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Music

Siouxsie and the Banshees get weird in ‘Play at Home’ special with Robert Smith

Siouxsie and the Banshees became one of the first bands of the London post-punk scene when they formed in 1976. The group underwent a number of lineup changes over the years and even had Sid Vicious on the drums for a short time as they attempted to find their feet.

By 1979, Siouxsie and the Banshees were about to set off on tour in support of their second studio album, Join Hands, when guitarist John McKay and drummer Kenny Morris decided to quit the group leaving Siouxsie Sioux and Steven Severin in a bit of a pickle. In search of replacements, they managed to enlist the Slits percussionist Peter Clarke (AKA Budgie), but they still needed a guitarist. Fortunately, The Cure were scheduled to support The Banshees on tour and Robert Smith stepped forward to support the group on guitar as a temporary replacement.

In 1982, The Cure released their fourth album, Pornography, an anguished gothic take on psychedelic rock, fuelled by depression and LSD. The group toured Europe in support of the album shortly thereafter, amid growing tensions within the group which reached breaking point at a gig in Brussels where a friend of bassist Simon Gallup’s ran out onto the stage yelling abuse at Smith through the microphone. Smith responded by throwing his drumsticks at Gallup before walking off and cutting the performance short. 

Following this incident and the ongoing creative and personal disputes between Smith and Gallup, The Cure took a hiatus where Smith once again joined his friends in Siouxsie and the Banshees. During this period, Smith was still recovering from the emotional turmoil experienced with The Cure and decided to remain a full-time Banshee between 1982-84. During this period, the group revelled in the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle indulging in drugs and excess. The group were particularly interested in the reality-warping effects of LSD which, incidentally, fellow Banshee Steven Severin had introduced Smith to a year or two beforehand. 

In 1984, the group seemed to show the fruit of their go-to chemical in a remarkably odd television production. The UK’s brand new Channel 4 ran a short series called ‘Play At Home’ in 1984 which offered big musical acts, including New Order, Echo and the Bunnymen and Virginia Astley an hour of air time to create pretty much whatever they fancied showing to the British public. When Siouxsie and the Banshees, who had The Cure’s Robert Smith in their ranks at the time, had their time to shine, they created possibly the strangest thing you’ll ever see on television.

For their 50-minute Play At Home special, Siouxsie and the Banshees filmed and produced a wonderfully weird production that shows a montage of strange psychedelic muses inspired mostly by Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, but also seems to give a nod to the nonsensical sketches of Monty Python. The visual feast includes a Mad Hatter’s tea party, spoken word absurdity and Siouxsie Sioux dressed like Alice in Wonderland – what’s not to like? In between the sketches of twisted reality and deranged narrative are a number of musical excursions performed by the group and some of their friends from The Creatures and The Glove.

Experience the short film below and see if you can make any sense of the unmitigated madness.