AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #257: SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES

A GUEST POSTING by MIDDLE AGED MAN

1. Pure

Your first single is a top 10 hit, which song will you choose to be the opening track on your first album? Well this is 1978 and you are a punk band, so obviously it’s not going to be the hit single, no it’s a short slow wordless mournful piece that has very little in common with the rest of the album, but does a great job of establishing that the album ‘The Scream’ was not going to be an easy listen and provides the perfect opener for this ICA.

2. Hong Kong Garden

The ‘Pop Song’ as Siouxsie described it during the ‘Join Hands’ tour, was my first and most people’s exposure to the band. At the time, unless you were a John Peel listener and at that time I was too young to stay awake during school nights, Top of the Pops was the way to hear and see new bands and it was on this show that I first heard and saw the band, compared to what was to follow it was ‘poppy’ but in comparison to the rest of the tv show weird and aggressive, according to Wiki it reached number 7 in the chart, only bettered by their cover of Dear Prudence some 5 years later, so Siouxsie was right to call it ‘Pop Song’

3. Playground Twist

Their 3rd single, manages to make children playing/playgrounds a sinister experience. I remember at the time John Lydon ( billed as Johnny Rotten) was appearing on Juke Box Jury and Playground Twist was one of the singles reviewed and he ducked it by saying the audience should decide whether it was a hit or miss. I found the show on Youtube last week and it is from a different world, alongside Rotten were Alan Freeman (fair enough), Elaine Paige (West End musical singer) and Joan Collins (who at the time was starring in soft porn movies like The Stud) reviewing the latest new singles, the most shocking aspect is seeing both Rotten and Freeman smoking on screen, it is well worth a watch.

4. Night Shift

A track from their 4th Album JuJu which is probably my overall favourite and for me this is the standout track. John McGeoch’s guitar playing is perfection combining a lovely riff with intricate note playing. He was a perfect replacement for the Banshees, managing to maintain their aggressive guitar led sound whilst adding a new layer of delicacy, subsequent guitarists never quite managed to achieve this balance,

5. Skin

From their 3rd album, recorded following the abrupt department of John McKay (guitar) and Kenny Morris (drums) during the Join Hands tour, and features guitar on this song from non-other than Steve Jones (Sex Pistols), although to be honest you wouldn’t know it from the playing. Siouxsie’s vocal is a vicious condemnation of the use of animal fur for clothing opening with ‘Mink, seal and ermine smother fat women’

6. Painted Bird

From A Kiss In A Dreamhouse and the album where, for me, were the guitars become less dominant and Siouxsie starts to sound like a regular singer. I always thought the song was about Siouxsie herself, but apparently it’s about The Painted Bird  – a 1965 novel by Jerzy Kosiński which doesn’t sound too pleasant a read.

7. Helter Skelter

A great example of a band taking a song and making it their own, it fits seamlessly into the Banshees sound and closes the first side of The Scream. I didn’t know it was a cover until I read the songwriting credits (from the days when you would pore over every detail of a record and its sleeve) and to be honest I have never heard the original to this day and don’t want to, in my mind it will always be a Banshees song.

8. Israel

A constant reminder that Budgie is probably the most powerful drummer I have experienced live, I can still feel the vibrations through the wooden floor of the De Montford Hall in Leicester as he pounded away.

9. Paradise Place

A scathing commentary upon plastic surgery from the late 70’s when it wasn’t the norm or accepted in the way it is today and shows that Siouxsie when angry could write lyrics that are as good as any from the era …

Do you notice my eyes, are they in the right place?
There’s a Mantovani backdrop to pucker up a tummy tuck
A voice soft as lint mashed up with shades of pink
Hide your genetics under drastic cosmetics

10. Icon

The most Siouxsie and the Banshees of Siouxsie and the Banshee songs. Starting with a slow guitar riff, no notes just chords, with thunderous drums and vocals that are not quite singing as we know it but are full of aggression and leave you in no doubt that there isn’t a chance of compromise.

Bonus Track

Exterminating Angel

After the Banshees split up, The Creatures appeared with just Siouxsie and Budgie as members. This is the most Banshee song they recorded and is magnificent and is the only song I know on this subject matter and one that Siouxsie attacks with pure vengeance.

MIDDLE AGED MAN

16 thoughts on “AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #257: SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES

  1. This is a cracker of an ICA. As ever there are perhaps some other songs I would have added but then … I didn’t compile this superb ICA, did I?

    I feel exactly the same about Helter Skelter: it’s visceral, direct and unrelenting and an all-time Banshees favourite.

  2. Even though I know the band’s work intimately, I played the whole ICA through in sequence and was treated to a thoroughly enjoyable listen. As with my fellow commenters, there are personal favourites missing (‘Running Man’ from ‘Hyæna’ would be an essential for instance), but these could change on a daily basis.
    Great work here Middle Aged Man, but how on Earth have you managed to avoid hearing the original ‘Helter Skelter’ for all these years?

  3. Glad you enjoyed it, I must admit narrowing it down to the final 10 was a strain, re: the original of Helter Skelter, as it wasn’t a single it wouldn’t be played on the radio in the day, and I only have the blue and red albums. And since a certain pair of brothers went on their Beatles idolisation I haven’t felt inclined to listen to any.
    Is it worth a listen? ( should read is it better than the Banshees version?)

  4. Great selection, MAM, but it’s crying out for Siouxsie ICAs 2 and 3. If I’m not mistaken this set just creeps into the early 80’s. Glad to read about John McGeoch on JuJu–also my favorite Banshees LP. McGeoch was a god of the post-punk era and one of the best guitarists of any era.

  5. WHAT! Is this really the first ICA for the Banshees? A great selection MAM, even though selecting just 10 (11) tracks is an impossible task. Would I have picked these tracks. Probably not. Would I argue with the inclusion of any. Probably not. With such a fantastic catalogue to select from, JTFL is right. 2, 3 (4 &5) must surely be forthcoming. Now I’m off to enjoy Kaleidoscope, Juju and The Scream. I’m not ure that “enjoy” is quite the term for some of Join Hands.

  6. If you’ve not heard any Beatles music, then by all means KEEP THE FIREWALL INTACT!!! You can never “unhear” music and there’s so much cultural overkill with the fab 4 moptops that I consider not knowing too much about them, if you haven’t already been clobbered over the head with them [as it happens in Western pop culture] as a gift. I’ve never heard the original of “Helter Skelter” or “Dear Prudence” and I want to keep it that way forever. I like to accrue as much widespread music musical knowledge as I can, but cherish the [substantial] dead spots of Beatle-lore within my mind and deliberately avoid researching on Beatle topics.

  7. Back to the music at hand which I am very familiar with! Agreement that their top guitarist was John McGeoch. Such a talented man who gave them so much. I have to say that “Exterminating Angel” is my favorite Siouxsie track, and when I got the third Creatures album I was blown away that after so many years that Siouxsie had topped herself that far into her career. A rare move.

  8. MAM – this is a great ICA! I too listened to it in order and it works so very well! I am in the “Juju is my favorite Banshee’s album camp” as well. While McGeoch impresses no end on Kaleidoscope, he comes into his own with the band on Juju.

  9. The Banshees arrangement of Dear Prudence is pretty faithful to that of the Beatles, but the two versions of Helter Skelter are very different beasts to each other. I’d definitely recommend checking out the Beatles original one day, if you’re so inclined.

  10. Siouxsie wasn’t averse to wearing swastikas and writing blatantly anti-Semitic lyrics in their early days. They seem to be given a free pass though.

  11. C

    Always good to hear from you.

    I genuinely don’t know of any blatantly anti-Semitic lyrics in the early songs, but am willing to be corrected.

    The punks who wore swastika armbands got it badly wrong – I’m not sure if it was ever a trend that found its way out of London. Siouxie has repeatedly claimed it was all about shock value, aimed primarily at a generation who harped on repeatedly about WWII instead of facing up to the horrendous social and economic problems of the late 70s. I’m not saying I buy into that reasoning, but at least there were some journos who challenged them and asked for an explanation.

  12. The original lyric to Love in a Void Had the line “Too many Jews for my liking.” The eventual recording substituted the word “bigots”, but it’s not hard to find demos with the first version online. I’m not aware of any other blatantly anti-Semitic Siouxsie lyrics. She did later write Metal Postcard as a tribute to an anti-Nazi artist. Hong King Garden seemed more offensive to this tribe member, with references to “slanted eyes” and the “old custom” of selling your daughter. Those were early days, and I expect those young gestures are regretted. It’s not like Siouxsie turned into Morrissey or anything.

  13. I remember during the ‘Join Hands’ tour Siouxsie telling a bunch off skinheads chanting ‘Seig Heil’ to F… Off,to cheers from most of us in the audience

  14. Love In A Void and Hong Kong Garden were the offending songs I had in mind. There is something darkly ironic about changing a lyric from “Too many Jews” to “Too many bigots”, although I suppose it might have just been someone telling them to grow up.
    The use of swastikas may have been more puerile than fascistic, but I know that plenty of punks at the time were disgusted. Casual anti-Semitism was rife in the UK in the 70s, but you didn’t expect to find it in the counter-culture.
    Great to see your site continue to give us daily stuff to enjoy, agree with, disagree with, and rediscover.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.