- SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES Peek-A-Boo (Polydor)
- Week Ending 13th August 1988
- 2 Weeks At #1
Golly, jeepers! Where did this come from? Amazing Reinventions By Stagnating 80s Acts, part 2.
One of the leading post-punk/goth bands of the late 1970s, Siouxsie & The Banshees carried on through the 1980s having minor hits that sold to a loyal fanbase, the top 3 smash cover of Dear Prudence (from The Beatles’ 1968 “White” album) aside. Their albums continued to chart somewhere in the top 20, never hanging around for more than a couple of months. As of August 1988, I’d yet to buy any of them.
I did rent out both 1986’s Tinderbox and 1987’s covers set Through The Looking Glass from the local library, but beyond the singles I could never really get into anything (the ghostly trawl through Karftwerk’s Hall Of Mirrors on the latter record being a glorious exception).
Even the 45s seemed to prove hit-and-miss with my teenage tastes; Dazzle stormed to #3 in 1984, but Candyman got nowhere. Likewise the unconventional Swimming Horses. The majestic Cities In Dust made #14 (and really ought to have gone higher).
The pair of singles from that aforementioned Through The Looking Glass project did give them back-to-back Top 10 hits on my chart for the first time; a cinematic take on This Wheel’s On Fire peaked at #5 in early 1987, swiftly followed by a glam-tastic romp through Iggy Pop’s The Passenger (which bafflingly stalled at #41 in the UK) that reached #9. It could be said that my appreciation of alternative music had grown by that point; The Smiths and The Cure were both finding themselves in contention for the #1 spot on my Top 40s, even if neither quite made it (or in the case of The Smiths, not in their active lifetime).
Then, however, the sense of commercial and creative drift felt like it had reached an inevitable trough with a summer 1987 single Song From The Edge Of The World. Hardly anyone liked it, even fewer bought it, and the band pretty much disowned it. Notably absent from their Twice Upon A Time retrospective in 1992, an alternate version (dubbed the “JVC” mix) ended up as a bonus track on the reissue of Tinderbox, and another extended mix made its way onto the second disc of 2002’s The Very Best Of.
So, what next? The usual palette-cleanser and mojo-refresher of a covers album hadn’t infused fresh energy or direction into The Banshees’ universe, and an unloved orphan single was the result.
But then. Oh. My. Word. What. Is. This.
This was Peek-A-Boo. And, beyond Eurythmics’ Beethoven the year before, a more drastic and utterly inspired reinvention it would have been impossible to find.
Drum loops and orchestra hits, manipulated every which way; slowed down, fed through filters, even played backwards. Percussion fills that sound like pots and pans crashing onto the floor. Siouxsie’s tongue-twisting vocal wrapping itself around this disorientating arrangement, playing on the old “golly, jeepers, where did you get those peepers?” song and adding an extra freakish layer of dark mystery.
Claustrophobic and just a tad unsettling, Peek-A-Boo is playful and sounds like it was fun to create. The band certainly seem liberated from the aimless goth-rock of Song From The Edge Of The World. There’s a woozy, cartoonish inventiveness, like a lost Disney tune from the dark side. Maybe recording their version of Trust In Me (from The Jungle Book) on Through The Looking Glass did stir the artistic juices after all?