The second single from their album Tinderbox (also 1986), “Candyman” went to #34 on the UK charts. This is quite literally a UK import: we picked this up a couple weeks ago at Flashback Records in London, though I can’t remember if it was from the Islington or Shoreditch location.  Though the song’s subject matter is dark and disturbing (it’s about child abuse: “Candyman – oh candyman/ And all the children, he warns ‘don’t tell,’/ Those threats are sold/ With their guilt and shame they think they’re to blame”), the music is propulsive and upbeat, guitar-forward with a jangle that is reminiscent of ‘86 Smiths (played by recent band addition John Valentine Carruthers, previously of the post-punk industrial band Clock DVA) and an upfront bassline. Side B has two songs: “Lullaby,” a more typically lushly gothic Siouxise composition, and “Umbrella,” which has a fairly heavy industrial vibe. Both of the b-side tracks appear as bonus tracks on the 1986 CD release though not on the vinyl edition. 

Siouxise and the Banshees “Hyaena” released 35 years ago today, June 8th, 1984. Hyaena was the Banshee’s sixth LP and is particularly notable for featuring The Cure’s Robert Smith on guitar and keyboards. Ours is the US version that includes the single “Dear Prudence” which the Banshees released as a stand-alone in Europe in 1983 (it hit #5 in the UK). It’s a a masterful rework of the Beatles classic. Siouxsie’s clear voice and the Banshees’ gothy psychedelic soundscape takes Prudence (Mia Farrow’s sister) out of meditation in India with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and into the black-lit clubs of early 80′s Britain where she can transcend ego through trance dance. Also released as singles were “Swimming Horses” (#28 in the UK)  Robert Smith reworked the piano melody into “Six Different Ways” from The Cure’s Head on the Door LP (1985). The second and final single from Hyaena was “Dazzle,” a lush orchestral anthem introduced by members of London Symphonic Orchestra’s string section; “Dazzle” hit #33 on the UK charts. 

Siouxsie and the Banshees “Join Hands” 1979. Today, May 27th, is Siouxsie Sioux’s birthday (b. Susan Ballion, 1957). Join Hands was the Banshees’ second album and a fitting pull for today, Memorial Day. The tracks were inspired by the horrors of World War I and the themes of war and the loss of life in battle permeate the LP, starting with the opening track “Poppy Day,” the poppy being, of course, a symbol of wartime remembrance.  The lyrics to “Poppy Day” are based on the poem “In Flanders Field” by John McCrae from 1915, written to commemorate the loss of a friend in World War I. Then there is the track “Regal Zone” about the late 70′s Middle East/Iran conflict, “Premature Burial” (self-explanatory) and “The Lords Prayer” which the Banshees premiered back in ‘76 at the 100 Club Punk Special concert (that included performances by The Clash, Sex Pistols and Subway Sect; here is a link to the performance – it’s really crappy quality but that seems fitting) when the members of the band barely knew how to play. I also particularly like the song “Icon” – huge, gothically anthemic – and “Playground Twist” which the Banshees released as the sole single from Join Hands; it hit #28 on the UK charts.

Siouxsie and the Banshees “The Scream” released 40 years ago today, November 13th, in 1978. The Scream was the Banshees debut album and its success, going to #12 in the UK, placed the band at the vanguard of the post-punk and goth genres. It influenced other dark post-punks like Joy Division and Jesus and Mary Chain but also sunnier new wave artists like Duran Duran. The single “Hong Kong Garden” had already been released before they recorded The Scream; it hit #7 on the UK singles chart and did not appear on the original pressing of the LP but is included on reissues, including this copy where it leads off Side 1. My favorite tracks are the sparse “Overground” (which the Banshees re-recorded in ‘84, releasing it as a single – it went to #47 in the UK – and included it on the EP The Thorn), the icy punked out “Carcass,” their tensely chaotic cover of the Beatles’ “Helter Skelter,” the lush and danceable “Mirage” and the slow goth stomp of “Metal Postcard (Mittageisen)” which they also recorded in German and released as a single in West Germany; the English version of the single went to #47 in the UK in 1979.

Allmusic says about The Scream: “After building up an intense live reputation and a rabid fan base, Siouxsie and the Banshees almost had to debut with a stunner – which they did, “Hong Kong Garden” taking care of things on the singles front and The Scream on the full-length. Matched with a downright creepy cover and a fair enough early producing effort from Steve Lillywhite – well before he found gated drum sounds – it’s a fine balance of the early band’s talents. Siouxsie Sioux herself shows the distinct, commanding voice and lyrical meditations on fractured lives and situations that would win her well-deserved attention over the years. Compared to the unfocused general subject matter of most of the band’s peers, songs like “Jigsaw Feeling,” “Suburban Relapse,” and especially the barbed contempt of “Mirage” are perfect miniature portraits. John McKay’s metallic (but not metal) guitar parts, riffs that never quite resolve into conventional melodies, and the throbbing Steven Severin/Kenny Morris rhythm section distill the Velvet Underground’s early propulsion into a crisper punch with more than a hint of glam’s tribal rumble. The sheer variety on the album alone is impressive – “Overground” and its slow-rising build, carefully emphasizing space in between McKay’s notes as much as the notes themselves, the death-march Teutonic stomp of “Metal Postcard,” the sudden near-sunniness of the music (down to the handclaps!) toward the end of “Carcass.” The cover of “Helter Skelter” makes for an unexpected nod to the past – if it’s not as completely overdriven as the original, Siouxsie puts her own definite stamp on it and its sudden conclusion is a great moment of drama. It’s the concluding “Switch” that fully demonstrates just how solid the band was then, with McKay’s saxophone adding just enough of a droning wild card to the multi-part theatricality of the piece, Siouxsie in particularly fine voice on top of it all.”

Siouxsie and the Banshees “Peek-A-Boo” 1988. “Peek-A-Boo” was the lead single from Peepshow, the Banshees ninth studio album, which was released 30 years ago today, September 5th, 1988. Peepshow is one of my favorite Siouxsie records and it received widespread critical and commercial success, hitting #20 on the UK charts and #68 in the US. “Peek-A-Boo,” released prior to the album in July of ‘88 and charting at #16 in the UK and #53 in the US (hitting #1 on the US Alternative Songs chart), is an utterly unique pop/dance track which features accordion, carnival fun house meets Eastern melodies in minor and a stomping bass and beat line that Melody Maker called “1930′s hip hop” (NME added to the description calling it “Oriental marching band hip hop”). The overall bizarreness of the  sound can be attributed to the fact that “nearly the entirety of the musical track of "Peekaboo” is being played backwards. In Twin Peaks style, the band learned how to play the song backwards and then that tape was reversed, resulting in the almost natural but still quite skewed sound.” (Allmusic)

Side A of this 12″ single is an extended cut of “Peek-A-Boo,” the “Silver Dollar Mix” which doubles the track’s length with synthpop elements and extra industrial stomp and swagger. Side B has the single version of “Peek-A-Boo” plus “False Face,” an all-out rocker, and Catwalk,” which is almost as crazed as its A-side: a weirdly slinky instrumental with purrs, howls and whispers.  

“Peek-A-Boo” was not without controversy. From Allmusic: “The lyrics, spat by Siouxsie Sioux in one of her most cutting performances, are considerably less light-hearted, being a biting condemnation of the use of sexual imagery in advertising and marketing, comparing shopping to a visit to a sleazy sexual arcade. The group were later sued by the estates of Harold Warren and Johnny Mercer for including the mangled couplet “Golly jeepers, where’d you get those weepers/Peepshow, creepshow, where did you get those eyes,” which was ruled too close to the chorus of the old pre-rock standard “Jeepers Creepers” for comfort; the songwriters were later added to the credits.”

Creeping up the backstairs
Slinking into dark stalls
Shapeless and slumped in bath chairs
Furtive eyes peep out of holes
She has many guises
She’ll do what you want her to
Playing dead and sweet submission
Cracks the whip deadpan on cue

Peek-a-boo – Peek-a-boo
Peek-a-boo – Peek-a-boo

Reeking like a pigsty
Peeling back and gagging free
Flaccid ego in your hand
Chokes on dry tears, can you understand?
She’s jeering at the shadows
Sneering behind a smile
Lunge and thrust to pout and pucker
Into the face of the beguiled

Peek-a-Boo – Peek-a-Boo
Golly jeepers
Where’d you get those peepers?
Peepshow, creepshow
Where did you get those eyes?

Strobe lights pump and flicker
Dry lips crack out for more
“Come bite on this rag doll, baby!
That’s right now hit the floor”
They’re sneaking out the back door
She gets up from all fours
Rhinestone fools and silver dollars
Curdle into bitter tears

Peek-a-boo – Peek-a-boo
Golly jeepers
Where’d you get those weepers?
Peepshow, creepshow
Where did you get those eyes?