Rory Sullivan-Burke on John McGeogh: The Light Pours Out Of Me – Glasgow Music Walking Tour Blog
We’re very chuffed that Rory Sullivan-Burke has penned a heartfelt guest blog for us ahead of the publication of his authorised biography of John McGeoch, The Light Pours Out Of Me published by Omnibus Press on April 28th. John McGeoch was the unsung hero of the post-punk era. Blazing a trail with some of Britain’s biggest bands and most revered artists – Magazine, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Armoury Show and Public Image Ltd. – John left an undeniable and indelible mark on music.
The Light Pours Out of Me examines John’s life and legacy, drawing on original interviews with the likes of Siouxsie Sioux, Howard Devoto, Johnny Marr, Billy Idol, John Frusciante, Keith Levene, Jonny Greenwood, Nick Launay, Ed O’Brien, Peter ‘Hooky’ Hook and many others.
Illustrated with unseen photographs, this moving biography – authorised by the family – celebrates the remarkable guitarist who helped provide the soundtrack to a generation. Over on our Facebook page we have a competition for one lucky person to win a copy. Now over to Rory…
It would be tempting to give a long-winded and flowery response to the question “what made you want to write a book about John McGeoch?” The answer is simple: I wanted to read one.
I became aware of John’s work when I was a teenager growing up in East London in the late 90s. We had a second-hand record shop in the area, and I was forever crate-digging and seeking out the coolest looking covers. I couldn’t afford to buy CDs from the big chain stores at the time – money was tight – and I was more attracted to the idea of vinyl that had been passed from hand to hand over the years.
I was always on the lookout for bands I hadn’t heard before and had a passing interest in bands like The Clash, The Buzzcocks and the Pistols: on one occasion I picked up a compilation tape called something like ‘The Best Punk Album…Ever’ probably along with an AC/DC or Iron Maiden album. I remember being on the school bus, headphones on as usual, listening to that tape that I’d been in no rush to play. Something incredible happened: something that made me sit up and think “what the f***!?” That something was ‘Shot By Both Sides’. It changed EVERYTHING.
From that point I drifted away from hard rock and metal, now I was all in on Magazine. I had to know everything: Who they were. What they were. Why they were. I’d always appreciated different genres, was always hungry for new sonic sensations to keep it fresh. My mum had seen Magazine more than once but there was no longer any chance of that for me, I’d have to make do with the records but that was alright.
John McGeoch’s trajectory indirectly led me down a rabbit hole of post-punk obsessiveness which worked chronologically in that it started with Magazine, then the Banshees, then PiL. The best of McGeoch really. The best of post-punk.
Incidentally, I did actually meet the Banshees when I was 7. I lived in Italy for a year in 1990 with my mum, it was an incredibly exciting adventure and even more so because they were hosting the World Cup. My mum’s friend’s ex-partner was part of the road crew for the Banshees. As they were playing in Pisa (literally the next town from us), he invited us to the gig. Now, I have no recollection of the gig itself or meeting the band. That said, I do remember being in and around the venue but I’m assured I did meet them. I told this story to Siouxsie, Severin and Budgie. Budgie remembers the gig and told me that they all bought models of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. He was actually a bit disappointed because his was smaller than the ones the other band members had bought!
As my knowledge of the big players became more informed, I became ever more aware that John McGeoch was my favourite guitarist. He straddled two musical worlds: an original creative force who knew how to serve the songs and an absolute professional and perfectionist at work. Problems throughout his later career (both his own and those of circumstance) didn’t lower the high standards he set himself or his ambition to produce stunning work.
I wanted to write this book to give something back to a man who has been a constant companion throughout the years, because John is not a household name and is perhaps underappreciated even amongst fans of post punk. The albums he features on are the most valued in my collection, the most-loved and most-played. He gave us the iconic intro to ‘Happy House’, ferociously ripped through ‘Shot by Both Sides’, gave the Banshees the greatest performance from any musician who worked with them courtesy of the astounding album Juju and was sought out to feature on so many people’s records.
More importantly, this is John’s book. I’ve never felt any particular ownership over it other than wanting people to feel the passion I have for him, that he had for the music he made, the paintings he created, the great dishes he prepared and more than anything else the people he loved.
Shot by Both Sides (Magazine 1978)
The Light Pours Out of Me (Magazine 1978)
Permafrost (Magazine 1979)
Because You’re Frightened (Magazine 1980)
Philadelphia (Magazine 1980)
A Song From Under The Floorboards (Magazine 1980)
Happy House (Siouxsie and the Banshees 1980)
Christine (Siouxsie and the Banshees 1980)
Israel (Siouxsie and the Banshees 1980)
Juju…yes, the entire album (Siouxsie and the Banshees 1981)
Slowdive (Siouxsie and the Banshees 1982)
Painted Bird (Siouxsie and the Banshees 1982)
Fireworks (Siouxsie and the Banshees 1982)
Castles in Spain (The Armoury Show 1985)
Higher Than the World (The Armoury Show 1985)
The Glory of Love (The Armoury Show 1985)
Avalanche (The Armoury Show 1985)
Seattle (Public Image Ltd 1987)
The Body (Public Image Ltd 1987)
Open and Revolving (Public Image Ltd 1987)
Disappointed (Public Image Ltd 1989)
Brave New World (Public Image Ltd 1989)
Acid Drops (Public Image Ltd 1992)
Cruel (Public Image Ltd 1992)
The Dancer (Visage 1980)
Heavens Inside (Generation X 1981)
P:Machinery (Beta Mix) (Propaganda 1985)