Six definitive songs: The ultimate beginner’s guide to Siouxsie Sioux
Siouxsie Sioux is one of the most erudite singer-songwriters the 20th-century music industry has ever seen. Born on 27th May 1957, Susan Janet Ballion, professionally known as Siouxsie Sioux, is best known as the lead singer of the rock band Siouxsie and the Banshees. The group has released 11 studio albums and has had several chart-topping singles. In 1981 Siouxsie formed a second group called The Creatures with whom she created four studio albums. After disbanding The Creatures in 2005, she continued as a solo artist, and released the album Mantaray to critical acclaim in 2007.
Siouxsie had a rough childhood. From having an alcoholic father who had made growing up in the society difficult for her to being sexually assaulted at the age of nine only for her parents as well as the authorities to completely disregard her claims, Siouxsie quickly realised that she was her only hope. As she said later, “I grew up having no faith in adults as responsible people. And being the youngest in the family I was isolated – I had no one to confide in. So, I invented my own world, my own reality. It was my own way of defending myself – protecting myself from the outside world. The only way I could deal with how to survive was to get some strong armour.”
Siouxsie became well known for being a part of what was called the “Bromley Contingent” – a group of eccentric teenagers devoted to the Sex Pistols. She became infamous for the swastika-designed armband that she wore to a Sex Piston concert in France. She claimed her intent for doing that was to shock the bourgeoisie, not make a political statement.
Siouxsie Sioux has been an iconic figure – for her radical fashion choices to coming up with some of the unique lyrics and musical styles for her songs, for not conforming to the concept of the ‘ideal woman’, and mostly, for revolutionising rock music in her own unique and remarkable way.
Here are some of her most iconic songs.
‘Hong Kong Garden’ (1978)
This song was Siouxsie and the Banshees’ debut single, released in 1978, one year after the group started touring. The song was named after a Chinese take away in Chislehurst. Siouxsie explained the idea behind the lyrics of the song with reference to racist activities that were carried out at the takeaway saying, “Me and my friend were really upset that we used to go there and like, occasionally when the skinheads would turn up, it would turn really ugly.
“These gits would just go in en masse and just terrorise these Chinese people who were working there. We’d try and say, ‘Leave them alone’, you know. It (referring to the song) was a kind of tribute.” The song reached number seven on the UK Singles Chart and became one of the first post-punk hits with its innovative approach to the musical elements.
‘Happy House’ (1980)
Another song by Siouxsie and the Banshees, ‘Happy House’ was initially released as a single in June 1980 and then later added to the band’s third album Kaleidoscope (August 1980). Around this time, two new members had joined the group with Slits drummer Budgie and Magazine guitarist John McGeoch, thereby incorporating greater musicality.
‘Happy House’ is basically a song where Siouxsie mocks the pretentious nature of the so-called happy family in a society that is designed to suck all the happiness out of people’s lives. As the song goes, “We’ve come to scream in the happy house / We’re in a dream in the happy house / We’re all quite sane.” Siouxsie commented on the song saying, “It is sarcastic. In a way, like television, all the media, it is like adverts, the perfect family, whereas it is more common that husbands beat their wives.” The single became the band’s second top 20 hit, coming in at number 17 in the UK Singles Chart.
The song is one of the most haunting yet magnificent of the Banshees’ works. With reference to the Middle East and religion and lyrics that could very well be worthy of being a stand-alone poem, what makes the song even more beautiful is the way that the bad delivers it.
It is deep and eerie and engrossing with music that is mind-boggling. This was the band’s third single released in 1980, and while the song was certainly quite far away from being Christmassy, it managed to become a Christmas hit and peaked the charts at number 41, remaining as one of their best songs of all time.
Peek-a-Boo, surprising as it may sound, came out by a glorious mistake. Mike Hedges, their producer, had accidentally played a track backwards resulting in a sound loop that inspired Siouxsie to write a song. The distinctive sound of the song was highly appreciated by critics and audience alike and reached number 53 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.
Released in 1988 as the first single of the Banshees’ fifth album, Peek-a-Boo became their fifth top 20 UK hit, peaking at number 16 in the Singles Chart. A cover version of the song was used in the 2001 film Jeepers Creepers.
‘Here Comes That Day’ (2007)
This is the second single from Siouxsie’s solo album Mantaray. Released in 2007, the song was named Single of the Week on BBC Radio 2 in December 2007. This song was exclusive in the way that it incorporated a sort of jazzy yet pop tune accompanied by Siouxsie’s sultry vocals with prominent beats.
Apart from ‘Here Comes That Day’, Mantaray included two other singles, ‘Into a Swan’ and “About to Happen’ which are tracks also worth mentioning.
‘Right Now’ (1983)
Albeit a cover of the original song by Herbie Mann, this track is one of the finest works of Siouxsie’s with The Creatures. This cover of ‘Right Now’ was released as a single in 1983. It was recorded in ’60s style with a brass section, (which had Gary Barnacle on the saxophone, Peter Thoms on trombone and Luke Tunney on the trumpet) and timpani, resulted in the song peaking at number 14 in the UK Singles Chart, leading to an appearance on BBC’s Top of the Pops.
The Creature’s version of the song was later added in their 1997 compilation album A Bestiary Of and certainly deserves a place in the list of some of their finest songs.