2004. I was halfway through my undergraduate years as a lil’ ol’ music student. I remember sitting idly in the IT suite of the University with some friends having just heard Sarah Cox on the BBC Radio One Breakfast Show play a crazy version of Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb. What was this madness? It had some guy, all high pitched, singing over some funky disco guitar riffs mixed with a sleazy disco beat… it sounded filthy and tasted good.
A quick look on Google and this thing called MySpace and we found out that this band, the Scissor Sisters, were going to be playing at the QMU in Glasgow, (which was later changed to the Barrowlands… but more on that later.) Tickets were bought immediately. They turned up in The Face magazine- our bible at the time. We found out they had a song called Laura. We also found a song called Electrobix. Comfortably Numb was bought on CD single and 12″ vinyl. We went to see them live… it was fabulous… and thus began a love that would last a lifetime!
They’ve worked with Kylie Minogue and Elton John. They’ve toured with Depeche Mode and Lady Gaga. They’ve headlined festivals. They’ve played countless sell out worldwide tours. They are a multi-platinum selling, number one band.
10 years, 4 albums, 2 Eps, 15 singles, 16 music videos, 3 Brit Awards, an Ivor Novello, countless nominations and commendations and a slight line-up change later…
Jake Shears, Ana Matronic, BabyDaddy & Del Marquis may have gone on indefinite hiatus as a collective, but the legacy of their extravagant, distinct, slick and sly style and sound still remains close to my heart- Scissor Sisters always will be one of my favourite bands of all time.
Emerging from the scuzzy nightlife of New York in the late 90’s / early 2000’s, the group was conceived with Jake Sellards and Scott Hoffman working together as lyricist and composer respectively. The twosome became a threesome when the guys met a fierce and fabulous lady known as Ana Lynch in 2001 who invited the duo to appear at her weekly Knock Off events at the Slipper Rooms in NY; a cabaret that ‘served up a racy, multigender revue of kitsch’.
Appearing as an electroclash performance trio at clubs in the underground scene, they were later joined by musicians, Derek Gruen and Patrick Seacor, and a deal was signed with A Touch of Class and the group released their first single ‘Electrobix’ in 2002.
The B Side, a radical reimagining of Pink Floyd’s 1980 single, Comfortably Numb, became a club hit in its own right and was met with approval from Roger Waters and David Gilmour. Proving popular in the UK, their ‘spiritual home’, British label, Polydor signed the band in 2003, with Laura serving as the first single under limited release.
After a year, Comfortably Numb was officially released in January 2004, with their eponymous album released in February of the same year. Who could have guessed at the time that Scissor Sisters would go on to become a not only a multi-platinum selling album, but one of the most successful albums of all time in the UK.
2004 was the same year that I saw them live on stage for the first time. This would not be the last either, having attended almost every gig they’ve played in Scotland and some further afield as well! With stratospheric showmanship and exquisite musicianship being standard, Scissor Sisters are a band tighter than a drag queen’s tuck. Every single show performed by Jake Shears, Babydaddy, Ana Matronic, Del Marquis, Paddy Boom, Randy Schrager and their entourage had an electrifying, heaving, atmosphere- the commanding powerhouse of energy coming at you live from the stage and sound system was a sweaty pleasure to be revelled in.
Transitioning from underground to mainstream with the release of Scissor Sisters, the band released three further albums, Ta Dah (2006), Night Work (2010) and Magic Hour (2012). Named after a sexual tribadism, Scissor Sisters were never going to be a band that would fit into any musical mould. With their roots in electroclash, their sound developed and incorporated elements of glam, pop, rock, disco, kitsch, funk, dance and much more into a sound that is pretty hard to categorise. With comparisons often made, regarding their sound, to David Bowie, Elton John, Bee Gees, Queen, Supertramp, Blondie, Duran Duran, the band also includes Siouxsie and the Banshees, Kiss, Chic and Richard O’Brien in their influences.
Each album offered something new and different- their back catalogue includes vaudeville pop, smoky disco, soaring ballads, hi energy electro, camp cabaret, ferocious fuckpop and an array of catchy and expertly written pop music. In some cases, records don’t really translate well from the record to the stage, but with Scissor Sisters, live was always where the sound excelled. Don’t get me wrong, the albums are themselves aurally fantastic, but hearing those piano and saxophone riffs, those bass lines, those harmonies, those soaring vocals, being tightly executed by the band, showed how truly talented they are as musicians and performers.
Sex and pop music go hand in hand. It’s obvious. It’s a given. It’s the stock-in-trade in selling pop music. Issues of identity and labels are important in marketing the visage of mainstream artists- the artificial vulnerability of young male groups, the contrived pseudo-feminism of female artists, the overt sexual exploitation of many in order to appeal and sell to a carefully selected demographic. Courting faux controversy is another regime employed… Think any outrage of recent years: Miley at the VMAs. Janet Jackson’s Nipplegate Scandal. The reactions to such are profoundly beige in comparison to the effects that the phrase ‘Relax… Don’t do it… When you wanna come… ‘had in the 80’s and similar of yesteryear.
Sexuality in relation to the arts is a philosophical discourse in itself. Literature on music and sexuality often focuses on the complexities of gender and / or engenderdness of musical performances or musical works. In present terms, the dichotomy of sexuality is explosive, with the most basic of human rights being championed, supported, oppressed and tyrannised equally across the globe. In no way do I mean to be flippant on the subject matter. I‘m not venturing into an academic discussion on gender, feminism, masculinity or queer theory right now. But it’s important to realise impact such issues are having on our society and humanity as a whole.
Scissor Sisters were labelled as a ‘gay band’. Elton John. Freddie Mercury. Liberace. Jimmy Sommerville. Cazwell. Boy George. RuPaul. Pete Burns. Ricky Martin. Darren Hayes. Andy Bell. All masters of their art and all gay. The labelling of Scissor Sisters as a gay band was inevitable, given that they emerged from the queer scene and that some of the members are gay.
Much of their repertoire does indeed deal with LGBT themes. Filthy Gorgeous is the story of transsexual prostitutes. Take Your Mama is about coming out of the closet. Mary is a personal ode from Jake Shears to his best friend. Return to Oz is the band’s experience of drug abuse in their community. Their music represents their history, their experiences, their roots, and their individuality. Scissor Sisters in their music, like all true musicians and artists, stuck true to who they are with their own brand of honesty, flamboyancy, eccentricity, style, sass and fierceness, as many of their predecessors and influences did.
Ana Matronic commanded that we have a Kiki in 2012! And Kiki we did! Never has something had such an influence on my social circle since RuPaul started her search for America’s next drag superstar on Drag Race! I love the fact that they took drag speak and flung it into teatime Britain on a Sunday evening on the BBC on Strictly Come Dancing! Who else could pull that off?!
If you know me and my lot, we have always had our… eccentricities… for a word! As I mentioned, I’ve been to many a Scissor Sisters gig over the years, all of which absolutely magnificent! The 2012 gig was especially magical though as it was their final gig in Glasgow before they announced a break from all things filthy and gorgeous. There’s an article dedicated to that gig on my blog that may be worth a read!
What I love about Scissor Sisters is their attitude, their style, their humour, their identity as individuals… everything about them! To me, they embody the music and culture that I adore. They have a certain ‘don’t give a fuck’ brashness that I admire in people. Being able to find your own identity and roll with it is something to admire!
I was Tweeting and Instagramming about how it’s been 10 years since their first album was released and the very fabulous Ms Ana Matronic joined in the conversation and asked to see this fanboy article- a true honour- so I hope she approves!
Scissor Sisters are a band that I have always loved and admired. (I know it’s hard to tell!) They’ve kept me entertained me for the past 10 years- a feat no other band or artist has managed to do! I know they’re off on solo adventures for the time being but I truly hope that it’s just an intermission for those fabulous, fabulous Scissor Sisters.
A message from Ms Matronic…
After requesting to see the article, the wonderful Miss Ana Matronic has had a read and approves! Hurrah!
Ana Matronic (@MsAnaMatronic) February 17, 2014