Story of the song: Hong Kong Garden, Siouxsie and the Banshees (1978)

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The Independent Culture

Suzanne Vega ate at Tom's Diner. Arlo Guthrie sang about Alice's Restaurant. Siouxsie and the Banshees' inspirational eaterie was a Chislehurst takeaway, the Hong Kong Garden.

"I used to go along with my friend and just be really upset by the local skinheads that hung out there," said Siouxsie after witnessing racist taunts against the staff. She turned her anger into song. The Banshees' guitarist, John McKay, provided an intro, which his bandmates first heard on a tour bus during 1977. McKay had recorded an early version, complete with overdubbed guitars and vocals, in his bedroom. "It started life as a song called 'People Phobia'," he said.

At rehearsals, McKay played the opening bars on an electronic xylophone and Siouxsie added her serrated vocals. The punk-lite "Hong Kong Garden" was first aired on a John Peel session, prompting Polydor to sign the band in 1978. It wasn't written as a single, but after waiting over a year to be signed, and with the song established as a live favourite, their manager Nils Stevenson pitched it as their best shot. They were reluctantly booked into Olympic Studios with an American soul producer, Bruce Albertine, using downtime between Eric Clapton sessions. They failed to capture the right sound.

Within days they had regrouped with a young producer from the right side of the punk tracks, Steve Lillywhite. It took them two days to re-record "Hong Kong Garden", replicating the earlier version cut for the Peel session, but this time climaxing with the crash of an orchestral gong. Much anticipated in the summer of 1978, following months of music media speculation, it made it to number seven on the charts and was arguably the most important of the early post-punk hits.

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