John McGeoch

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John McGeoch
Background information
Birth nameJohn Alexander McGeoch
Born(1955-08-25)25 August 1955
Greenock, Inverclyde, Scotland
Died4 March 2004(2004-03-04) (aged 48)
Launceston, Cornwall, England
GenresPost-punk, new wave, gothic rock, synthpop, alternative rock
InstrumentsGuitar, piano, saxophone
Years active1970–1995
LabelsPolydor, Geffen
Associated actsMagazine, Visage, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Armoury Show, Public Image Ltd, Pacific

John Alexander McGeoch (25 August 1955 – 4 March 2004) was a Scottish guitarist who played with several bands and artists of the post-punk era, including Magazine, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Visage, the Armoury Show and Public Image Ltd.

He was described as "one of the most influential guitarists of his generation"[1] and he was also considered "the new wave Jimmy Page".[1] In 1996, he was listed by Mojo in their "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" for his work on the Siouxsie and the Banshees song "Spellbound".[2]

Life and career[edit]

Early years (1955–1976)[edit]

McGeoch was born and brought up in Greenock, Renfrewshire, Scotland, and acquired his first guitar when he was 12. He first learned to play guitar learning blues songs, including the repertoire of Hendrix and Clapton.[3] In 1970 he played in a local band called the Slugband. In 1971 he moved to London with his family, and in 1975 he began to attend Manchester Polytechnic, where he studied art.

McGeoch had a degree in fine art and an ongoing interest in photography, painting and drawing. He provided some of the cover art for his future band the Armoury Show, years later.

Magazine (1977–1980)[edit]

In April 1977, McGeoch's flatmate Malcolm Garrett introduced him to Howard Devoto, who had recently left Buzzcocks and was looking for a guitarist to form a band which would transcend the limitations of three-chord punk. Devoto found what he was looking for in McGeoch; the pair formed Magazine, along with Barry Adamson, Bob Dickinson and Martin Jackson.

Magazine released their debut single, "Shot by Both Sides", in January 1978. The music was written by Pete Shelley with new Devoto lyrics (the Buzzcocks version was titled "Lipstick"), and the single reached No. 41 on the UK singles chart. The same year, McGeoch graduated from university.

McGeoch played on Magazine's first three albums, Real Life (1978), Secondhand Daylight (1979) and The Correct Use of Soap (1980). He left the band in 1980, shortly after the release of the latter album, frustrated about their lack of commercial success despite being very popular with music critics.

Visage (1979–1981)[edit]

In 1979, while still a member of Magazine, McGeoch joined Steve Strange's electronic group Visage along with erstwhile Magazine bandmates Adamson and Dave Formula, recording songs for their first single "Tar" and later, in 1980, for the ensemble's eponymous album Visage, playing guitar and saxophone.

Although he saw Visage as a joke,[4] the band provided McGeoch with the success he craved, however brief. The band's single "Fade to Grey" went to No. 1 in a number of European countries. McGeoch did not appear on the group's second album, The Anvil, because Visage were recording in London, and he was unable to participate.

On 9 September 1981, John married college sweetheart Janet Pickford.[5]

While still a member of Magazine and Visage, McGeoch also worked occasionally with other bands. In 1980, he recorded most of the guitar work on Gen X's album Kiss Me Deadly at AIR Studios in London. That September, he guested with the Skids for a Peel Session, standing in for Stuart Adamson who was ill.[6] He also collaborated with ex-Magazine drummer John Doyle on Ken Lockie's album The Impossible (1981). Around this time, he left Magazine.

Siouxsie and the Banshees (1980–1982)[edit]

After joining Siouxsie and the Banshees in 1980,[7] McGeoch entered a period of both creative and commercial success. During his first session with the Banshees, he began a new way of playing. He later commented: "I was going through a picky phase, as opposed to strumming. "Happy House" was lighter and had more musicality in it. They invited me to join. I was sad leaving Magazine but the Banshees were so interesting and it felt like a good move".[1]

He played guitar on the Banshees albums Kaleidoscope (1980), Juju (1981) and A Kiss in the Dreamhouse (1982). The Banshees' hit singles of this era featured some of McGeoch's most acclaimed work, particularly 1980's "Happy House", "Christine" and "Israel", and 1981's "Spellbound" and "Arabian Knights". McGeoch's contribution to the band was important in terms of sounds and style. Singer Siouxsie Sioux later honoured him:

However, McGeoch suffered a nervous breakdown due to the stresses of touring and drinking, and collapsed on stage at a Madrid concert. This marked the end of his membership in Siouxsie and the Banshees.[4]

Public Image Ltd (PiL) (1986–1992)[edit]

Following three years in the Armoury Show (which included Doyle as well as ex-Skids members Richard Jobson and Russell Webb), McGeoch joined Public Image Ltd in 1986, a decision which may have been partly motivated by financial difficulties incurred during his time with the Armoury Show. McGeoch had been a great admirer of PiL, particularly John Lydon's lyrics, yet had reportedly turned down an invitation to join the band in 1984 due to prior commitments.

Around this time, McGeoch also contributed to former Bauhaus singer Peter Murphy's debut solo album, Should the World Fail to Fall Apart.[8]

Despite being hit in the face with a bottle during one of his first concerts with the band, McGeoch remained with PiL until they disbanded in 1992, making him the longest-serving member apart from Lydon. He worked on the albums Happy?, 9 and That What Is Not.

McGeoch married Denise Dakin on 14 September 1988.[9] The couple had a daughter in 1989, Emily Jean McGeoch, who later set up tribute websites to her father on Myspace[10] and Facebook.[11]

Life after music and later years (1992–2004)[edit]

In 1992, McGeoch was invited by Björk's Icelandic band, the Sugarcubes, to play guitar on the track "Gold” on their Stick Around for Joy album. After PiL split up, he formed projects with Glenn Gregory of Heaven 17 and songwriter/producer Keith Lowndes. With John Keeble of Spandau Ballet and vocalist Clive Farrington of When in Rome, he formed the short-lived project Pacific (not the band who recorded an album called Inference for Creation Records in 1990).

McGeoch trained as a nurse in 1995, although before his death he had been writing some music for television. He was reported to have died in his sleep on 4 March 2004, in Launceston, Cornwall.[4]

Playing style[edit]

Key characteristics of his playing style included inventive arpeggios, string harmonics, the uses of flanger and an occasional disregard for conventional scales.[citation needed]


During his Magazine days, he played a Yamaha SG1000 guitar with a stand-mounted MXR M117R flanger.[12] He bought his first model in 1977 (or 1976, as he also declared), by the time Magazine got their first recording deal.[13]

With Siouxsie and the Banshees, he created his own setup. He had an MXR flanger mounted on a mic stand which allowed him to hit a chord and sweep the flange knob in real time.[14]

When he was in the Armoury Show, he also used a Squier 1957 Stratocaster and an Ibanez AE410BK.

During his last days with PiL and during his time with Pacific, he played a solid wood Carvin electric guitar.[15] He also used a Washburn Tour 24 guitar for touring during 1988.[16]

Legacy and influence[edit]

McGeoch has been cited by many artists as a major influence. Johnny Marr from the Smiths hailed him, saying: "When I was in my teens, there weren't many new guitar players who were interesting and of their time.[...] John McGeoch. [His work] was really innovative guitar music which was pretty hard to find back then. To a young guitar player like myself, those early Banshees singles were just class".[17] Simon Goddard wrote that McGeoch was a "significant inspiration" on Marr.[17]

Radiohead's Ed O'Brien cited him as a "big influence", citing him as one of the "great guitarists, but they weren’t lead guitarists".[18] Radiohead were also inspired by McGeoch to record "There There". They explained that they were "in heaven" when their producer Nigel Godrich made Jonny Greenwood sound like Siouxsie and the Banshees-era McGeoch for that session.[19] The Edge of U2 often cited McGeoch as one of his influences. U2 selected the Siouxsie and the Banshees song "Christine" from the Kaleidoscope album for a compilation made for Mojo.[20]

Other guitarists also mentioned him. Dave Navarro of Jane's Addiction said that he learned guitar by listening to the albums McGeoch recorded with Siouxsie and the Banshees.[21] John Frusciante of Red Hot Chili Peppers likewise said that he taught himself to play "learning all John McGeoch's stuff in Magazine and Siouxsie and the Banshees".[4]

In the early 1980s, McGeoch also ventured into music production, producing Swedish punk-funk band Zzzang Tumb's debut album in 1983.[22]

In 2008, the BBC aired an hour-long radio documentary on McGeoch's life and work, titled Spellbound: The John McGeoch Story.[23]


Gen X
Siouxsie and the Banshees
The Armoury Show
Peter Murphy
Public Image Ltd
The Sugarcubes

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Perrone, Pierre (2004-03-11). "Obituary – John McGeoch: Influential post-punk guitarist". The Independent. Archived from the original on 2011-09-22. Retrieved 2016-02-29. Often cited as an influence by leading guitarists such as the Edge from U2, John Frusciante of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood, John McGeoch played in several post-punk bands of the late Seventies and early Eighties.
  2. ^ "Mojo – 100 Greatest Guitarists Of All Time June 1996 Issue". Mojo. 1996. Retrieved 2016-02-29. 89. John McGeogh - Spellbound (Siouxsie & the Banshees, Juju) - 1981 - Yamaha SG1000
  3. ^ "Interview". Retrieved 2013-06-17.
  4. ^ a b c d Simpson, Dave (12 March 2004). "Obituary – John McGeoch: Innovative and influential guitarist of the post-punk era". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  5. ^ "England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837-2005," database, FamilySearch ( : 8 October 2014), John A Mcgeoch and null, 1981; from “England & Wales Marriages, 1837-2005,” database, findmypast ( : 2012); citing 1981, quarter 3, vol. 13, p. 1563, Islington, London, England, General Register Office, Southport, England.
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Obituary , John McGeoch". 15 March 2004.
  8. ^ Pierre Perrone (March 11, 2004). "John McGeoch" (Obituary). The Independent. The Independent. Retrieved 2 July 2018.
  9. ^ Gregory, Andy. "The International Who's Who in Popular Music 2002", p. 233. Published by Routledge, 2002. ISBN 1-85743-161-8, ISBN 978-1-85743-161-2
  10. ^ "John McGeoch RIP (j_mcgeoch) on Myspace". Retrieved 2014-07-15.
  11. ^ "Facebook". Facebook. Retrieved 2014-07-15.
  12. ^, Magazine, 12/12/2008 Archived 21 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine.With Magazine, McGeoch played a Yamaha SG1000 + MXR Flanger + a few other bits.
  13. ^ "Interview". Retrieved 2013-06-17.
  14. ^ "The Gothfather" [Robert Smith of the Cure interview]. Guitar Word. June 1996
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ a b Goddard, Simon. Mozipedia: The Encyclopaedia of Morrissey and the Smiths [Sioux, Siouxsie entry]. Ebury Press. p. 393.
  18. ^ Michael Astley-Brown, Rob Laing (14 November 2017). "Radiohead's Ed O'Brien: "I was always drawn to sounds that didn't sound like the guitar". MusicRadar. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
  19. ^ "Radiohead Biography". Archived from the original on 29 June 2006. Retrieved 2009-02-17. Excerpt. Colin Greenwood remembers: "The running joke when we were making this record was that if we recorded a track that stretched over 3mn 50 sec., we'd say "Oh fuck, we've buggered it then. It's gone on too long." Of course, the irony is that the first single we're releasing is actually the longest song on the record. ("There There"). It was all recorded live in Oxford. We all got excited at the end because Nigel was trying to get Jonny to play like John McGeoch in Siouxsie And The Banshees. All the old farts in the band were in seventh heaven."
  20. ^ "U2 Jukebox" U2'Compilation for Mojo Magazine featuring "Christine"
  21. ^ Paytress, Mark. Siouxsie & the Banshees: The Authorised Biography. Sanctuary, 2003. ISBN 1-86074-375-7
  22. ^ Smith, Black Mat. "Happy Talk". Fodderstompf. Melody Maker. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
  23. ^ "'Spellbound: The John McGeoch Story' — hour-long BBC radio documentary". youtube. Retrieved 2014-07-15.

External links[edit]