Banned Biographies

Banned Biographies is an audio documentary series charting the careers of some of the most notorious bands ever to grace the world’s stages.

The Scream - The Spellbinding Siouxsie and the Banshees

July 31st, 2020

It was Malcolm McLaren who provided Susan Ballion and Steven Bailey the opportunity to form a band when he asked if they knew any bands who might want to support the Sex Pistols at the 100 Club at his Punk Festival on 16 September 1976 as an act had pulled out at the last minute. "To say no would have been impossible".

 

Ballion had already renamed herself Siouxsie Sioux by this time and Bailey (though known as Steve Spunker at that first gig) soon chose the stage name of Steven Severin. The early Banshees played an improvised 24 minute rendition of The Lord's Prayer at the 100 Club, playing with Marco Pirroni on guitar and Sid Vicious on drums, because they didn't have the time to learn any songs... or even their instruments.

 

The Pistols may have been punk's ground zero; but the most overlooked thing about Siouxsie is that she arrived quite independently, and fully-formed into that maelstrom year of 1976. Before anyone even uttered the words punk rock, in 1975 she was already strutting off on the bus to the Roxy dressed outrageously, and drawing threatening stares. She was one of the handful who'd been waiting for punk to happen, and who became one of its crucial catalysts.

 

She was at the epicentre of the scene, the so-called Bromley Contingent who discovered the Sex Pistols and who added the fanbase glamour that the band needed. She was the one who arrived topless at their shows, shocking even the Pistols' entourage. She was the one whose snarky tongue sparked the famous Bill Grundy incident on national TV when she wound the presenter up by saying, "I always wanted to meet you," sparking the exchange which ended in Steve Jones calling Grundy a "dirty fucker" - creating the moment which thrust the Pistols, and Siouxsie, into the national consciousness.

 

But arguably Siouxsie's influence runs much deeper than punk. It was her band, The Banshees, that provided the impetus for Robert Smith to reinvent The Cure and when the goth scene arrived in the early 1980s, Siouxsie was right at its centre.

 

However, despite Siouxsie and the Banshees' prolific output in the 20 years they were together, they never quite fit the mainstream. Their modal melodies and spacious textures may have passed a baton to a generation of bands like U2, and their lush, darkly expressionistic lyrics may have laid the groundwork for Goth, but the Banshees' work never sat happily alongside that of their back-to-basics punk contemporaries. they have always remained more influential than successful. Even today you don’t hear their music as much as you do The Clash, Sex Pistols or The Cure. But, in a way that feels exactly how it should be.

 

Join me on a deep dive into the lives and careers of Siouxsie, Steven, Budgie and an array of guitarists and drummers, in this tale of highs, lows, addiction, obsession and rebirth.

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