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45 at 33: Siouxsie And The Banshees say Peek-a-Boo!

Here’s where the story begins. The experimental backwards collage track that became Peek-a-Boo started life as a possible B-side for Siouxsie And The Banshees’ brass-fuelled cover of Iggy Pop‘s The Passenger, the second single from the band’s covers project Through The Looking Glass.

The song’s stuttering drumbeat was created from a sample of their song Gun played backward, over which wildly inventive instrumentation was added. There’s a madly lurching accordion, a single-note belch of bass, and brief samples of brass laden with effects. Peek-a-Boo features a dazzling vocal arrangement in which the ever glamorous Siouxsie Sioux sings the lurid carnival freak show lyrics from a different part of the sound spectrum on each line. Her vocal phrasing is ingenious throughout.

In the chorus she wails “Peeeek-a-Boo! Peeeek-a-Boo!” over a creepy extrapolation of the old jazz standard Jeepers Creepers. It‘s innovative and delightfully contagious, and all comes together in a hallucinatory whirl of diabolical sounds and provocatively sexual imagery. While the Banshees and side project The Creatures released numerous great singles in the 1980s, Peek-a-Boo is arguably their cleverest recording.

But don‘t just take my word for it.

Naturally, this astounding collage of sound was the lead 45 from the multifaceted Peepshow, possibly the band’s greatest latter period album (although many old-school fans will disagree). It reached No.16 in Britain in August 1988 and gave the band their sixth and final Top 20 single to date.

Amazingly, Peek-a-Boo also became the Banshees’ first-ever hit on the American Hot 100 (reaching 53), and it owns the distinction of holding the first-ever spot at No. 1 when Billboard started its Modern Rock chart on 10 September 1988.

On a collector tip, the 12″ single is worth seeking out for the excellent extended slightly Blondie meets Pet Shop Boys-ish Silver Dollar mix as well as its two brilliant b-sides, False Face and Catwalk, the latter of which almost seems to anticipate Face To Face, their time tune for Batman Returns in the ’90s.

Steve Pafford

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