Siouxsie and the Banshees Week: Day 1 – Why Peepshow?

To celebrate the recent publication of Siouxsie and the Banshees’ Peepshow, author Samantha Bennett will be guest-blogging all week.

In her first post, she discusses why she chose to write about this album, and how you should be reading it (hint: it should be a rainy day…)

I was compelled to write about Peepshow for a number of reasons.

Firstly, whilst I don’t think Peepshow is the best – or definitive – Siouxsie and the Banshees record, I believe it’s their most musically accomplished record. The addition of Martin McCarrick and Jon Klein to the line-up was the first time the band wrote and performed as a five-piece and, as such, the instrumentation was blown wide open. Quite simply, this is one of the most orchestrally diverse records in 1980s popular music. Everything from a dulcimer, Güiro, synthesized wind and brass instruments, harmonica, small and large percussion – even a synthesized calliope is heard.

Secondly, as a fan of Siouxsie and the Banshees, I was frustrated by the band’s depiction in popular music historiography. In numerous accounts of British punk, Siouxsie and the Banshees are depicted as ‘also rans’ and the majority of accounts follow the same, worn-out narrative: ‘Bromley contingent, Bill Grundy show, swastika-arm-band-gate, Spinal Tap-esque guitarist issues, Dear Prudence, Goth, relationship issues, end.’ Additionally, most of the writing around Siouxsie and the Banshees is fandom. Whilst this plays to our love of the band, the narratives are primarily fixated on Sioux’s image and identity, as opposed to the band as a whole, and the complexity in their music.

Thirdly, after reading dozens of interviews with the band, I noticed a pattern in the way Siouxsie and the Banshees framed their music. From The Scream (1978) all the way through to The Rapture (1995), the band consistently spoke of their film and film music influences, the way they approached songwriting as creating soundscapes and situating protagonists (as opposed to writing from the first person), and their love of specific films and scores. I felt these filmic influences were foregrounded more in Peepshow than in any other record in their repertoire, so this inspired me to write a detailed account of the album through a film and film music lens.

Example: The guitars in ‘Suburban Relapse’ from Siouxsie and the Banshees’ debut album The Scream (1978) were inspired by Bernard Herrman’s iconic ‘shower scene’ violins from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.

So the book, Peepshow, is an attempt to refocus the narrative exclusively on Siouxsie and the Banshees’ music and influences. As such, the book does not deal with identity, relationships or any well-worn Siouxsie and the Banshees mythology. Instead, my book is detailed in analysis, which is film theoretical and musicological in nature. This book is not designed to be read on a commute or on holiday. My advice to the reader is to spend a rainy weekend with the book and the album (preferably on vinyl or CD), cross-referencing the chapters with the relevant tracks and lyrics. There is an extensive filmography at the end of the book for just that. Hopefully, the myriad film and film music influences will jump out.

Siouxsie and the Banshees’ Peepshow is available now (along with some other new titles!)

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