Kaleidoscope (Siouxsie and the Banshees album)

Studio album by Siouxsie and the Banshees
Released 1 August 1980
Recorded 1980
Genre Post-punk
Length 40:44
Label Polydor
Producer Nigel Gray
Siouxsie and the Banshees
Siouxsie and the Banshees chronology
Join Hands
Singles from Kaleidoscope
  1. "Happy House"
    Released: 7 March 1980
  2. "Christine"
    Released: 30 May 1980

Kaleidoscope is the third studio album by English rock band Siouxsie and the Banshees, released in 1980 by record label Polydor. With the arrival of two new musicians, Budgie on drums and John McGeoch on guitars, the band changed their musical direction and offered an album containing a wide variety of colors. "It was almost a different band", said Siouxsie.[1]

The album was preceded by the hit singles "Happy House" and "Christine". In the UK, Kaleidoscope quickly became their most successful album to date, climbing at N°5 in the albums chart.

Background and music

Siouxsie and the Banshees's new line-up with John McGeoch and Budgie

Following the departure of two band members, the band regrouped and redirected their sound for their third record. Departing from their previous work, the Banshees incorporated synthesizers and drum machines for the first time. They particularly experimented in electronic music on a couple of tracks: the electro-dance minimalism of "Red Light" and the atmospheric, synth-based piece "Lunar Camel". The album also contained what could be described as a ballad, "Desert Kisses". Kaleidoscope marked the debut of guitarist John McGeoch and new drummer Budgie. Siouxsie saw it "like a new lease of life".[2] The songs had been demoed at Warner Chappell studios with only a bass and a synthesizer played by Siouxsie and Steven Severin. After the 1979 tour, Siouxsie had been ordered to take one month of rest by doctors: she used this time to learn playing guitar and compose music for the first time.

Release and critical reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
Melody Makerfavourable[4]

Kaleidoscope was released on 1 August 1980 by record label Polydor. The album peaked at No. 5 in the UK Albums Chart, the highest position the band has achieved to date.[5]

The reception from critics was positive. Paulo Hewitt of Melody Maker's Paulo Hewitt praised the album, and qualified "Paradise Place" and "Skin" as "classic Banshee pieces. Hypnotic, relentless and incisive, both feature Steve Jones on guitar, revealing a hitherto unknown side of the (S)ex-Pistol".[4] Their work on the singles "Happy House" and "Christine" was also hailed shortly after their release by peers The Jam; singer-songwriter Paul Weller said that both songs used "some unusual sounds", while drummer Rick Buckler qualified them as "innovative".[6] [7]

In his retrospective review, David Cleary of AllMusic described Kaleidoscope as a "strong record" with "extraordinarily imaginative production values, featuring intricate synthesizer-flecked arrangements; psychedelic touches in "Christine", spaceship synthesizer swoops in "Tenant" and rhythmic camera clicks in "Red Light" all enliven their respective songs".[3]


Kaleidoscope later influenced several critically acclaimed musicians. In a 1985 interview with Steve Sutherland, The Cure frontman Robert Smith cited the album when describing The Head on the Door: "It reminds me of the Kaleidoscope album, the idea of having lots of different sounding things, different colours".[8]

In a February 2008 interview on BBC Radio 2, Johnny Marr from The Smiths discussed McGeoch's contribution on "Happy House": "What it is about "Happy House" from a guitar playing point of view, is for a start it's modern. It's not got any of the sort of creaky old rock'n'roll aspects to it and it still sounded like the Banshees, almost more so. That's when I really began to become a fan of John McGeoch. It was a extra bonus for me that they'd got a great guitar player who had left another band and came in as a ringer and joined and not surprisingly, that to me was a very good scenario. I've always liked that. It was like getting George Best on the guitar."[9]

Radiohead stated in 2008 interviews that they had rehearsed "Happy House" before going on tour. Guitarist Ed O'Brien added: "We've been doing all this [...] stuff, [...] which is our youth, really. You know, when we were teenagers. They were very formative years, and those bands."[10][11]

Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream was inspired by both "Happy House" and "Christine" because they were pop songs with dark subject matter. He stated: "That's the idea, yeah—to use the conventional way of constructing a pop song to communicate what I feel about the world and my take on relationships. It's a twist that makes it darker than it seems. When we were growing up, Siouxsie and the Banshees were doing this kind of stuff—they were getting in the charts with songs about mental hospitals! "Happy House"? That was nearly number fucking 10 in the charts! "Christine, the strawberry girl, Christine, banana split lady"—they were writing about a girl with schizophrenia! They were getting in pop magazines and on TV; they were getting played on daytime radio. It's fucking subversive! They were outsiders bringing outsider subjects to the mainstream".[12]

Santigold took inspiration from the song "Red Light", explaining, "'My Superman' is an interpolation of a Siouxsie Sioux song, 'Red Light'. I love her song and I love this song".[13] Santigold also later sampled another song from Kaleidoscope, "Lunar Camel", on her Top Ranking remix album. Jeremy Jay covered the same song on his Airwalker EP.

Kaleidoscope was also praised by the singer of Suede, Brett Anderson.[14] Erasure's Andy Bell cited it as one of his favourite :"More commercial offering from Siouxsie was much more up my street - and consequently, as with all my favourite teen angst albums, I learnt all of the songs inside out and backwards".[15]

Track listing

All lyrics written by Siouxsie Sioux, except "Red Light" and "Christine", by Steven Severin; all music composed by Sioux and Severin, except "Trophy", by Sioux, Severin and John McGeoch.

Side A
No. Title Length
1. "Happy House"   3:52
2. "Tenant"   3:41
3. "Trophy"   3:19
4. "Hybrid"   5:31
5. "Clockface"   1:53
6. "Lunar Camel"   3:02
Side B
No. Title Length
7. "Christine"   2:59
8. "Desert Kisses"   4:15
9. "Red Light"   3:21
10. "Paradise Place"   4:34
11. "Skin"   3:49


Siouxsie and the Banshees
Additional personnel


  1. Goddard, Simon. Mozipedia: The Encyclopaedia of Morrissey and the Smiths [Sioux, Siouxsie entry]. Ebury Press. p. 393.
  2. "The Banshees and other Creatures". BBC2 television. 1 hour documentary. Broadcast September 1998
  3. 1 2 Cleary, David. "Kaleidoscope – Siouxsie and the Banshees". AllMusic. AllRovi. Retrieved 2 September 2012.
  4. 1 2 Hewitt, Paulo (26 July 1980). "Siouxsie's Sketches". Melody Maker. Retrieved 2 September 2012. (subscription required)
  5. "Siouxsie & the Banshees [uk charts]". officialcharts.com. Retrieved 29 April 2013.
  6. "Desert Islands Disc: The Jam List Their Current Favourite Records". Flexipop (1). 1980. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
  7. "Desert Islands Disc: The Jam List Their Current Favourite Records". Flexipop (1). 1980. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
  8. Sutherland, Steve (17 August 1985). "A Suitable Case for Treatment". Melody Maker.
  9. "Spellbound: The John McGeoch Story BBC 6 MUSIC". YouTube. 14 June 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2016.
  10. "Radiohead Ed O'Brien interview on 94/9 radio, San Diego radio". citizeninsane.eu. 11 January 2008. Retrieved 20 May 2016. We've kind of been rehearsing Happy House - Siouxsie & the banshees.
  11. Ryan Dombal (28 March 2008). "Radiohead interview". Pitchfork. Retrieved 16 May 2016. In rehearsals yesterday, Thom, Ed and I were running through a Siouxsie and the Banshees cover called "Happy House".
  12. Seymour, Corey (24 March 2016). "Primal Scream's Bobbie Gillespie on His High-profiles Collaborations". vogue.com. Retrieved 1 November 2016.
  13. Hresko, Lisa (28 April 2008). "All That Glitters Is Santogold". CMJ. Archived from the original on 2 May 2008. Retrieved 2 September 2012.
  14. "Some Current Fascinations". brettanderson.co.uk. Archived from the original on 20 July 2011. Retrieved 1 November 2011.
  15. "Erasure's Andy Bell Selects 13 Favourite Records". quietus.com. 26 April 2011. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
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