This design was a personal commission for my daughter’s birthday. She had mentioned more than once that I might want to do a perSISTERS poster for Siouxsie Sioux. And then it was going to be her birthday and I thought I would do one especially for her. You might be able to tell that I have to devote some time to research for each perSISTER so that I can try to get to the essence of a woman’s power or gift. Well, I found out that Siouxsie Sioux really is amazing, and here is what I discovered:
“I do remember wanting to come across as all-powerful and I wanted to kind of make it painful for people.”
Siouxsie Sioux (Born Susan Janet Ballion on 27 May 1957), has been called “one of the most influential British singers of the rock era” because of her work with her revolutionary band, Siouxsie and the Banshees. Her musical genres are called “Post-punk, new wave, gothic rock, alternative rock, and exotica,” although in interviews she resists most labels. About her difficult youth she has said, “growing up in the suburbs you’re always very aware of being different. You want desperately to just not stick out. Thankfully as I grew older I kind of appreciated the difference and, I guess, accentuated it.”
This is adapted from Wikipedia (mostly) and several interviews available online:
At 17, she left school. It was during this period that she began frequenting the local gay discos where most of her sister’s friends used to go. She introduced her own friends to that scene. In November 1975, a new young group called Sex Pistols performed at the local art college in Chislehurst. Siouxsie did not attend, but one of her friends told her how their singer threatened the string of students present at that gig. In February 1976, Siouxsie and her friend Steven Severin (then still called Steven Bailey) went to see Sex Pistols play in the capital. After chatting with members of the band, Siouxsie and Severin decided to follow them regularly. In the following months, journalist Caroline Coon coined the term “Bromley Contingent” to describe this group of eccentric teenagers devoted to the Sex Pistols.
Siouxsie became well known in the London club scene for her glam, fetish and bondage attire, which later became part of punk fashion. She would also later epitomise gothic style with her signature cat-eye makeup, deep red lipstick, spiky dyed-black hair and black clothing. One music critic has pointed out, “She was overtly sexual on a level, but not for anyone’s pleasure but her own.”
One of Siouxsie’s first public appearances was with the Sex Pistols on Bill Grundy’s television show, on Thames Television in December 1976. Standing next to the band, Siouxsie made fun of the presenter when he asked her how she was doing. She responded: “I’ve always wanted to meet you, Bill”. Grundy, who was drunk, suggested a meeting after the show. That directly provoked a reaction from guitarist Steve Jones, who responded with a series of expletives never heard before on early-evening television. This episode created a media furore on the front covers of several tabloids, including the Daily Mirror, which published the headline “Siouxsie’s a Punk Shocker”. This event had a major impact on Sex Pistols’ subsequent career, and overnight, they became a household name.
Not liking the cliches put forward by the press, Siouxsie distanced herself from that scene and stopped seeing Sex Pistols. She decided to focus all her energy on her own band, Siouxsie and the Banshees…
Following the adage of DIY and the idea that the people in the audience could be the people on stage, Siouxsie and Severin decided to form a band. When a support slot at the 100 Club Punk Festival (organised by Malcolm McLaren) opened up, they decided to make an attempt at performing, although at that time they did not know how to play any songs. On 20 September 1976, the band improvised music as Siouxsie sang the “Lord’s Prayer”. The performance lasted 20 minutes.
For critic Jon Savage, Siouxsie was “unlike any female singer before or since, commanding yet aloof, entirely modern.” She opened a new era for women in music as Viv Albertine from the Slits would later comment:
“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”.
The singer from Radiohead, Thom Yorke, said: “The band that really changed my life was R.E.M. and Siouxsie and the Banshees …”. “My favourite show I ever saw then was Siouxsie and she was absolutely amazing. … She’s totally in command of the whole audience”. Yorke added that she “made an especially big impression in concert, she was really sexy but absolutely terrifying.”
Siouxsie Sioux is still making music, evading categories, and taking command. “I was doing what I wanted to do.”