I can’t say I followed the punk rock scene of the mid-1970s, though I suppose I observed from a distance what was going on due to my constant fascination with music.
But English singer-songwriter, musician and record producer Susan Ballion, better known as Siouxsie Sioux, sure did. She first saw the English punk rock band the Sex Pistols in 1975 (the year they formed) and became a regular follower. I imagine their grungy, anti-authoritarian, often-screamed songs might have touched a part of her that needed to be met with after growing up as a childhood sexual assault survivor in an isolated life with an admired but alcoholic father, whose death when she was 14 plunged her into terrible health.
As a devoted punk-rock follower, Ballion (who adopted the name Siouxsie Sioux) was known at the time for the makeup and bondage-inspired costumes she wore at shows but, eventually, after being beaten up at a concert, headed in another direction. She focused on her own, recently-formed band, Siouxsie and the Banshees. (In my post on David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream,” I briefly refer to the fashion that I, as a thirteen-year-old with my parents, witnessed in the fans while waiting to be let into the Liverpool Empire Theatre to see his concert. I imagine the avant-garde style of costumes there in 1973 as a precursor to those Ballion/Sioux and her contemporaries would be sporting a few years later.)
As an artist, Sioux earned much acclaim; I recall hearing about her early in her career, though again, I didn’t connect directly with her music back then, for whatever reason, though the sense of it always carried a mystical quality I can’t quite explain. But her musician peers certainly connected. Siouxsie Sioux has been held up, her songs covered by others, and just generally admired by many of music’s most highly regarded artists. Many bands and singers like PJ Harvey, Elizabeth Fraser of Cocteau Twins, Dave Grohl, Dolores O’Riordan of the Cranberries, Joan as Police Woman, Alison Goldfrapp, and so many others revere her. She also influenced Joy Division, U2, Sinead O’Connor, among others…. the list seems almost endless.
Siouxsie Sioux has also collaborated with Morrissey, Angelo Badalamenti (famous for his soundtrack for the original Twin Peaks TV series), Suede, John Cale, Yoko Ono and others. Film director Tim Burton asked her to write a song for his movie Batman Returns (1992).
Siouxsie Sioux and the Banshees released “Kiss Them for Me” on the album Superstition in 1991. It’s a song I’ve heard quite often on one of my go-to stations, KEXP Seattle, on The Morning Show with John Richards.
After genuinely enjoying hearing it many times (and it playing in my head a fair bit) lately, I looked up the song today. Wikipedia tells how the piece marked a departure for the band’s style, being more of a pop-oriented, mid-tempo dance song. The online magazine PopMatters listed “Kiss Them for Me” as one of “The 20 Most Memorable Songs of 1991.” I wonder why I’ve only come to know the song in the last year or two!
The lyrics for “Kiss The for Me” are a tribute to American actress and singer Jayne Mansfield (1933-1967) and include the use of the term “divoon” (a superlative she used for “wonderful”). The song touches on the provocative lifestyle that became Mansfield’s trademark and the automobile crash that ended her life. Having witnessed how our male supremacist society has historically dominated females and manipulated and exploited their careers, I’m left wondering how much of all that, in such a high-profile lifestyle, hastened Mansfield’s turbulent life and very young death.
The song begins with a percussed and somewhat synthesized chant/mantra type of vibe with an Eastern flavour carried to a degree throughout the song’s structure, effects, and treatments. There’s a synthesizer lines that in part cleverly mimics the chorus, “Kiss them for me…. ” The YouTube music video, which isn’t available in Canada, emphasizes the Eastern influence. (There are copies of the video on YouTube, but not authorized, and I always hesitate about sharing access to a post that allows a random channel owner to profit off someone else’s art.)
The mantra/chant aspect of the song was particularly compelling for me this morning. I had listened to it a couple of times, so it was firmly registering in my subconsciousness. A little later in the morning, Sweety and I had our regular Monday morning group meditation with Padma, whom I mentioned in a post last week. Her group meditation features a mantra and builds upon its meaning in the three sessions the offers each week. This morning, I think my mind was already so settled in a mantra mode that, by the time we were in the silent meditation phase after Padma’s mantra, I was so deep in it, I felt I nearly drifted toward sleep! It was a blissful and restorative feeling; I’ll have to share that with her next time we speak.
“Kiss Them for Me” is definitely a current favourite. And all the history aside, I love the song in its brilliance and as an example of and a tribute to beauty. It’s a powerful and somewhat tragic piece by a bold and brave artist.
The Banshees were together until 1996, at which time Sioux continued for a while with another band, the Creatures, which was active from 1981 to 2005. Since then, Sioux has maintained a solo career though she hasn’t released material since 2015.
Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.
Here’s the official audio from Siouxsie and the Banshees’ YouTube channel:
Full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.