Updated: Mar 6
The dark cult of her sound and aesthetics made her an icon of English post-punk, positioning her as a great protagonist of the scene. Every step that she took was a clue that started a path from how we should behave, dress and think. The albums she released in 1980 and 1981 changed the course of English rock forever.
Susan Janet Ballion (London 1957), was a teenager from the English suburbs who was part of the "Bromley Contingent" a group of Sex Pistols fans who went everywhere with them. Among them were other well-known artists (not at that time) such as Billy Idol, and Steven Severin, one of the guitarists who accompanied her on live gigs for 20 years. From that moment on, without knowing it, Susan began to become an epitome of the scene thanks to her bondage outfits and her excessive make-up that was sometimes dismal.
Like many young people, Susan and her friends soon realized that what the Pistols were doing, they could do. It was in September 1976 when Malcolm McLaren (manager of the Sex Pistols) organized a festival of emerging bands at the legendary 100 Club in London. By that night Susan Ballion was already known as Siouxsie Sioux.
"Siouxsie just appeared fully made, fully in control, utterly confident. It totally blew me away."
Viv Albertine about the first concert of Siouxsie and the Banshees.
That night Siouxsie and her friend Severin went on stage, accompanied by some musicians from other bands that were in the room. Among which was the then bassist of the Sex Pistols "Sid Vicious", who joined to play drums in a performance where they perpetrated a 20 MINUTES version of the "Lord's Prayer", mixed with fragments of The Beatles' songs like "Twist and shout" and Bob Dylan's "Knockin' on heaven's doors", while the background band played new wave post-punk, something that ended up being what is known today as gothic rock. It can be said that in that first show, she did more for the music than many artists in their career. She did it in such an incredible way that that same night, the band won a lot of fans and inspired hundreds of young people who were present like Viv Albertine from the group The Slits, ( one of the few punk bands of the seventies formed only by girls ), or Peter Hook from Joy Division and New Order. Thus was born Siouxsie and the Banshees.
The emergence of Siouxsie and the Banshees was different to everything that was happening in the English music scene, not only because of the music, but also because of the image, Siouxsie was a woman who broke with all the schemes and stereotypes, she dressed very differently from the punks, and to everything that was presented in the music scene of the country at that time, her appearance was a mixture impossible to describe.
"My favourite show I ever saw then was Siouxsie and she was absolutely amazing. ... She's totally in command of the whole audience."
Thom Yorke about Siouxsie
In 1981, after three great albums, the Banshees released "Ju Ju", another parameter that the British band marked in English music since nothing was ever the same again. Many contemporary bands such as The Smith, Savages, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, or LCD Soundsystem took their influence, even reaching artists of the present like The Weekend, who in 2011 sampled several elements of the original version of the song "Happy House" in his song "House of Balloons" from the mixtape album of the same name. Even Thom Yorke, leader of Radiohead, confessed in an interview on BBC Radio 6 that it was after seeing Siouxsie on stage that he decided he wanted to be a singer.
“What I really resent about people sticking labels on you”
Unlike many bands in the genre at the time, Siouxsie and the Banshees had a fairly long career, as they did not stop until 1996. Beyond being the queen of Gothic rock, nothing would be the same either aesthetically or musically in rock in general without Siouxsie. In an interview in 2004, she said: " What I really resent most about people sticking labels on you is that it cuts off all the other elements of what you are because it can only deal with black and white; the cartoon." And she demonstrated this throughout her career.