Vague 10

Vague #7
 
June 1981 Siouxsie and the Banshees – Public Image Limited
TV Smith – Viz Comics – Brixton Riots – Jordan
Richard Strange – Thompson Twins
cover ripped off for a mobile phone advert T-shirt in 2010
 

The second Siouxsie and the Banshees Vague, recently ripped off for the Channel 4 alternative comedy mobile phone advert, started off in some controversy. The Siouxsie photo at Poole Arts Centre on the ‘Israel’ tour was by Iggy and the design was by Tom, for the record. The interview was by Tom, Chris Johnson, Iggy and Sharon. It was organised by John McGeoch. Iggy’s other useable photos featured Siouxsie and co in the hotel bar and the Poole Arts Centre sign which read ‘Siouxie and the Banshees’. After the interview, which ended up in Zigzag, we followed the rest of the ‘Israel’ tour, selling fanzines on the stall courtesy of Lorraine who also did the Motörhead merchandising. On the next tour in the summer of ’81 we returned to Poole Arts Centre with the issue, which in a depressing sign of the changing times was confiscated by the Banshees’ new merchandiser. Admittedly it was meant to be an alternative tour programme, but, you know, this is Siouxsie and the Banshees, not the Rolling Stones.

However, I had met up with a former Bournemouth punk-turned-skinhead outside and got him in as my plus one on the guest list. In due course, the Banshees merchandising stall was besieged by skinheads inquiring after the latest issue of their local fanzine. In the end the tour manager had to beg me to call the skinheads off and the Vagues were swiftly returned. Then I had to dissuade the skins from attacking the Banshees’ tour bus… We had missed Siouxsie and the Banshees when they supported the Heartbreakers in ’77 but got to see them a few times on ‘The Scream’ and ‘Join Hands’ tours. The first Vague review was of the Southampton gig on the latter and there was a review or something on them in virtually every issue, as they vied with Adam and the Ants, the Pop Group and PIL as the premier Vague band. The Banshees interview was the first thing I got paid for by Zigzag

Siouxsie and the Banshees

February 19/20 1981 Highlights of the Vague Siouxsie and the Banshees interview after they played Poole Arts Centre at the time of their ‘Israel’ single: We’re in the hotel foyer waiting for the band to arrive. Suddenly, there’s an icy chill as the doors open all by themselves and mist drifts into the foyer. A snow chariot/minibus pulls up outside and the Ice Queen enters with her entourage, she comes over to us and says: “Hello, where’s the bar then?”… Budgie talks about a Red Admiral butterfly at Hammersmith Palais (during the first gigs of the tour), John McGeoch gets the drinks in and the elegantly wasted Steve Severin makes his apologies and turns in… On the previous ‘Join Hands’ tour in late ’79, Kenny Morris and John McKay, the drummer and guitarist since ’77, had split and been replaced by Budgie (from the Slits, Big in Japan and the Spitfire Boys) and John McGeoch (formerly of Magazine, after Robert Smith of the Cure had stood in on guitar); the ramifications of which took up a lot of the interview.

Siouxsie was great, down to earth and with the kids, holding forth into the night on the state of the post-punk music scene: “I don’t give a damn about community things. It’s got to be more personal, closer to your heart. It’s too undefined. The most personal thing we’ve ever done was the gig for the mentally handicapped, for people who can’t help themselves. Like there was a big trend to do Rock Against Racism gigs, but we found that patronising. It was like saying blacks couldn’t do anything for themselves. Things that just happen like one-parent families, where people have no control and can’t help themselves, that’s what I’m more interested in… We’re selfish in that it’s for our own benefit. We actually enjoy playing live but we don’t enjoy touring when it’s over a few months and you can’t tell one town from the next. You don’t enjoy it, you’re just doing a job… As far as rock’n’roll’s concerned, I hate what it’s become but I think the people who made it are great. People like Jimi Hendrix, Little Richard and the early Rolling Stones…”

Budgie: “On the ‘Join Hands’ tour it was very weird, it was like a challenge, there was a vacant drumkit. That was the time that I decided I was going to be a…” Siouxsie: “Baby Banshee!” Budgie: “Baby Banshee. On that tour I had to adopt those beats from Kenny; like with Palmolive from the Slits…” Siouxsie: “Kenny Morris had to adopt from Sid Vicious as well. His favourite drummers were Sid Vicious and Mo Tucker, Sid was a general influence on us all. He was very impressed by Mo Tucker. He was a much better drummer than bass player… Kenny was going to be in Sid’s band, the Flowers of Romance.” Budgie: “The only thing I want to do is what I’m doing now. I don’t regard myself as a musician. I saw Buddy Rich on The Muppet Show the other night. He’s a technician. I hate it when I’m described as that because I’m not.” John: “What are you, more Buddy Rich or more Animal?” Budgie: “Buddy Rich is the guy I want to be but Animal is the guy I really am…”

Siouxsie: “I think what he’s trying to say is whatever’s happened before has fitted into how the songs should sound. Morris and McKay were very much worked into the Banshees, they were right for what we wanted. When we had the auditions they all wanted to make it a career, that’s what we didn’t want.” Budgie: “I was following the tour for some uncanny reason. Like those 2 big hands joined together. Then I got the phone call before they left.” Tom: “It was coming on for some time?” Budgie: “Oh no, not at all. It happened in Ireland. You arrived in Aberdeen and that was it.” Tom: “So it was the record shop incident?” Siouxsie: “There was a record shop incident but that wasn’t the reason for the split. But I don’t know, they haven’t been strong enough to confront me.” Budgie: “The thing that everybody misses is the way that tour did not stop. It just kind of picked up. When we’re on tour we build up a momentum that cannot stop anywhere. To me the instigation was Sioux and Steve, who did not want to stop, also the dogmatism of the Cure to carry on. Robert had to play 2 parts every night…”

Siouxsie: “We tried Marco again. I really like Marco. It was really weird, we did this one rehearsal with Budgie, Marco, Steve and me. Budgie fitted in really well but Marco just wasn’t right, he just wasn’t a Banshee.” Budgie: “The sheer determination of everybody involved. Imagine half a band wandering off.” Siouxsie: “It was something that was really strong and it didn’t become weaker with a cowardly gesture.” Tom: “Doesn’t it get on your nerves, signing autographs and doing interviews?” (supposedly the reason Morris and McKay split) Siouxsie: “If I couldn’t be bothered I wouldn’t be here. I’ve gone to bed a lot of times.” Tom: “What do you think of girls who dress up like you?” Siouxsie: “I’m gonna start wearing purple dresses and yellow polo-neck jumpers. I’m vain, it’s flattering but it’s not why I’m doing it.” Budgie: “It was a really weird situation with the Slits, where they would not sign autographs and they would not do interviews and they would not even meet anybody, because they were saying we’re nothing special…”

Siouxsie: “It’s such a petty thing, it’s not a hard thing to do. I’ve never asked anybody for their autograph, I’ve never wanted to.” Budgie: “I once got Alan Ball’s.” Siouxsie: “It’s not important, that’s why I don’t take a stance against it, but it is for the person who comes up to you. If it means that much to someone, to have some ink on a bit of paper, I’ll do it. They shouldn’t need it but they do. Getting back to the point, I’d rather they tried to look like me than Angela Rippon.” Tom: “Are you phasing out old material?” Siouxsie: “Yes… They ask for ‘Love in a Void’, ‘Switch’, ‘Jigsaw’. We played those songs when they were new and there was just blank faces. Give it 6 months and they’ll be screaming for the new stuff, but then we’ll be doing something else… It’s the same with the music press, there’s a set amount of journalists who hate us that always write about us. And there’s a set amount of people who go along to hear the singles but sometimes don’t hear the singles… They’re little possums. I think Nick Kent used to be alright, because he was the only journalist who wrote about Iggy Pop and liked him.”

Tom: “Are you disillusioned with what’s happening now?” Siouxsie: “No, I’m not. I think Suicide are fucking great and I think the Cramps are fucking great as well and Altered Images are very good. What I’m saying is Suicide and the Cramps aren’t big in England, or America, and they should be. They should be bigger than the Police, they should be bigger than Blondie. They are really important. Stray Cats live doing the rockabilly are great, but I’ve seen them another time and they’ve been really bland. But the Cramps live doing the rockabilly are really over the top. I’m really impressed by people who go over the top… Certain journalists say that the early 70s were such barren times. Load of crap. It’s what effected a lot of people now, the Bolans and Velvet Undergrounds, no one had heard of them until the early 70s. There was a lot of west coast hippy wankers that were doing very well, but they didn’t mean nothing to young people. The Velvet Underground were strong in New York only, it wasn’t until ‘Berlin’ that they came across the water. It’s still good today, the same as I can still listen to Jim Morrison and I can still listen to the Rolling Stones.”

John: “Are we talking about what is fashionable to like now? It’s fashionable to like the Doors and that…” Siouxsie: “I’d rather take something from the original than a contemporary.” John: “In 1991 I’d rather be fashionable than have what I’m doing now being fashionable.” Tom: “Don’t you think a lot of bands today are falling back on the past?” Siouxsie: “I think they’re trying to be the future. Take Malcolm McLaren, he’s a wanker, he’s taken from Andy Warhol completely. For example, the tits T-shirt, that was Andy Warhol. All those people that have become mentors in the 70s have taken from the 60s…” At this point the Vague interview is hijacked by Paul O’Reilly aka Suspect O’Typewriter, ex Spizz and Altered Images manager, fanzine editor and Zigzag reporter. Playing devil’s advocate, he champions Sheena Easton against Lou Reed which sets off a fairly heated post-modern pop debate, and proceedings carry on till 5 – I remember Siouxsie being concerned when Sharon left, thinking she had gone off with a roadie.

February 20 Portsmouth Guildhall After the night porter let Chris and me crash out in the hotel bar, the next day Siouxsie complements him to the manager and Tim the tour manager gives us a lift to Portsmouth. On arrival we help hump in some gear, just to show willing, and then try to get some kip on the balcony but don’t get any. After selling a few Vagues, we get a few pints in and things look a bit brighter. We enter the auditorium as ‘Hello, Hello, I’m Back Again’ and the bells track are played and make an effort to stand up and keep awake. My only recollection of the gig is the crowd are particularly good (compared with Poole), as are the Banshees, and it’s bloody cold. Then Iggy and Sharon arrive. I don’t think I’ve ever been so glad to see Iggy – there was no chance of staying in Portsmouth, as we didn’t know a soul and the Banshees were going back to London. Sharon takes us back to Salisbury where Terry Watley puts us up and we have the best night’s sleep so far.

February 22 Leicester De Montfort Hall Saturday is a day off and then it’s out on to the A303 again, hoping our luck’s going to change in the second week, and we get a lift all the way to Staples Corner. When we’re dropped off there’s 2 businessmen waiting for a lift, looking absolutely soaked and pissed off. After us, a load of student-type hardened hitchhikers appear on their way back from France, then Stuart, a Bauhaus roadie who said he had worked for the Banshees, a biker and a trendy bloke. We get to know each other and arrange who’s going in which car. In no time we’re all heading for Watford Gap services, leaving the 2 old blokes on their own again. We’re just reaching Northampton when the drizzle turns to snow then a full scale blizzard. By the time we reach Watford Gap there’s about 2 or 3 inches of snow. Consequently this girl’s car breaks down, we help her and she gives us a lift to the Leicester turn-off.

Proceedings slow up a bit after that and we don’t arrive outside the snowbound Leicester De Montfort Hall till after dark. The hall has a perimeter wall around it which we nearly try to climb because the gates are padlocked. Luckily we didn’t because the grounds inside are patrolled by guard dogs. Put all this under a couple of inches of snow and it looks like something from East Berlin. The atmosphere inside isn’t much better… We witness the customary pathetic response to the new material while there’s ecstatic bopping to the singles… Usually first off is ‘Spellbound’, the new single, it sounds like you imagine it would, Siouxsie’s vocals swoop and swirl through Steve’s storming bass and John’s excellent guitar work. My favourite is ‘Into the Night’, a swirling dream-like number… ‘Not Him – It’s all in Semaphore’ showcases Budgie in his element attacking his kit as Siouxsie bobs from side to side like a mannequin in front of him… Afterwards Chris and me make our way to Loughborough University, to stay with his sister…

February 23 Derby Assembly Rooms As we make our way off the campus a car catches on fire and we get to Derby before the pubs shut at dinnertime. The Assembly Rooms is slightly nicer than the King’s Hall and it’s probably the best gig so far, until about the third number when there’s some skinhead aggro. We tell Tim the tour manager, hoping to see the bouncers go steaming into them. However, they seem to settle down having failed to spoil the gig… At the end they start getting excitable again. There are some verbal exchanges and then choruses of “Sieg heil!” and “Skinheads!” The Banshees rise to the occasion if no one else will. They all leave the stage, to return in ‘Israel’ Star of David T-shirts and play ‘Drop Dead Celebration’. Siouxsie’s vocals are even more venomous than when they were applied to Morris and McKay… The skins drift off into obscurity, probably not realising the significance of the Star of David… Afterwards we not only survive but protest and survive at the Thompson Twins’ CND gig…

February 25 Leeds University Sitting in a Derby café at 6am, after a ridiculously early morning call, I remember hearing the Passions’ ‘I’m in Love with a German Film Star’. By the time we wake up properly we’re in Sheffield, singing (‘German Film Star’) under the M1 viaduct – I mused about doing a building course but not understanding how viaducts stay up. Our first lift is off a Rasta, the second off a bloke who said he gave the Yorkshire ripper a lift once, and the final one is off 2 hippies. By the time we reach Nigel’s place in Wakefield we’re pretty far out, maan. (Nigel from Wakefield was another ex Ants fan, who had seen the Pistols in Huddersfield and was a serious golfer). That’s what we were doing the day Prince Charles popped the question to Lady Di… After some Yorkshire pudding, a bath and a good night’s sleep, we get the bus into Leeds. The University is a bit of a dump, typical student types and a lot of Arabs, we thought there was going to be a demo against the Banshees playing ‘Israel’. Paul gets chucked out for hitting some kid who was spitting, and I have to leave early to get back to Wakefield…

February 26 Durham University The place Nigel recommended doesn’t look very good but straight away I get a lift all the way… I celebrate my successful hitch by having a few jars in the Durham University bar, where I lost my bag on the Ants tour… Chris reappears, having hitched back to London to sign on, halfway through Top of the Pops. I’ve already fixed up a lift off the Mohican Captain Scarlet, who is also doing the tour, but where to is as yet unknown… At last I see some familiar faces, the Mohican Urban Warriors from Newcastle, Horse and Dave, and we discover that we are just missing Robbo and Nigel from Liverpool who are working on the Stranglers tour, and also selling Vagues. We stay at Horse’s and the Geordie contingent are as hospitable as the Scousers. Toast keeps coming at us through the night. Before heading off for north of the border we go into Newcastle for a drink. Captain Scarlet, our driver, gets a parking ticket and Geordie Dave decides to come with us to Scotland.

February 27 Edinburgh Playhouse On arrival we go sight-seeing/find a pub and Captain goes to the Playhouse. As if by magic, a wee lad appears and shows us where the Playhouse is, in the opposite direction to which Captain has gone. In the pub next door we meet more wee lads who remember us from the Ants tour… In the Playhouse we set up shop in the bar amongst various Altered Images and Exploited members… When the Banshees eventually hit the stage, the punters rush to the front and the bouncers seem to be stumped. Suddenly they make an onslaught on the aisles, battering little kids at random like it was Culloden or the Highland clearances… We retire to the bar and have an enlightening discussion with this skinhead, “on the run from London… I don’t mind blacks but I support the NF”, sort of thing. We’re about to go next door to the Nite Club, where the Au-Pairs and Orange Juice are playing, when Captain decides he wants to leave. So we reluctantly set off…

I can’t remember much about the journey except getting pulled in by the old Bill at Dumfries, for little more than having funny haircuts (Captain and Dave had Mohicans); and then the snow storm beginning as we cross the border and drop Dave off at Carlisle train station… I eventually fell asleep but I can vaguely recollect stopping in what I assumed to be a service station. However, when we wake up the next morning, we find we’re snowed in on the hard shoulder of the motorway somewhere in the Lake District. It’s still snowing and we are surrounded by snow-capped mountains. After a few attempts to start the car, Chris and me give our coats to Captain and he goes out to ring the breakdown service from an emergency callbox. In due course we get towed off the motorway to Kendal, where we try to revive ourselves on Kendal mint-cake in the garage, while the car is fixed. Then Chris gives up and heads for home, Captain goes off to stay in the Midlands and drops me at Blackburn services.

March 1 Liverpool Royal Court Theatre It takes me fucking ages to get to Liverpool. I just get to Robbo’s in time to see Adam Ant on Jim’ll Fix It. Mick and Stretch get me something to eat and then we pay a visit to Brady’s (formerly Eric’s), where Original Mirrors and Ellory Bop are playing. Budgie and Tim the tour manager are there among the Scouse pop stars. Tim tells me they had trouble getting down from Edinburgh as well. The next day we flog a few Vagues outside the Royal Court and eventually get everybody in. The gig is a bit of a bummer for Liverpool, there’s a lot of pogoing and then there’s all the autograph signing afterwards. Scouse girl to Steve Severin: “Didn’t you used to be in Public Image?” Nige and me go on to Brady’s while the rest go back to the hotel for a lig. Boxhead and his latest girlfriend are going to do an interview for a local mag. But Boxhead bites Captain and has a set to with Siouxsie and John McGeoch. He still manages to get a free T-shirt though… Postscript shout out to the ‘Israel’ tour support band, who we didn’t get round to interviewing, the Comsat Angels of ‘Independence Day’ fame.

Public Image Limited

Virtually every Vague interview featured a fairly extensive debate about Public Image Limited, sometimes even more than about Adam and the Ants. PIL were approved of by the Gang of 4, Red Crayola, the local hippy band Grandma Moses and Big Mick of the Softies, but dismissed by Adam, Animals and Men, Bow-wow-wow and the Boys, Dee Dee Ramone was in 2 minds about them. We were obsessed with PIL, even more so than the Ants in the early days, as illustrated by the PIL badge saga in Perry’s ‘Lovable Spiky Tops’ cartoon strip. We dressed more in a post-punk anti-fashion jumble sale style influenced by PIL, than leather/jeans punk uniform. Vague really began as a post-punk Public Image fanzine after we saw them at the Rainbow at Christmas ’78, Manchester and Leeds, but the best we managed to come with up on them was Perry’s review of their second album ‘Metal Box’ in late ’79. And our enthusiasm for the post-punk avant-garde prog rock revival was on the wane by the third studio album ‘The Flowers of Romance’.

Public Image Limited ‘Metal Box’ reviewed by Perry in Vague 2: You may say that paying £7.50 for three 12” singles packaged in a tin box is a rip-off, but if it’s a record you want nothing is a rip-off and ‘Metal Box’ is a record I’m glad to have. After the first couple of plays this album sounded boring and tedious but like all their records it sounds better and better the more you listen to it. The first track is ‘Albatross’ (which fucking jumps on mine) lasting just over 10 minutes and is typical of PIL’s recent recordings with the same thudding drum beat, soft bass rhythm and screeching guitar and vocals. Side 2 has the 2 singles ‘Memories’ and ‘Swan Lake’ (or ‘Death Disco’ as originally titled). ‘Poptones’ and ‘Careering’ follow, again typical PIL although a few keyboards come in here and there. Side 4 has the B-side of ‘Death Disco’, ‘No Birds’ and an instrumental called ‘Graveyard’.

John Lydon seems to have 2 styles of singing, either screeching like on ‘Memories’ and ‘Swan Lake’ or a more serious style of almost reciting the lyric as on ‘The Suit’ and ‘Bad Baby’. The final side is the most interesting and the best. It consists of 3 tracks, ‘Socialist’, ‘Chant’ and ‘Radio 4’, and they show a development in the PIL sound. They are all different styles. ‘Socialist’ is an instrumental and can be described as a usual PIL song speeded up. ‘Chant’ is what the title suggests and I imagine next time the band decide to go on stage there’ll be some singing along. ‘Radio 4’ is the most different track on the album and as it is at the end of the last side it could be pointing in the direction of what is to come. If this is so, PIL could be producing albums like Can and Tangerine Dream, as it is another instrumental with some beautifully soothing keyboards sounds.

Public Image Limited ‘The Flowers of Romance’ reviewed by Tom in Vague 10: Beware of the flowers ’cause I’m sure they’re gonna get you yeah – This leaves me cold I’m afraid. It seems to me that Lydon has reverted into an experimental progressive rockist. Gone is any sense of humour, sarcasm, cynicism… This isn’t coming from someone who liked the first single and then lost interest. I’ve always stuck by Lydon before. I didn’t blame him for walking off at Leeds, with everyone shouting for ‘Anarchy in the UK’. I didn’t blame him for not wanting to do ‘rockist’ gigs. I thought what he did in America last year was great (playing behind a screen), almost made up for how the Yanks destroyed the Pistols… I really did like ‘Metal Box’ and not for who it was… But I’ve played ‘Flowers of Romance’ a few times and I’m feeling really bored and pissed off. It’s grey gloomy and depressive and all those sort of clichés. I’d rather have Adam jumping out of a stagecoach than this… It has got a ‘tribal’ drum machine though I’m assured it’s not Burundi…

The whole formula is starting to wear thin. Lydon’s vocals are as shrill and piercing as ever but you don’t seem to listen anymore. The PIL riff is no longer of interest, to me at any rate… I know the worst thing that could ever happen would be for the Pistols to reform, although Richard Branson doesn’t seem to think so. Perhaps they’ve all had their day and should make way for the kids like Townsend, Jagger, McCartney should have in ’77… Is this really that new? And if it is who really cares? Is this really that different to Yes or somebody. I don’t know what Yes sound like but you know what I mean… The track ‘Flowers of Romance’ is alright… Like they keep saying it’s not another ‘Metal Box’… Usual PIL lyrics, egocentric, religion, death, Ireland, Mountjoy prison, no fun, no fun at all… The Flowers of Romance were a punk supergroup featuring PIL’s Keith Levine, Sid Vicious, Viv Albertine and Palmolive of the Slits, formed in Henekey’s (the Earl of Lonsdale) at the junction of Portobello Road and Westbourne Grove.

Dave McCullough of Sounds described visiting Virgin’s ‘trendy little farmyard of offices’ in Vernon Yard, just down Portobello from Henekey’s, as the introduction to a feature on Jah Wobble, the PIL bass player. This was in 1980 at the time of Wobble’s first solo venture, ‘The Legend Lives On: Jah Wobble In Betrayal’. On the back cover of which he appears further along Portobello in the fruit and veg market at Alba Place. On his arrival at Vernon Yard, Dave McCullough was directed up a ladder ‘into the press office barn’, where he was confronted by a picture of himself, causing him some paranoid musings that Virgin had ‘a surreal 1984-ness about everything they do. Always in control, the Big Brother company, somehow malevolent and at the same time subtle, and intimate, and good at what they do. The perversely perfect company for the group of people that are Public Image Limited…’

July 5 Anti-police rioting broke out at Toxteth in Liverpool. July 10 Riots spread around the country. July 15 Brixton had another anti-police riot. July 23 Banshees at Woolwich Odeon. July 29 Charles and Di royal wedding anarchy in Mere – punks vomiting and a hay bail in the road. ‘Ghost Town’ by the Specials was number 1. August 2 Banshees at Poole Arts Centre Vague skinhead incident. September 5/6 Futurama 3 at Stafford Bingley Hall – Gang of Four, Bauhaus, Passions, Theatre of Hate, 23 Skidoo, etc. September 13 Vague XI v Warminster all-stars football game in Bath. September 19 Talisman at Salisbury Grange. September 25 Days of Future Past festival at Leeds – Professionals, 4 Be 2s, Classix, etc. ‘Prince Charming’ by Adam and the Ants was number 1.

October 1 Crass at Salisbury Grange Vague Promotions. October 7 Bow-wow-wow at the Lyceum. October 12 Bristol Locarno. October 31 Bath Pavilion. The Tory Employment Minister Norman Tebbit said: “My father did not riot. He got on his bike and looked for work.” November 3 Bauhaus at Bristol Locarno. November 13 Wasted Youth at Salisbury Tech College. November 20 Altered Images at Bath University. December 8 Crass interview Epping. Signed on in Bath.

 

Tom Vague
(Vague Publishing, 1981)
 
now out of print