Siouxsie and the Banshees Middlesbrough 13th Oct 1977, Durham 15th April 1978 & Newcastle 30th Oct 1978

Siouxsie and the Banshees Middlesbrough 13th Oct 1977, Durham 15th April 1978 & Newcastle 30th Oct 1978siouxsietix78
The Banshees stood out from the rest of the punk bands in their style, their attitude, and the mysterious, somewhat discordant, dark noise that they made. There was an air of danger about them, depth, mysteriousness, and Siouxsie herself was stunning, a force of nature, a revelation.
I first saw the Banshees supporting Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers at Middlesbrough Town Hall on 13th October 1977. Marie and I turned up early specifically to see Siouxsie. The venue was far from full, and this was a raw, ramshackle, Banshees; still feeling their way and learning their craft. But you could see that there was something different and special about them. The uniqueness of their music, Siouxsie’s style and arrogance, their image, all shone through the amateurishness. Siouxise was full of edge that night, fearless, and obviously out to shock. She was dressed in a see-through net top, a leather cap and looked just great. She commanded the stage with crazy dancing and goose stepping. The band were very young at the time and looked it; this was the first and best line-up of the Banshees; with Sioux on vocals, Severin on bass, Kenny Morris on drums, and John McKay on guitar, before they released their first landmark album “The Scream”. I can’t be certain what they played that night, but remember being impressed. I am pretty sure they played Metal Postcard, Carcass, T Rex’s 20th Century Boy (Souxsie announced the song “From one Carcass to Another” which I remember clearly as I thought it pretty bad taste at the time, as Bolan had died just a few weeks before), Love in a Void, The Lords Prayer, and Helter Skelter. For me they were the best band of the night and I went on to see them many more times over the next few years.
The next time I saw them was at a packed Durham University Dunelm Ballroom on 15th April 1978. By now the Banshees were a proper band, a major force. The venue was packed, the crowd crazy, the Banshees loud and intense and Siouxsie pure electric magic. The evening was spoilt by trouble and fights. There was a scary edginess in the air. As we left the venue we faced a massive line of skinheads blocking the ramp leading out to the street. “We hate punks!”…mass brawls….the police soon arrived. We ran to the car and made a swift, and lucky, escape.
The Banshees first single Hong Kong Garden was released in August 1978, they were soon in the charts, and then went out on a full UK tour of major concert halls. I saw them at Newcastle City Hall on 30th October 1978. Support was Spizz Oil (did Spizz really wear a helmet and keep hitting himself on the head, or did I dream that?), and the original Human League. The concert was sold out, and the music and the performance were joyous, swirling, challenging and totally engaging. From the first crashing, discordant opening bars of Helter Skelter, through the majestic pop of Hong Kong Garden, to the closing song The Lord’s Prayer, Siouxsie had us all totally captivated. Thinking of the punk bands that I saw live at the time; The Pistols were raw, powerful, important and vital; The Clash were rocky, political, fast, furious and “meant it”, The Jam were sharp, smart, and poppy; and The Damned were simply crazy, madcap, laugh. But the Banshees were different, daring, challenging, uncompromising, and produced sounds that came from somewhere dark, adventurous, rhythmic and yet uplifting. As you might have gathered; I was a big fan.
Based on published setlists, it is likely that the Banshees set at the City Hall was something like this: Helter Skelter; The Staircase (Mystery); Mirage; Metal Postcard (Mittageisen); Jigsaw Feeling; Switch; Hong Kong Garden; Nicotine Stain; Suburban Relapse; Overground; Pure; The Lord’s Prayer. Encore: Love in a Void
“Hong Kong Garden; Tourists swarm to see your face; Confucius has a puzzling grace; Disoriented you enter in; Unleashing scent of wild jasmine.” (Hong Kong Garden, Siouxsie And The Banshees, 1978)
More about the Banshees tomorrow.

8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Mitch on August 27, 2014 at 8:00 am

    I was at the 1978 Durham and Newcastle concerts. I remember that the Durham concert ended in chaos.

    It was fairly easy to clamber up onto the stage at Dunelm and I recall the band being surrounded by audience members several times during the show which forced the band to stop playing. The crowd were then ushered off but five minutes later the same would happen again and after eight songs the band eventually gave up. Midway through The Lords Prayer, when there was that many on stage that you couldn’t see the band at all, Siouxsie stormed off and never returned.

    The Durham setlist was: Mirage, Nicotine Stain, Make Up To Break Up, Metal Postcard, Hong Kong Garden, Carcass, Suburban Relapse, The Lords Prayer.
    Support was from the excellent Neon.

    I witnessed a less ramshackle affair at Newcastle six months later.


  2. Posted by Martin63 on August 27, 2014 at 8:22 pm

    The Banshees in 1978 were an incredible force


  3. Posted by Neil Thompson on August 27, 2014 at 9:19 pm

    I was at the Dunelm gig with my brother, Mitch. When the Banshees were playing, there was a line of punks just walking onto the stage, then walking on the stage in front of the band to the other side with some of them waving to the crowd as they went – the same people did this loads of times and Siouxsie eventually had enough, waved sarcastically to the crowd, said bye bye, and walked off. When everyone walked out it came as quite a shock that some punk/student bashing townies and skinheads had barged in upstairs. There wasn’t any of these downstairs but any punk that ventured upstairs or to the toilet before the end of the gig was seriously beaten up. We walked past bleeding punks on the stairs and I just happened to want a trip to the loo on the way out – I was walking over punks lying on the toilet floor moaning in agony – it was a horrendous sight.


    • Posted by vintagerock on August 27, 2014 at 9:44 pm

      Thanks Neil I too remember it as a scary night. My vivid memory is of coming out to be faced by a line of skins waiting to beat people up. I think the police were just arriving at the same time and we ran to our car. One of the most violent gigs I have been to Cheers Peter


  4. Posted by Timothy Johnson on November 10, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    I was there too. Don’t remember the trouble outside, but I was a bit of a long-haired rocker so maybe less of a target. I recall being underwhelmed by Souixsie, but enjoyed the energy of the show. Neon in support were one of my local favourites.
    I read yesterday that Durham University want to tear down Dunelm House as they say it’s unsuitable and too costly to repair!


  5. Posted by Chris Brookes on November 7, 2018 at 4:36 pm

    I was there too. I remember the disco before played Prince Buster which was fairly unusual in Durham. I remember some lad down the front saying something like ‘get your tits out’ and Siouxsie just stopping dead – and giving him hell (rightly). It was a mixed up angry gig – but very exciting to bit at. Went with a mate Mike Thomas.


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