The Light Pours Out of Me
“Why was John important? Because he played exactly the right notes at the exact time he did, in the way he did.”
John Frusciante, Red Hot Chilli Peppers
“I admired John as a man. I admired him as a player. Fantastic work and a wonderful legacy”
Peter Hook, Joy Division/New Order
“The work we made together was stunning. Just stunning…”
The Light Pours Out of Me by Rory Sullivan-Burke and published by Omnibus Press on April 28th is the first ever biography of the foremost post punk guitarist John McGeoch.
John was the man behind the riffs, haunting chords and creative engine room of cult bands Magazine and (post The Scream and Join Hands) Siouxsie and the Banshees – as well as forming The Armoury Show with ex Skids frontman Richard Jobson and later being John Lydon’s featured guitarist and musical driving force in Public Image Limited (PiL).
The book chronicles John’s early life in Greenock, Scotland before moving south of the border in his mid-teens to London, and back up to art college in Manchester. A time that coincided with the punk rock explosion, where a meeting with Howard Devoto (of Buzzcocks fame) would change not just John’s destiny but that of popular music for years to come.
McGeoch rose to acclaim alongside Devoto (Vocals), Barry Adamson (Bass), Dave Formula (Keyboards) and Martin Jackson/John Doyle (Drums) as the challenging, thoroughly original and quintessential post-punk band Magazine.
His return to London would see him temporarily team up with Rusty Egan and Steve Strange in Visage before joining the iconic Siouxsie and the Banshees in what would be considered by many as his finest work.
John’s rise was meteoric and the sky appeared to be the limit but the rigours of relentless touring schedules, recording sessions and substance abuse led to his ejection from the group after 3 albums: Kaleidoscope, Juju & A Kiss In The ‘Dreamhouse .
Exhausted but recovering, John set about rebuilding his career and reputation by founding The Armoury Show with friends Richard Jobson and Russell Webb. A short lived affair that fell apart once John was tempted away by punk legend Johnny (Rotten) Lydon in his ever-evolving band PiL.
Aside from music, we can look at John away from the music for the first time; McGeoch as a family man, living in the north of England and his loving relationship with daughter, Emily. Read how John never lost touch with his creative side but found new outlets and how he came to work in care, giving his time and dedication to the needs of others.
The book draws upon extensive original interviews with some of the biggest and most influential names in rock and alternative music including Jonny Greenwood, Johnny Marr and John Frusciante, all of who cite John as a primary influence on their own stellar careers.
This is an engrossing book that strikes a balance between facts, interview and opinion. Heartfelt and glowing tributes run throughout the book from John’s friends, family, musical collaborators and admirers of this genuine once-in-a-generation talent.
John McGeoch. One of Britain’s finest musicians.
Rory Sullivan-Burke was born in London’s East End in 1983. He has worked in community and care work since he was 16, first supporting children in the inner city and then as a support worker for adults with learning disabilities. He relocated to West Yorkshire in 2007. Diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, he has used his experience of living with autism to empower and advocate for people on the autistic spectrum. His earliest memories are of music and it has remained an enduring and pivotal obsession. He is an ardent West Ham United fan.
We all need heroes. People we may be completely unconnected to, but who through their actions, words, associations or genius draw us in and give us something otherwise lacking.
To have not been born until after John had completed his work with Magazine, and later with The Banshees, has meant that it has all been retrospective. That said, this hasn’t been as disadvantageous as you might think. What I missed out on in up-close performances and the excitement of the times, has been compensated for with the ability to see and live through what came after, and know that, for me at least, John McGeoch was one of the last truly original and engaging guitar ‘heroes’. It’s safe to say I am sure hero is not a term John would have expected or wanted, but that is what he is to me.
So, how does admiration for an artist evolve into writing a book?
The idea came quite by chance. A simple train journey during the first lockdown. I wanted, and searched for, a book to read about the man and his legacy. There wasn’t one. So now this is that book that I hoped to read.
I have found both the research, interviewing, writing a reward in itself. John deserves nothing less than all the tributes and acclaim from those who have gladly and generously contributed to the book. I’d hope it would have met with John’s approval.