‘New band, new mistakes,’ said Siouxsie Sioux in an after-show interview from this concert of The Banshees at De Meervaart Theater, Amsterdam in 1982.
Siouxsie was describing changes to The Banshees line-up over the previous 4 years, which had seen the arrival of drummer Budgie, and guitarist John McGeoch, joining Siouxsie and 1st Banshee Steven Severin.
As McGeoch explained it was the core dynamic of Severin and Siouxsie that made The Banshees work.
The Banshees were one of the most important and influential bands of the past 30 years, and while so many other bands from the sixties, seventies and eighties are getting back together and taking to the road again, it would be good to see The Banshees regroup, to take their rightful place at the top of the tree.
Sadly, any reunion would be without McGeoch, who died in 2004. McGeoch was classed as a Punk Jimmy Page, and had successful career with Magazine, Visage, The Banshees, and Public Image Ltd. I’ll leave it to McGeoch to describe performing with The Banshees in concert at De Meervaart:
‘It was great, because I felt like I was a teenager again, which was at least 20 years ago - and it’s nice to have memories like that.’
And o, what memories.
02. “Painted Bird”
03. “Arabian Knights”
05. Interview with band
07. “Happy House”
08. “Head Cut”
09. Interview Steven & Siouxsie
10. “Voodoo Dolly”
11. “But Not Them”
12. “Sin in My Heart”
When he moved back to Dundee, Billy Mackenzie didn’t have any recording equipment in his home, and would spend hours in the local ‘phone booth, singing his latest ideas down the line to his record producer. It was typical of the maverick singer and musician whose life ran like a series of connected film scenes, from his early marriage in Las Vegas, to the excesses and glamor of his career as one half (with the prodigiously talented Alan Rankine) of the perfect pop duo The Associates.
Starting out in the mid-1970s, The Associates went on to create a giddy, euphoric soundtrack, around Billy Mackenzie’s incredible voice, which thrilled throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. From the opening chords of “Party Fears Two”, a new world of sensation opened - a world of expectation, excitement, pleasure, hurt and despair - emotions that in time came to reflect Mackenzie’s life.
As their success grew, so did the money (reputedly millions) and drugs (there’s a story of Rankine and Mackenzie being kept on heart monitors for 4 days after ingesting excessive amounts of cocaine), and the fears about performing (a tour of America was canceled days before it was to take place). Rankine eventually quit the band. Mackenzie carried on. Until in the 1990s, the record label were no longer willing to pay for Billy’s unfettered genius. Told of their plans over lunch, Billy only asked for one thing, a taxi home. An account cab was booked, thinking Mackenzie was only returning to his London address, instead he took it all the way back to Dundee, in Scotland.
As Marc Almond points out in this documentary on Mackenzie, The Glamour Chase, Billy must have known genuine heartache to sing with such painful beauty. Tragically, it was such heartache, this time over his mother’s untimely death, that led Billy Mackenzie to commit suicide, at the age of 39, in 1997. Such a terrible loss that revealed the darkness at the heart of The Associates’ music.
With contributions from Alan Rankine, Paul Haig, Siouxsie Sioux, Marc Almond, Martin Fry, Glenn Gregory and Billy’s family, The Glamour Chase is a moving testament to the scale of Billy Mackenzie‘s talent.
Happy Birthday Siouxsie Sioux - lead singer and co-founder (along with Steven Severin) of one the most important, brilliant and influential bands of the past 35 years.
Siouxsie was a pioneer in both music and as a role model, breaking down stereotypes and putting women on a par with men, “rather than just objects”. As journalist Jon Savage, once wrote, Siouxsie was “unlike any female singer before or since, commanding yet aloof, entirely modern.”
Siouxsie and The Banshees were, without doubt, the most audacious, artistically creative and musically ambitious band to have arisen out of Punk, who generated their own musical genres from a mix of Pop, Punk and the Avant Garde.
Punk may be long dead, but the interest in its music, ideas and artifacts continues. Over at the Independent, writer Michael Bracewell introduces a selection of photographs by Simon Barker, a former member of the legendary Bromley Contingent, the group of original Punks that included Siouxsie Sioux, Steven Severin, Jordan, Bertie “Berlin” Marshall, Tracie O’Keefe, and Billy Idol. Barker was a participant and witness to some of the key events during the 14 months, in 1976 and 1977, when Punk changed everything - as Bracewell explains:
[Barker’s] photographs share with Nan Goldin’s early studies of the New York and Boston sub-cultures of the 1970s, a profound and joyously audacious sense of youth going out on its own into new freedoms and new possibilities.
In this, Barker’s photographs from this period capture a moment when the tipping point between innocence and experience has yet to be reached. The model and sub-cultural celebrity Jordan, for example, is photographed as a self-created work of art – her features resembling a Picasso mask, her clothes more post-war English county librarian. The provocation of her image remains untamed and unassimilated, nearly 40 years later; and within her surrealist pose there is the triumph of art made in the medium of sub-cultural lifestyle.
Barker/Six was a member of the so-called ‘Bromley Contingent’ of very early followers of The Sex Pistols and the retail and fashion work of McLaren and Vivienne Westwood. Other members would include the musicians Siouxsie Sioux and Steven Severin, and the writer Bertie Marshall, then known as ‘Berlin’ in homage to the perceived glamour and decadence of the Weimar republic. Originating from suburbia, but all determined to leave its security as soon as possible, the Bromley Contingent became the British sub-cultural equivalent, in many ways, of Andy Warhol’s notorious ‘superstars’ – volatile, at times self-destructive or cruelly elitist, but dedicated to a creed of self-reinvention and personal creativity.
It is this creed, as opposed to the swiftly commercialised music of punk, that Barker’s photographs from the period anatomise so well. At once intimate and forensic, austere and camp, documentary and touchingly elegiac, these photographs capture a milieu experiencing a heroic sense of being outsiders – a condition that has always been the privilege of youth, and which has long claimed many victims in its enticing contract with the thrill of taking an oppositional stance.
Read the whole article and see more of Simon’s photographs here.
Simon Barker’s book Punk’s Dead is available here.
The Banshees: Steven Severin, Kenny Morris and John McKay
I first met Peter Boyd Maclean about twenty years ago, when he was about 12, or so it seemed, as he was precociously young and at the same time incredibly wise, and most annoyingly Talented with a capital ‘T’. He had arrived from the ether to work at the Beeb as a top director / producer, having made a splash on that TV earthquake known as Network 7. He was funny, witty and always made work fun. I recall at the time Peter had just “Shot the shit” out of some island to placate his over-zealous exec, who repeatedly demanded “Pictures! Coverage! More pictures! More coverage!” every 10 minutes by ‘phone, fax and pigeon post. Since then m’colleague, has gone on to greater achievements and awards and hairstyles of interesting description.
He also made this rather super documentary on Punk, 1-2 FU with Jonathan Ross taking a personal odyssey through the music of his youth. It’s quirky, orignal, and has an impressive line-up of the punk bands who most effected the TV showman, including Steven Severin, Ari Up, The Damned, Adam Ant, etc. Like the best of Peter’s work, F-U 12 takes an original approach to a subject, rather than the usually biblical reverence of “In the beginning was Punk and the Punk was with…” etc. Of particular note here, is Jonathan’s bus tour of London’s punk clubs, and his rendition (as in torture) of “Anarchy in the U.K.”
Now here’s more of the same from the official blurb:
Jonathan Ross presents the ‘Memoirs of a Middle-Aged Punk’ in this authored documentary charting the rise and demise of the most nihilistic movement in the history of British music.
Jonathan delivers a fast and furious rant confessing his passion for punk and the lasting effect it’s had on everything, from music and fashion to art and television.
As a forty-something whose life has been defined by punk and all the anarchy it stood for, Jonathan sets out to discover if punk really changed the world or was it all overblown hype?
To fully explore the legacy of punk, Jonathan gets a Mohican and grabs Captain Sensible to join him as he transports an open-top bus full of punks on a tour around London’s most notorious punk hotspots.
Finally, it’s Jonathan Ross as you’ve never seen him before when he fulfils his ultimate punk fantasy performing with Vic Reeves as The Fat Punks for one night only.
Siouxsie Sioux and Budgie share their recipe for marzipan bees on British children’s TV show The Wide Awake Club in 1986.
A baby seal, a skull tipped walking cane, the water phone, marzipan bees and a hacky sack playing fool in the background, it’s all quite surreal. Imagine watching this in the morning after a night of no sleep….which is exactly what I’m doing right now.