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John McGeoch

70s 80s UK new wave post-punk

John Alexander McGeoch, (25 August 1955 – 4 March 2004), was a Scottish guitarist who played with a number of bands of the era, including Magazine, Visage, The Armoury Show, Public Image Ltd., and Siouxsie and the Banshees. Siouxsie Sioux and Jonny Greenwood described him as their favourite guitarist of all time.

McGeoch was born and brought up in Greenock, Renfrewshire, Scotland, and got his first guitar when he was twelve. 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.

In April 1977 McGeoch's flatmate Malcolm Garrett introduced him to Howard Devoto, who had recently left the 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 and 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 is known as "Lipstick"), and the single reached number 41 on the UK singles chart. The same year, he graduated.

McGeoch played on the band'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 the music critics.

In 1979, whilst still a member of Magazine, McGeoch joined Steve Strange's electronic group Visage along with erstwhile Magazine bandmates Barry Adamson and Dave Formula, beginning to record 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, McGeoch did have the success he craved, however brief. The band's single "Fade to Grey" went to number one in a number of European countries. McGeoch couldn't participate in the group's second album, The Anvil because he was touring with Siouxsie and the Banshees in Spain at the same time as Visage were recording in London.

Whilst still a member of Magazine and Visage, McGeoch had played with other bands such as Generation X, for some songs from the "Kiss Me Deadly" album, and The Skids, for a late 1980 Peel Session replacing Stuart Adamson, who was ill. During those days, he left Magazine.

After joining the Banshees in early 1980, McGeoch entered a period of both creative and commercial success. 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 greatest work, particularly 1980's "Happy House", "Christine" and "Israel". Siouxsie Sioux 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."

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.

By that time, he collaborated with Ken Lockie's "The Impossible" album (1981), along with ex-Magazine mate John Doyle.

Following three commercially failed, however critically acclaimed years in The Armoury Show (which included Richard Jobson and Russel Webb, both ex-Skids members, and John Doyle who was McGeoch's bandmate from Magazine), McGeoch joined Public Image Ltd. in 1986, a decision which may have been partly motivated by financial difficulties incurred during his time with the The Armoury Show. McGeoch had been a great admirer of P.I.L, particularly John Lydon's lyrics, yet had reportedly turned down an invitation to join the band in 1984 due to prior commitments.

Despite being hit in the face with a bottle during one of his first concerts with the band, McGeoch remained with P.I.L 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.

During his time with P.I.L, McGeoch married Denise Dakin, on September 14 1988. The couple had a daughter in 1989 - Emily Jean McGeoch.

After Public Image Ltd. split up, McGeoch attempted to form a projects with Glenn Gregory of Heaven 17 and songwriter/producer Keith Lowndes and also with John Keeble of Spandau Ballet, however, neither came to fruition. With John Keeble 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, who had been a great pioneer in the 1970s and 1980s, found himself stranded in a new era. He retrained 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.


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