Open main menu

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

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

He has been described as one of the most influential guitarists of his generation,[1] and was referred to in the music press as "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] Signature characteristics of his playing style included an inventive arpeggios, string harmonics, the uses of flanger and an occasional disregard for conventional scales.

Musician and producer Steve Albini 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".[3]

Early lifeEdit

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.[4] In 1970 he played with a local band called the 'Slugband'. In 1971 his parents moved to London. In 1975 he went to Manchester Polytechnic where he received a degree in Fine Art. He maintained an interest in photography, painting and drawing throughout his life.

Early careerEdit

In April 1977 McGeoch's Manchester student flatmate Malcolm Garrett introduced him to Howard Devoto, who had recently left the Buzzcocks and was looking for a guitarist to form a band with. 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 score 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. 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.[6] In September 1980 he guested with the Skids for a Peel Session, standing in for Stuart Adamson who was unwell.[7] 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 BansheesEdit

After joining Siouxsie and the Banshees in late 1980,[8] 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 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:

However, McGeoch suffered a nervous breakdown due to the stresses of touring and an increasing personal problem with alcohol, and after collapsing on stage during a performance at a gig in Madrid, left the band in 1982.[5]

Later careerEdit

In 1983, during a break from playing music, he produced Swedish punk-funk band Zzzang Tumb's debut long-player.[9]

In 1986 McGeoch contributed to former Bauhaus singer Peter Murphy's debut solo long-player Should the World Fail to Fall Apart.[10]

Following three years playing guitar with an act entitled The Armoury Show (which included Doyle as well as ex-Skids members Richard Jobson and Russell Webb), McGeoch joined John Lydon's Public Image Ltd in 1986, 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 song-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. McGeoch left PiL's line-up in 1992.

In 1992 he was invited by the Icelandic band The Sugarcubes to play the guitar track on the song "Gold” for their Stick Around for Joy long-player. In early 1990's, 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-1990's McGeoch retired from professional music and trained mid-life as a nurse/carer. In the early 2000's he was reported as attempting to re-enter professional music by working on musical scores for television productions.[11]


McGeoch died at the age of 48 in his sleep on 4 March 2004 at his home in Launceston, Cornwall.[5]


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!".[12]

Personal lifeEdit

On 9 September 1981 he married Janet Pickford, his girlfriend at Manchester Polytechnic, the marriage later being divorced.[13] On 14 September 1988 McGeoch married Denise Dakin,[14] the second marriage producing a daughter, Emily Jean McGeoch (b. 1989).[15][16]


McGeoch has been cited by many artists as a major influence. Johnny Marr from the Smiths hailed him, saying: "Really my generation was all about a guy called John McGeoch, from Siouxsie and the Banshees".[17] "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".[18] Simon Goddard wrote that McGeoch was a "significant inspiration" on Marr.[18]

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".[19] 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.[20] U2's "The Edge" has cited McGeoch as an influence, and chose the Siouxsie and the Banshees song "Christine" from the Kaleidoscope album for a compilation made for Mojo.[21]

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.[22] 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".[5]

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


During his time with Magazine McGeoch played a Yamaha SG1000 guitar with a stand-mounted MXR M117R flanger.[24] He bought his first model in 1976 when the band signed its recording deal, which provided him with the finances for professional standard equipment.[25] Whilst with Siouxsie and the Banshees he created his own setup, involving an MXR flanger mounted on a mic stand which allowed him to hit a chord and sweep the flange knob in real time.[26] Whilst working with 'The Armoury Show', he also used a Squier 1957 Stratocaster and an Ibanez AE410BK. During his work with PiL, and in his last years he favoured a solid wood Carvin electric guitar.[27] He also used a Washburn Tour 24 guitar for touring during 1988.[28]


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

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d 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. ^ Steve Albini. (September - October 1984). "Tired of Ugy Fat ?". Matter [a Music Magazine] (10).
  4. ^ "Interview". Retrieved 17 June 2013.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ 'Dancing with Myself', by Billy Idol. (Pub. Simon & Schuster, 2014).
  7. ^ "BBC - Radio 1 - Keeping It Peel - 01/09/1980 Skids". Retrieved 28 April 2019.
  8. ^ "Obituary , John McGeoch". 15 March 2004.
  9. ^ Smith, Black Mat. "Happy Talk". Fodderstompf. Melody Maker. Retrieved 16 July 2013. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  10. ^ Pierre Perrone (11 March 2004). "John McGeoch" (Obituary). The Independent. Retrieved 2 July 2018.
  11. ^ [1][dead link]
  12. ^ "Some Words for John". 11 March 2003. Retrieved 2 July 2017.
  13. ^ "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.
  14. ^ 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
  15. ^ "John McGeoch RIP (j_mcgeoch) on Myspace". Retrieved 15 July 2014.
  16. ^ "Facebook". Retrieved 15 July 2014.
  17. ^ Dansby, Andrew (4 October 2018). "Johnny Marr talks about making his own music". Archived from the original on 12 November 2018. Retrieved 1 November 2018. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  18. ^ a b Goddard, Simon. Mozipedia: The Encyclopaedia of Morrissey and the Smiths [Sioux, Siouxsie entry]. Ebury Press. p. 393.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ "Radiohead Biography". Archived from the original on 29 June 2006. Retrieved 17 February 2009. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link) 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."
  21. ^ "U2 Jukebox" U2'Compilation for Mojo Magazine featuring "Christine"
  22. ^ Paytress, Mark. Siouxsie & the Banshees: The Authorised Biography. Sanctuary, 2003. ISBN 1-86074-375-7
  23. ^ "'Spellbound: The John McGeoch Story' — hour-long BBC radio documentary". YouTube. Retrieved 15 July 2014.
  24. ^, Magazine, 12/12/2008 Archived 21 February 2009 at the Wayback MachineWith Magazine, McGeoch played a Yamaha SG1000 + MXR Flanger + a few other bits.
  25. ^ "Interview". Retrieved 17 June 2013.
  26. ^ "The Gothfather" [Robert Smith of the Cure interview]. Guitar Word. June 1996
  27. ^ "John McGeoch's Carvin DC400 Electric Guitar". Retrieved 28 April 2019.
  28. ^ Miguel Martinez (8 January 2013). "Public Image Ltd.- Glasnost Rock- Rock Summer 1988". YouTube. Retrieved 28 April 2019.

External linksEdit