On August 1st, 1980, Siouxsie and The Banshees released their highly influential third studio album Kaleidoscope.
The record was released following the departure of guitarist John McKay and drummer Kenny Morris during what was supposed to be an in-store autograph session during the Join Hands tour.
With both Morris and McKay having suddenly quit the band, the banshees regrouped after a few weeks and continued the tour with Robert Smith filling in on guitar, as his band The Cure had already been touring with the Banshees. For the remaining dates, Smith would perform double duty between both bands during the remainder of the tour.
Eventually, the Banshees recruited two new members for Kaleidoscope, a lineup that would be nicknamed Banshee’s MKII, and is today considered their best and most innovative lineup.
On guitar joined John McGeoch, widely considered to be one of the most innovative guitarists of all time, having previously performed with Magazine which released one of if not the very first post-punk single “Shot by Both Sides”, and Visage. McGeoch would also help Generation X finish their album Kiss Me Deadly.
“I was surprised to get the call,” said McGeoch on getting asked to audition to be the Banshees’ new guitarist,
“Steve Strange told me to wear black and we met up in a pub in Notting Hill. They invited me along to their rehearsal studio in Camden and. within two days, we’d routined “Happy House”. They really liked that guitar line, that was the clincher. I was going through a picky phase, as opposed to strumming. “Happy House” was lighter and had more musicality in it. They invited me to join. I was sad leaving Magazine but the Banshees were so interesting and it felt like a good move.”
On McGeoch’s tenure in The Banshees, Siouxsie would later note:
“John McGeoch was my favourite guitarist of all time. He was into sound in an almost abstract way. I loved the fact that I could say, “I want this to sound like a horse falling off a cliff”, and he would know exactly what I meant. He was easily, without a shadow of a doubt, the most creative guitarist the Banshees ever had”.
Along with McGeoch came former Slits drummer Peter Edward Clarke aka Budgie, who would become the band’s permanent percussionist up until the band’s breakup in 1996, and brief reunion in 2002.
This lineup heralded their legendary studio album Kaleidoscope with two hit singles “Christine”, and “Happy House”.
In the music videos for these two songs, both taking on the subject of mental illness, the Banshees are displayed as a trio, as also reflected on the record’s sleeve, despite McGeoch”s guitar work being integral to each song, especially the iconic scratchy whirling loops that follow onward from the intro of “Happy House” that ultimately got him the job.
Both of the above singles contributed garnered critical praise, and cemented Kaleidoscope’s place in the pantheon of most influential albums of the 80s, which its sonic palette affecting everyone from The Cure, Radiohead, The Smiths, Suede, Erasure, and Primal Scream.
The album also was an experiment in electronic music as well, with the tracks as Lunar Camel and Red Light (watch below).
Bonus: This is the first television appearance featuring John McGeoch on Guitar on The Top of the Pops on March 13, 1980.
Here the Banshees perform the album track Tenant on Something Else November 15th, 1980:
- Happy House
- Lunar Camel
- Desert Kisses
- Red Light
- Paradise Place