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The fractured relationship between Siouxsie Sioux and Robert Smith

The connection between Siouxise and The Banshees and The Cure is a well-known one. Two bands who formed in the ashes of punk and became early heroes of the subsequent post-punk movement before forming a gothic style all of their own, you wouldn’t be wrong in regarding both outfits as separate sides of the same coin.

You could argue that Siouxsie and The Banshees were the first band from the original post-punk movement to truly ‘make it’. Formed in 1976, their debut album, 1978’s The Scream, has been hailed as an influence by everyone from Steve Albini to Mike Patton, and yes, even The Cure. So when The Cure formed in 1978, Siouxsie and The Banshees were well in the ascendance. It wouldn’t be long before their paths would cross. 

Hitting their creative stride, The Banshees followed up their debut with the much more haunting Join Hands, in September the following year. The band probably thought it’d be plain sailing from there on in, but the band’s original lineup was about to combust. Guitarist John McKay and drummer Kenny Morris had become increasingly alienated from bassist Steven Severin and frontwoman Siouxsie Sioux, and after a brawl at a record store in Aberdeen before the tour for Join Hands, McKay and Morris left, never to return.

This left the band in the lurch. The day the duo left was the day of the album’s release. At soundcheck for the show that night, Sioux and Severin realised how much of a mess they were in when McKay and Morris never showed. The Cure were supporting them on the tour, and it was Robert Smith who came to the pair’s rescue. The Cure played an extended set that night, and at his suggestion, he helped the remnants of The Banshees perform an extended version of ‘The Lord’s Prayer’, a song the band had been known for performing in the early days.

Of her ex-bandmates, Sioux was quoted as saying: “If you have one ounce of hatred like we had for those two arty ones, you can kill them in my name”. In the days after the Aberdeen show, Sioux and Severin scrambled to find new bandmates. Budgie, the drummer of The Slits, was recruited, but they still struggled to find a guitarist.

Smith eventually offered himself, as The Cure were already supporting The Banshees, so logistically, it made sense. After the tour finished, Smith returned to The Cure. The Banshees then held official auditions and quickly settled on Magazine and Visage guitar hero John McGeoch, who helped The Banshees to have their best artistic moments. However, due to the stresses of touring, McGeoch developed an alcohol problem, and after collapsing owing to a nervous breakdown at a show in Madrid in October 1982, he departed. 

The band then welcomed Smith in for a second time, and this time his tenure was made permanent. At the time, The Cure had gone through their own inner turmoil after making Pornography, which led to bassist Simon Gallup leaving. The opportunity to join The Banshees seemed to be the perfect ointment for the anguish Smith felt. 

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Interestingly, during this period with the band, and from hanging out at the centre of all things goth, The Batcave in London, Smith developed his signature look, backcomb, lipstick and all. Smith’s most famous moment with The Banshees came in 1983 when they released their cover of The Beatles classic ‘Dear Prudence’. He played on the Nocturne live album, as well as tracks such as ‘Dazzle’ and ‘Swimming Horses’. 

At the time, Smith had formed The Glove with Severin, Porl Thompson and Andy Anderson of The Cure and dancer Jeanette Landray. Furthermore, later in 1983, The Cure returned from their hiatus and having this many bands to juggle took its toll on Smith. Before the tour for The Banshees’ sixth album, 1984’s Hyæna, Smith quit. 

Understandably, this drew the ire of the quick to anger Sioux. In a 2005 interview with Uncut, she recalled: “It wasn’t like he was ill. He was one of those people who just didn’t say ‘no’ to anything, so when it’s self-induced it’s hard to have sympathy. To actually say two days before a tour that’s been planned in advance that he can’t do it – fuck off! What a lightweight.” 

Later, Smith would weigh in on the furore he caused. He explained: “I think Severin understood and, by then, my mind was made up. After all, I’d given them two weeks’ notice, which was longer than any guitarist had given them before”. 

It’s been made clear many times over the years that Severin and Smith have remained friends over the years, but as for Sioux, we’re less sure. That issue of Uncut that Sioux appeared in was a dedication to all things goth, and it had Smith on the cover. The first thing she said to the interviewer was “WHY’S HE ON THE COVER?” Before appending, “Fat fool!”

We don’t know if the remark was in jest or not, but you can bet your bottom dollar that she still hasn’t forgotten Smith’s second departure from the band.

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