Siouxsie & the Banshees made their fans “Spellbound” with an iconic early ’80s video

By on June 28, 2018

Night Flight’s “Take Off to Eclectic Ladies” — which aired in 1994, when our show was already in syndication — pays tribute to visionary female musical artists like Ms. Susan Janet Ballion — known professionally as Siouxsie Sioux — whose iconic video for “Spellbound” can be found in this special episode now streaming on Night Flight Plus.

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“Spellbound” was the first single — co-produced by Siouxsie & the Banshees and Nigel Gray at his Surrey Sound studio — was released on May 22, 1981, peaking at #22 on the UK Singles Chart.

The track also appeared on their fourth studio album, Juju, released on June 6th.

That same month, Siouxsie & the Banshees lip-synced and performed “Spellbound” on the UK’s “Top of the Pops.”

“Spellbound,” simply put, is one the band’s best, everyone seems to agree about that, with its hooky arpeggiated chord sequence courtesy of their newly-added guitarist John McGeoch, late of Howard Devoto’s Magazine.

Drummer Budgie also provides what one writer has called “a dizzying whir of dervish undertones and brisk drumbeats.”

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Burnham Beeches

The video — directed by Clive Richardson — was filmed largely in Burnham Beeches, located west of Farnham Common, in the village of Burnham, Buckinghamshire, which borders London’s South East edge.

This is the very same location, not too far from Shepperton Studios, where exterior scenes have been filmed for many of the Hammer Horror movies, not to mention dozens of popular Hollywood features, including Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, The Princess Bride, and several of the Harry Potter blockbusters.

These same beech trees have proved to be so popular that now filming is restricted to no more than twenty days per year and only to certain times of year.

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“Spellbound” begins with Siouxsie on all fours — in her iconic black leather mini-skirt, thigh-high boots and elaborate, mysterious eye makeup — superimposed over images of a crouching black cat, before the scene dissolves through to images of the band playing their instruments and eventually running through Burnham Beeches.

The lyrics — among Siouxsie & the Banshees’ most memorable — reference spooky, haunting images from childhood, with voices and “laughter, cracking through the walls,” which sends us “spinning” on our way to becoming “spellbound” (we love the repetitious alliteration of the “sp” sound too).

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The song is chock-full of images of rag dolls and toys going berserk, coming to life and dancing maniacally, Hitchcock-ian visual images which would probably scare any child (these actions would likely also scare the fuck out of any adult too).

We particularly liked this part — “And don’t forget, when your elders forget to say their prayers/Take them by the legs, and throw them down the stairs” — which leads into Budgie’s pounding drums, which do sound a bit like someone tumbling down the stairs, Psycho-like.

We probably don’t need to point out to you cinéastes out there that Spellbound was the title of a 1945 Alfred Hitchcock movie.

Read more about Siouxsie & the Banshees and “Spellbound” below.

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Siouxsie & the Banshees — John McGeoch, Budgie, Steven Severin and Siouxsie — in front of the Golden Gate Bridge

By the summer of 1981, Siouxsie & the Banshees were still sorting out their lineup, which had been fairly unstable since the beginning.

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Drummer Kenny Morris and guitarist John McKay had departed from the band mid-tour in September 1979, which is what initially led to the Cure’s Robert Smith joining the band, and helping them out on guitar.

Meanwhile, Siouxsie and bassist Steven Severin were able to recruit Peter “Budgie” Clark from the Slits to join the band, and they’d also been able to persuade excellent guitarist John McGeoch to become a full-time Banshee.

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It was with this solid lineup — Siouxsie, Stevens, Budgie and McGeogh — that would complete a five-month European, UK and American tour, beginning in November 1981, in support of their hugely-successful Top Ten album, Juju.

By then, Siouxsie and Budgie had become a couple too, their attraction to each other developing during the recording sessions for an EP, Wild Things, by their Banshees side-project, the Creatures.

The EP sleeve was notable for its photograph of the happy couple, cavorting semi-naked in the shower of a Newcastle hotel room, with Siouxsie’s bare nipples exposed, both of their faces in the throes of sexual ecstasy.

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Everyone seemed happy for the new couple, even Siouxsie’s former boyfriend, Steven Severin, who had no problem with them being together (neither did McGeouch).

Their manager at the time, Nils Stevenson, was another story. Apparently the sight of Siouxsie and Budgie naked in the shower stirred up some unresolved feelings he had for her.

Those feelings ultimately led him back to using heroin again, a habit he’d kicked after becoming the band’s manager years earlier.

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Stevenson ultimately ended up being fired in the Spring of 1982, just as Siouxsie & the Banshees were entering the studio to record their fifth studio album, despite the fact that Siouxsie had lost her voice that March while they were on tour in Scandinavia.

They were still high on the success of Juju, though, which had probably been their darkest, moodiest album to date.

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This 1994 syndicated-era special “Take Off to Eclectic Ladies” — which also features videos by Kate Bush, Shakespears Sister, Suzanne Vega, Björk, Cyndi Lauper, Juliana Hatfied, Melissa Ferrick, Bonnie Raitt and Natalie Merchant’s 10,000 Maniacs, as well as a couple of odd little PSA’s by Night Flight fave Laurie Anderson — and other “Take Off” episodes are now streaming on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.