The ANU School of Music Research Seminar is the premier forum for academic staff, invited guests and postgraduate researchers of the ANU School of Music to present their work. This seminar will feature Associate Professor Samantha Bennett.
Horror and Early Cinema in Siouxsie and the Banshees’ Peepshow
Assoc. Prof. Samantha Bennett
…each song represents a sort of Peeping Tom situation, with us peering in on each scenario, most of which take place between two people. It’s like stripping away the side of an apartment building and watching the different lives going on in parallel in each room/box. We’ve stripped away the barriers and spied on the secret happenings.
- Siouxsie Sioux
[JEFF]: You mean that you can explain everything strange that has been going on over there, and is still going on?
[Lt. DOYLE]: No, and neither can you. That’s a secret private world you’re looking into out there.
- Rear Window
Drawing on research to be published in a forthcoming 33 1/3 series book (Bloomsbury Academic), this paper considers some of the cinematic influence imbued in post-punk band Siouxsie and the Banshees’ ninth studio album Peepshow. Throughout the record, explicit references to films including Nicholas Roeg’s Eureka (1983) and Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse (1981) are made, as well as lyrical references to technical aspects of film including shadows, mise en scéne and the staging of protagonists. Peepshow’s unusual orchestration, song arrangements, multi-intertextual and large scale form borrows heavily from film music, specifically works by Ennio Morricone, Bernard Herrmann, Nino Rota, Frederick Hollander and James Bernard.
This paper first situates opening track and lead single ‘Peek-A-Boo’ in the context of early cinema, whilst simultaneously considering its musical construction and conceptual basis as exemplifying Mulvey’s ‘male gaze’. Drawing on 17th Century British folklore as an underpinning concept, album track ‘Rawhead and Bloodybones’ features multiple, technologically constructed locations for lead singer Siouxsie Sioux’s childlike protagonist, as well as classic horror film music tropes. This paper posits Peepshow as inherently cinematic. Due to its heavily intertextual form, the record might be read as the soundtrack to all the films Siouxsie and the Banshees ever saw; it may also be read as the soundtrack to a great film they never made.