Amongst the riotous swirl of punk bands that emerged in the latter half of the 1970s, there are few that compare to proto-goths Siouxsie and the Banshees. Even if you haven’t heard their immortal track ‘Hong Kong Garden’, you’ll definitely recognise the group’s iconic frontwoman Siouxsie Sioux. Her arched eyeliner, backcombed hair and taste for all things leather heralded the dawn of a new age for women in rock.
Not only was she bestowed with a mesmeric aura, but she also – as this footage reveals – had an intense and otherworldly energy that made even Johnny Rotten look like a petulant child. There was nobody else that looked or sounded like Siouxsie and the Banshees when they burst onto the scene back in 1976, and, well into the 1980s, they continued to astound audiences with their unique blend of electro-infused post-punk. At a time when the theatre of glam-rock was falling out of fashion, Siouxsie Sioux somehow managed to sneak it in unnoticed.
In this video of the band’s gig at The Royal Albert Hall in November 1985, it’s clear how much energy Siouxsie Sioux put into her performances. This gig came at the tail end of an extensive UK tour, during which the frontwoman managed to dislocate her knee. She must have been both exhausted and in no small amount of pain, but she doesn’t let it show, not once. Instead, this concert, which took place just after the release of the band’s single ‘Cities In Dust’, sees Siouxsie Sioux give all her usual ferocity from a rickety wooden chair.
The accident took place the month before, on October 24th, 1985, at London’s Hammersmith Odeon. Siouxsie misstepped while singing ‘Christine’ and ended up crushing her knee. Her leg was put in a cast, and the tour went ahead uninterrupted. “It dislocated completely and came out the other side. It was painful, but it looked much worse — this kneecap hanging out where it shouldn’t be,” she once recalled, “Complications set in, because I carried on with the tour — the leg was in plaster five weeks when it should only have been two. The plaster came off and it wouldn’t bend, it was real horror story stuff.”
The influence of The Banshees cannot be overstated. Using punk as a foundation, the group built a unique sound that blended the danceability of Talking Heads, with dazzling electronic textures, going on to influence a whole host of sub-genres, including goth, shoegaze and even trip-hop. But even in their early days, they were still a huge source of inspiration for the likes of Joy Division.
Indeed, Peter Hook once said: “The Banshees first LP was one of my favourite ever records, the way the guitarist and the drummer played was a really unusual way of playing and this album showcases a landmark performance.” The group were also an obvious influence on Robert Smith of The Cure, whose sad-boy outfits were greatly informed by Siouxsie And The Banshees.
Make sure you check out the footage of The Banshees’ Royal Albert Hall show below.