Today I thought we would celebrate the music of The UK’s Siouxsie & The Banshees. When I came to school in the fall of 1978 I had no idea of who Siouxsie & The Banshees were. I always felt like I was musically adventurous, but it really wasn’t the truth until the onset of the 1980′s. Around that time I was still listening to Heart, Supertramp, Electric Light Orchestra, Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd along with my Beatles, Stones, Dylan, Doors, Floyd, Bowie, CCR, Who, Petty, Yes, Aerosmith, Sabbath, ELP, Crimson, Tull, Zeppelin, Moody Blue childhood core. It’s enough to make The Giant Panther wretch, but there’s nothing I can do about that. It’s still my musical DNA. It’s the baseline to what comes after. I can remember rummaging through my best friend’s older sibling’s record collections like a heat seeking missile thirsting for an unknown target. Joni Mitchell, It’s a Beautiful Day, Love, The Byrds, Cream, John Mayall, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Crosby, Stills, & Nash, Buffalo Springfield, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, The Mama’s & The Papa’s…icons of the late 1960′s…the list is endless. I was hooked unlike anyone else in my town including my friend Jim. We’d play rummy 500 or Strat-0-Matic (a baseball dice game for those of you not in the know) and go through six or seven albums at a sitting. We’d argue over the merits of Foghat or Alice Cooper and by 1974 or so I felt like had the best album collection in my town for a kid.
Coming to Boston after high school was an eye opener. There were so many local bands; The Neighborhoods, Mission of Burma, Berlin Airlift, The Dogmatics, The Cars, The Lyres, Robin Lane & The Chartbusters, Private Lightning, Willie Loco Alexander & The Boom Boom Band, Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers, The J. Geils Band, Aerosmith, The Atlantics, The Real Kids, Human Sexual Response, The Nervous Eaters, The Outlets, The Del Fuegos, Classic Ruins, Unnatural Axe, The Real Kids, La Peste and countless others. They were being played on the radio, mostly WBCN and WCOZ in those days, right next to the big boys. It was hard to distinguish them from the national acts because I was hearing so many new sounds. I wasn’t very familiar with the local club scene and it wasn’t until I interned at WBCN for several years that I was able to make the distinction. WBCN wasn’t perfect, but it did a tremendous job of promoting local music and local comedians.
Regarding Siouxsie & The Banshees; I first heard the song “Christine” from Kaleidoscope around 1980 and it stopped me in my tracks. I used to get it confused with another song from that era I just loved called “Echo Beach” by a Canadian act called Martha & The Muffins. I have always loved female singers fronting rock bands. You can laugh at Heart all you want, but before they went soft in 1987 with that awful mega selling What About Love single I really loved them. Ann & Nancy Wilson were great as far as I was concerned. And before you ask, yes I loved Joan Jett and any other woman who really rocked. Let the derision commence. Today I just love Karen O and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The new record is a bit soft, but Maps put ‘em on the map so I shouldn’t complain. They are going to have a hard time topping that debut in my opinion. Santogold are very good too and I just learned that their song “My Superman” was based in part on Siouxsie’s “Red Light” from Kaleidoscope (thanks Wikipedia…I think). Pretty cool admission if you ask me (but no one ever does). The Banshees were very influential. Heck, even The Cure’s Robert Smith played with them for a short while.
Siouxsie & The Banshees have an impressive catalogue of great tunes. In addition to Christine, they can list Hong Kong Garden, Happy House, Dazzle, Cities in Dust, Kiss Them For Me, Peek-a-Boo, Shawdowtime, Spellbound, their covers of The Beatle’s Dear Prudence and Iggy Pop’s The Passenger and the song I’m leaving you with today; The Killing Jar. Their 1988 release Peep Show was a big college radio hit and I was all over it. The band had been together for about 12 years by then and had plenty of success, but real commercial recognition had eluded them until then. Cities in Dust from 1986′s Tinderbox was a pretty big single, but I would say their popularity peaked with 1991′s Superstition and the single “Kiss Them For Me.” It was a top ten alternative rock song for that year without a doubt. By 1995 the band had had enough. The party was over. I still enjoy the heck out of their catalogue though and the song “The Killing Jar” was always a favorite of mine. Enjoy.