McGeoch was born on 25 August 1955 in Greenock, Renfrewshire, Scotland, where he spent his childhood years. His parents are Annie McGeoch and John McGeoch (snr). He has a younger brother William McGeoch and was affectionatly called Ian by all the family.
After learning piano for many years, John began to play the guitar at 12 years of age, first learning British blues music, being influenced by the work of Eric Clapton, and also that of Jimi Hendrix. In 1970 he played with a local band called the 'Slugband'. In 1971 his parents moved to London. In 1975 he went to Manchester Polytechnic where he received a degree in Fine Art. He maintained an interest in photography, painting and drawing throughout his life.
Magazine and Visage
In April 1977 McGeoch's Manchester student flatmate Malcolm Garrett introduced him to Howard Devoto, who had recently left the Buzzcocks and was looking for a guitarist to form a band with. The pair formed a new act entitled Magazine, along with Barry Adamson, Bob Dickinson and Martin Jackson. The new band released its debut single, "Shot by Both Sides" in January 1978. The song's music was written by Pete Shelley with new Devoto lyrics (the Buzzcocks version was titled "Lipstick"); on release it reached #41 on the UK Singles Chart.
(The same year McGeoch graduated from Manchester Polytechnic) .
McGeoch went on to play on Magazine's first three albums, Real Life (1978), Secondhand Daylight (1979) and The Correct Use of Soap (1980). He left the band in 1980 shortly after the release of the latter album, frustrated with its lack of commercial success despite its recognition with music press critics.
In 1979, while still a member of Magazine, McGeoch joined Steve Strange's electronic band Visage along with erstwhile Magazine bandmates Adamson and Dave Formula, recording songs for their first single "Tar" and later, in 1980, for their eponymous album Visage, McGeoch playing guitar and saxophone on the record.
Visage provided McGeoch with early professional credibility and success. The band's single "Fade to Grey" went to #1 in a number of European countries. McGeoch did not record on the group's second album, The Anvil, as it was recorded in London and he was unable to participate.
While still a member of Magazine and Visage, McGeoch also worked occasionally with other bands. In mid-1980 he recorded most of the guitar work on Gen X's album Kiss Me Deadly at AIR Studios in London. In September 1980 he guested with the Skids for a Peel Session, standing in for Stuart Adamson who was unwell. He also collaborated with ex-Magazine drummer John Doyle on Ken Lockie's album The Impossible (1981). Around this time, he left Magazine.
Siouxsie and the Banshees
After joining Siouxsie and the Banshees in late 1980, McGeoch entered a period of both creative and commercial success. During his first session with the Banshees he began a new style of playing. He later commented: "I was going through a picky phase, as opposed to strumming. "Happy House" was lighter and had more musicality in it. They invited me to join. I was sad leaving Magazine but the Banshees were so interesting and it felt like a good move".
He recorded guitar on the Banshees' long players Kaleidoscope (1980), Juju (1981) and A Kiss in the Dreamhouse (1982). The Banshees' hit singles of this era featured some of McGeoch's most acclaimed work, particularly 1980's "Happy House", "Christine" and "Israel", and 1981's "Spellbound" and "Arabian Knights". McGeoch's contribution to the band was important in terms of sounds and style. Singer Siouxsie Sioux later said: John McGeoch was my favourite guitarist of all time. He was into sound in an almost abstract way. I loved the fact that I could say, "I want this to sound like a horse falling off a cliff", and he would know exactly what I meant. He was easily, without a shadow of a doubt, the most creative guitarist the Banshees ever had".
Armoury Show, Public Image Ltd and other collaborations
In 1983, during a break from playing music, he produced Swedish punk-funk band Zzzang Tumb's debut long-player.
He joined the band the Armoury Show which included Doyle as well as ex-Skids members Richard Jobson and Russell Webb. Their album Waiting for the Floods released in 1985, features some of McGeoch's best guitar work. He contributed to former Bauhaus singer Peter Murphy's debut solo long-player Should the World Fail to Fall Apart.
In 1986, McGeoch joined John Lydon's Public Image Ltd, a decision which may have been partly motivated by financial difficulties he was in at this time. He had been an admirer of PiL, particularly of Lydon's song-lyrics, yet reportedly had previously turned down an offer from him to join the band in 1984. Despite being struck in the face with a bottle thrown from the crowd during one of his first gigs with the band, McGeoch remained with PiL until it disbanded in 1992, making him the longest-serving member apart from Lydon. He recorded on its long-players: Happy?, 9 and That What Is Not. McGeoch left PiL's line-up in 1992.
In 1992 he was invited by the Icelandic band The Sugarcubes to play the guitar track on the song "Gold" for their Stick Around for Joy long-player. In early 1990s, without a band, he ended his career seeking to form one via a variety of short-lived ventures, including working with Glenn Gregory and the songwriter/producer Keith Lowndes. With John Keeble of Spandau Ballet and vocalist Clive Farrington of When in Rome, he formed a line-up provisionally titled 'Pacific', but at the time no commercial material came of it.
In the mid-1990s McGeoch retired from professional music and trained mid-life as a nurse/carer he also continued working on musical scores for television productions and sporting events.
McGeoch has been cited by many artists as a major influence.
Johnny Marr from the Smiths hailed him, saying: "Really my generation was all about a guy called John McGeoch, when I was in my teens, there weren't many new guitar players who were interesting and of their time. John McGeoch, made really innovative guitar music which was pretty hard to find back then. To a young guitar player like myself, those early Banshees singles were just class".
Simon Goddard also wrote that McGeoch was a "significant inspiration" on Marr.
Radiohead were also inspired by McGeoch to record "There There". They explained that they were "in heaven" when their producer Nigel Godrich made Jonny Greenwood sound like Siouxsie and the Banshees-era McGeoch for that session.
U2's "The Edge" has cited McGeoch as an influence, and chose the Siouxsie and the Banshees song "Christine" for a compilation made for Mojo.
John Frusciante of Red Hot Chili Peppers named McGeoch in his primary influences: "He is such a guitarist I aspire to be. He has a new brilliant idea for each song. I usually play on the stuff he does on Magazine's albums and Siouxsie & the Banshees's like Juju".
In 2008, the BBC aired an hour-long radio documentary on McGeoch's life and work, titled Spellbound: The John McGeoch Story.
On 9 September 1981 he married Janet Pickford, his girlfriend at Manchester Polytechnic, the marriage later being divorced.
On 14 September 1988 McGeoch married Denise Dakin, the second marriage producing a daughter, Emily Jean McGeoch.
He is survived by his Mother Annie, Brother Bill, Daughter Emily and Grandson Angus.
Banshees' drummer Budgie wrote a text to honour him on the Siouxsie website, saying: "Without any disrespect to all the other guitarists we have worked with, none had the relaxed mastery and such a depth of expression as John McGeoch. No amount of scrutiny of filmed 'Live' performance tapes could reveal the subtle economy of technique that made an apparently complex phrase look so deceptively simple. Exasperated guitarists would often comment, "But his hands don’t even move!".