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San Diego Spotlight: POP MUSIC / THOMAS K. ARNOLD

Queen of the Dark Side Finally Sees the Limelight

November 02, 1988|THOMAS K. ARNOLD

Siouxsie and the Banshees have got to be one of the most unlikely success stories of the year. The British avant-punk band debuted at London's 100 Club on Sept. 20, 1976, playing an ominous 20-minute version of "The Lord's Prayer," with future Sex Pistol Sid Vicious on drums.

With her stark white face, jet black hair and icy stare, lead singer Siouxsie Sioux was immediately hailed as the queen of the dark side. And her band--named after the female spirits in Irish folklore who are believed to wail outside a house to warn of impending death--proved a most appropriate court: Sioux's world-weary lyrics and eerie vocals were set to haunting melodies and destructive rhythms.

Throughout the late 1970s and '80s, Siouxsie and the Banshees found plenty of success on the British charts with their musical nihilism. But, in the United States, it was a different story. As recently as 1986, a Los Angeles Times rock critic called the group "one of the most consistently rewarding, influential, and, in this country, sadly neglected bands of the last decade."

Today, however, Siouxsie and the Banshees are riding high on the American pop charts with both a hit album, "Peepshow," and a hit single, "Peek-a-Boo." On their current U. S. concert tour, they're no longer playing tiny clubs, but major arenas and theaters. Sunday night, Siouxsie and the Banshees will be appearing at the California Theatre in downtown San Diego.

"I don't know why it's suddenly happening now," Sioux said in a recent telephone interview. "We're no more commercial now than we were at the start. People have always characterized us as Gothic gloom-doom merchants, and while we love all that stuff--Roger Korman and Vincent Price films, putting a sort of Hitchcockian edge to our music--it's led to a lot of misconceptions.

"Whenever people condense what they think of you, they miss a whole lot. In our case, there's also a fragility, a vulnerability that people might better relate to, but which they tend to overlook--at least until now." (For more on the group, please see Page 3.)

CAUSE FOR SINGING: Jackson Browne is one of the most politically active pop stars of the post-Vietnam War era. The influential singer-songwriter has campaigned for dozens of Democratic candidates, including presidential contenders Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale and former California Gov. Jerry Brown. He also sits on the board of directors of Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE), which organizes benefits to fight nuclear power.

This fall, Browne has found yet another cause. The purpose of his current national concert tour, which includes a Saturday night performance at the Civic Theatre downtown, is to raise money for the Christic Institute's notorious La Penca lawsuit.

The Christic Institute, a nonprofit religious organization based in Washington, filed the federal suit in May, 1986, on behalf of two American journalists who allege that the 1984 bombing of a La Penca, Nicaragua, press conference by dissident Contra leader Eden Pastora was planned and carried out by a White House-sanctioned "criminal enterprise" of CIA agents, U. S. military generals and right-wing mercenaries.

Pastora, the intended target, survived the attack. But three journalists were killed and many others, including one of the plaintiffs in the current suit, were injured.

HELP IS ON ITS WAY: A benefit concert for Tom (Cat) Courtney has been scheduled for Nov. 18 at Rio's nightclub in Loma Portal. Last month, the venerated San Diego blues man was attacked by a knife-wielding assailant during his regular Thursday-night gig at the Texas Teahouse in Ocean Beach.

In the scuffle, Courtney, 59, was stabbed twice in the left arm, and most of his equipment was destroyed. For more than two weeks, he was unable to play. Today, his recovery is still not complete. And, with thousands of dollars in medical bills and lost earnings--and with no insurance--Courtney is even worse off financially than he is physically.

Among the local musicians donating their services to help ease Courtney's plight, along with host band Shades of Blue: Mojo Nixon consort Skid Roper, Buddy Blue of the Jacks and various members of the Blonde Bruce Band, the Forbidden Pigs and the Trebles.

MOVIN' ON: Expatriate San Diegan Nino Del Pesco, who in the early 1980s played bass with local power-pop band (and Stiff America recording artists) the Puppies, is currently plying the Los Angeles nightclub scene with the Knights of the Living Dead. The hot new rhythm-and-blues group, led by ex-Junior Walker guitarist Roland DeVoile, is already negotiating with several top managers and record companies. One of the Knights' biggest fans is Warren Zevon, who recently wrote their official bio.

BITS AND PIECES: Two of the "celebrity judges" at last Saturday night's Halloween Ball at the Omni Hotel: Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe, better known as British techno-pop duo the Pet Shop Boys. The bash was sponsored by Top 40 radio station KKLQ AM and FM (600 and 106.5). . . . San Diego's own Red Flag will open for British synthesizer whiz Thomas Dolby on Nov. 10 at the California Theatre.

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