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
Years active1970–1995
Formerly of

John Alexander McGeoch (25 August 1955 – 4 March 2004) was a Scottish musician and songwriter. He is best known as the guitarist of the rock bands Magazine (1977–1980) and Siouxsie and the Banshees (1980–1982).

He has been described as one of the most influential guitarists of his generation.[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] Signature characteristics of his playing style included inventive arpeggios, string harmonics, the uses of flanger and an occasional disregard for conventional scales.

He was also a member of the bands Visage (1979–1980), the Armoury Show (1983–1986) and Public Image Ltd (1986–1992).

McGeoch has been cited as an influence by guitarists including Johnny Marr, Jonny Greenwood, Ed O'Brien, the Edge, John Frusciante, Geordie Walker, Robert Smith, Steve Albini, Duane Denison, and Dave Navarro.

Early life[edit]

McGeoch was born on 25 August 1955 in Greenock, Renfrewshire, Scotland, where he spent his childhood years. He began to play the guitar at 12 years of age, first learning British blues music, being influenced by the work of Eric Clapton, and also that of Jimi Hendrix.[3] He took piano lessons for five years until the age of twelve. When his parents bought him a guitar, he stopped piano.[4] In 1970 he played with a local band called the 'Slugband'. In 1971 his parents moved to London.

In 1975 he went to art school in Manchester where he received a degree in Fine Art.[4] In his final year in 1976, he was enraptured by a new music that "ended up being called punk rock". He qualified it "the revolution, and I really do think that's the right word for it".[4] He maintained an interest in photography, painting and drawing throughout his life.


1977–1980: Magazine and Visage[edit]

In April 1977 McGeoch's Manchester student flatmate Malcolm Garrett introduced him to Howard Devoto, who had recently left the band Buzzcocks and was looking for a guitarist to form a band with.[4] The pair formed a new act entitled Magazine, along with Barry Adamson, Bob Dickinson and Martin Jackson. The new band released its debut single, "Shot by Both Sides" in January 1978. The song's music was written by Pete Shelley with new Devoto lyrics (the Buzzcocks version was titled "Lipstick"); on release it reached #41 on the UK Singles Chart. (The same year McGeoch graduated from Manchester Polytechnic).

McGeoch went on to play 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 with its lack of commercial success despite its recognition with music press critics.

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

Although he saw Visage as something of a joke,[5] the band provided McGeoch with early professional credibility and success. The band's single "Fade to Grey" went to #1 in a number of European countries and McGeoch said the money from the song allowed him to buy a house.[6] McGeoch did not record on the group's second album, The Anvil, as it was recorded in London and he was unable to participate.

While still a member of Magazine and Visage, McGeoch also worked occasionally with other bands. In mid-1980 he recorded most of the guitar work on Gen X's album Kiss Me Deadly at AIR Studios in London.[7] He left Magazine during that time. In September 1980 he guested with Skids for a Peel Session, standing in for Stuart Adamson who was unwell.[8] Other session work included Tina Turner's comeback track with the British Electric Foundation and for Propaganda[6] He also collaborated with ex-Magazine drummer John Doyle on Ken Lockie's album The Impossible.

1980–1982: Siouxsie and the Banshees[edit]

When recording with Siouxsie and the Banshees in early 1980,[9] McGeoch entered a period of both creative and commercial success. During his first session with the Banshees he began a new style 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 became an official member of the group at the release of "Israel" in November 1980, which was the first single he composed with the band.

He recorded guitar on the Banshees' long-players 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 said:

John McGeoch was my favourite guitarist of all time. He was into sound in an almost abstract way. I loved the fact that I could say, "I want this to sound like a horse falling off a cliff", and he would know exactly what I meant. He was easily, without a shadow of a doubt, the most creative guitarist the Banshees ever had".[1]

However, McGeoch suffered a nervous breakdown due to the stresses of touring and an increasing personal problem with alcohol. He arrived in Madrid for a promotional stay in bad state and made several uncharacteristic mistakes at a gig. Back home, he was forced to leave the band in October 1982 to rest and recover.[5]

1983–1986: The Armoury Show[edit]

In 1983, during a break from playing music, he produced Swedish punk-funk band Zzzang Tumb's debut long-player.[10]

He joined the band the Armoury Show which included Doyle as well as ex-Skids members Richard Jobson and Russell Webb. Their album Waiting for the Floods released in 1985, features some of McGeoch's best guitar work. He contributed to former Bauhaus singer Peter Murphy's debut solo long-player Should the World Fail to Fall Apart.[11]

1986–1992: Public Image Ltd[edit]

In 1986, McGeoch joined John Lydon's Public Image Ltd, a decision which may have been partly motivated by financial difficulties he was in at this time. He had been an admirer of PiL, particularly of Lydon's lyrics, yet reportedly had previously turned down an offer from him to join the band in 1984. Despite being struck in the face with a bottle thrown from the crowd during one of his first gigs with the band, McGeoch remained with PiL until it disbanded in 1992, making him the longest-serving member apart from Lydon. He recorded on its long-players: Happy?, 9 and That What Is Not.

In 1992 he was invited by the Icelandic band the Sugarcubes to play the lead guitar on the song "Gold" for their Stick Around for Joy long-player.

1993–2004: Last years[edit]

Without a band, he ended his career seeking to form one via a variety of short-lived ventures, including working with Glenn Gregory and the songwriter/producer Keith Lowndes. With John Keeble of Spandau Ballet and vocalist Clive Farrington of When in Rome, he formed a line-up provisionally titled 'Pacific', but no commercial material came of it.

In the mid-1990s McGeoch retired from professional music and trained mid-life as a nurse/carer. In the early 2000s he was reported as attempting to re-enter professional music by working on musical scores for television productions.[5]


During his time with Magazine McGeoch played a Yamaha SG1000 guitar with a stand-mounted MXR M117R flanger.[12] He bought his first model in 1977 when the band signed its recording deal, which provided him with the finances for professional standard equipment.[13] Whilst with Siouxsie and the Banshees he created his own setup, involving a MXR flanger mounted on a mic stand which allowed him to hit a chord and sweep the flange knob in real time.[14] He also played on a 12 String Ovation acoustic guitar.[15] He also used a MXR Dynacomp Compressor and a Yamaha E1005 Analog Delay. His amps were a Roland Jazz Chorus JC120 and two Marshall MV50 combos.[15] His use of flange and chorus added depth and space to his parts.[16] During the recording sessions of Juju, he used devices such as the Gizmo on "Into the light", and an EBow on "Sin in My Heart".[17]

Whilst working with 'The Armoury Show', he also used a customised Telecaster, a white Squier 1957 Stratocaster, an Ibanez AE410BK and an Ibanez AE100. For pedals, alongside his 'flanger on a stick', he was using an MXR Compressor, two Ibanez harmonisers and an Ibanez Super Metal pedal.[6] During his work with PiL, and in his last years he favoured a solid wood Carvin electric guitar.[18] He also used a Washburn Tour 24 guitar for touring during 1988.[19]


McGeoch has been cited as a major influence by numerous guitarists. Johnny Marr from the Smiths said: "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".[20] Simon Goddard wrote that McGeoch was a "significant inspiration" on Marr.[20] Marr said: "Really my generation was all about a guy called John McGeoch, from Siouxsie and the Banshees".[21] Marr also stated: "The music he made with the Banshees … the word imperial was made for that music".[22]

Radiohead have cited McGeoch's work with Magazine and Siouxsie and the Banshees as an influence. The lead guitarist, Jonny Greenwood, said McGeoch was the guitarist that had most influenced him.[23] The Radiohead guitarist Ed O'Brien also cited him as a "big influence", and one of the "great guitarists [who] weren't lead guitarists".[24] He said that McGeoch was "responsible for some of the greatest riffs ever ... 'Spellbound', 'Christine', 'Happy House'... His riffs are so elegant and once you learn how to play them there is almost a zen like quality to the sound and movement of your hands. it reminds me of the beauty in Johnny Marr's playing."[25] For their 2003 single "There There", Radiohead's producer Nigel Godrich encouraged Greenwood to play like McGeoch in Siouxsie and the Banshees.[26]

Dave Navarro of Jane's Addiction said that he "always loved all the different guitarists that have been in Siouxsie and the Banshees".[27] John Frusciante of Red Hot Chili Peppers named McGeoch in his primary influences: "[McGeoch] is such a guitarist I aspire to be. He has a new brilliant idea for each song. I usually play on the stuff he does on Magazine's albums and Siouxsie & the Banshees's like Juju."[28] Frusciante praised him as a musician "who played in more textural ways" and who made "interesting music".[29] Frusciante "bought an SG, because I’m a big fan of John McGeoch from Siouxsie and the Banshees and Magazine. When I’d play along with his records using a Strat, the parts sounded too thin and weak for the simple power of his playing. In learning the SG, I had to teach myself to bend in a brand-new way and use new muscles to do vibrato."[30]

The Edge of U2 cited McGeoch as an influence and chose the Siouxsie and the Banshees song "Christine" for a compilation made for Mojo.[31] Interviewed in March 1987, the Edge said his "background is much more Tom Verlaine and John McGeoch".[32] Robert Smith of the Cure praised McGeoch's guitar part on "Head Cut", including it in his five favourite guitar tracks: "This is really harsh funk in a weird way – clever choppy chords."[33] Roddy Frame of Aztec Camera praised McGeoch saying, "he chose very simple lines over anything bombastic,... the song came first and he tried to complement that".[22] In a playlist, William Reid of the Jesus and Mary Chain selected two of McGeoch's songs, "Spellbound" by the Banshees and "Definitive Gaze" by Magazine.[34]

Steve Albini of Big Black praised McGeoch for his guitar playing with Magazine and Siouxsie and the Banshees, qualifying as "great choral swells, great scratches and buzzes, great dissonant noise and great squealy death noise. What a guy" and further commenting: "anybody can make notes. There's no trick. What is a trick and a good one is to make a guitar do things that don't sound like a guitar at all. The point here is stretching the boundaries".[35] Albini also stated: "He was an innovator with the pure sound of his guitar... I admire the economy of his playing. He made very precise choices that were usually beautifully simple".[22] Duane Denison of the Jesus Lizard chose McGeoch as his favorite guitarist for his work with Magazine and the Banshees, especially on Juju, saying: "his playing was atmospheric and aggressive" and "truly inspiring to me".[36] Mark Arm of Mudhoney "loved [McGeoch's] work with Magazine and Siouxsie And The Banshees".[37] Arm praised McGeoch's musical approach, saying: "He’s got a very unique style... He’s a very original thinker and not an ‘overplayer’ – the little bits where he does a solo are really innovative and super-cool... Space is key, a secret ingredient for musicians which shouldn’t be a secret. Knowing when to step back – John had that ability".[38]

Terry Bickers of the House of Love cited him as one of his favourite musicians.[39] James Dean Bradfield of the Manic Street Preachers said that McGeoch was "slightly avant-garde. He was a genius".[40] Bradfield added that McGeoch's guitar-playing makes "you realize you were listening to a new version of rock and roll".[41]

Stuart Braithwaite of Mogwai qualified McGeoch as "the best post-punk guitarist", saying, "he played like no-one else, totally distinct and with unyielding imagination. I hear his influence everywhere to this day", and dubbed him "a total legend".[17] James Graham of the Twilight Sad cited him as one "of the guitarists I still continue to revisit when I’m writing. The ideas they were coming up with at the time still sound as fresh just now as they did back then".[42]

In 2008, the BBC aired an hour-long radio documentary on McGeoch's life and work, titled Spellbound: The John McGeoch Story.[43]

In April 2022, The Light Pours Out of Me, an authorised biography of McGeoch by Rory Sullivan-Burke, was released by Omnibus Press. It features interviews with Greenwood, Marr, John Frusciante and the singers Siouxsie Sioux and Devoto.[44]

Personal life[edit]

On 9 September 1981, McGeoch married Janet Pickford, his girlfriend at Manchester Polytechnic, the marriage later ending in divorce.[45] On 14 September 1988, he married Denise Dakin,[46] the second marriage producing a daughter, Emily Jean McGeoch (b. 1989).[citation needed]


McGeoch died at the age of 48 in his sleep on 4 March 2004 at his home in Launceston, Cornwall[5] from sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP).[47]


Banshees' drummer Budgie wrote a text to honour him on the Siouxsie website, saying: "Without any disrespect to all the other guitarists we have worked with, none had the relaxed mastery and such a depth of expression as John McGeoch. No amount of scrutiny of filmed 'Live' performance tapes could reveal the subtle economy of technique that made an apparently complex phrase look so deceptively simple. Exasperated guitarists would often comment, "But his hands don’t even move!".[48]


Albums (as band member)[edit]

Siouxsie and the Banshees
Armoury Show
Public Image Ltd

Albums (as a guest musician)[edit]

with Gen X
with Ken Lockie
with Peter Murphy
with the Sugarcubes


  • Sullivan-Burke, Rory (April 2022). The Light Pours Out of Me: The Authorised Biography of John McGeoch. Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-1913172664.


  1. ^ a b c Perrone, Pierre (11 March 2004). "Obituary – John McGeoch: Influential post-punk guitarist". The Independent. Archived from the original on 22 September 2011. Retrieved 29 February 2016. 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 29 February 2016. 89. John McGeogh – Spellbound (Siouxsie & the Banshees, Juju) – 1981 – Yamaha SG1000
  3. ^ "Interview". Retrieved 17 June 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d Batey, Rick (April 1991). "Compilation John McGeoch". Guitarist.
  5. ^ a b c d Simpson, Dave (12 March 2004). "Obituary: John McGeoch". Archived from the original on 4 May 2013. Retrieved 15 December 2016.
  6. ^ a b c Jon Lewin (December 1985). "Arms + the Man". One Two Testing. IPC Magazines. Retrieved 29 June 2022.
  7. ^ 'Dancing with Myself', by Billy Idol. (Pub. Simon & Schuster, 2014).
  8. ^ "BBC – Radio 1 – Keeping It Peel – 01/09/1980 Skids". Retrieved 28 April 2019.
  9. ^ "John McGeoch - Obituary". The Telegraph. 15 March 2004. Archived from the original on 9 November 2012. Retrieved 24 May 2023.
  10. ^ Smith, Black Mat (8 August 1987). "Happy Talk". Melody Maker.
  11. ^ Pierre Perrone (11 March 2004). "John McGeoch - Obituary". The Independent. Archived from the original on 10 August 2017. Retrieved 2 July 2018.
  12. ^, Magazine, 12/12/2008 Archived 21 February 2009 at the Wayback MachineWith Magazine, McGeoch played a Yamaha SG1000 + MXR Flanger + a few other bits.
  13. ^ "Interview". Retrieved 17 June 2013.
  14. ^ "The Gothfather" [Robert Smith of the Cure interview]. Guitar Word. June 1996
  15. ^ a b Walmsley, Richard (April 1986). "Tinder Is The Night". International Musician & Recording World. United Kingdom: Cover Publications Ltd, Northern & Shell Ltd.: 74–79.
  16. ^ Salaz, Ernest (18 December 2014). "From The Desk of I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness: John McGeoch". Magnetmagazine. Retrieved 22 March 2022.
  17. ^ a b Sullivan-Burke, Rory (April 2022). "The Light Pours Out of Me: The Authorised Biography of John McGeoch". Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-1913172664 p. 108
  18. ^ "John McGeoch's Carvin DC400 Electric Guitar". Retrieved 28 April 2019.
  19. ^ Miguel Martinez (8 January 2013). "Public Image Ltd.- Glasnost Rock- Rock Summer 1988". YouTube. Archived from the original on 22 December 2021. Retrieved 28 April 2019.
  20. ^ a b Goddard, Simon. Mozipedia: The Encyclopaedia of Morrissey and the Smiths [Sioux, Siouxsie entry]. Ebury Press. p. 393.
  21. ^ Dansby, Andrew (4 October 2018). "Johnny Marr talks about making his own music". Archived from the original on 4 October 2018. Retrieved 1 November 2018.
  22. ^ a b c Dylan Wray, Daniel (4 May 2022). "Invention, grace and bloodlust ballet: post-punk guitarist John McGeoch". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 February 2023.
  23. ^ Greenwood, Jonny (11 February 2009). "I've been blown about for years". Dead Air Space. Archived from the original on 21 March 2009. Retrieved 10 February 2022. no guitarist inspired me more that John McGeoch
  24. ^ 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". Retrieved 19 November 2017.
  25. ^ "Ed O'Brien This is My New Baby a Yamaha SG 1000". Ed O'Brien Official. 18 September 2020. Archived from the original on 11 December 2020. Retrieved 2 October 2020.
  26. ^ "Radiohead Biography". Archived from the original on 29 June 2006. Retrieved 17 February 2009. 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."
  27. ^ Di Perna, Alan (February 1994). Dave Navarro: Beyond Addiction [interview]. Guitar World.
  28. ^ Tore S Borjesson (24 April 2003). "Red Hots verkliga frontman John Frusciante". Aftonbladet. Archived from the original on 3 July 2016. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  29. ^ Kendall, Patrick. "Interview of John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers on his favorite bands". youtube. Archived from the original on 22 December 2021. Retrieved 2 June 2020.
  30. ^ Jeffers, Tessa (3 March 2014). "John Frusciante: War and Peace". Total Guitar. Archived from the original on 12 November 2020. Retrieved 2 June 2020.
  31. ^ "..:: U2 Discography - U2 Jukebox / Various - U2 ::." Retrieved 24 May 2023.
  32. ^ Stokes, Niall; Graham, Bill. "[U2 Interview' March 1987] It was exactly 30 years ago that U2 brought their Joshua Tree tour to Croke Park!". Hot Press. Retrieved 31 January 2022.
  33. ^ Sinclair, David (May 1984). "The Best Guitar Breaks In The World [Our six favourite guitarists choose their 30-odd favourite guitar tracks]". One Two Testing. [Robert Smith:] 1 Jimi Hendrix "Purple Haze" Jimi Hendrix Experience (1967), 2 Hugh Cornwell "Hanging Around" The Stranglers (1977), 3 John McGeoch "Headcut" Siouxsie And The Banshees (1981), 4 Joe Strummer/Mick Jones "White Riot" The Clash (1977), 5 Lou Reed "White Light/White Heat" Velvet Underground (1967). Headcut: "Again, I had to learn this one, when I stepped into the Banshees after John McGeogh left. This is really harsh funk in a weird way – clever choppy chords. There's no real form to it as such, but some interesting sequences."
  34. ^ "William Reid Spotify Playlist April 2021". Spotify. Retrieved 2 June 2021.
  35. ^ Steve Albini. (September – October 1984). "Tired of Ugy Fat ?". Matter [a Music Magazine] (10).
  36. ^ "The People You Dig. The Records They Love. Duane Denison, Musician, The Jesus Lizard". Retrieved 11 February 2022.
  37. ^ Thomas, Olly (21 February 2021). "Mudhoney's Mark Arm: "I don't think we've ever taken anything seriously, including life!". kerrang. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  38. ^ Parker, Matt (29 April 2022). "The genius of John McGeoch: John Frusciante, Johnny Marr and more pay tribute to the unsung hero of post-punk guitar". Retrieved 9 December 2023.
  39. ^ Fij, Pete (15 October 2012). "Pete Fij and Bickers". Petefijterrybickers. Retrieved 20 March 2022. PF: What would your dream musical line-up be of people you have never worked with? TB: I can think of several dream line-ups but for Rock the line-up would be Zak Starkey, John McGeoch (Magazine, Siouxie & The Banshees) and Jean Jaques Burnel (The Stranglers)
    Marszalek, Julian (6 September 2017). "Call The Police! - Terry Bickers' Favourite Albums". TheQuietus. Retrieved 20 March 2022. I didn't see Magazine first time around but I did see John McGeogh play with Siouxsie And The Banshees when he played with them and I was very taken with his guitar work.
  40. ^ "We Salute you Must Hear Guitar Heroes - This Issue: James Dean Bradfield on John McGeoch". Guitarist. November 2010.
  41. ^ Rosen, Steven (2015). "Manic Street Preachers' James Dean Bradfield: 'Sometimes You Need Some Creative Failure to Spur You On'". Retrieved 11 February 2022.
  42. ^ "From The Desk of the Twilight Sad's James Graham: Guitarist". Magnetmagazine. 5 May 2012. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  43. ^ "'Spellbound: The John McGeoch Story' – hour-long BBC radio documentary". YouTube. Archived from the original on 22 December 2021. Retrieved 15 July 2014.
  44. ^ Wray, Daniel Dylan (4 May 2022). "'Invention, grace and bloodlust ballet': post-punk guitarist John McGeoch". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 November 2023.
  45. ^ "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.
  46. ^ 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
  47. ^ Daniel Dylan Wray (4 May 2022). "'Invention, grace and bloodlust ballet': post-punk guitarist John McGeoch". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 May 2022.
  48. ^ "Some Words for John". 11 March 2003. Archived from the original on 6 June 2004. Retrieved 2 July 2017.

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