40 Years Ago: Siouxsie and the Banshees Make Their Live Debut
Siouxsie and the Banshees made their debut on Sept, 20, 1976 during a two-day punk festival at London's 100 Club. At the time, the band consisted of Steve Bailey aka Steve Havoc aka Steve Severin on bass, Marco Pirroni (later of Adam & the Ants) on guitar and John Simon Ritchie, aka Sid Vicious on drums, and Siouxsie Sioux on vocals.
Prior to diving into music herself, Siouxsie was a rabid fan, and part of what had become known as the Bromley Contingent, a group of like-minded friends who were first on the scene as punk was taking shape. Inspired by the raw energy and unhinged style of the Sex Pistols, these fans threw caution to the wind and jumped in themselves. Severin had only started to play the bass the day before the gig!
"Certainly, a lot of the people were just picking up instruments for the first time and didn’t have much experience in playing or writing songs," Severin told Music Radar in 2014. "I think a lot of us had had a long gestation period of listening to music, which was just as important. The first time I really played anything was the day before the festival. We had about a 10-minute rehearsal and Sid said, ‘That’s enough!’ and we quit."
Their short set was nothing if not chaotic, and included attempts at "Twist and Shout," Bob Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," "Deutschland Uber Alles" and an manic reworking of "The Lord's Prayer," which would ultimately be refined and included on their debut album. "It was just a door opening," added Severin, "which, up until that time, had seemed firmly shut. I think everybody just took the opportunity.” Other acts that took the stage during the festival included the Clash, the Damned, Subway Sect, and the Sex Pistols,
Siouxsie found strength and a home in the punk scene, so it's little surprise she seized the moment to jump onstage. "I was very lonely, actually. The few friends I had were gypsies," she told Paul Morley in the NME back in 1978. "When I was eight I tried to commit suicide to get noticed by my parents. I used to do things like fall on the floor upstairs so that they'd think I'd fallen downstairs, and I'd have bottles of pills in my hands. I've always felt on the outside, really."
"She is nothing if not magnificent," Caroline Coon in the Melody Maker review of the event. "Her short hair, which she sweeps in great waves over her head, is streaked with red like flames. She'll wear black plastic non-existent bras, one mesh and one rubber stocking and suspender belts all covered by a polka dotted transparent plastic mac."
This would unintentionally prove to be the starting point for an incredible career that would produce 12 albums over nearly 20 years. "The [Rolling] Stones and the Who, when they came along, they thought they were great because they destroyed everything that went before them," said Severin back in 1976. "But now they can't take it because we're destroying everything that's gone before us."
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