Rock history is littered with epiphanies, often involving the vision of Bowie and Mick Ronson performing Starman on Top of the Pops, the Pistols at the 100 Club or maybe Oasis at King Tuts in Glasgow. It's a path that has led to the establishment of a new aristocracy within music; an acceptance that, even in a supposedly alternative culture, we are basically all the same. But for many rock malcontents this was not the case and, for us, our epiphany was the first glorious manifestation of Siouxsie Sioux, the true outsider's outsider.
It is impossible now to recreate the era in which Siouxsie hatched herself into the world as a fully fledged pop star, before she had even sung a note. This was a time of extreme exhibitionism and experimentation and none encapsulated the time better than Siouxsie and the Banshees. Amidst all the well-rehearsed, spurious idea of chaos peddled by the majority of punk bands, Siouxsie's first ever time onstage saw her perform a truly chaotic and twisted version of the Lords Prayer at the 100 Club Punk Festival in 1976. The group had never played together and that line-up, featuring Sid Vicious on drums, never would again. "I don't know what it is but it isn't rock n roll" said an adversorial Pistols' Glen Matlock and those of us observing the charade that punk had already become could only cheer loudly from the sidelines.
Disappearing to the suburbs to refocus, the group appeared months later with a unique vision. This was music that polarised early audiences, moving them away from the elementary rhythms of punk to a sound which drew on influences as disparate as the Velvet Underground, Can, 'Low' era Bowie and J.G Ballard. It was a long way from anarchy in the UK.
As the group toured they started to pick up a sizeable following and Siouxsie, always a star, became an antidote to what was very wrong with the music industry and its attitude towards strong women. It soon became apparent that her influence was even greater than just through her remarkable music; the Siouxsie look, a beguiling mixture of aggression, power and strange fragility, became as iconic as that of Ziggy Stardust had been six years earlier. Something was happening, and it wasn't about an accepted notion of femininity, or indeed masculinity; this was something much more empowering for a whole generation of disaffected women and men.
The group's first single "Hong Kong Garden" was released in 1978 and went straight into the charts at No 7. Their debut album "The Scream" was released later that year and was hailed as one of the best debut albums of all time.
What followed for an amazing 17 years was a succession of records so glorious that it is hard to imagine groups today being able to emulate their power, their sense of gleeful experimentation and their total chart success.
In the end though the true legacy of the group was more than a catalogue of brilliant records and tours that none of their contemporaries could ever match. For Siouxsie herself left a much stronger impression. As she continued with The Creatures, Siouxsie experimented further with the powerful tribal rhythms she adored, matched with the power of her beguiling voice. Her expanding creativity would see this reluctant icon feted by her peers in the music and creative world throughout her whole musical career.
Bearing that in mind, surprisingly little is known of the real Siouxsie Sioux, a rare situation for an artist who has been making records for almost three decades.
In 1978 Siouxsie's glacial image led to a music paper christening her The Ice Queen, an epithet which she seemed to embrace, confessing that year that she employed stark blue lighting to make her look cold and hard on stage.
But just as it is easy to caricature an artist with a few broad brush strokes, The Ice Queen who captured the media and public imagination was a much more complex figure than imagined.
This complexity is most fully apparent on Siouxsie's debut solo album "Mantaray", which will be released in September. On this record she revels in a sense of freedom, something much more expansive than was displayed in any of her previous work. For fans who thought she might never eclipse her Banshee and Creature highlights, this will be received with the form of rapture only reserved for the iconic. For those who have only dipped into her previous work, prepare to have any preconceptions shattered. And, most thrillingly, for a whole new generation of listeners, a slew of delights and surprises lies in store on what is surely one of the albums of 2007.
"Mantaray" is remarkable on many fronts, not least that all 8 tracks show an artist at the absolute peak of her powers. Musically it moves between the industrial heavy rhythms of the single "Into A Swan", through the modern glam stomp of "It's About To Happen" into the complex freeform playfulness of "Drone Zone", and the electronic, relentlessly hypnotic "Sea Of Tranquility", both of which could be the soundtrack for a David Lynch film...this is music like nothing else around right now.
Lyrically too the album shows Siouxsie in a less veiled light. It might be too trite to say this is the sound of the Ice Queen melting, but the statement has some validity. For a generation whose teenage years were spent in a liberating rush of idealised alienation, something had to give long ago. And just as Siouxsie was never truly the Ice Queen, this album shows her searching for a sense of her place in the world. It's altogether a more human, humane record than she has ever made, and all the better for it - the themes of the songs might encompass disappointment, distrust and despair, but they are bound together by a warmth of spirit that would have been anathema to the Siouxsie of 1978 but which is a true picture of this iconic artist in 2007.