Siouxsie Sioux (/ˈsuːziː suː/, born Susan Janet Ballion, 27 May 1957) is an English singer-songwriter. She is best known as the lead singer of rock band Siouxsie and the Banshees (1976–1996) and of its splinter group The Creatures (1981–2005). The Banshees produced eleven studio albums and a string of hit singles including "Hong Kong Garden", "Happy House", "Peek-a-Boo" and "Kiss Them for Me". With The Creatures, Siouxsie recorded four studio albums and the hit single "Right Now". She has also recorded songs with artists such as Morrissey and John Cale. In the mid-2000s, she began a solo career and released MantaRay in 2007. Siouxsie is considered to be "one of the most influential British singers of the rock era". Her songs have been covered by Jeff Buckley, Tricky, Massive Attack, LCD Soundsystem,. Her records have also been praised by a wide range of other artists including PJ Harvey and TV on the Radio.
Siouxsie was born Susan Janet Ballion on 27 May 1957 at Guy's Hospital in Southwark, Central London, England. She was the youngest of three children; ten years separate her from her elder brother and sister. Her two elder siblings were born while the family was based in the Belgian Congo. Her parents met in that colony and stayed working there for a few years. Her mother, Betty, was a bilingual English secretary and her father was a Belgian Walloon bacteriologist who milked venom from snakes. In the late 1950s, before Siouxsie's birth, the family transferred to England. The Ballions resided in Chislehurst, in suburban Kent. Her father died prematurely due to cirrhosis of the liver when Siouxsie was 14 years old. This had an adverse effect on her health. She survived a life-threatening bout of ulcerative colitis, which she would later say "completely demystified the body" for her.
During her adolescence, she was a self-described "loner," who enjoyed listening to the music of male outsiders: David Bowie, Lou Reed, Marc Bolan, Bryan Ferry and Iggy Pop. She went out with other young people who were interested in the same kind of music and glam fashion.
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 the Sex Pistols performed at the local art college in Chislehurst. Siouxsie didn't attend, but one of her friends told her how their singer threatened the string of students present at that gig. He added that they sounded like the Stooges. In February 1976, Siouxsie and her friend Steven Severin went to see the Pistols play in the capital. After chatting with members of the band, Siouxsie and Steven 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 were later notable 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.
In early September 1976, the Bromley Contingent followed the Pistols to France, where Siouxsie was beaten up for wearing a black armband with a swastika on it. She claimed her intent was to shock the bourgeoisie, not to make a political statement. She would later write the songs "Metal Postcard (Mittageisen)" (in memory of the anti-Nazi artist John Heartfield).
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 for the 100 Club Punk Festival organised by Malcolm McLaren opened up, they decided to try their chance, although at that time they did not know how to play any songs. On 20 September 1976, the band improvised music as Siouxsie recited poems and prayers she had memorised. The performance lasted twenty minutes.
Not liking the clichés put forward by the press, Siouxsie distanced herself from that scene and stopped seeing the Sex Pistols. She decided to focus all her energy on her own band: The Banshees.
In 1977, Siouxsie began touring in England with Severin on bass guitar as Siouxsie and the Banshees. One year later, their first single, "Hong Kong Garden," reached the top 10 in the UK. With its oriental-inflected xylophone motif, it was depicted by critics as "a bright, vivid narrative, something like snapshots from the window of a speeding Japanese train, power charged by the most original, intoxicating guitar playing heard in a long, long time."
Their first album, 1978's The Scream, was described by Nick Kent in the NME in the following terms: "The band sounds like some unique hybrid of The Velvet Underground mated with much of the ingenuity of Tago Mago-era Can, if any parallel can be drawn." At the end of the article, he added this remark: "Certainly, the traditional three-piece sound has never been used in a more unorthodox fashion with such stunning results." The Scream was later hailed by the NME as one of the best debut albums of all time with Patti Smith's Horses. Join Hands followed in 1979.
The 1980 album Kaleidoscope marked a change of musical direction with the arrival of John McGeoch, considered "one of the most innovative and influential guitarists of the past thirty years". The hit single "Happy House" was qualified as "great pop" with "liquid guitar" and other songs like "Red Light" were layered with electronic sounds. Kaleidoscope widened Siouxsie's audience, reaching the top 5 in the UK charts. Juju followed in 1981, reaching number 7; the singles "Spellbound" and "Arabian Knights" were described as "pop marvels" by the Guardian. During recording sessions for Juju, Siouxsie and drummer Budgie formed a percussion-oriented side project called The Creatures, inspired by the stripped-down sound of vocal and drum tracks. The first record from the duo was the EP Wild Things.
In 1982, the British press greeted the Siouxsie and the Banshees' album A Kiss in the Dreamhouse enthusiastically. Richard Cook in the NME finished his review with "I promise. This music will take your breath away."
In 1988, the single "Peek-a-Boo" marked a musical departure from her previous work: it anticipated hip hop-inspired rock with the use of samples. The song was praised by the NME as "oriental marching band hip hop with farting horns and catchy accordion" and hailed by the Melody Maker as "a brightly unexpected mixture of black steel and pop disturbance." The Peepshow album was considered by critics to be the Banshees' most successful album in years.
Siouxsie then temporarily reformed the Creatures with Budgie and went to Spain to record Boomerang. In his review, Simon Reynolds said that it was her "most inventive and invigorated music since A Kiss in the Dreamhouse.". In 2012, one of the songs, the jazzy "You!" would be used by two dancers in the US TV'show So You Think You Can Dance.
In 1991 with the dance-oriented "Kiss Them for Me" single, Siouxsie used South Asian instrumentation which had become popular in the UK club scene with the growth of bhangra. Indian Tabla player Talvin Singh (who would later be Björk's percussionist on her 1993's Debut album) took part in the session and provided vocals for the bridge. With Kiss Them for Me, Siouxsie and the Banshees scored a hit on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 peaking at number 23. After the release of Superstition that received enthusiastic reviews, the Banshees co-headlined the first Lollapalooza tour, further increasing their American following. In 1992, the Banshees recorded the single "Face to Face" and began a hiatus of a few years. 1993 saw Suede inviting Siouxsie at a benefit concert for Red Hot Organization. She delivered with guitarist Bernard Butler a version of Lou Reed's "Carolyne Says" : Spin reviewed it as "haughty and stately". In 1994, Morrissey, ex-lead singer of The Smiths, recorded a duet with Siouxsie in 1994. They both sang on the single "Interlude", a track that was initially performed by Timi Yuro, a female torch singer of the 1960s. "Interlude" was released under the banner of "Morrissey and Siouxsie". In 1995, Siouxsie released the song "The Lighthouse" on the French producer Hector Zazou's album Chansons des mers froides which translates to Songs from the Cold Seas. Siouxsie and Zazou adapted the poem "Flannan Isle" by English poet Wilfred Wilson Gibson. 1995 was also the year of the last Banshees studio album, The Rapture, was released in 1995. After the accompanying tour, the Banshees announced their split during a press conference called "20 minutes into 20 years".
In February 1998, former Velvet Underground member John Cale invited her at a festival called "With a Little Help From My Friends" that took place at the Paradiso in Amsterdam. The concert was shown on Dutch national television and featured an unreleased composition of Siouxsie, "Murdering Mouth" sung in duet with Cale. The collaboration between the two artists worked so well that they decided to tour the USA during the summer, performing "Murdering Mouth" and Cale's "Gun" together. The following year, Siouxsie and Budgie released the first Creatures album since the split of the Banshees. Anima Animus was described by The Times as "hypnotic and inventive". Also in 1999, Siouxsie collaborated with Marc Almond on the track "Threat Of Love."
In 2002, she was rated in the ten best female rock artists by Q magazine. The same year, Universal put out The Best of Siouxsie and the Banshees as the first re-issue of her back catalogue.
In 2003, Siouxsie was featured on the track "Cish Cash" by Basement Jaxx. The album Kish Kash won Best Electronic/Dance Album at the Grammy Awards. Siouxsie then released the last Creatures album, Hai! which was in part recorded in Japan. Peter Wratts wrote in Time Out: "Her voice is the dominant instrument here, snaking and curling around the bouncing drumming backdrop, elegiac and inhuman as she chants, purrs and whispers her way around the album." He termed the record a "spine-tingling achievement."
In 2004, she toured for the first time as a solo act combining Banshees and Creatures songs. A live DVD called Dreamshow was recorded at the last London concert: that night, she was accompanied by the Millennia Ensemble. Released in August 2005, this DVD reached the number one position in the UK music DVD charts.
Her first solo album MantaRay was released in September 2007. Pitchfork Media wrote "She really is pop" before finishing the review by declaring "It's a success." Mojo magazine stated "a thirst for sonic adventure radiates from each track".
In 2008, Siouxsie performed vocals for the track "Careless Love" on The Edge of Love soundtrack by composer Angelo Badalamenti, frequent collaborator with director David Lynch. She performed another Badalamenti number "Who Will Take My Dreams Away" at the annual edition of the World Soundtrack Awards.
After a year of touring, the singer played the last show of her tour in London in September. A live DVD of this performance called Finale: The Last Mantaray And More Show was released in 2009.
In October 2011, Siouxsie announced that there was "plenty more new material to come", including a new album.
In June 2013, as part of Yoko Ono's Meltdown festival, Siouxsie will perform two nights at the Royal Festival Hall in London. These are her only publicised UK shows for 2013. Due to the first Meltdown festival concert selling out very quickly, a second date was added for Monday 17 June.
In 1999, Siouxsie ranked ranked 96th place on VH1's "100 Greatest Women of Rock & Roll". In 2011, she was awarded for Outstanding Contribution To Music at the Q Awards and in 2012, at the Ivor Novello Awards, she received the "Inspiration Award".
“ Her voice is, in its own right, the common thread through all of it. There is no one who sings like that. And I think there are a lot of people who were influenced by it, but even if you try and sing like her, you can't do that. You can't throw your voice like that. You can't throw harmony like that. That is a very distinct voice. Her technique is a thread between the really far-out stuff and opera and pop music. It's distinct. It's all her own. ”
Siouxsie's influence on modern music has been considerable.
Siouxsie had a strong impact on two trip-hop acts. Tricky covered the 1983's proto trip-hop "Tattoo" to open his second album Nearly God and Massive Attack sampled "Metal Postcard" on their song "Superpredators (Metal Postcard)" for the soundtrack to the film The Jackal.
Other acts also covered Siouxsie's songs. Jeff Buckley, who took inspiration in various female singers, performed live "Killing Time", composed by Siouxsie and Budgie in 1989 for the Creatures album Boomerang: Buckley first sang it in 1992 for radio WFMU. LCD Soundsystem recorded a cover of "Slowdive" for the B-side of "Disco Infiltrator": their version was also released on Introns. Santigold based one of her tracks on the music of "Red Light" : "'My Superman' is an interpolation of a Siouxsie Sioux song, 'Red Light'". In 2003, The Beta Band sampled "Painted Bird" and changed the title to "Liquid Bird" on their Heroes to Zeros album. Red Hot Chili Peppers performed "Christine" at the V2001 festival and introduced it to their British audience as "your national anthem". Lo-fi songwriter Jeremy Jay revisited "Lunar Camel" on his debut Airwalker EP. Indie folk group DeVotchKa covered the ballad "The Last Beat of My Heart" on the suggestion of Arcade Fire singer, Win Butler; it was released on the Curse Your Little Heart EP.
Siouxsie has also been hailed by other critically acclaimed groups. Morrissey, previously of The Smiths said that "Siouxsie and the Banshees were excellent. They were one of the great groups of the late 70s, early 80s". He also stated of modern groups in 1994: "None of them are as good as Siouxsie and the Banshees at full pelt. That's not dusty nostalgia, that's fact."  Another ex-member of The Smiths, Johnny Marr mentioned that he rated very high guitarist John McGeoch for his work on Siouxsie's single "Spellbound". Marr qualified it as "clever" with "really good picky thing going on which is very un-rock'n'roll." Radiohead also cited McGeoch-era Siouxsie records when mentioning the recording of "There There".
Siouxsie has influenced other bands ranging from contemporaries U2 and The Cure to later acts like The Jesus and Mary Chain, Jane's Addiction and TV on the Radio. U2 Frontman Bono named her as model in the band's 2006 autobiography U2 by U2. He was inspired by her way of singing. With his band, he selected "Christine" for a compilation made for Mojo's readers. U2 guitarist The Edge also was the presenter of an award given to Siouxsie at a Mojo ceremony in 2005. The Cure's Robert Smith declared in 2003: "Siouxsie and The Banshees and Wire were the two bands I really admired. They meant something." He also pinpointed what the Join Hands tour brought him musically. "On stage that first night with the Banshees, I was blown away by how powerful I felt playing that kind of music. It was so different to what we were doing with The Cure. Before that, I'd wanted us to be like The Buzzcocks or Elvis Costello, the punk Beatles. Being a Banshee really changed my attitude to what I was doing." For his record The Head on the Door in 1985, he stated : "It reminds me of the Kaleidoscope album, the idea of having lots of different sounding things, different colours". Dave Navarro of Jane's Addiction once made a parallel between his band and the Banshees: "there are so many similar threads: melody, use of sound, attitude, sex-appeal. I always saw Jane's Addiction as the masculine Siouxsie & the Banshees." From a younger generation, Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio mentioned the poppiest songs of Siouxsie for the arrangements: "I've always tried to make a song that begins like "Kiss Them for Me". I think songs like "I Was a Lover" or "Wash the Day away" came from that element of surprise mode where all of a sudden this giant drum comes in and you're like, what the fuck?! That record was the first one where I was like, okay, even my friends're going to fall for this. I feel like that transition into that record was a relief for me. Really beautiful music was always considered too weird by the normal kids and that was the first example where I thought, we've got them, they're hooked! I watched people dance to that song, people who had never heard of any of the music that I listened to, they heard that music in a club and went crazy."
Siouxsie has also been hailed by several female singers. PJ Harvey selected Anima Animus album by Siouxsie's second band The Creatures, in her top ten favourite albums of the year 1999. Sinéad O'Connor said that when she started, Siouxsie was one of her favourite singers. Garbage's Shirley Manson cited her as an influence : "I learned how to sing listening to The Scream and Kaleidoscope." The singer of Garbage also mentioned that Siouxsie embodied everything she wanted to be as a young woman. Gossip cited her as one of their influences for their 2009's Music For Men. Ana Matronic of Scissor Sisters named Siouxsie as a source of inspiration and the Banshees as her favourite band.
I keep a Rolodex of the women that vocally inspire me. There aren't that many, but she's definitely one of them. I remember one of the first times I heard "Red Light" it was at a party, and I remember going up to the DJ and being like, "Who's this?". It was that good. I kind of stopped and was like... wow. There's not a tremendous amount of women who are bold and forward thinking as artists. I feel like her music, at the time especially, was pretty unique in the way that it sort of matched her style. The freedom of experimenting with this dark place that doesn't have a place often in modern music.
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