Hear Siouxsie and the Banshee’s Raw & Completely Improvised First Show, with Sid Vicious on Drums (1976)

We could argue all day about whether punk start­ed in the US or UK (it’s the US), but why both­er? Why not spend our time doing more inter­est­ing things—like dig­ging up rare his­tor­i­cal arti­facts from the ear­li­est days of punk rock in Lon­don, New York and, yes, Detroit. Punk may have devolved into a prêt-à-porter sig­ni­fi­er, but its gold­en age was dom­i­nat­ed by bespoke per­son­al­i­ties the size of Texas. And no ori­gin sto­ry (except maybe this one) bet­ter exem­pli­fies punk’s found­ing ethos than that of Siouxsie and the Ban­shees’ first gig in Lon­don in 1976, which you can hear in all of its def­i­n­i­tion-of-lo-fi glo­ry in two parts above and below.

Siouxsie Sioux (Susan Janet Dal­lion) already stood out as one of the Sex Pis­tols’ ded­i­cat­ed fol­low­ers, her Egypt-inspired eye make­up and black lip­stick stak­ing out the Goth ter­ri­to­ry she would con­quer in just a few short years. She was a born per­former, but up until this first appear­ance at 19, had nev­er been on stage before or front­ed a band.

The “band” itself didn’t exist until the last minute, when Siouxsie and bassist Steve Sev­erin (then “Steve Spunker”) decid­ed they should take the place of a group that pulled out of the 100 Club Punk Fes­ti­val, a show­case for the Sex Pis­tols, The Clash, The Damned, and a hand­ful of oth­er unsigned (at the time) bands.

“Suzie and the Ban­shees,” as they were billed, con­sist­ed of the mag­nif­i­cent­ly shrill Siouxsie, Sev­erin, future Adam Ant gui­tarist Mar­co Pir­roni, and the most infa­mous non-musi­cian in punk, Sid Vicious, on drums, before he pre­tend­ed to play bass in the Sex Pis­tols. They hadn’t writ­ten any songs, and so they smashed through a 20-minute med­ley of “Deutsch­land, Deutsch­land über alles,” “Knock­ing on Heaven’s Door,” “Twist and Shout,” and the Lord’s Prayer. Show pro­mot­er Ron Watts called it “per­for­mance art,” and not in a good way.

Sum­ming up the eter­nal inter­play between punk bands and club own­ers, Watts remem­bered their debut as “weak, it was weedy. You couldn’t say it was a gig…. It was just peo­ple, get­ting up and try­ing to do some­thing. I let them do it, you know.” The supreme­ly con­fi­dent Siouxsie didn’t care. In an inter­view a cou­ple of months lat­er (above) she admits, “it got a bit bor­ing in some parts, but it picked up.” So did the band, pick­ing up actu­al­ly very good drum­mer Ken­ny Mor­ris and cycling through a few gui­tarists, includ­ing The Cure’s Robert Smith for a spell. A cou­ple of the oth­er bands at that noto­ri­ous show made good as well. (One even got their own cred­it card.) Hear The Clash’s set from the night here, here, and here, and see a pho­to set of Siouxsie and friends from 1976 here.

via Post Punk

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Sex Pis­tols Play in Dal­las’ Long­horn Ball­room; Next Show Is Mer­le Hag­gard (1978)

Watch The Cure’s First TV Appear­ance in 1979 … Before The Band Acquired Its Sig­na­ture Goth Look

The His­to­ry of Punk Rock in 200 Tracks: An 11-Hour Playlist Takes You From 1965 to 2016

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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