Siouxsie Sioux is one of the most important musicians of the past 50 years. Growing up in the suburb of Chislehurst, London, she always knew she was different, and her early experiences of living on the peripheries of her family and of the local community inspired the rage in her that would drive her to cast off the connection she once had to the Sex Pistols. As the frontwoman of Siouxsie and the Banshees, she cultivated a unique and uncompromising style that continues to inspire to this day.
Sioux showed that women could tussle with the men and win resoundingly. The list of female pioneers she made an impact on is truly dizzying, and without her, the landscape of alternative culture would look very barren in comparison to the fluid menagerie it is today.
Take this account of her from the equally as legendary Viv Albertine of the Slits: “Siouxsie just appeared fully made, fully in control, utterly confident. It totally blew me away. There she was doing something that I dared to dream but she took it and did it and it wiped the rest of the festival for me, that was it. I can’t even remember everything else about it except that one performance.” Her impact goes far beyond just galvanising female performers, though.
Massive Attack, Tricky, The Weeknd, Jeff Buckley, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Radiohead, Sonic Youth, Radiohead, Johnny Marr, Joy Division, U2 and The Jesus and Mary Chain are just some of the sonic heroes to mention her as a transformative inspiration. It’s a testament to the quality of her work that she’s managed to influence such a diverse mix of artists.
Notably, Sioux is hailed as the high priestess of all things goth and although she did a lot to advance the proliferation of the subculture, the tag is something that she’s not totally a fan of.
“What I really resent about people sticking labels on you,” she said in 2004, “is that it cuts off the other elements of what you are, because it can only deal with black and white: the cartoon.”
This is understandable, as seeing her as purely a goth is reductive and doesn’t account for just how multi-faceted she is, even if goth itself is a very broad spectrum. Her music is punk, psychedelic, industrial, and much more than purely goth. In a 2005 interview with The Guardian, when discussing her title as “the queen of goth”, she simply said: “I hate all that”.
“Gothic in its purest sense is actually a very powerful, twisted genre, but the way it was being used by by journalists – goff with a double f – always seemed to me to be about tacky harum-scarum horror, and I find that anything but scary,” she explained elsewhere. “That wasn’t what we were about at all.”
Maybe it’s time we start seeing Siouxsie in a different light. Listen to Siouxsie and the Banshees’ Spellbound’ below.