Listen to Siouxsie and The Banshees provocative debut at the 100 club, 1976
The first moments of a band’s live career are always crucial. Whether it’s that they highlight the group’s musical prowess, their snarling attitude, their chemistry or indeed their lack of playing ability. The first steps on to the stage for the 19-year-old Siouxsie Sioux and her band The Banshees somehow managed to incorporate all four and all were equally revealing.
On Monday 20th September 1976, The 100 Club was holding what would become an iconic festival of punk. Known as The 100 Club Punk Special, it was here that Siouxsie Sioux and The Banshees would make their live debut.
A large part of the iconic London venue’s iconography, the event featured some of the scene’s brightest stars from across The Capital’s bubbling alternative scene. From The Clash and the Sex Pistols to The Damned and the Buzzcocks — this two-day event housed the jewels of the newly forming safety-pin crown.
The event was brimming with talent and people seemingly with a talent for no-talent. It was set to ignite a whole scene, the likes of which would never truly be seen again—spawning countless musicians, bands, and entire genres. With very few venues willing to put on an event that included the Sex Pistols and their fans— AKA The Bromley contingent—The 100 club provided the pulsating punks with a place to call their own, if only for two unstoppable nights.
Trouble struck though when, just a few days before the show, Malcolm McLaren, Sex Pistols manager and Chief PR mischief-maker, was told that one of the scheduled bands were being forced to drop out. A scramble for a new band ensued until one of the in-crowd that swarmed Vivienne Westwood’s Kings Road store SEX on a daily basis came forward. That person was soon to be known as Siouxsie Sioux.
She, alongside Steven Severin, instantly took up the challenge to form a band in just a few short hours. After all, what else would a punk do? It didn’t take them long either.
Quickly they had recruited future Adam Ant collaborator Marco Pirroni but had been turned down by a young Billy Broad—soon to take over America as Billy Idol—as he felt it would damage his reputation. Soon though, they had their final member join when Sid Vicious (soon-to-be a Pistol) joined the band on drums. “He said he had absolutely no ability,” Severin recalls. “That sounded absolutely brilliant to us.”
The new band decided to meet up, perhaps thinking that for at least one practice session before going on stage was advisable. Considering most of the band members didn’t know how to play any instrument, let alone the one they had in front of them, it was a smart idea.
They went to North London and, more accurately, yo Camden’s famous rehearsal studio at Camden Lock to plug in and see what happened. Quickly after 10 minutes of thrashing around, Vicious allegedly called it quits on rehearsal time saying, “That’s enough”.
With the impending debut looming, the newly-formed band huddled into a discussion about what songs they would like to trash. Everything from the Goldfinger theme tune to a Bay City Rollers number were highlighted as potentials for a good punking. But they soon settled on a 20-minute improvised version of ‘The Lord’s Prayer’. It would not only allow the band’s subversive tendencies to find the spotlight but would also allow the lack of musicianship to take a backseat.
The stage was set, the lights were bright and the crowd, well, they didn’t really know what they were in for. But still, Siouxsie had big plans, “I wanted something apocalyptic to happen, like making people’s guts fall out.” With a seriously under-rehearsed show, she wasn’t far wrong.
It was a similar sentiment expressed by (her partner at the time) Steven Severin, who had only just started holding a bass guitar 24 hours prior to the event. He said, “We were wilfully perverse and anti-everything.” Embodying the spirit of punk the pair made sure they were not to be forgotten.
The band would open the show accompanied by a reem of Nazi-style regalia, with Siouxsie sporting a swastika armband and Vicious wearing a self-designed Belsen Babies T-shirt. They were making good on their promise. They then launched into a 20-minute improvisation of the agreed ‘Lord’s Prayer’ all based around Vicious’ mawkish drumming.
It would leave the crowd with their jaws on the floor. Siouxsie Sioux would pepper the set with lines from ‘Twist & Shout’ and ‘Deutschland, Deutschland Über Alles’ all while Johnny Rotten pogoed around the room. It’s a bonafide punk renaissance painting. Sid Vicious eventually decided to stop playing (smashing his kit) and the band all stopped with him. It would be the start of one of the more important bands in British rock history.
“I picked up my beer, got off the stage and walked through the audience,” Siouxsie recalls in her biography. “There was a pause then everyone started clapping. As I walked away, I had no idea I’d be doing this for the next 30 plus years.”