A GREENOCK BOY MADE GOOD

The late John McGeoch (25 August 1955 – 4 March 2004) was a key part of many important and successful bands of the post-punk era. His guitar work was, if you’ll pardon the pun, instrumental in the way the sound of Magazine and Siouxsie & The Banshees developed and evolved over successive albums. He was also at the heart of the early material from Visage and in later years he helped fill out, especially in the live setting, the songs of The Armoury Show and Public Image Ltd. It’s worth mentioning too that he guested in the studio for the likes of Generation X, Peter Murphy and The Sugarcubes.

McGeoch hailed from the blue-collar town of Greenock, some 20 miles west of Glasgow. At the age of 16, his family moved to London and upon leaving school he successfully applied to attend Manchester Polytechnic to study fine art. One of his best friends, and indeed flatmate, was Malcolm Garrett who was part of the Buzzcocks inner-circle. It was Garrett who had no hesitation in recommending McGeoch to Howard Devoto, firmly believing that his friend, notwithstanding his key influences were the blues and Eric Clapton, was an exceptional talent who would be perfect for Magazine.

He was part of that band from 1977 to 1980, playing on the first three albums, but leaving before the largely underwhelming Magic, Murder and the Weather was written and recorded. Within a matter of months, he had become a Banshee. He played on three LPs, and was also part of seven hit singles, all of which are considered to be among the best ever recorded by the band – Happy House, Israel, Spellbound, Arabian Knights, Fireworks, Slowdive and Melt!

It was this period in particular that led the likes of Johnny Marr and Jonny Greenwood to later proclaim him amongst their heroes, pointing out how his style of playing was unique, effortless and incredibly creative. It is particularly telling that they both cite his work on this song as being particularly ground-breaking and influential:-

mp3 : Siouxsie & The Banshees – Spellbound

Released in May 1981, Spellbound reached #22 in the UK charts. It was deserving of much more than that but then again, it is hard for something as distinctive and unworldly sounding to get much in the way of daytime radio play. It did spawn this Top of the Pops appearance:-

The full gothic majesty of the song is probably best appreciated in its 12” version, which lasts some 80 seconds longer:-

mp3 : Siouxsie & The Banshees – Spellbound (extended)

Here’s yer b-sides for completeness (the latter of which is among the strangest things the band ever did) :-

mp3 : Siouxsie & The Banshees – Follow The Sun
mp3 : Siouxsie & The Banshees – Slap Dash Snap

The saddest thing about John McGeoch’s time with the Banshees is the way it ended in that he suffered a nervous breakdown due to the stresses of touring and his increasing fight with alcoholism, both of which contributed to him collapsing on stage during a performance in Madrid in 1982.

He rebounded in some style, and one of the obituaries at the time of his death in 2004 said, “he transformed PiL from a left-field, experimental outfit into a provocative, marauding rock band, becoming their longest-serving member bar John Lydon, staying until the band dissipated in 1992.”

I’ve contemplated pulling together an ICA featuring songs to which John McGeogh has contributed. It’s something I will turn my attention to in the fullness of time, unless someone else fancies volunteering.

JC

THEIR BIGGEST SELLING 45 : A COVER FROM 1983

Here’s another quiz question I’d have got wrong.

Siouxsie and The Banshees released 30 singles between 1978 and 1995 – how many of then went Top 40?

The answer is 18……my guess would have been much higher than that, I’d likely have gone for 25 as I can’t recall too many flops.

Turns out that a number of the songs I had always assumed had been chart hits were nothing of the sort – Metal Postcard (Mittageisen), Israel, Slowdive and Melt! all stalled in the 40s as too did their admittedly limp version of The Passenger.

Possibly even more surprising is that just five of their singles have cracked the Top 20, of which two were cover versions, including what proved to be their biggest selling 45 back in 1983:-

mp3 : Siouxsie & The Banshees – Dear Prudence

This got to #3 and it was all over the music press that it was a cover of a song by The Beatles that had originally appeared on The White Album. I was glad to have been furnished with such info as, back in 83, I hadn’t heard the original. And here’s the thing…….36 years on, I still haven’t! This isn’t the time nor place to go into great detail as to why I have no great affection for the works of Harrison, Lennon, McCartney and Starr – the songs I do know of theirs tend to be the ones that got heavy rotation on the radio as I was growing up (i.e. the hit singles) and Dear Prudence, which wiki tells me was written for Prudence Farrow, the sister of the actress Mia Farrow, was an album track only.

The hit came when the Banshees were going through a difficult but extremely productive period. John McGeoch, whose guitar work was so important to their sound, had succumbed to the rigours of touring, and combined with the first signs of what would become full-blown alcoholism in later years, had suffered a nervous breakdown on stage in Madrid in late 82 which led to him being fired and Robert Smith being asked in as his replacement. He accepted but only on the basis that he could continue to perform with The Cure.

1983 was some year to try to keep up with everything that was happening.

Siouxsie and Budgie resurrected The Creatures two years after the hit debut EP and found themselves enjoying a Top 20 debut album in Feast.

Steve Severin and Robert Smith were the principal members of The Glove but their two singles and album from that year were relative flops.

The Cure enjoyed the fruits from the singles compilation Japanese Whispers with The Walk giving them their first Top 20 hit and its follow-up The Love Cats doing even better by reaching #7

The Banshees spent much of the year recording Hyaena, although it wouldn’t be released until May 1984; they kept their own profile up amidst all this activity with the release of Dear Prudence as a stand-alone 45 in September and Nocturne, a live album from two shows at the Royal Albert Hall in London performed on successive nights on 30 September and 1 October.

It’s no real surprise that Robert Smith, on the point of complete exhaustion, left the Banshees just before Hyaena was released and the extensive promotional work that was associated with it.

Looking back, there’s a case to be made for an ICA from that year, comprising the side projects, the live album and the one-off single. It would, by its nature, be a patchwork affair, but there would be more than enough to keep most satisfied. Instead, I’ll stick to just offering the two tracks from the 12” single:-

mp3 : Siouxsie & The Banshees – Tattoo
mp3 : Siouxsie & The Banshees – There’s A Planet In My Kitchen

The former is a paean to inky designs on the skin and is something of a grower…..the latter has a wonderful title – the ‘tune’ doesn’t quite match its majesty and it could well be the most out-there thing the band ever did!

All tracks were produced by Mike Hedges, who himself would have a busy year working with The Beat, The Undertones, Southern Death Cult as well as The Creatures and the Banshees, all the while basking in the glorious work he’d done the previous year on Sulk by Associates, an album which has a big influence on the three songs on Dear Prudence

JC

OVERDOSING ON COVER VERSIONS (8)

Is it really any wonder that all us adolescents fell for Siouxsie Sioux when she had been photographed ‘dressed’ like she is above

The finest moment in any of her records comes, and I use the word advisedly, at the 4:55 mark on the 12″ version of this marvellous single from 1982:-

mp3 : Siouxsie & The Banshees – Slowdive (12″ version)

A mate of mine once took that one second gasp and recorded it back to back something like 30 times in a row just so that he could imagine the punk/goth goddess was having an orgasm.

Twenty three years later, a very intriguing version of it, originally recorded for a radio session, was snuck out on a b-side:-

mp3 : LCD Soundsystem – Slowdive

As far as I know, the band Slowdive never made a cover of the song albeit they did record a song by that name as their first ever single back in 1990:-

mp3 : Slowdive – Slowdive

Enjoy