Hear Siouxsie Sioux’s Powerful Isolated Vocals on “The Killing Jar,” “Hong Kong Garden,” “Cities In Dust” & “Kiss Them for Me”

Like hun­dreds of oth­er teenagers in late sev­en­ties Eng­land, Susan Bal­lion, bet­ter known as Siouxsie Sioux, embraced the any­one-can-do-it-ness of punk after see­ing the Sex Pis­tols. In 1976, already a tastemak­er in the scene, she threw a band togeth­er with Sid Vicious on drums, and with no prac­tice, or even any songs, they got onstage, and impro­vised a 20-minute ren­di­tion of “The Lord’s Prayer.” There launched the career of a post-punk, dark pop leg­end, span­ning that first anar­chic gig, the infa­mous Bill Grundy TV appear­ance, some of the most influ­en­tial British rock of the late-70s and 80s, and major tours and hits through­out the last three decades.

Despite the awards, star col­lab­o­ra­tions, and mul­ti-gen­er­a­tional influ­ence, Siouxsie’s strik­ing musi­cal tal­ent has often been giv­en short shrift in the U.S. press. For exam­ple, a 1992 Los Ange­les Times con­cert write-up after the release of her biggest U.S. hit, “Kiss Them for Me,” cast her as “the leader of a cult of weird chicks,” writes Liz Ohnane­sian at Noisey, “in a review that spent five para­graphs on her looks and a whop­ping two on the music.” Maybe, “at that point, the band was used to that.” But it’s a seri­ous over­sight.

“Much has been writ­ten about the vocal range of artists like Fred­die Mer­cury,” Dan­ger­ous Minds points out, “but not so much on the equal­ly bril­liant Siouxsie Sioux.” If the com­par­i­son seems stretched, con­sid­er anoth­er one: Kate Bush.

Though very dif­fer­ent artists, both released debut albums in 1978 and became style icons who are as influ­en­tial for their look as for their vocal prowess. Siouxsie, whose voice “devel­oped from spiky, punky vocals to rich, pow­er­ful, and glo­ri­ous tex­tured tones… can hit the high notes and bring an unnerv­ing warmth and men­ace to her low­er range.”

With Siouxsie and the Ban­shees, The Crea­tures, and in her solo work, she has giv­en cool, icy voice to goth­ic sen­ti­ments and images, con­vey­ing ache and fear and bru­tal beau­ty. In the videos here, lis­ten to Siouxsie’s iso­lat­ed vocals from 1988’s “The Killing Jar” (hear the orig­i­nal right above), an excel­lent exam­ple of “just how good she is.” Above, also hear her vocal track from “Hong Kong Gar­den,” her 1978 debut sin­gle, and “arguably the most impor­tant of the ear­ly post-punk hits,” writes Robert Webb at The Inde­pen­dent.

Lis­ten to her sing 1985’s “Cities in Dust,” about the destruc­tion of Pom­peii, and below, hear “Kiss Them for Me,” a cryp­tic trib­ute to actress Jayne Mans­field and a song that made a new gen­er­a­tion of Siouxsie and the Ban­shees fans when it came out in 1991. Siouxsie has attract­ed a new­ly devot­ed fan­base every decade since the 70s for her style, song­writ­ing, and her voice, an instru­ment that deserves greater atten­tion.

“These days,” she said in a 2007 inter­view, the lega­cy of punk has “almost been reduced to a fash­ion state­ment. I think there’s been a false sense of empow­er­ment for women” in music. “Almost as if there’s that ever-present pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with body form and image… not about express­ing any style or intent.” Young artists look­ing for gen­uine inspi­ra­tion will always find the real thing in Siouxsie’s impres­sive body of work.

via Dan­ger­ous Minds

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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

The Sex Pis­tols Make a Scan­dalous Appear­ance on the Bill Grundy Show & Intro­duce Punk Rock to the Star­tled Mass­es (1976)

Four Female Punk Bands That Changed Women’s Role in Rock

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

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.