Well, just three STUCK IN THE 80s shows to go on WMPG community radio (in Portland, Maine, USA), and on Sunday, 1.29.2017, my awesome and talented WMPG radio neighbor, DJ SHAXX (host of the kick-ass LEFT OF THE DIAL), and I will be teaming up for a second installment in celebrating the 12-inch single, extended remixes and even mash-ups on a show that we are calling 12inchTHROWDOWN Redux!
One band who knew a lot about releasing excellent 12” singles and remixes was the brilliant London Goth Rock / Post-Punk band, Siouxsie And The Banshees, who had already been around for 12 years and releasing music for 10 years before they finally (!) penetrating a tougher-than-it-should-have-been American music market.
In July 1988, a couple of months before releasing their ninth studio album, PEEPSHOW, Siouxsie And The Banshees, then comprised of Siouxsie Sioux (singer), Steven Severin (bass), Jon Klein (guitar), Budgie (drums / percussion / harmonica) and Martin McCarrick (cello / keyboards / accordion), released the album’s first single, “Peek-A-Boo.”
“Peek-A-Boo” was a wonderful three-minute “peek” into a different direction for Siouxsie & Co., taking not-so-traditional instruments like the cello and the accordion, replete with thunderous drums, and smartly incorporating them into their Alt-Rock / Alt-Dance songs. You can hear the prominent and sweet use of then-new member Martin McCarrick’s accordion on “Peek-A-Boo.”
According to a 2008 interview with PEEPSHOW producer, Mike Hedges, who had served as producer and/or engineer on four previous Siouxsie And The Banshees albums and the first album by The Creatures (Siouxsie and Budgie’s side project), “It all started a year or so before, when the Banshees made an album of cover versions called THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS. On that album they’d recorded a version of a John Cale song called ‘Gun,’ and when we were recording it I turned it over – which you can do on analogue tape – and it sounded amazing. I think at the time I turned over pretty much everything, just in case there was something that sounded great going backwards which you could then record and add to the existing song. So, a bit later, when we were working on the next album, PEEPSHOW, we said, ‘Remember that track that sounded really good backwards? Could we possibly make it into another song?’”
Mike Hedges also added in that interview, “The Banshees were very, very experimental, and at that time in the music business you could be experimental. There was no pressure to do anything in a straight style, which isn’t really the case any more. ‘Peek-A-Boo’ was obviously a single for them, simply because it was one song that really was completely messed with. The unusual was expected of them.”
Upon the song’s release, MELODY MAKER, the popular weekly British Pop / Rock music newspaper (which merged with NEW MUSIC EXPRESS in 2000), went on to describe “Peek-A-Boo” as “a brightly unexpected mixture of black steel and pop disturbance,” and compared its sound to “thirties hip hop.”
The British press was all over “Peek-A-Boo” from the start. Another weekly British Pop / Rock music newspaper, SOUNDS (which ended in 1991), wrote that “Peek-A-Boo” was “a brave move; playful and mysterious. The snare gets slapped, Siouxsie’s voice meanders all around your head and it all comes magically together.” NEW MUSIC EXPRESS exclaimed, “If this nation was served by anything approaching a decent pop radio station, ‘Peek-A-Boo’ would be a huge hit.”
In 2008, Kele Okereke, singer of the London Indie Rock / Alt-Dance band, Bloc Party, said this of “Peek-A-Boo”: “It sounded like nothing else on this planet. This is just a pop song that they put out in the middle of their career that nobody knows about, but to me it sounded like the most current but most futuristic bit of guitar-pop music I’ve heard.”
Well, as it turned out, many people would soon know about (and love) “Peek-A-Boo.” In the U.K., it became their fifth Top 20 hit, reaching No. 16. In Ireland, it was the band’s fourth Top 20 hit, peaking at No. 18. Over here in the U.S., thanks in large part to its video getting a lot of play on MTV, “Peek-A-Boo” became the very first song to chart at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s brand-new Modern Rock Tracks chart (now called Alternative Songs), spending two non-consecutive weeks at No. 1 in September 1988.
A few weeks later, and a couple weeks before Halloween (which harkens another Banshees gem from 1981), “Peek-A-Boo” became the first Siouxsie And The Banshees song to debut on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (it’s about time, dammit!), coming in at No. 92.
“Peek-A-Boo” made a respectable run for the Top 40, but stopped at No. 53 for a couple of weeks in early November 1988, and spent a total of 14 weeks on the Hot 100. They would reach the Hot 100 once more – and this time, the Top 40 – when “Kiss Them For Me” reached No. 23 in October 1991.
The Silver Dollar Mix of “Peek-A-Boo,” which reached No. 14 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, has been a favorite remix of mine for a long time, and will be featured during the 12inchTHROWDOWN Redux show. I’ve always loved playing “Peek-A-Boo” on the radio and when DJing at one of the clubs in Portland back in the 00s. It’s so infectious, different and moves you in a way you didn’t think possible. Kinda like Siouxsie And The Banshees, huh?