Halloween songs no. 30: Siouxsie and the Banshees – “Halloween”

JujuHere’s a classic from Siouxsie and the Banshees, although I’m pretty sure it’s not about the Halloween holiday itself but rather a loss of innocence that comes with age and the wearing of an emotional “mask” in interacting with others. But hey, it’s very Halloween-y in a superficial way.

Before she was the queen of post-punk, Siouxsie Sioux was a Sex Pistols superfan, part of the “Bromley Contingent” who’d come up from southeast London to follow the band’s activities (the group also included future rockers Steve Severin and Billy Idol). They were known for their fashions, which helped shape the early UK punk look along with (and sometimes utilizing or inspired by) designs from the Sex/Seditionaries shop run by Vivienne Westwood and Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren. Siouxsie in particular incorporated a lot of fetish and bondage clothing, swastikas and other Nazi imagery, and an innovative style of makeup that in some ways recalled A Clockwork Orange and presaged many goth fashions. Members of the Bromley Contingent, including Sioux and Severin, appeared with the Pistols on the infamous Bill Grundy interview in which the host hit on Siouxsie, provoking the band members to swear at him which caused a ruckus in the press, with Siouxsie being called “a punk shocker“.

When McLaren organized the 100 Club Punk Special in September 1976, Sioux and Severin threw together a band on 2 days’ notice to fill an open spot on the bill. This embryonic lineup of the Banshees included Siouxsie on vocals, Severin on bass, future Adam and the Ants guitarist Marco Pirroni, and fellow Sex Pistols superfan (and future Pistols bassist) Sid Vicious on drums. Together they fumbled through a 20-minute improvisation on “The Lord’s Prayer”. After this strange start, Siouxsie and Severin began shaping the Banshees into a real band with drummer Kenny Morris and guitarist John McKay. Their debut single, 1978’s “Hong Kong Garden“, hit the top ten and established them as forerunners of the the emerging post-punk genre, an arty, experimental wave following in the wake of punk rock’s initial blast. Morris and McKay quit the band after their first 2 albums. Slits drummer Budgie was brought in and remained a Banshee until the band’s dissolution. Several guitarists went through the ranks over the years; Robert Smith of The Cure even filled in with them in ’79 and again from ’82–’84.

On fourth album Juju (1981) the lineup was Siouxsie, Severin, Budgie, and John McGeoch. Drawing on darker elements than their earlier material, it became one of their biggest sellers. Brooding and atmospheric, it’s sometimes considered a gothic rock work though the band, particularly Siouxsie, disputed this label. Siouxsie and the Banshees continued on until 1996, releasing 11 studio albums. Siouxsie and Budgie, who’d married in ’91, developed their side project The Creatures into a full-time act which continued until the couple divorced in 2005. The Banshees briefly reconvened in 2002 for a tour to promote the remastering of their back catalog. Siouxsie released her first solo album, MantaRay, in 2007.


The night is still
And the frost it bites my face
I wear my silence like a mask
And murmur like a ghost

Trick or treat, trick or treat
The bitter and the sweet

The carefree days are distant now
I wear my memories like a shroud
I try to speak but words collapse
Echoing, echoing

I wander though your sadness
Gazing at you with scorpion eyes
Halloween, Halloween

A sweet reminder
In the ice-blue nursery
Of a childish murder
Of hidden luster, and she cries

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