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Music / Siouxsie and the Banshees

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The band at their most normal. note 

Following the footsteps of a rag doll dance,
we are entranced — Spellbound.

Siouxsie and the Banshees were a British rock band (for a given definition of "rock," anyway) formed in 1976 by vocalist Siouxsie Sioux (born Susan Ballion) and bassist Steven Severin (born Steven John Bailey). While their roots were very much in the Punk Rock scene (the impromptu gig that led to the band's formation featured Sid Vicious on drums) they quickly branched out and began to employ a wide variety of instruments and musical styles. The band's core lineup was rounded out in 1979 by drummer Budgie (born Peter Edward Clarke). Temporary guitarists included Magazine's John McGeoch and The Cure's Robert Smith. The band broke up in 1996, and had a one-off reunion in 2002.

They are regularly cited as being one of the more influential Punk bands in the history of the genre, and they are considered one of the founders of Goth Rock.

Siouxsie and Budgie had a side project, The Creatures, from 1983 to 2005, based more on percussion and influences from various locations: Hawaii, Spain, France and Japan.

Principal Members (Founders in bold, final lineup in italics)

  • Siouxsie Sioux: Vocals (1976-1996, 2002)
  • Steven Severin: Bass, keyboards (1976-1996, 2002)
  • Marco Pirroni: Guitars (1976)
  • Sid Vicious: Drums (1976, died 1979)
  • Peter Fenton: Guitars (1977)
  • Kenny Morris: Drums (1977-1979)
  • John McKay: Guitars (1977-1979)
  • Budgie: Drums, percussion, keyboards (1979-1996, 2002)
  • Robert Smith: Guitars (1979, 1982-1984)
  • John McGeoch: Guitars (1980-1982, died 2004)
  • John Valentine Carruthers: Guitars (1984-1987)
  • Martin McCarrick: Keyboards, strings, accordion, dulcimer (1987-1995)
  • Jon Klein: Guitars (1987-1995)
  • Knox Chandler: Guitars (1995-1996, 2002)

Studio Discography:

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

This band provides examples of:

  • Album Title Drop: The opening track of Peepshow, "Peek-a-Boo", features the phrase "peep show, creep show, where did you get those eyes?"
  • Alternate Album Cover: The original release of Join Hands depicts four of the soldier statues from the Guards Memorial overlaid atop a white background. The 2015 vinyl reissue, meanwhile, sports the originally intended cover depicting an excessively photocopied Holy Communion card.
  • Art Shift: An unusual audio version on "Peek-a-Boo". Each line was sung into a different mic to give a variety of different textures to Siouxsie's voice.
  • Artist and the Band: One of The Banshees, Steven Severin, is a frequent co-writer for the band's songs
  • Asian Store-Owner: An incident in which a group of workers in a Chinese restaurant were racially harassed by skinheads, which Siouxie witnessed, became the basis for "Hong Kong Garden."
  • Backmasking: The instrumentation to "Peek-a-Boo" was created this way.
  • Bowdlerise: The disc label for the UK single release of "Cities in Dust" depicts a Greco-Roman illustration of a man and a woman having sex, tying in with the song's lyrics about the destruction of Pompeii. Because of the pornographic nature of the image, many releases of the single add a large black circle over the penetration.
  • Celebrity Elegy: "Metal Postcard (Mittageisen)" memorializes the late John Heartfield, a visual artist and antifascist credited with pioneering the use of art as a tool for political activism.
  • Cover Album: Through the Looking Glass. Includes covers of Sparks, Kraftwerk, The Doors, Iggy Pop, Roxy Music, Television, and The Band, of all people.
  • Cover Version: The band covered two songs from The Beatles' White Album: "Helter Skelter" on their debut album The Scream in 1978, and "Dear Prudence" as a standalone single in 1983.
  • Death Song: "Kiss Them for Me" is about Jayne Mansfield, and the final verse talks about her car accident death.
    On the road to New Orleans
    A spray of stars hit the screen
    As the tenth impact shimmered
    The forbidden candles beamed
  • Design Student's Orgasm: The cover art for Juju, A Kiss in the Dreamhouse, Hyæna, Peepshow, and the live album Nocturne.
  • Double Entendre: Some people believe the song "Slowdive" to be about sex or masturbation.
  • Downer Ending: Not really to the band itself, the breakup seems to have been pretty amicable, but their final album, The Rapture, ends with the pretty damn depressing "Love Out Me", which ended up being the band's final song.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Siouxsie, Robert Smith, and John Carruthers.
  • Elder Abuse: "Spellbound" includes a lyric about throwing elders down the stairs for not saying their prayers.
  • Ethnic Menial Labor: One of the key points in "Hong Kong Garden."
  • Epic Rocking: Not what one might expect from a band linked to Punk Rock, but they had their moments:
    • "Switch" from The Scream: 6:58.
    • "The Lord's Prayer" from Join Hands: 14:08. A version of this was also the first song the band has ever performed in front of an audience.
  • Everything Is an Instrument: "Red Light" uses a camera shutter as percussion.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin; From the lyrics of "Slowdive:"
    "It's slowdive
    When you dive slow."
  • Genre Mashup: They quickly grew out of their Punk / Post-Punk beginnings and began to explore a wide variety of musical genres.
  • Goth Rock: Trope Makers alongside The Cure and Bauhaus; incidentally, their debut album was a substantial influence on the genre's Trope Namer, Joy Division. That said, much like the Cure, they combined it with quite a few other genres and were often poppier than the norm for the genre, sometimes bordering on New Wave Music. The band themselves have actually repeatedly criticized the way they're so often called a 'goth band,' factoring into their shift to a more accessible sound and the minimization of their ghoulish image on Superstition.
  • Grief Song: Quite a few. "Rhapsody," for instance, although the grief there isn't induced by the death of a person.
  • Involuntary Dance: "Spellbound" depicts the narrator and her friends "following the footsteps of a rag doll dance" thanks to a witch's spell.
  • Lighter and Softer:
    • Superstition, being a much more danceable, accessible and poppy effort than previous (and later) albums, dabbling with Synth-Pop and Alternative Dance. Compare "Kiss Them For Me" or "Shadowtime" with virtually any song from their other albums, and this becomes very apparent.
    • Kaleidoscope was this after the downright bleak Darker and Edgier album, Join Hands.
  • Long-Runner Line-up: The core members of the band were the same for nearly all the 17 years of their run: Siouxsie, Steven Severin (the founding members) and drummer Budgie. The latter was recruited to play for their 1979 Join Hands tour: he was originally supposed to be a temporary member, after the previous drummer quit abruptly mid-tour, but ended up remaining until the band's breakup in 1995. The fact that he hooked up with and subsequently married Siouxsie probably helped.
  • Looks Like Cesare: Siouxsie Sioux and Robert Smith both wore stark white makeup with black eyeliner and scraggly black hair as part of their stage images.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: "She's a Carnival" revolves around a girl who "smiles like Mardi-Gras" and captivates the narrator with her energetic and sensual personality.
  • Minimalistic Cover Art:
  • Mister Seahorse: The single "Swimming Horses" has "He gives birth to swimming horses" as the chorus.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Siouxsie is perceived as quite attractive, despite the band's overall eerie look. In fact, the reason why the Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones started dropping f-bombs to host Bill Grundy during their notorious interview was because Grundy, who was drunk at the time, made an explicit pass at Siouxsie.
    • In the band's early years, she would sometimes perform onstage topless. This also made its way into The Creatures' album covers.
  • New Sound Album: All the time. Virtually every album changes their sound up to an extent:
    • The Scream is harsh, minimalistic Post-Punk and Punk Rock.
    • Join Hands is even more bleak, harsh and minimal than its predecessor, as well as being somewhat more experimental as well.
    • Kaleidoscope has a much more eclectic and textural sound due to the addition of John McGeoch and Budgie as guitarist and drummer/percussionist, and also dabbles in slight psychedelia and electronic elements (both of which were to crop up again to a much larger extent on later albums).
    • Juju is much Darker and Edgier and more chaotic than Kaleidoscope and even dabbles in Art Rock.
    • A Kiss In The Dreamhouse turns up the Art Rock even further in addition to diving headlong into Psychedelic Rock.
    • Hyæna continues with the Art Rock and Psychedelic Rock mix, but has a slightly different take on it due to the departure of John McGeoch and the arrival of Robert Smith as guitarist, resulting in a more melodic and pop-influenced sound. At the same time, the album is even more experimental than its predecessor.
    • Tinderbox returns to a Darker and Edgier and less psychedelic sound, while keeping the more 'pop' influences that would become more pronounced with each album after it. It also experiments with Glam Rock and even on "Cities In Dust", dance and electronic elements that were last seen on Kaleidoscope.
    • Peepshow turns up the electronic and dance influences even further while also experimenting with a wide and eclectic range of styles and influences.
    • Superstition is where the Synth-Pop and Alternative Dance elements that had started with "Cities In Dust" and grown with each album peak, on this album which is by far their poppiest and most accessible.
    • The Rapture gets darker and more melancholic again and removes the dance and electronic elements while also incorporating Glam Rock and World Music influences, nodding to Siouxsie and Budgie's work in The Creatures.
  • Ominous Music Box Tune:
    • Combined with Last Note Nightmare in "Carousel."
    • "Mother", although it's more soothing at the same time.
  • Our Banshees Are Louder: "Banshees" is the name used to refer to Siouxsie Sioux's bandmates, and her own dark getup and wailing singing voice evoke the ghouls and the doom that they herald.
  • Post-Punk: The band were one of the UK scene's major players, with their image factoring into the overlap between post-punk and Goth Rock.
  • Punk Rock: At the beginning of their career, right down to having Sid Vicious as their first drummer. They quickly moved on.
  • Putting on the Reich: Siouxsie Sioux would occasionally don Nazi armbands in early performances, tying in with Punk Rock's wider appropriation of fascist imagery and history for shock value. The scene — and the band with them — ultimately abandoned the Nazi allusions when the musicians realized that it was attracting actual neo-Nazis who thought they were in good company. This and the lyrical content of "Hong Kong Garden", a satire of anti-Asian racism that some listeners mistook for the genuine article, resulted in the band including "Metal Postcard (Mittageisen)", a Celebrity Elegy for antifascist artist John Heartfield, on their debut album to clarify to audiences that they weren't a Nazi band.
  • Pyromaniac: "All fire and brimstone, this jack-o'-lantern, he likes to watch the buildings burn..."
  • Rearrange the Song: The CD release of Tinderbox adds on the 12" remix of "Cities in Dust", which emphasizes the dance elements of the song and pushes the guitar far back in the mix instead of having it drive the song.
  • Re-Cut: The original CD edition of Tinderbox adds the B-sides "The Quarterdrawing of the Dog", "An Execution", "Lullaby", and "Umbrella" and the 12" version of "Cities in Dust" as bonus tracks, bringing its runtime up to just over an hour in the process. The 2003 remaster, meanwhile, removes the B-sides and adds the 12" remix of "The Sweetest Chill", an early version of "Song from the Edge of the World" with John Valentine Carruthers on guitar, and the demo version of "Starcrossed Lovers".
  • Revolving Door Band: They cycled guitarists every few years after Join Hands was released.
  • Scary Scarecrows: "Scarecrow." Differs from most examples in that the lyrics have a vaguely sexual subtext.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Drummer Kenny Morris and guitarist John McKay ditched the group without notice after the second album.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Steven Severin's stage name is taken from Severin von Kusiemski, the main character of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's novella Venus in Furs.
    • "Peek-A-Boo" has the line "Golly, jeepers, where'd you get those weepers? Peep show, freak show, where did you get those eyes?", which is enough of an overt nod to Hollywood showtune "Jeepers Creepers"' opening lines that the band had to give "Jeepers" songwriters Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer a co-writing credit to avoid legal action.
  • Stalker with a Crush: A favourite lyrical theme, such as in "Carcass" and "Head Cut."
  • Tomboyish Voice: Siouxsie, who once described herself as possessing a "masculine" aura (at least in comparison to Budgie's more "feminine" one), has a deeper-than-average voice, but a wide range (from from G2-G#6). Her unique vocals are part of why the band are so beloved.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: You often get the impression Siouxsie's trying to tell you something, but you can't quite figure out what.