Siouxsie & The Banshees

The British rock band founded by Siouxsie Sioux and Steven Severin charted a massively influential catalogue through exploring punk and new wave.

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Siouxsie and The Banshees photo by Fin Costello/Redferns
Photo: Fin Costello/Redferns

If shock is an essential ingredient in the chemistry of Punk, then Siouxsie perfectly fits the bill. With her deliberately outlandish, and to some, frightening appearance Siouxsie and future Banshee bass player, Steven Severin were early Sex Pistol devotees, well before their heroes signed a record deal. Siouxsie and the Banshees would go on to become one of the most creative punk and post-punk bands.

In late September 1976 – at a two-day Punk Festival at the 100 Club in London – Siouxsie and the Banshees had their improvisational debut. Soon after this inauspicious start, they began playing around London; a ‘Sign The Banshees’ graffiti campaign took hold in early 1978 before Polydor did just that and the four piece recorded Hong Kong Garden, which made No.7 in August that year. Their album, The Scream, followed a few months later and made No.12 on the album charts.

A string of charting singles followed but it wasn’t until 1983 that they again cracked the Top 10 with a cover of Dear Prudence, the Beatles song about Mia Farrow’s sister, written after their trip to Rishikesh to learn from the Maharishi. The follow-up album to The Scream was Join Hands, which made No.13 before 1980’s Kaleidoscope made No.5 and the following year Ju Ju got to No.7 before Once Upon A Time – The Singles spent six months on the chart in 1982, reflecting the band’s success as a producer of fine forty-fives.

In 1988 Peek-A-Boo made the Billboard Top 100 and three years later Kiss Them For Me got to No.23. In Britain, their single and album success was consistent through the middle of the 1990s. Their influence can be seen in Morrissey and The Smiths and The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Robert Smith of The Cure has readily acknowledged that they were one of the bands he really looked up to.

Siouxsie and the Banshees were among the longest-lived and most successful acts to emerge from the London punk community; over the course of a career that lasted two decades, they evolved from an abrasive, primitive art-punk band into a stylish, sophisticated unit that even notched a left-field Top 40 hit.

Throughout its numerous lineup changes and textural shifts, the group remained under the leadership of vocalist Siouxsie Sioux, born Susan Dallion on May 27, 1958. She and the Banshees’ initial lineup emerged from the Bromley Contingent, a notorious group of rabid Sex Pistols fans; inspired by the growing punk movement, Dallion adopted the name Siouxsie and formed the Banshees in September 1976. In addition to bassist Steven Severin and guitarist Marco Perroni, the band included drummer John Simon Ritchie, who assumed the name Sid Vicious; they debuted later that year at the legendary Punk Festival held at London’s 100 Club, where their entire set consisted of a savage, 20-minute rendition of “The Lords Prayer.”

Soon after, Vicious joined the Sex Pistols, while Perroni went on to join Adam & the Ants. The core duo of Sioux and Severin, along with new guitarist John McKay and drummer Kenny Morris, reached the U.K. Top Ten with their 1978 debut single, “Hong Kong Garden”; their grim, dissonant first LP, The Scream, followed later in the year. Two days into a tour for their 1979 follow-up, Join Hands, both McKay and Morris abruptly departed, and guitarist Robert Smith of the Cure (the tour’s opening act) and ex-Slits and Big in Japan drummer Budgie were enlisted to fill the void; although Smith returned to The Cure soon after, Budgie became a permanent member of the group and remained with the Banshees throughout the duration of their career.

With ex-Magazine guitarist John McGeoch on board, the band returned to the studio for 1980s Kaleidoscope, a subtler and more melodic effort than their prior records; on the strength of the U.K. Top 20 smash “Happy House,” the album reached the Top Five. A year later, the Banshees released the psychedelic Juju, along with Once Upon a Time, a collection of singles; at the same time, Sioux and Budgie formed the Creatures, an ongoing side project. Following 1982’s experimental A Kiss in the Dreamhouse, McGeoch fell ill, and Smith temporarily rejoined for the group’s planned tour; a pair of 1983 performances at London’s Royal Albert Hall were recorded and later issued as Nocturne. Also in 1983, Severin and Smith teamed as the one-off project the Glove for the LP Blue Sunshine.

After his recovery, McGeoch opted not to return, so the Banshees recruited former Clock DVA guitarist John Carruthers after Smith exited following the sessions for 1984’s dark, atmospheric Hyaena. With 1986’s Tinderbox, Siouxsie and the Banshees finally reached the U.S. Top 100 album charts, largely on the strength of the excellent single “Cities in Dust.” After 1987’s all-covers collection Through the Looking Glass, Carruthers took his leave and was replaced by ex-Specimen guitarist Jon Klein and keyboardist Martin McCarrick for 1988’s Peepshow, a techno-inspired outing that gave the group its first U.S. chart single with “Peek-a-Boo.”

In 1991 — the year in which Sioux and Budgie married — the Banshees performed on the inaugural Lollapalooza tour; their concurrent LP, Superstition was their most commercially successful, spawning their lone U.S. Top 40 hit, “Kiss Them for Me.” Another singles collection, Twice Upon a Time, followed in 1992 before the group returned after a long absence with 1995’s stylish The Rapture, produced in part by John Cale. A year later, the nostalgia surrounding the reunion of their former heroes the Sex Pistols prompted Siouxsie and the Banshees to finally call it quits; Siouxsie and Budgie turned to the Creatures as their primary project, while Severin composed the score for the controversial film Visions of Ecstasy. In 2002 Siouxsie, Severin, Budgie and Chandler reunited for the so-called Seven Year Itch tour, eventually leading to a live album, Seven Year Itch, and a DVD concert film in 2003. Universal Music began releasing the band’s albums remastered with bonus tracks in 2006. Voices on the Air: The Peel Sessions, drawn from live recordings made for the John Peel radio show between 1978 and 1986, appeared that same year.

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