Rock Fight: Siouxsie, Morrissey, and the Uneasy Collaboration That
By Tim Anderson
February 25, 2011
The 1994 collaboration between Morrissey and Siouxsie—a cover of the love song “Interlude” by Timi Yoru—did not lead to a second Big Bang the way it should have. The universe didn’t turn inside out and collapse in on itself in a chugging and churning seizure of morbid irony. This should have happened but it didn’t. Do you even remember that the two singers ever recorded together? Nope, you don’t.
The collaboration came about when Morrissey contacted Siouxsie about collaborating on a song when he was gearing up to record his 1994 album Vauxhaul and I. Like any British man with taste, Moz had always been a big fan of Siouxsie and her Banshees. In 1994 he told the UK’s Q magazine, “If you study modern groups, those who gain press coverage and chart action, none of them are as good as Siouxsie and the Banshees at full pelt. That’s not dusty nostalgia, that’s fact.” And though Siouxsie was not on record gushing over Morrissey, she did offer a wonderfully backhanded compliment of him in retrospect, telling Uncut magazine in 2005, “I’d always liked him, not particularly for his material, but because he was a personality that didn’t fit into any pigeonhole.”
In any case, it was pretty good timing for both artists: Morrissey was about to release one of his best-ever solo albums, and Siouxsie, God love her, was in need of some serious career rehabilitation after the lame-o-rama of her band the Banshees’s 1991 album Superstition. Because that album was terrible. Sure, it contained the glitzy, frothy, heart-shaped ode to Hollywood dingbat Jayne Mansfield, “Kiss Them for Me,” one of the band’s highest charting pop singles. And sure, Ms. Sioux had partially redeemed herself with her excellent 1992 contribution to the Batman Returns soundtrack, “Face to Face.” But even diehard fans like me thought that Siouxsie needed a shot in the arm by the time 1994 rolled around. She was married to her drummer Budgie now and living in the south of France, like we all aim to do one day, and there was no Banshees project on the radar that would safeguard her legacy. Was she going soft? Had she hung up her cupless bra forever? And if so, who would I take my fashion cues from? Anyway, we Siouxsie-philes thought that a duet with mopey gaywad Morrissey was just the thing to set the world ablaze. This song might even top “Almost Paradise” by Ann Wilson and Mike Reno, if that was even possible.
The song itself (click here to hear the song in a new window) is lovely. It’s everything you would want from a Morrissey/Siouxsie duet: forlorn longing, post-coital exhaustion, sepia-toned mis en scène, an orchestra that is absolutely weeping. “Time is like a dream,” Siouxsie begins after the opening strains of the violins subside.
And now for a time you are mine
Let’s hold fast to the dream
That tastes and sparkles like wine
Then in Morrissey swishes.
Who knows if it’s real
Or just something we’re both dreaming of
What seems like an interlude now
Could be the beginning of love.
Yes, “Interlude” saw Lady Sioux and Monsieur Morrissey eating a candelabra-lit dinner in bed—maybe a mushroom risotto, a mixed-green salad, and a dozen vodka slammers?—gazing into each other’s egos, and unleashing ze drama as a quartet of masked, nude, alabaster-skinned centurions stood in the corner on a rug spun out of dew-drops playing the strings. “Wow,” we Siouxsie- and Smiths-heads said to ourselves as we sat alone in our sexless dorm rooms because there were no Internet chatrooms at the time. “This song will save lives.”
Tragically, “Interlude,” which had the potential to outdo “Islands in the Stream” in the “realigning the celestial spheres” category of the Great Pop Duets sweepstakes, failed to make an impact on the pop world, even in the UK, its native market. Why? The answer is awesome: Siouxsie and Morrissey had a disagreement! You see, at the time, Morrissey was neck-deep in his fixation with the Union Jack and was intermittently having charges of racism flung at him for provocative songs like “Bengali in Platforms,” “The National Front Disco,” and “Asian Rut.” Apparently he wanted to use a bulldog as the central image for the promotional video. (Translation for American readers: this would be like Eddie Rabbit and Crystal Gale choosing to shoot a video for their song “You and I” in which they walk lovingly down a beach brandishing a rebel flag. You know, kind of.) This is where Siouxsie, who became infamous in her early punk rock fetish-wear days for wearing a swastika armband and had no desire to revisit that type of silliness, drew the line.
“The original video idea,” Siouxsie said, “was to show Ruth Ellis being led to the gallows, which I loved, but which didn’t happen. Instead he wanted a bulldog, which I didn’t understand. Why a bulldog? So I questioned him about his pro-British thing and told him I couldn’t have that. I said, ‘pick another dog, like a chihuahua or something. A monkey, anything!’ . . . I don’t know why he wanted to stick to his guns so much. And no, we’ve not spoken since.”
OMG, Siouxsie and Morrissey hate each other that’s so hot!! And it makes the song even better, obviously. Because of this disagreement, though, no promotional video was ever made for the song meaning it arrived in stores DOA; the single stalled at #25 in the UK charts and never received a US release. This is tragic, because, come on, two ginormous 80s icons—”a pair of pop’s major ironists,” as The Guardian tediously put it—teaming up for a lush, wintry ballad to be released in the dog days of August? The earth should have shivered on its axis.
But instead it just yawned and continued turning, waiting for the day that Brandon Flowers teams up with the lead singer of the Dum Dum Girls on a cover of “The Rainbow Connection,” which will happen in 2015, when they are both looking to jumpstart their stagnant careers. The video will feature a slow-motion sex tape featuring Miley Cyrus and a Sponge Bob plush doll, recorded in night vision. It will go straight to #1 in Japan and will lose the Grammy award for Best Performance by a Duo or Group to Willow Palin and Justine Bieber’s cover of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.”
Sweet Jesus, I’ve been here nine months and somebody finally brings up Morrissey. I can’t believe he’ not in every other post with this bunch.
Thank you, Tim, for this look back at one of those tunes that should’ve but didn’t. Two ego giants that–of course!–couldn’t agree on some minutiae and ruined any chance the song might have had. Ah, rock and roll, how we miss you.
Thanks, Art! Am happy to have inaugurated tnb’s Morrissey coverage…
God I love this song. Played it for R, who’d never heard it before yesterday.
And ya gotta love that backstory…
Damn, I never even heard of this song. Will have to look it up now, for sure.
Nice chronicle of a pretty major epic fail.
I remember when this came out, and it was, indeed, revolutionary for ardent supporters of Moz and Siouxsie. The import single had three versions: Radio Mix, Extended Mix and an instrumental!! Yes, you can even sing along karaoke style.
I had to get the single on import, which back then, was quite common as the American music industry tended to water down British acts like The Stone Roses, The Beautiful South, The Charlatans, etc. in hopes that they would catch on.
For those of us who understood this would constantly hit the expensive ‘Import’ section first for little gems like this, or some other bizarre yet awesome unknown recording like the Peel Sessions or concerts of the Cure or Sisters of Mercy recorded in Tokyo or Azerbaijan.
This duet was timeless and unforgettable. Who cares how low it hit the charts that does not take away its artful quality and elegance. Fade Into You was never a hit on the charts yet is now regarded as a classic. Morrissey nor Siouxsie are mainstream artists. Their music they create is not for everybody.
Thank you for this article. I’d been wondering if this single was something I’d just manufactured in my head, because no one talks about it, no music magazines talk about this moment, no algorithms spit it out. Ever.
But I know I didn’t make it up because I bought it as a gift for the prettiest little goth girl I was having a long distance relationship with in ‘94. I knew it’d melt her icy heart and surprise her too. Because she didn’t know it existed. No one did. And now I know why. I’d only discovered it by chance because in my college town we had a great little CD shop that stocked all the imports.
Anyway, I went to visit her. She gushed. We played the CD and clung to one another, sure they were telling our love story.
Thanks again for this. I’m glad Siouxsie stood up against Moz’s jingoism.