Siouxsie + The Banshees: Peek-A-Boo CAN CD5 
- Peek-A-Boo [7″ ver.]
- Peek-A-Boo [Big Spender mix]
- False Face
- Peek-A-Boo [Silver Dollar Mix]
An upside to the late 1980s was while the music was going downhill, at least you could buy your singles on CD format. It’s not that much solace, I know. But the cracks in the vinyl hegemony began to show in 1986, and by 1988, it was easy to buy CD singles. The first release for Siouxsie + The Banshees on the format was American “hit” single “Peek-A-Boo.” I put that word in quotes because even though it was their first popular American single ever, the fact was that it only went as high as #53 in the Bilboard Hot 100®. The story in England was better with a #16 showing, but when the single came out, it turned fans’ heads because it resembled little else, much less the work of our [anti]heroes. I immediately bought the UK CD5 that year but my go-to version of this single was something that I purchased on that first trip to Toronto in 1992. The Canadian version had two extended remixes of the A-side in its favor.
The 7″ mix was a succinct 3:10 mix of reversed percussion loops, accordion, sampled piccolos, and almost binaural hard-gated panning of sound in the stereo field. The embittered look at a stripper’s lot became a psychedelic hip-hop freakout in the band’s hands. Even today, I marvel that something this left-field became The Banshees calling card in America which led to bigger and better things when they released “Kiss Them For Me” a few years later.
Both of the B-side to this single seemed to have 60s Batman qualities to them. The slinky instrumental “Catwalk” was built on the hissing hi-hat of a drum machine with guitarist Jon Klein relegated to almost exclusively rhythm guitar of endless inventiveness. Siouxsie’s presence was down to whispering the title and a series of cat purrs and I can’t help but think that Tim Burton was familiar with this before he conscripted the band into writing “Face To Face” a few years later. This one’s perfect Catwoman music.
The “Big Spender” mix of the A-side was down to it featuring Siouxsie interpolating the refrain to “Hey Big Spender” from the musical “Sweet Charity” where it had been sung by taxi dancers. Appropriate, for this song. Otherwise, this can be considered the “extended version” of the A-side. It’s much like the 7″ mix, only twice as long with extended vamping and a few new effects thrown in.
The other “Batman ’66” themed B-side was the breathlessly paced “False Face.” I imagine this one named after the eerie villain who stood out from the river of camp that Batman ’66 villains typically were. Siouxsie’s isolated vocal reverberating in the intro was a deceptive lead into Klein’s tightly coiled riffage complemented by real drums this time, thank you very much, for a quickly paced number that stopped suddenly at less than three minutes, just when things were humming along nicely. Though the [fast] guitar feedback fadeout seemed to be a nod to Mick Ronson’s climax to “John, I’m Only Dancing.”
The UK CD single ended there but the Canadian bonus package also had the “Silver Dollar Mix” as remixed by Rolon’ [B.B.] Deth [a.k.a. Mike Hedges, the song’s original producer]. This one was colored differently from the first 12” version. For a start, this one was almost bereft of the piccolos and instead leaned heavily on squelchy bass synth to vie with the now forward playing martial drum loop. Now the horns were reversed instead of the drums. It was less left-field with a less extreme hard panning of its elements and more of a relentless juggernaut of sound, listening to it again today I was reminded of Bjork’s “Human Behavior” which I think owed something of its vibe to this remix. At the mixes midpoint more squelchy synths belied the influence of acid house but with the slow methodical tempo of this mix, nothing could be further from the typical acid house mix of 1988. No, this track didn’t jack; it lumbered.
I would buy all of the singles from “Peepshow” on CD, but this one was the highest charting of the three, in spite of always holding “The Killing Jar” in the very highest of esteem. Now that was a single that I could not wrap my head around the fact that it never went on the American charts since the song had an upbeat vitality that can’t often be said to exist in Banshees music. But that’s a tale for another time.
– 30 –
My daughter latched on to this song at an early age. I have no idea what about it appealed to her but there you go. She obviously had no understanding of the lyrics or subject matter.
jsd – Well, “Peek-A-Boo” is a child’s game/phrase. That actually makes sense to me, though yes – the subject matter couldn’t be more inappropriate.
I’ve always thought it was a stroke of genius to take their arrangement of John Cale’s Gun and cut it up, reverse and rearrange the percussion to come up with Peek-A-Boo. This MUST have been down to Steve Severin. That it plays on the performance art of Cale and contemporaries like Yoko Ono is just so appropriate.
The Silver Dollar remix brings in some interesting elements for me. The Martial Minimalism is pushed right up front and is like a Goth version of New Jack Swing. That last comparison may get me in some trouble, but I think I can back it up.
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Echorich – Wha…??! I pulled my copy of “Through The Looking Glass” this morning [probably my least listened to Banshees album] and sonnuvagun, that’s it all right! They fed that multitrack into the sampler and really went places with it. I never noticed that ever. I should also mention that I’ve had “Peepshow” since it came out and only got “Through The Looking Glass” in 2006, even though it was the first tour I ever saw The Banshees on, down in your neck of the woods at Jannus Landing. An equally powerful opening act in Julian Cope on that tour, too.
St. Julian was big enough in the North East to headline his own shows during that tour. But both were running on high test in their live shows. I’m a big fan of Through The Looking Glass. Putting a Goth tinge on A Disney track like Trust In Me was spot on. The maniacal take on This Town Isn’t Big Enough For Both Of Us, Hall Of Mirrors filters Kraftwerk through a Jefferson Airplane sort of psychedelia. Strange Fruit has a cinematic New Orleans funeral procession feel and they just made This Wheel’s On Fire their own.