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A history of goth

an early history of goth

Pete Scathe

Source : http://www.scathe.demon.co.uk/histgoth.htm


This site is an attempt to give an outline of the beginnings of the goth movement, between 1979 and 1984. It's also an attempt to shed some light on generally unanswerable questions such as When did goth start?, Why did it get called goth? etc.

(and for those of you who are wondering, I've written a brief introductory guide to what is goth?)

At present this site is still very much Work In Progress, and comments, suggestions, information and corrections are welcome, especially if you've got information or insight into the early scene.

Most of the chronological information on this site is gleaned from George Gimarc's invaluable Punk and Post-Punk diaries, with additional information from Mick Mercer (and his Gothic Rock books), old copies of NME/Sounds/Melody Maker, my record collection, my very fallible memory and various people on the net. Huge thanks to all of them, and especial thanks to Bob for doing the Cascading Style Sheets version, Hatty for the Zig Zag article, and to Greylock for the Positive Punk article. Also many thanks to Peter H Coffin for giving me extra web space to cope with the inevitable overflow and to Gavin Baddeley (author of Goth Chic) for donating a recent article about the history of goth.

The Post-Punk Landscape

The years in which the goth movement originated (79-83) were extremely interesting and diverse musically. As well as the punk splinter groups (the Oi! and Anarcho movements), there was the Ska revival, the Mod revival, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, the fledgling Industrial sound, the so-called "Futurist" movement, New Romantic, Psychobilly and a bewildering array of "post-punk" bands. Out of this peculiar mixture, the early goth bands gradually emerged. Of course, at first they weren't termed "goth" bands, though some of them were referred to as "gothic" in musical style as early as 1979.

A long and rather inconclusive discussion on how they came to be referred to as goth can be found on the name page.

The Early Scene

For anyone who considers the Sisters of Mercy, Fields of the Nephilim and the Mission to be the archetypal goth bands, the early scene is a rather strange place. The early goth bands were, for the most part, much punkier and livelier, and at one stage were referred to as "Positive Punk". A brief discussion on goth's relation to punk can be found on the punk page. In the early years the dominant goth bands were not the Sisters, but UK Decay, the Banshees and Bauhaus, and a discussion on their relative importance in the early scene can be found on the bands page.

Another common misconception about the early goth scene is that it was closely tied to New Romantic. Whilst it had very loose ties with the (nebulous) Futurist scene, the early goth scene had very little to do with New Romantic.


In the Beginning there was Punk.

Influences on goth stretch far further back, to Bowie, the Doors and the Velvet Underground, but the punk explosion of the mid/late 70s created the essential background for goth, in both music and fashion.

In the aftermath of punk in the late 70s and early 80s a bewildering variety of new and re-invented musical styles began to crop up, and around 1978-9 a style began to appear which the press had by late 1979 started to call "gothic".

The creators of this musical style (who were themselves influenced by the likes of the Velvet Underground and Bowie) were essentially Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus and UK Decay.

The first Banshees album ("The Scream", November 1978) and the first Joy Division album ("Unknown Pleasures", June 1979) laid much of the template for goth, with a notable absence of loud punk guitars and the emphasis on the rhythm section instead, along with a stark, hollow sound.

However, the first band who cannot be comfortably classified as anything other than goth were Bauhaus, who released their first single, "Bela Lugosi's Dead", in September 1979. The Banshees could be considered punk, The Cure could be considered New Wave, Joy Division could be considered post-punk, but Bauhaus were unmistakably goth in music, looks, lyrics, art and style right from their first single. In many ways they were the archetypal goth band.

Around the same time as Bauhaus were emerging, UK Decay were discarding their punk roots and developing their own independent "gothic" sound. Although never as popular as Bauhaus, Joy Division or the Banshees, UK Decay were far closer to the second wave of goth bands and were an important influence on them.

By 1980/81 a new wave of goth bands were beginning to emerge- Danse Society, Play Dead, The Sisters of Mercy- and the Cure had abandoned their New Wave sound and created a unique "gothic" sound of their own. In February 1981 Abbo from UK Decay tagged the new musical movement "gothic", but it was to be another year or so before the movement really got going.

The crucial period for the development of goth into a fully-fledged subculture is mid 1982 to mid 1983, with particular emphasis on October 1982 as the month the new movemenet suddenly started receiving major media attention.

In July 1982 the Batcave opened up.

This was at first envisaged as a club for people who were fed up with the commercial direction of New Romantic and wanted something new and darker. At first it played glam and electro music, but several early goth bands also played there and the playlist gradually became more goth.

The Batcave thus became a major rallying-point for the emerging London scene and also attracted a lot of media attention, which in turn spread the idea of a new subculture around the country. In the wake of the Batcave, similar clubs opened around the country, and the Batcave itself went "on tour", giving goths outside London somewhere to gather.

Thus, whilst offering little in the way of music (apart from ASF and Specimen), the Batcave had a major impact on goth fashion and popularity. Essentially, it added a huge dose of "glam" and media attention to the emerging subculture.

Then in October 1982 Bauhaus released "Ziggy Stardust", which became a big hit (#15 in the UK charts) and put them on Top Of The Pops and the front cover of Smash Hits (October 1982).

The new wave of goth bands also began receiving serious media attention, with Southern Death Cult getting a front cover on the NME (October 1982) and Sex Gang Children getting a front cover on Noise! (also October 1982).

Following this, two articles in early 1983 focussed on what was by then unmistakably a separate movement.

In February 1983, Richard North of the NME hailed it as Positive Punk

A month later, Mick Mercer wrote a similar article about the new bands in Melody Maker (though his choice of bands, like Danse Society, was a lot more pertinent).

Meanwhile, the movement was getting a name- the term "gothic" had been floating around for a while, and the name was fixed to the emerging scene by two of the most important bands in it: Andi, the lead singer with Sex Gang Children, was tagged "Count Visigoth" and his followers tagged "goths" by Ian Astbury from Southern Death Cult. Dave Dorrell from the NME then overheard them using the term and it passed into journalistic use.

In October 1983 Tom Vague was referring to "Hordes of Goths" in Zig Zag magazine, by which time both the term and the subculture were firmly established.

Updates :

This is where I'll be putting a list of recent updates to the site.

I've finally done the media section and a brief bit about me.

I've just been kindly sent an article by Gavin Baddeley - currently here

Many recent updates are as a result of an email conversation with Mick Mercer, who has made some very helpful suggestions and kindly supplied me with some photos. Many thanks.

I've added a hugely informative article about the Batcave from the Face in 1984 to the Batcave section

I've added a brief outline of the Later History of Goth

As a result of email conversations, I've added articles/information about the Doors and the Damned.

I've added a Subculture page, about the people who made up the early goth crowd.

I've renamed the Prehistory page as the Influences page, with a long-overdue explanation about the influence of Adam and the Ants.

I've added to the bands page, with the eventual aim of making it a lot more extensive.

I've also added the media page, more as a reminder for me to do it some time...

Further back:

Greylock has very kindly located & typed out the Positive Punk article from the NME.

I've added a brief summary of the history.

I've also made additions to the name and bands pages- the term "goths" came in sooner than I thought, and I thought it was worth stressing the importance of Southern Death Cult and Sex Gang Children in the early scene.

It should be stressed that my ideas about the History are continually evolving as I uncover more information- particularly as regards the complex interplay between the music/bands, fashion and subculture...

Being used to Medieval history, where the transmission of ideas was comparatively slow, I've had to get used to the idea that just a few months can see very extensive changes in terms of music-based subcultures.

For instance, the term "positive punk", coined by Richard North in February 1983, seems to have vanished by October 1983 and to have been replaced by "goth".

Bands: Their relative importance in the early scene

Joy Division are not usually thought of as being goth, despite being referred to as "gothic" at the time, but their influence on goth bands was considerable. Their sparse, haunting sound was quite unlike anything else around at the time and spawned a host of imitators, especially after Ian Curtis' death (Bauhaus' first album and the Sisters' first single were both slammed as being the work of poor Joy Division copyists, which was rather unfair on Bauhaus). Their use of minimalist and gothic art on record covers also had a lasting influence (for instance, the cover to the March Violets "Grooving in Green", designed by Andrew Eldritch, has definite similarities to the cover of "Closer").

Additionally, they were a major source of the term "gothic" as applied to post-punk music.

However, Joy Division were never a part of the goth scene; the goth scene proper started to emerge around 81/82, by which time Ian Curtis was long dead.

They were never really regarded as "goth" musically by goths, either, despite the obvious debts owed to them by a lot of goth bands. A lot of first-era goths viewed them as too "mainstream" owing to their posthumous popularity; also, their image was rather too bleak (from a Batcave point of view, they were decidedly unsexy). And they had their own following, the "long raincoat brigade".

Siouxsie and the Banshees were not involved in the goth scene as such, but had a massive influence on it in terms of both music and image. Their music had been called "gothic" as far back as 1979, and their music formed the template for a lot of female-fronted goth bands in much the same way that Siouxsie's looks provided the style for many female goths. Between them, Siouxsie and Bauhaus pretty much designed the early goth look.

And, once again, the Banshees may have been important in establishing the use of the word "gothic".

Their authorised biography contains some comments from them about the goth scene, here.

Bauhaus are the first band who cannot be comfortably classified as anything other than goth. UK Decay and The Banshees could be considered punk, The Cure could be considered New Wave, Joy Division could be considered post-punk, but Bauhaus were unmistakably goth in music, looks, lyrics, art and style right from their first single. In many ways they were the archetypal goth band. They were also involved in the early goth "scene", and had a major influence on goth fashion.

UK Decay are almost forgotten now, but they were important movers in the early goth scene. Abbo, from UK Decay, was responsible for using the word "gothic" to tag the emerging movement.

Sex Gang Children, along with Southern Death Cult, were one of the leaders of the new wave of goth bands who appeared in the early 80s. They are also most likely the inspiration of the term "goths" as applied to members of the emergent subculture.

Southern Death Cult were the other leaders of the "Positive Punk" scene which sprang up in 1982 and effectively became the goth scene. It's quite likely Ian Astbury was the first person to use the term "goths", originally about the fans of Sex Gang Children.

The Cure, like the Banshees, were not part of the scene, and were less influential. However, their music and image fitted, and they were adopted into the goth canon. After "Pornography", one of their bleakest albums, they suddenly went in a pop direction, moving away from a goth sound but inadvertently helping to bring the idea of "goth" closer to the mainstream.

The Sisters of Mercy, despite their later dominance of the goth scene, were not that important in the early scene. Their main claim to fame in the early years is being the first of the second wave of goth bands to release a single, though their first gig wasn't until several months later. It's odd that the Sisters came to dominate goth, since they were so different from the rest of the early goth bands: they had deep vocals and a drum machine whereas most of the early goth bands were characterised by tribal drumming, and none of them had vocals much like Eldritch's. In 1982, the important bands were Bauhaus, UK Decay, the Banshees, the Cure, Southern Death Cult and maybe Sex Gang Children: the Sisters had yet to emerge from the shadow of Joy Division (reviews regularly commented on their similarity).

The Birthday Party came to England in early 1980, at much the same time that Bauhaus & co were gaining popularity and some of the second wave of goth groups were forming. Whether they were actually a "goth" group as such is highly debatable (and I would be inclined to say they were very much their own thing), but they arrived at the time the scene was forming and played with a fair few of its protagonists, including Bauhaus. The "goth" tag may have been a result of this and the "Release the Bats" single (July 81), which the band regarded as something of a joke.

Play Dead were never major movers within the goth scene. Although they formed in 1980, they didn't start picking up popularity until 82/83 and whilst they eventually put out three consistently good albums and an impressive number of singles, they never enjoyed the influence or relative mass appeal of the Sisters, Banshees or Bauhaus. However, in Mick Mercer's opinion: "they were important early on, because their crowd were one of the first to go to most gigs, as that whole touring ethos kicked in, where people started following one band at the expense of all others."

Danse Society at one stage seemed poised to take over as leaders of the goth scene, but it never quite happened. They formed in 1980 and by the end of 1982, when they'd released their excellent "Seduction" mini-album, there was a major buzz about them. They had a distinctive and promising musical style and in Steve Rawlings they had a good-looking and charismatic frontman. However, they signed to a major label and things went downhill from there. In the end, their major contribution was probably in getting people interested in the bands around them by having attracted attention themselves.

The Virgin Prunes were complete oddballs, and as with so many other bands, their main connection with the goth scene was having a sufficiently avant-garde sound and image in the right time and place. They were mainly noted for their extremely theatrical and OTT live shows, whilst their recorded material was of variable quality ("If I die, I die" is probably their most accessible album).

Early Influences

The immediately obvious influences are Joy Division, Bauhaus and Siouxsie, all of whom are covered in the bands section.

However, amongst the punk and post-punk scene were several other bands who had definite influences on the early goth scene.

One such band were Adam and the Ants.

This may seem strange now, as Adam and the Ants are known mainly for their (or rather Adam's) later pop career, but before the pop career took off they were "art-school punk" with several parallels to the later goth scene, not least their emphasis on fetish imagery and use of sparse guitear and tribal drums. Certainly a fair few early goth bands seem to have been influenced by them, particularly Sex Gang Children and Southern Death Cult.

Mick Mercer kindly sent me some photos of the Ants which strikingly demonstrate their similarity in style to early goth bands.

Another band who may have had some influence are the little-known Gloria Mundi. According to Mick Mercer, they had a "goth" sound and imagery by about 1978. Their influence on other people and bands was probably quite limited as they were never very popular, but Mick maintains that Bauhaus underwent a serious image change after appearing on the same bill as Gloria Mundi.

A much better-known band who some people do consider as an influence were The Damned, but beyond Dave Vanian's image (and perhaps one of their later albums) I can see no real goth connection or influence at all.

Further back, the pre-punk origins of goth can be argued endlessly, and have been. However, the most important influences on the early goth bands outside of punk were probably the Doors, the Velvet Underground and Bowie, as well as the 70s "glam" scene (T.Rex, Sweet, and perhaps Roxy Music).

Bowie in particular was very influential- apart from being a major influence on bands musically, he was responsible for much of the "glam" look and scene which influenced both goth and New Romantic.

And in 1974 he described "Diamond Dogs" as "gothic", something that may have had something to do with both Hannett and Siouxsie's use of the term.

Interestingly, since I wrote the above, I came across the following quote about Siouxsie from Nick Kwnt in the NME, 29/7/98:

Parallels and comparisons can now be drawn with gothic rock architects like The Doors and, certainly, early Velvet Underground.

Origins of the Movement: When did it form and who formed it?

The question of when goth started as a definite subculture is generally unanaswerable, but I'm going to try.

The term "gothic" for individual bands was around in 1979, and there were signs of an emerging musical movement by early 1981, when Abbo inadvertently tagged it "gothic", but goth as an identifiable movement in terms of both music and fashion didn't really appear till 1982. In July 1982, the Batcave opened: not only was this a major rallying-point for the London scene, but it attracted a lot of media attention, which in turn spread the idea of a new subculture around the country. In the wake of the Batcave, similar clubs opened around the country, and the Batcave itself went "on tour", giving goths outside London somewhere to gather.

Meanwhile, the musical movement had become equally high-profile and by February 1983 had acquired its own tag- though "positive punk" rather than "goth". Although the tag "goth" for both movement and music didn't become common until late 83, goth had pretty much become a major subculture by 1983, particularly with the success of "Ziggy Stardust" by Bauhaus (82) and "Dear Prudence" by the Banshees.

By early 1984, "gothic" had become a major tag, as evidenced in this quote from Pete Waddleton, the bass player in Play Dead, in an article in Zig Zag from April 1984:

"We're not gothic, we're not anything. People are always going to categorize you, especially the press. Well we don't care, any of us. Christ! Even I could write about bands, any idiot can do it. We're compared to the Sex Gang, Death Cult movement. THIS WASN'T A MOVEMENT. WELL, I MEAN . . . IT WASN'T A MOVEMENT TILL SOMEONE CALLED IT ONE!"


The goth movement may be viewed as an interplay between the music, the fashion and the people who formed the subculture. The question is, where did the people who joined/formed the emergent subculture come from?

Or, to quote Mick Mercer:

"It stands to reason there is a logical gap between Punk and Goth. It isn't like a whole new audience just appeared from nowhere, which begs the question, who made up that initial crowd?"

There seem to have been three main strands of people who formed the goth gig and club-going crowd.

First, there were the disaffected punks. As stated on the punk page, by the early 80s punk had lost its early inventiveness and become increasingly harsh and stale, offering little of any interest musically.

To quote Mick Mercer again:

"We were all punks who didn't like the more basic form, and in particular it was the Gloria Mundi, Ants, Ultravox crowd who would be seen cropping up at the earlier gigs. You'd think Ultravox might be the sort of band who'd attract the pseudo--trendies, but most of the people at the gigs were total headcases. Ditto The Pack/Theatre Of Hate, Killing Joke, Bauhaus, Sex Gang thing. Every time you'd go to those gigs you'd see the Ants/GM U-vox people."

(Note: Mick Mercer is talking about the John Foxx-era Ultravox, and about the pre-pop era Ants)

Second, and probably later, there were disaffected New Romantics.

The original New Romantics had been a "dressy" reaction against the increasingly harsh and masculine direction of the punk scene, but New Romantic had quickly entered the mainstream, becoming a commercial "pop" scene.

To quote Merlina, talking about the early days of the Batcave:

"For the crowd I was with it was a reaction against New Romantic which had gone distinctly fluffy - Di was wearing frills & every schoolkid had knickerbockers - and NR music, while always more 'poppy/bouncy' had turned plain cheesy (and it takes at least a decade of nostalgia injections to appreciate that kinda cheese!)."

Finally (and this is where I come in), there were the "post-punk teenagers". Too young for punk, and unimpressed by its remnants, we listened avidly to the likes of Joy Division, Bauhaus and Killing Joke on John Peel's radio show, and scoured the music press for similar bands. Going to gigs and clubs, we fell in with like-minded people, and found ourselves part of this thing later called "goth".

Origins of the term "Goth"

The name "goth" originally came from a Germanic tribe (ie the Goths). The Romans regarded them as barbaric and uncultured, much like the Vandals. "Gothic" was later applied to a style of medieval architecture by critics who regarded it as similarly barbaric and uncultured (something similar happened with the term "Vandal"). The term was later applied to a late 18th/early 19th century style of literature which had a fascination with death and the supernatural.

Exactly how "goth" became applied to the post-punk musical movement is unclear. The earliest use within the post-punk scene is likely to have been either by Martin Hannett, Joy Division's producer, or by Siouxsie and the Banshees in the summer of 1979 (see below). By late 1979 and early 1980, the term "gothic" seems to have been fairly common in music journalism to describe bands such as Joy Division and the Banshees. In 1981 Abbo from UK Decay used the term "gothic" to describe the emerging band movement. Then later, probably about 1982, Ian Astbury used the term "goths" to describe Sex Gang Children's fans. On the surface, there seems to be a clear progression here, with the term gothic/goth being used to describe first individual bands, then a movement of bands, then the followers of that movement.

However, it's not that simple. The term "goth" doesn't seem to have been commonly applied to the movement until some time in 1983, several years after it had originally been used. In early 1983, the most common term for what became the goth movement was "Positive Punk", or later "Posi-Punk", courtesy of Richard North in the NME (February 1983).

Somehow, presumably sometime in 1983, the term seems to have been replaced by "goth".

The first usage of the term "Goths" to describe the members of the subculture which I've been able to uncover is in an article by Tom Vague in the October 1983 re-launch issue of Zig Zag (under Mick Mercer's editorship).

Describing the audience for Death Cult's Berlin show, he says "...and a pretty motley crew they are too. Hordes of Goths. It could be London..."

What seems to have happened is that the term "gothic" had been floating around, was occasionally used to describe bands, and eventually stuck. Alongside this, the fans of these bands were described as goths, probably as a result of comments about Sex Gang Children and their fans.

No individual person was solely responsible, but details of early significant usages are given below:

The Doors

The Doors were described as "gothic rock" in 1967. Interesting, given that a fair few early goth and goth-related bands (such as Joy Division) were influenced by them. Thanks to Nevermort for bringing my attention to this article


In 1974, Bowie described Diamond Dogs as being "gothic". Other bands may well have used the term as well, and had it used about them, but given Bowie's undeniable influence on the embryonic goth scene, it's worth noting here. It's remotely possible that Bowie's use of the term may have influenced Hannett and/or Siouxsie.

Joy Division

The first dateable use of the term "gothic" in relation to post-punk music was by Tony Wilson, who described Joy Division as gothic compared with the pop mainstream on a BBC TV programme, "Something Else" (15/9/79), when Tony Wilson and Steve Morris were interviewed. This is unlikely to be the earliest use of it, though.

In a Factory Records interview by Mary Hannon (source unknown, date post-UP, pre-Closer), there is the following passage:

"One clue to JD lies in their album's title. Another is the description given by Martin Hannett, who calls them 'dancing music, with gothic overtones'. Unintentionally, Bernard Albrecht gave an excellent description of 'gothic' in our interview, when describing his favourite film 'Nosferatu'. 'The atmosphere is really evil, but you feel comfortable inside it'."

The article goes on to describe JD as "20th century gothic".

Unfortunately I have neither date nor source

In any case, it presumably pre-dates the following band reviews:

[Review by Penny Kiley, Liverpool, Buzzcocks support tour, gig 2/10/79]

"'Gothic' has become a somewhat overworked definition of the genre, but the effect of Joy Division is the same as (to take an obvious example) that of the Banshees."

[Review by "Des Moines"(?), Leeds, Buzzcocks support tour, gig 3/10/79]

"Curtis may project like an ambidextrous barman purging his physical hang-ups, but the 'gothic dance music' he orchestrates..."

[Review by Chris Bohn, University of London Union, gig 8/2/80]

"Joy Division are masters of this gothic gloom..."

As can be seen from the above, after the interview by Mary Hannon "Gothic" seems to have become a quite common term describing Joy Division and certain other groups, including the Banshees. The Banshees independently used the term around the same time to describe their new direction, but I don't know whether that would pre or post date the Mary Hannon interview (see below).

In any event, I'd hazard a guess that Hannett's "gothic overtones" comment pre-dates Wilson's supposed comment, as there are only two and a half weeks between Wilson's comment and Penny Kiley's description of the term gothic as "overworked" (although two weeks can be a long time in journalism). Since Unknown Pleasures came out in May/June 79, I'd guess Hannett's comment can be loosely dated to summer 1979.

Siouxsie and the Banshees

At around the same time, Siouxsie used "gothic" to describe the Banshees' new musical direction. This was in reference to "Join Hands", which came out at the end of August 1979. Since I don't have a definite date for either comment, it's hard to say whether the Banshees or Hannett were first.

The following quotes are taken from "Siouxsie And The Banshees: The Authorised Biography", by Mark Paytress, and mainly relate to Juju, which came out in 1981.

Steve Severin: "We'd actually described Join Hands as "gothic" at the time of its release, but journalists hadn't picked up on it. Certainly, at that time we were reading a lot of Edgar Allan Poe and writers like that. A song like "Premature Burial" from that album is certainly gothic in its proper sense.

Phil Oakey: It wasn't the bands fault but I do think they invented goth as we know it. They were archetypally what it became - especially those intense vocals and Kenny's terrific tribal drumming. It established the pattern.

Sioux: I've always thought that one of our greatest strengths was our ability to craft tension in music and subject matter. Juju had a strong identity, which the goth bands that came in our wake tried to mimic, but they simply ended up diluting it. They were using horror as the basis for stupid rock n roll pantomime. There was no sense of tension in their music. Anyway, Juju wasn't all about darkness.

There is also this interesting quote from a live review by Nick Kent in the NME, 29/7/78:

Parallels and comparisons can now be drawn with gothic rock architects like The Doors and, certainly, early Velvet Underground.

UK Decay

In an interview with Steve Keaton from Sounds in February 1981, Abbo from UK Decay inadvertently named the goth movement: "he said 'it's gonna be a movement' and we're going nah, we'll be gone in six months. He said you've got to get a name for it, it's not dance or alternative or New Pop or mod... and I remember saying 'we're into the whole Gothic thing'... and we sat there laughing about how we should have gargoyle shaped records and only play churches. Course he put it all in the interview.. for six months everything went quiet then when the album came out everyone was asking 'what's this Gothic thing you're into?' And it's a total joke!"

Two months later, in an interview with the US magazine "Flipside", he used "gothic" again to describe their style:

Flipside: Is your music political?

Abbo: Uh, well yeah some of it, the early stuff is real political, "For My Country" was sort of an anti-nationalist thing, pacifist. Our lyrics are now sort of based on sex and death, mystical, gothic is how we describe it in England, the new single is about violation of privacy, unexpected guest in the house, surreal...

Ian Astbury/Andi Sex Gang/The NME

In an interview with Dave Thompson and Jo-Anne Green of Alternative Press magazine in November 1994, Ian Astbury, the vocalist in Southern Death Cult, laid claim to having invented the goth tag:

"The goth tag was a bit of a joke," insists Ian Astbury. "One of the groups coming up at the same time as us was Sex Gang Children, and Andi -- he used to dress like a Banshees fan, and I used to call him the Gothic Goblin because he was a little guy, and he's dark. He used to like Edith Piaf and this macabre music, and he lived in a building in Brixton called Visigoth Towers. So he was the little Gothic Goblin, and his followers were Goths. That's where goth came from."

And again in an article entitled "The Gloom Generation,"by Suzan Colon which appeared in the July 1997 edition of Details Magazine:

" For a lot of people who had been in it a few years before, punk no longer resembled what they had originally intended it to be. Goth gave them a chance to establish another platform that was specifically theirs. This new scene attracted the dispossessed, a lot of punks living on welfare, shoplifting. Many of them lived in Brixton in the early '80s because it was cheap. There was one band called Sex Gang Children who dressed in a very similar fashion to Bauhaus and Specimen. A load of us used to hang out with their singer, Andi SexGang. He lived on the top floor of an old Victorian house. We'd go up there for tea, and he'd be in a Chinese robe with black eye makeup on and his hair all done up, playing Edith Piaf albums with fifteen TVs turned on. We had this vision of him as Count Visigoth in his tower, holding court. At the time, Dave Dorrell heard us calling Andi "Count Visigoth" and his followers "goths," so that's what he called everyone in the scene."

This would be around late 82/early 83 (when both bands were "coming up") and thus post-dates both Hannett's and Abbo's use of the term "gothic", but is probably the first use of the term "goths" to describe devotees of a certain type of musical style.

Importantly, David Dorrell used to write for the NME...

Here's a further quote from the same article:

"PETE MURPHY: I know that Bauhaus presumably started what the critics coined the "gothic" genre in 1979 with "Bela Lugosi's Dead," but goth was a myth dreamt up by journalists sometime back in the '80s to describe Bauhaus, Joy Division, Iggy's vocal vibe on The Idiot, and so on. The music was often unaccomplished, but made up for it with a kind of transcendent quality.

DANIEL ASH: When we recorded "Bela Lugosi's Dead," Bauhaus had only been together for four weeks. We never called ourselves or our music: "goth." That was something that came a few years later from the press.

DAVID DORRELL: Oh, God, it all comes back! I won't even try and make claims that I wrote an article and called them goths or whether I cribbed that off one of my fellow goth journalists -- speed burns my memory. As a journalist, I noticed that the end of punk was starting to get darker. (John) Lydon was getting dark with Public Image Ltd. By committing suicide, Ian Curtis of Joy Division not only put an end to his own life and that of his band, but allowed a vacuum to occur into which all of these other bands scurried."

Depite Dorrell's memory lapse, it seems likely that Astbury was right and Dorrell picked up the tag from the description of Andi Sex Gang & co. Further confirmatiom of this is from an interview with Andi Sex Gang in an article by Gavin Baddeley:

Gothic lore identifies the Sex Gang Children vocalist Andi SexGang as the first Goth, nicknamed "Count Visigoth" because of his flamboyantly dark dress sense, the band's early-80s fans being styled "Goths" by association. "It was all unbeknownst to me - they called my place Visigoth Towers behind my back as it were" laughed Andi. "A couple of musicians I knew who lived round the corner - Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy [both in early Goth faves Southern Death Cult] coined the nickname I think, who mentioned it to a music journo called Dave Dorrell who then started bandying the "Goth" tag around. But "Gothic" had already been around for a while to describe various styles of music, especially Joy Division. For me personally the term Gothic refers to something a little more cultivated and classical than the commercial Goth you see about."


1974 : "Diamond Dogs" by Bowie is described as "gothic"

29/7/78: Nick Kent in the NME says, of Siouxsie: Parallels and comparisons can now be drawn with gothic rock architects like The Doors and, certainly, early Velvet Underground.

1979: Martin Hannett describes Joy Division as 'dancing music, with gothic overtones'.

1979: The Banshees describe their new album, Join Hands, as "gothic".

15/9/79: Tony Wilson describes Joy Division as gothic compared with the pop mainstream on a BBC TV programme, "Something Else"

2/10/79: Penny Kiley says in a review "'Gothic' has become a somewhat overworked definition of the genre, but the effect of Joy Division is the same as (to take an obvious example) that of the Banshees."

2/81: In an interview with Steve Keaton from Sounds, Abbo from UK Decay says: 'we're into the whole Gothic thing'...

1982/early 83: Ian Astbury uses the term "goths" to describe Sex Gang Children's fans, which is then picked up by NME writer David Dorrell.


There were two main influences on goth fashion: bands and the Batcave.


The main influences here were probably Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Cure. Other bands were influential later, but in the early period these three bands defined the goth look. Not only were they seen live, and occasionally on television, but pictures of Siouxsie, Pete Murphy, Daniel Ash and co appeared quite regularly in the music press and on their records. Any striking look will attract imitators and Siouxsie in particular spawned a host of clones- in fact she has claimed, with considerable justification, that she invented the goth look, at least for women.

The Batcave

Obviously, individual Bauhaus and Banshees fans were already looking "goth" before the Batcave opened, but the Batcave can probably be held responsible for turning the goth look into a "fashion" as such- it got a lot of exposure in the press, pictures were seen by people around the country and the basic style was copied. Specimen and Alien Sex Fiend, both Batcave bands, were also very influential in the developmdent of the goth look (in particular, Jonny Slut from Specimen- there is a large section in Mick Mercer's Goth Rock book about that).


From an article entitled "The Gloom Generation,"by Suzan Colon which appeared in the July 1997 edition of Details Magazine:

DANIEL ASH: Within six months of starting, Bauhaus started getting the black-wearing audience and seeing the kids dressing up like us. We used to call them the androgynous space demons. Or the wildebeests.

IAN ASTBURY: Some of the bands, like Specimen and Alien Sex Fiend, had jet-black hair, black eyeliner, black fishnets -- a futuristic vampire thing. It came more from glam than from any kind of grave robbing. It was just a reaction against the New Romantics, because they were just so posey and shallow.

IAN ASTBURY: There was also a flirtation with pre-Nazi decadence, that sultry, smoky period from late-'20s Berlin that was very androgynous.

FRED BERGER: The aesthetic was pretty much set by Bauhaus, who were a very gender-ambiguous group. The guys wore makeup and they were pretty, and that carried over to the fashion, which for men was lace, high heels, jewelry, thigh-high boots, fetish clothing. Sometimes skirts, but it wasn't drag. Rozz Williams from Christian Death was gender-bending, but definitely a guy. No drag queen would ever consider these gothic boys to be trannies.

IAN ASTBURY: The archetype for the male was Sid Vicious: black spiky hair and a black leather jacket. For the women it was definitely Siouxsie from the Banshees -- that S&M look with the black fishnets, the black leather thigh-high boots, the pale face paint and the dark makeup, and then the big black spiky hair.

SIOUXSIE: I never wore white face makeup; I was never that clowny looking. Actually, it's funny -- at quite a lot of our concerts, I used to look out and see all these little Robert Smiths.

ROBERT SMITH: The Banshees used to give me so much grief about how I looked in the Cure -- we were a raincoat band, but we were never goth. A lot of the photos of me wearing a rosary or a crucifix or something is exclusive to the eighteen-month period that I was playing with the Banshees, because they determined that I should wear their uniform, which I had to go along with because it wasn't my group. But I enjoyed being in it and I really got on with [bass player Steve] Severin.

SIOUXSIE: Put it down to Robert and Severin together. It's all their fault. Both of them would take my clothes and my jewelry. There were some strange nights going on there, lots of cross dressing and clothes swapping. Except they never had anything I wanted to wear.

Note the apparent discrepancy above between Fred Berger's and Ian Astbury's description of the male "goth look". This is because Astbury is describing the early goth gig-going look, which was essentially punk, whereas Berger is describing the later goth club look. Early goth gigs were often very hectic affairs, and the audience dressed accordingly.

The Batcave

When the Batcave opened in July 1982, it was not intended to be a "goth" night, nor were the existing "goth" bands high on the playlist. Instead, it was seen as a reinvention of Bowie-style glam, but with a darker, horror-type twist. As it happened, this fitted in very well with what some of the "goth" bands like Bauhaus were doing, members of such goth bands frequented the club and eventually it became the prototype goth club.

Essentially, it was at first envisaged as a club for people who were fed up with the commercial direction of New Romantic and wanted something new and darker. At first it played glam and electro music, but several early goth bands also played there and the playlist gradually became more goth (for a Top 10 of the year before February 1983, see here).

In an interview in The Face from February 1984 Hamish McDonald, the Batcave DJ, said "I play what I call a sweeping curve of sound, with Siouxsie and the Cramps as middle ground, taking in Sweet and the Specimen and stretching to Eddie Cochran and Death Cult".

The Batcave became a major rallying-point for the emerging London scene and also attracted a lot of media attention, which in turn spread the idea of a new subculture around the country. In the wake of the Batcave, similar clubs opened around the country, and in 1983 the Batcave itself went "on tour", giving goths outside London somewhere to gather.

Once again, Hamish McDonald from the Face in February 1984: "When we toured the Batcave last year it was obvious that kids wanted to dance, not sit around burning black candles in some "alternative" club. In small towns like Colne, Lancs, they were furious and keen for music to dance to - but only modern stuff like the Cocteau Twins. It was more difficult mixing in the older glam rock. Now there are Batcave nights at Planets in Liverpool, the Belfry in Leicester, the Hacienda in Manchester... it's the one night that kids have got their own punk disco."

Thus, whilst offering little in the way of music (apart from ASF and Specimen), the Batcave had a major impact on goth fashion and popularity. Essentially, it added a huge dose of "glam" and media attention to the emerging subculture.

The Hamish Mcdonald quotes above are from an article from The Face in February 1984 which has wider application than the Batcave - essentially it's about the alternative club scene as a whole, and is very interesting. Unfortunately the pages are huge as I haven't properly fiddled with them yet, so I've got two versions, one with b&w text only and one that's complete but huge.


1. From George Gimarc's Post-Punk Diary for Wednesday July 21, 1982:

THE BATCAVE is a new London nightspot that is opening tonight at the Gargoyle, 69-70 Dean Street W1 in London. The club is an every Wednesday night affair put together by the guys in Specimen who will play there tonight, and many times in the future. The decor is leather and lace, '30s monster movies touches and "absolutely no funk". They intend to book activities other than live music such as mud wrestling, fire shows, drag cabaret and old b&w horror films.

2. Hamish McDonald, the Batcave DJ, from The Face, February 1984:

"There are big diferences between '77 punks and '83 punks, Mick Jones came to the Batcave once and stood there not knowing where he was. Old punks just want the Pistols; new punks have switched into people like Alien Sex Fiend, though a lot of Gothic bands aren't danceable, they stink of that heavy drone."

"The Batcave attracts quite a chameleon bunch - you'll see a rockabilly boy dancing with a gothic girl. It's different groups of people hanging out together, listening to each other's music. You'll find a lot of art in some of the gothic material. Sisters of Mercy couple the Iggy cult with heart and soul which reflects a certain style for today. Virgin Prunes rework pagan rites and tribal chants and put a lot of space and fear into their music."

Note the apparent crossover between the terms "new punks" and "gothic".

3. From an article entitled "The Gloom Generation,"by Suzan Colon which appeared in the July 1997 edition of Details Magazine:

MARC ALMOND: I quite liked Alien Sex Fiend and Specimen and a lot of those bands in the early days. I thought they were quite fun.

IAN ASTBURY: All these bands were coming together at the Batcave in London about '81 or early '82. It was run by Ollie Wisdom, who was in Specimen. The club was really mixed; it wasn't just this dark deathrock club. Specimen was the house band, and they were very dark, but they were as much German as they were The Addams Family. They were like a Death Bowie.

MARC ALMOND: The Batcave moved around a couple of places, but I remember it best at a place called Gossips in Soho. You had to take a lift up to the top floor, which used to be a hostess club. There was a little theater where stripteases used to take place and they used it to watch gothic movies, or bands would perform there, and you could see people like Robert Smith hanging out at the bar.

ROBERT SMITH: We used to go to the Batcave because we got in free and it was a good atmosphere and the people were really nice. But the music was awful! That whole romanticism of death! Anybody who's ever experienced death firsthand could tell you there's nothing romantic about it.

DAVID DORRELL: One of the highlights of goth was going to the Batcave when it was in Leicester Square. It was a great club; there was a U.S. Army jeep parked right up by the bar. At the same time that was happening, a guy broke into Buckingham Palace and the Queen woke up to find this slightly demented, slightly drunken Irishman on the end of her bed. A week after he was released on bail, he performed with Red Lipstick at the Batcave.

4. From Sounds, June 18 1983:

SPECIMEN have added three more dates to their Batcave tour of britain. They'll be taking over Sheffield Limit Club June 18, Colne Francs 17, Birmingham Fantasy Club 18. They'll now be supported on all dates by Flesh For Lulu, who replace Alien Sex Fiend who dropped out.

(Note the date here- this is roughly the same time as the movie The Hunger came out, which starred the ubiquitous Mr Bowie and featured a live performance from Bauhaus...)

5. From Sounds, 20 August 1983:

The usual tykes were spotted flaunting their disease-wracked bodies at the Batcave last Wednesday night. Including (yawn)... a fat Siouxsie Sioux, a dazed Nick Cave, Patti Palladin, David Cunningham (who he?), half of heavy-acid band Brilliant, a pretentious little Sex Gang Child, a Lindsay from a Sex Beat (or is that Sex Bat?), that ex-man called Jayne County, Abbo and "a titled lord" according to Olly (who was also there).

BBC's Riverside were also filming for a Halloween Night Batcave Special, and reportedly upset at the "lack of any real celebrities".

(Again, note the date here, the list of "goth celebs" and the BBC presence - within a year of opening, the Batcave had become a goth institution which was well known enough to be shown on national television)

6. From an interview with Jonny (Slut) Melton in Mick Mercer's Gothic Rock:

Was the Batcave ever a spawning place for ideas?

It was a light bulb for all the freaks and people like myself who were from the sticks and wanted a bit more from life. Freaks, weirdos, sexual deviants...

There's people around who'll always be attracted by something shiny, glittering, exciting. A t the time the Batcave wasn't a doomy, Gothy, droney grungey sort of place. I don't think it ever was, but I imagine in this day and age that's what people may imagine it was... but it was more Gotham City than Aleister Crowley.

7. From an edited discussion between myself, Merlina and Michael Johnson on uk.people.gothic:

MICHAEL JOHNSON: In any history of goth fashion, the Batcave will loom large. In any history of goth *music*, it'll rate less of a mention, the 'Batcave bands' such as ASF notwithstanding. The Batcave was (arguably; everything is 'arguably'!) the place where the 'look' first developed to any elaborate extent, but most of the goth-scene's *music* came from elsewhere....

PETE SCATHE: I think what actually happened is that they came together on a collision course. The Batcave wasn't planned as a "goth" club, but the emergent goth scene kinda took it over and adopted a lot of the imagery...

MERLINA: Well I didn't get along to the Batcave till the 2nd night so I dunno what was initially planned... For the crowd I was with it was a reaction against NR which had gone distinctly fluffy - Di was wearing frills & every schoolkid had knickerbockers - and NR music, while always more 'poppy/bouncy' had turned plain cheesy (and it takes at least a decade of nostalgia injections to appreciate that kinda cheese!). The Batcave was billed as being 'darker' 'spookier' 'dangerous' etc -and *promised* no American tourists with cameras. In the early days it certainly had an 'edge'. It *felt* 'goth'.

As for the music - well, it was still 'music as fun' rather than the more 'music as art/protest/something profound' attitude that was prevailant, I'd say. I think it's difficult to say the music came from 'elsewhere' - cos, as has been said, there were lots of influences & people who came together under the 'goth' banner. And there were plenty of arguments, then as now, about what was, or wasn't goth. Someone mentioned Joy Division. They certainly didn't get played in goth clubs (not then anyway) - they were definitely 'indie' - although by the time everything melded together into what became 'alternative' nights JD were certainly on the playlists. OTOH the music evidenced all the traditions we now see in goth- from the Sex Pistols to the NY Dolls.

Batcave itself saw people from various 'traditions' coming together too- the more 'dressy' end of punk; the art-school gang from Blitz, a few from the newly out of the closet fetish scene & a bunch of gay guys who'd heard this was a 'safe' place to be.

Michael Johnson and Merlina were regulars at the Batcave - Michael Johnson used to run Nemesis Promotions and is now a regular contributor for Starvox.

It's worth adding the obvious point that no two old goths have exactly the same views of the early 80s scene, particularly as regards what was important in "goth" terms and what wasn't. Personally, at the time I regarded the Batcave as being full of sad posers (probably because I was a sad poser myself) and it was only later on that I realised how important it had been to the early scene.

Even with the benefit of hindsight, it's hard to quantify the importance of the Batcave. In fashion terms and with regard to the London scene it was certainly important, but in musical terms and outside London its importance was far less. Outside London, there were plenty of people who were only vaguely aware of its existence and who gained their goth "look" from the likes of Bauhaus and Siouxsie. But I think it's fair to say that the goth scene would not have been the same without it.


Goth evolved from punk. Most of the important early goth (or "gothic") bands - the Banshees, Joy Division, UK Decay- had at one point been punk bands, and something of the spirit of punk passed into the early goth movement.

By 1981, British punk had devolved into two main groups: Oi! and the anarcho movement centred around Crass. Neither side had much to offer musically, and some journalists looked to rising goth bands like Southern Death Cult as keeping the spirit of punk alive. Hence the tag Positive Punk which was applied to some of these bands.

Musically, many of the early goth bands differed from punk in that they'd discarded the use of buzzsaw guitars, instead using tribal drums with shards of guitar thrown over the rythm section. The lyrics and imagery were also changing, tending towards the dark and morbid rather than the straightforward and political. However, there was no clear dividing line, and many of the early goth bands played with and/or shared labels wirth punk bands.

From a fashion point of view, goth still shared much in common with punk, particularly as regards spiky hair, ripped clothing and mohawks (though the classic goth mohawk tended to be black and a lot wider). Since the Banshees were for a while still regarded as a punk band, the "Siouxsie-clone" look was by no means restricted to proto-goth girls, and a lot of the early gig-going crowd looked a lot more punk than goth.

As regards contacts between the subcultures, for a long time goth was part of punk, and it was a while before it became a subculture in itself rather than a subdivision of punk. After about 1983, however, goth had emerged as a separate subculture and became increasingly separate from punk in both music and style.

As a snapshot of the punk scene at the time, here's a couple of quotes from Abbo of UK Decay in US magazine Flipside in April 1981:

Al: How is the audience for you and the bands you play with?

Abbo: Well Crass have a very heavy punk audience, Killing Joke is slightly more sophisticated, a lot of poseurs you might say - can't really tell what kind of an audience us and Killing Joke draw, its a mix between hardcore punks, normal punks, straights, hippies, trendy punks... In London there's still a really good punk scene, there's a lot of places that are really tuned in, other places it's dead.

Abbo: Yeah we used to be very pacifistic, but now only in our views on war and stuff, it's basically impractical to be a pacifist - you've got to get off your ass and do something about it... We can't even play in our hometown because we are associated with punk, smaller bands get away with it if they keep it low key, we try to, but in London there's always a place to play, if one place closes down there's always another opening up.

Al: There are a lot of punk factions...

Abbo: Oh yeah, there's the Spandau Ballet/Stray Cats type of bands, Adam and the Ants, there's us, Theatre of Hate, Wasted Youth (not L.A.'s) bands on a different level, then there's the Cockney Rejects, Sham, Upstarts...

Spon: Football, Oi Oi bands...

Abbo: Totally three factions that don't mix. Over here we've been playing with the hardcore punk bands, which is strange.

New Romantic

Despite later developments, the early goth scene had nothing to do with the New Romantic scene, at least musically. Goth evolved out of punk and was, at this stage, raw and experimental, whereas New Romantic was stylish, polished and very much chart-orientated (the debut singles by Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran went straight into charts). In many ways goth, like other alternative genres, was reacting against manufactured chart music, which by 1981 certainly included New Romantic.

It should also be remembered that New Romantic was very much a manufactured, club-orientated scene, whereas goth (at this stage) was not a clearly-defined movement and was centred around live bands.

With the advent of the Batcave in July 1982, the goth scene became more club and fashion-orientated, but was still very much an "underground" scene.

It's worth quoting from a couple of interviews to illustrate the differences:

In a Sounds article from December 1980, Nick Rhodes from Duran Duran said of Spandau Ballet: "We're not trying to move away from that scene, the main chunk of our audience in Birmingham is those people, but we're not tied to it as Spandau obviously are. When people come and see us we'd much rather that they dance and have a good time rather than dress up in the clothes and just look, which a lot of them do." Andy Taylor added "It's phenomenal. Friday night down the club (the Rum Runner) there's 600 of them. That's a lot of poseurs for Birmingham." John Taylor says: "One of the best points Spandau made, which we certainly agree with, that's the whole good time thing. The last thing in the world we're ever going to sing about is bad times. There are already too many bands doing that.... I think it (the band's approach to music) can pick up on the teenybop market.. We're definitely aiming towards a mass market...".

And in an interview for Trouser Press in July 1981, Gary Kemp of Spandau Ballet said: "What we wanna do is create a soundtrack for what goes on in our clubs... in fact the music is irrelevant; the people in the club are the most important thing... we're not into that band-playing scene..."

Note: Since I wrote this, I've encountered a lot of confusion with people about what the New Romantic scene actually was. So for further background, here's the article on New Romantic from Ted Polhemus' "Streetstyle":

Punk caught the media off guard. Attentions were focussed elsewhere and the average journalist was too old to spot the anger and frustration which was building among young people throughout the mid-seventies. But once the realisation grew that items about Punks sold newspapers and magazines and pushed up TV ratings, youth culture once again became the media's pet subject.

The only trouble was that after a while the Punks began to lose the ability to shock. And, at least in Britain, as Crazy Colour and spiky hair became a common sight, the media began to feel the need for a new, even more newsworthy, styletribe.

There were in fact several candidates- "cults", in the parlance of the day- already available. For example, there were the Young Soul Rebels ' who looked sharp in their American-style sportswear which they blended with glam/funk elements and who (unlike the Northern Soulies) sought to show that new forms of soul music were evolving with the times. But the fact that these Young Soul Rebels were predominantly black kept the media's interest to a minimum and rendered this interesting subculture almost invisible outside its own immediate environment. Also, in the mid to late seventies a large number of young British Rockabillies -I 'Cats' - were to be seen prowling the streets of London. But (perhaps sensing that American-inspired nostalgia could never step into Punk's chunky footsteps) the media did not give these the space which was appropriate to their numbers.

What did catch the media's attention was the emergence of the half-Skinhead, half-Punk, Oi!s, who always seemed willing to oblige with a provocative (sometimes racist) quote and a menacing snarl to the camera. Here was a styletribe which the media could get its teeth into but, on the other hand, not one whose story was ever going to amuse and entertain. Nor was it one in which the British could take pride. No, what was needed was a predominantly white, zany but politically inoffensive, flamboyant, overdressed styletribe which would provoke wry chuckles of disbelief rather than serious concern. Happily, by late 1978, the blueprint was already off the drawing board.

Since the earliest days of Punk there had always existed within its ranks an energetic little clique of self-proclaimed Posers who took more interest in dressing up and clubbing than in formulating an ideology of anarchic revolution. Invariably showing up in the most inventive creations, the key members of this group - people like Philip Sallon, George O'Dowd, Steve Strange and Chris Sullivan had been well received at Louise's (the lesbian club in Soho which had doubled as a Punk meeting place). But as Punk tended more and more towards a stereotyped uniformity and as the 'Hard Punks' (like the 'Hard Mods' before them) turned their backs on fancy dress, these exquisite Posers were increasingly left out in the cold. When Louise's closed in 1978 and this became literally the case, it was time for them to find both a new home and a new direction.

Or perhaps an old direction - as what was required would clearly have to be pre-Punk in origin. And, given the preoccupations of the Posers, it would need to be glamorous and experimental in terms of gender definition. Accordingly, Rusty Egan, Steve Strange and Chris Sullivan took over a little club in Soho called Gossips for one night a week. They called it 'Bowie Night'.

This event heralded a new development in club culture as well as the launch of a new styletribe. Instead of taking place on a Friday or Saturday when all kinds of nine-to-five types might lower the tone of the proceedings, Bowie Night was held on Tuesdays. Furthermore, the music, ambience and choice of customer was controlled by streetsmart kids rather than an out-of-touch club owner.

In this way, the 'one nighter' revolutionised London club life and set the stage for a 'narrow-casting' of tastes and interests which in its specificity would promote the rise of dozens of small 'cults'.

When Bowie Night grew too big for Gossips, Egan and Strange switched to a larger club called the Blitz, which was decorated with Second World War posters ordering you to grow more vegetables. Despite the decor, the place attracted huge queues of bizarrely attired Posers all desperately hoping that Steve Strange - who guarded the door like St Peter - would let them in. Hot on their heels were the media pundits - pleased as punch that at last a suitable replacement to the Punks had been found but unable to come up with a name for them other than the 'Cult With No Name'.

For a time, the members of London's latest styletribe became known as 'Blitz Kids', after the name of the club. However, the inappropriateness of this was underlined when a string of other one-nighter clubs opened to cater to the same crowd on different nights of the week. Then, suddenly, the media began to favour the label 'New Romantics'. Although some of us might have preferred 'Posers', New Romantics did conjure up vivid images of soft, extravagant fabrics, elegance and finery. And whether they were Ziggy Stardust-inspired futurists in silver lame or 1 930s nostalgia-inspired sophisticates in white tuxedos and evening gowns, what the New Romantics had in common and what separated them from the Punks was an addiction to the glamorous.

Despite the fact that the New Romantics were themselves more often than not kids who had fallen loosely within Punk's broad domain, they now emerged in a sense as antiPunks, substituting the elegant for the slovenly, the precious for the vulgar, Dressing Up for Dressing Down. Such a reversal is hardly unique in the history of streetstyle but what is astonishing is that it should have been accomplished within just a couple of years. This happened in part because the original Posers were the ultimate quick-change artists, but perhaps even more because the emergence of Punk had whetted the media's appetite for identifying and promoting new, rapidly changing streetstyle cults. A club of Blitz Kids having fun dressing up was in fact transformed by the media into a fully fledged, international subculture defined by a philosophy of 'new romanticism' which always seemed a bit of an afterthought.

But is this cynical assessment really accurate? Among the New Romantics were hundreds of talented clothing designers, musicians and club entrepreneurs who never quite fulfilled their promise in the straightjacket of Punk but who now forged a link between streetstyle, club culture and popular music which remains in effect to this day. They also possessed formidable PR skills. Indeed, perhaps the greatest accomplishment of the New Romantics was the extent to which they brought the media within their own control - prompting the launch of a new breed of 'style magazines' such as i-D and The Face which, for the first time, gave club culture and streetstyle the credit they deserve


The Futurist scene, such as it was, is very hard to pin down, even more so than goth. Essentially, though, it was a short-lived media-defined musical scene centred around avant-garde electronic music. It's worth mentioning here as there was some degree of musical crossover with the emerging goth scene.

The "Futurist" tag appeared in September 1980, as follows:

From George Gimarc's Post-Punk Diary for Monday September 15 1980:

STEVO the DJ at Billy's club and general provider of the soundtrack to the new scene brewing in the electronic underground, has his top 20 current records list published in Sounds under the heading "Futurist Playlist". Top tracks are Joy Division "Isolation", Gary Numan and "I Die You Die", Bowie's "Ashes to Ashes", Bauhaus with "Terror Couple Kill Colonel" and Gina X and "Do It Yourself". At #6 is Fad Gadget and "Fireside Favourite", B-Movie with "Soldier Stood Still", Gary Numan's "Aircrash Bureau" and "Telekon", and a demo from Blancmange of "I've Seen The Word". Other groups present are Modern English, Pere Ubu, Throbbing Gristle, Human League, YMO, Iggy Pop and Last Dance. Several months from now Stevo will confess to the NME that "...the tag Futurist is a bunch of crap. I took a chart of the most popular electronic music I was playing as a DJ into Sounds and said to them 'put it in but don't call it 'Eurorock' or anything like that'. I grab hold of the paper a week later and it says 'Futurist'. I hate all this stopid tagging."

Despite Stevo's disclaimer, "Futurist" was seen by some as a useful tag for an emerging movement, and there were actually "Futurist" nights at some nightclubs. The movement was seen by some as an avant-garde version of/reaction to the "pop" New Romantic scene, with the most important bands being John Foxx-era Ultravox and Gary Numan. However, the movement seems to have suffered from the lack of a coherent identity and never became a subculture as such.

The tag, however, became popular for a while- in an interview in Sounds in January 1981, Blancmange denied being Futurist ("I'm not a Futurist. I hate that word. What we do is more like experimental new music") whilst Depeche Mode laid claim to the term in an attempt to evade a worse one ("OK, we're Futurists. We've always been Futurists. For me, Futurusts were an extension of punk rock. We never had anything to do with New Romantics. They all looked the same. Bunch of flaming sissies! But call us what you like. Ultra pop. Fiturist, Disco. Anything so long as it's not New Romantic").


Psychobilly was a bizarre mutant hybrid of punk and rockabilly which emerged at roughly the same time as goth. It's worth mentioning here because there was a certain amount of crossover between the two emergent subcultures- some bands such as Alien Sex Fiend, Sunglasses After Dark and the Cramps appealed equally to goths and psychobillies, and some of the "punkier" goths had psychobilly leanings.

For further background, here's the article on Psychobilly from Ted Polhemus' "Streetstyle":

At first glance it is hard to imagine a more unlikely combination than Punk and Rockabilly, but the Psychobillies made a virtue of such apparent incompatibility. At the wonderfully named 'Klub Foot', the West London venue where the Psychobillies first came together as a subculture, their fusion of 1950s Americana and 1970s British Punk seemed both obvious and inevitable.

To make the connection one must forget the soft drizzle of sentimentality which in the end became all too typical of the Rockabillies (Elvis singing about Teddy Bears in Vegas) and go back to the angry, licentious snarl of their early days. From this perspective it is clear that the thumping beat, the in-your-face sexuality, the deliberate shunning of prissy sophistication and the greasy quiffs of the early Rockabillies were in tune with Punk's gutsy spirit of raw rebellion. The Punks simply added a stylistic extremism, an assumption of gender equality and a fetishistic trashiness which could not conceivably have existed in Memphis in the mid-fifties. The common denominator is rock n' roll energy in its purest form.

Although the slezoid music and style of the American post-Punk band The Cramps was clearly an inspiration, the first 100percent-proof Psychobilly band was The Meteors, which formed in South London in 1980. With musicians consisting of one Rockabilly, one Punk and one psychedelic horror enthusiast, The Meteors constituted a complete microcosm of the subculture which would almost immediately form around it.

By 1982, with the opening of Klub Foot, the Psychobillies were more than simply the followers of a cult band. Their style has bee, termed 'Mutant Rockabilly' and it is an apt description - with cartoon quiffs sometimes dyed green or purple and always thrust out far beyond the expectations of gravity, aggressive studded belts and Doc Martens, shredded, bleached jeans and leather jackets painted with post-nuclear-holocaust imagery. Here were creatures straight out of tacky comic books or ketchup-splattered horror movies brought to life (?) and waiting patiently for the last bus to Planet Zorch. Needless to say, such an extreme styletribe never reached an enormous size and its bands (in time including the likes of Guana Batz, Demented Are Go, Batmobile and the truly unbelievable King Kurt) never appeared on TV's Top of the Pops[1]. It did, however, quickly acquire members throughout most of Europe (especially Germany, Italy and Spain) and a large, dedicated following in Japan.

Stylistically, the Psychobillies' principal effect seems to have been on the Rockabillies - causing a shift towards battered denim workwear and away from fancy suits and pristine footwear. From there (and it should be remembered that the Rockabilly movement was huge in Britain in the early eighties) this look moved into the streetsmart mainstream in the form of the 'Hard Times' look. At one level the Psychobillies exhibited an alarming fixation with violence and wanton destruction, but this was always tempered by a wonderful, surreal sense of humour, which made you smile, even as you crossed hurriedly to the other side of the street.

Note that psychobilly and goth arrived at much the same time- Klub Foot opened the same year as the Batcave.

[1] Apparently Ted Polhemus is wrong here- King Kurt appeared on TOTP with "Destination Zululand". Thanks to Rose Francis for that one.

Death Rock: The Early US Scene

Deathrock was essentially an American phenomenon, so whilst I've got a fair bit of information on the UK scene and was there to witness it, I don't really know much about the US scene. I'm currently researching it, and if anyone can help me out with information, please email me.

In the meantime, there is an interesting site at www.deathrock.com which provides a useful overview


In the context of a history of the early goth scene, having a section about Metal is about as relevant as having a section about Mod or Ska. All three scenes were around (in a revived form) at roughly the same time as the early goth scene, but they had very little interaction with or influence upon it.

However, an awful lot of people seem confused on this point, so maybe I'd better explain.

The late 70s and early 80s were very different to what came later - even just a few years later, when goth took on rock influences and rock became fashionable again.

At the end of the 70s and start of the 80s heavy metal, as one of the many things punk had been reacting against, was deeply unfashionable. Goth came from punk roots (with influences from Bowie and co as described elsewhere) and largely inherited this deep-rooted contempt of all things "metal". Metal was regarded as archaic and a thing of the past, whereas most early goth bands saw themselves doing something new, fresh and in some cases experimental.

Later on, metal was to absorb influences from goth, punk, industrial and even rap, but at the time the most that could be said of it was that the impact of the punk revolution had resulted in a somewhat harder sound (later on, punk influences on the likes of Metallica would completely change metal, but that's a different story).

Certainly in the early 80s the two scenes were poles apart, in both music and fashion - goth was darkly glamorous, with an androgynous look, lots of makeup and fishnets, whereas the metal scene was still largely biker chic, with denim and patches. Essentially, goth had a feminine edge whereas metal was still very masculine.

As for rock influences, I can only think of two early bands who were overtly influenced - Play Dead (Black Sabbath) and The Sisters of Mercy (Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin). Neither were major players in the early scene, though the Sisters were later to be partially responsible for the shift to Goth Rock. It should also be stressed that those rock influences were simply one of many, for both groups (the Sisters were just as much influenced by, say, Leonard Cohen), and that neither group had contact with the contemporary metal scene.

I should also stress that Black Sabbath, whilst having been responsible for an awful lot of things, were not in any way responsible for the early goth scene.

Images: October/November 1982

I've finally got round to scanning in some images. All the scans here so far are from October and November 1982. I'd like to say that this is because October 1982 was a vital time, but it's more to do with some of my magazines from that month having survived. Though in many senses it was a vital time - Bauhaus had just hit the charts and the "new wave" of goth bands like Sex Gang Children, Danse society and Southern Death Cult were starting to make an impact.


The early goth scene was publicised primarily by radio, the music press, fanzines and word of mouth.

Radio exposure was primarily due to John Peel, whose late-night Radio 1 show was incredibly important for devotees of alternative music, and most early goth bands got their first national radio exposure on his show. In time, some degree of "goth airplay" filtered down to other shows on Radio 1, but John Peel had invariably played them first.

The three main music papers at the time were Sounds, NME and Melody Maker, all of whom featured up-and-coming goth bands from an early stage. Two articles in early 1983 described the new bands as forming something akin to a "scene", one being the "Positive Punk" article in the NME and the other being an article by Mick Mercer in Melody Maker in March 1983 (reproduced here). Mick Mercer took on the editorship of Zig Zag magazine from October 1983 and steered that in a more goth-friendly direction, becoming something of a champion of the "goth cause" (he still is, having written several books about the scene).

The power of the main music papers (along with John Peel) is hard to underestimate. For a long period they regarded themselves as taste-makers, and also taste-breakers. Having been slow on the uptake about Punk, the music press were desperate to spot the Next Big Thing in plenty of time, and sometimes quite happy to help things along by declaring they'd discovered a scene that maybe wasn't quite a scene yet. Whether they were jumping the gun with "Positive Punk" is debatable, but I'm inclined to regard the goth scene as fairly well-formed by that point.

The downside with the music press was that their quest for novelty and the Next Big Thing meant that once they'd discovered the Next Big Thing, the Previous Big Thing was suddenly last year's news and fair game for ridicule. Goth, unfortunately, supplied them with plenty of ammunition.

Not all music journalists acted this way, of course - some of them, having felt passionately about a form of music, were not prepared to suddenly turn upon it once it was deemed unfashionable. Unfortunately, in the case of Goth, there were few jounalists prepared to stick by it - Mick Mercer is one noble exception here.

Some journalists were equally consistent in their loathing of goth, or at least certain goth bands. Bauhaus had a particularly edgy relationship with the press, at one stage (October 1982) having an acrimonious "onstage press conference" at a gig with Steve Sutherland from Melody Maker. Sex Gang Children had similar problems, with Andi Sex Gang once throwing a pint of water over a journalist.

On the other hand, some bands were very good at working with the press, particularly The Sisters of Mercy under the eminently quotable Mr Eldritch.

Whilst the main music papers revelled in being cutting edge (and sometimes just cutting), certain other publications tended to feature bands only when they were already popular - Bauhaus had most certainly "made it" once Pete Murphy appeared on the front cover of Smash Hits, though in 1982 the magazine was not nearly as pop-centric as it was later to become.

Inbetween the music papers and the likes of Smash Hits were a number of smaller-circulation magazines, including Noise! and Zig Zag. As I've said above, the latter magazine was to become noted for its goth-friendly coverage under Mick Mercer's editorship.

Goths and goth bands also occasionally appeared in style magazines like the Face (who featured the Batcave in a feature in 1984) and I-D.

At the grassroots level there were also a number of fanzines, all of which were self-financed and appeared sporadically. They were of variable quality, but the best of them, such as Grim Humour, married good writing to a refreshing lack of music industry cant. In an age before email, websites and mp3s, fanzines provided a valuable adjunct to the mainstream press.

TV didn't really come into it till 1982, when Bauhaus appeared on Top of The Pops. Following that, other goth bands appeared on TV and the BBC screened a documentary about the Batcave. Goth bands later appeared on the Old Grey Whistle Test (a BBC2 music program) and The Tube (an innovative "youth" music program from the recently arrived Channel 4).

It's hard to rate the relative importance of TV. Goth bands featured on it relatively rarely, but when they did they reached a far wider audience than they would normally get. Michael Johnson, late of Nemesis and now of Starvox, dates the period of goth's popularity from Bauhaus's appearance on Top of the Pops with Ziggy Stardust, with a later wave of converts from Siouxsie's appearance with Dear Prudence.

One last thing is worth mentioning here, with regard to publicity rather than media - the goth live scene.

The early goth bands were primarily British and toured the UK a lot, so they got a lot of local exposure. It helped that a lot of them were very good live, often much better than they were on record (the popularity of Sex Gang Children in particular is very difficult to understand without having seen them live). Indeed, some people could become obsessed, following them round the country (as happened with Play Dead). And of course people would be selling fanzines and exchanging opinions about bands at the gigs, so alongside the conventional media of radio, music papers and TV there was a strong "underground" network of live bands, fanzines and word of mouth. It is this network that created the "early scene" that was later picked up by the music press, for better or worse.

Overview . Events . Releases . Sessions

I've taken 1979 as the year when goth as a modern musical movement first began to appear. A case can be made for 1978 since this was the year when Joy Division, the Cure and the Banshees all released their debut singles, but 1979 is the year when the first undisputably gothic music appeared- notably Bauhaus with "Bela Lugosi's Dead" (which is probably the first record that defies classification as anything other than goth). Several other classic goth records date from 1979: "Unknown Pleasures", "Boys Don't Cry", and "Transmission".

Also, the idea of "gothic" as a way of describing an emerging musical style seems to date from 1979.

In a Factory Records interview by Mary Hannon in the summer of 1979, there is the following passage: "One clue to Joy Division lies in their album's title. Another is the description given by Martin Hannett, who calls them 'dancing music, with gothic overtones'. Uninintentionally, Bernard Albrecht gave an excellent description of 'gothic' in our interview, when describing his favourite film 'Nosferatu'." The article goes on to describe Joy Division as "20th century gothic". Later on, on the BBC2 TV programme "Something Else" (15/9/79), Tony Wilson described Joy Division as being "gothic" in comparison with the pop mainstream. By early October, Penny Kiley was saying that ""Gothic' has become a somewhat overworked definition of the genre, but the effect of Joy Division is the same as ...that of the Banshees." in a review of Joy Division's Liverpool gig .

Chronological list of events, releases and sessions:

Boys Next Door (later The Birthday Party) record "After a Fashion", "Dive Position", "I mistake myself" and "Shivers" at Richmond Recorders. "Shivers" later features on the "Dogs In Space" soundtrack.

Jan 21: Throbbing Gristle release "DOA" , their second LP.

Jan 27: The Cure play a packed gig at the Marquee and come under attack from hardcore punks.

Jan 31: Joy Division record their first BBC session for John Peel- "Exercise One", "Insight", "She's Lost Control" and "Transmission"


Feb 6: The Cure re-release "Killing An Arab" on Fiction records.


Mar 5: Gary Numan (Tubeway Army) releases "Down in the Park"

Mar 23: Siouxsie & the Banshees release "The Staircase (Mystery)"


Apr 7: Siouxsie & the Banshees play a charity gig for MENCAP at the Rainbow, where fans cause damage to the building.

Apr 7: Echo & the Bunnymen sign to Zoo records

Apr 9: Siouxsie & the Banshees record their third Peel session: Placebo Effect, Playground Twist, Regal Zone and Poppy Day.

Apr 10: The Damned release "Love Song"

Apr 12: Japan release "Life in Tokyo"

Apr 13: Fiction records delete "Killing An Arab"

Apr 16: The Human League release The Dignity of Labour 12"


May 3: Joy Division play Liverpool and are reviewed by the NME's Ian Wood, who describes their sound as "withering grey abstractions of industrial malaise".

May 5: Echo & the Bummymen release "Pictures on My Wall"

May 6: Gary Numan (Tubeway Army) releases "Are Friends Electric?"

May 10: The Cure release their debut album, "Three Imaginary Boys"

May 16: The Cure air their second John peel session: Desperate Journalist in Ongoing Meaningful Review Situation, Grinding Halt, Subway Song, Accuracy, Plastic Passion

May 21: OMD release "Electricity" on Factory records


Jun 6: Joy Division record a session for Piccadilly Radio: "These Days", "The Only Mistake", "Candidate", "Chance (Atmosphere)" and "Atrocity Exhibition".

Jun 9: Gary Numan/Tubeway Army release their first album, "Replicas"

Jun 14: Joy Division release their first album, "Unknown Pleasures"

Jun 14: Cabaret Voltaire release "Nag Nag Nag" on Rough Trade.

Jun 20: The Cramps release their debut LP/EP, "Gravest Hits"

Jun 23: The Cure release "Boys Don't Cry"

Jun 30: Siouxsie & the Banshees release "Playground Twist" (and "Mittageisen" in Germany)


Boys Next Door begin recording tracks for "Hee Haw" at Richmond Recorders

Jul 1: The Cure headline at the Lyceum with the Ruts and the Purple Hearts

Jul 6: Adam and the Ants release "Xerox"

Jul 11: The Human League release "I don't depend on you"

Jul 18: Fad Gadget makes his live debut at the Moonlight Club in West Hampstead


Aug 1: No City Fun, a short film featuring Joy Division's music

Aug 15 Echo & the Bunnymen record their debut Peel session: Read it In Books, I Bagsy Yours, Villiers Terrace, Stars Are Stars

Aug 22: Gary Numan releases "Cars"

Aug 29: Modern English release their debut single, "Drowning Man"

Aug 30: Siouxsie & the Banshees and The Cure play together in Aylesbury.

Aug 31: Siouxsie & the Banshees release "Join Hands", their second LP.


Sep 7: Gary Numan releases his second LP, "The Pleasure Principle"

Sep 7: Guitarist John McKay and drummer Kenny Morris leave the Banshees

Sep 10: Fad Gadget releases his first single, "Back to Nature/The Box"

Sep 15: Joy Division appear on "Something Else", a BBC music program, playing "Transmission" and "She's Lost Control". Steve Morris and Tony Wilson are interviewed, and Wilson describes Joy Division as "Gothic".

Sep 17: Siouxsie and the Banshees begin their tour with The Cure, with Robert Smith playing guitar in both the Cure and the Banshees, and Budgie (ex-Slits) joining the Banshees on drums.

Sep 18: The Psychedelic Furs sign to CBS records

Sep 24: Bauhaus release "Bela Lugosi's Dead" on Small Wonder records


Oct 2: The Joy Division gig in Liverpool supporting the Buzzcocks tonight is reviewed by Penny Kiley, who says: "'Gothic' has become a somewhat overworked definition of the genre, but the effect of Joy Division is the same as (to take an obvious example) that of the Banshees."

Oct 3: The Joy Division support gig tonight in Leeds is reviewed by "Des Moines", who says "Curtis may project like an ambidextrous barman purging his physical hang-ups, but the 'gothic dance music' he orchestrates..."

Oct 10: The Human League release their debut LP, "Reproduction"

Oct 11: The Damned release "Smash It Up"

Oct 13: Siouxsie & the Banshees and The Cure play Lewisham Odeon in London.

Oct 15: The Human League release "Empire State Human"

Oct 16: Psychedelic Furs release "We Love You" on Epic records

Oct 17: Killing Joke record their first John Peel session: Pssyche, Wardance and Malicious Boogie

Oct 22: Siouxsie collapses with hepatitis after a show at the Hammersmith Odeon.

Oct 23: Cabaret Voltaire release their first album, "Mix-Up"

Oct 26: The Cure release "Jumping Someone Else's Train" and are joined by Simon Gallup and Mathieu Hartley.

Oct 26: Killing Joke release their debut EP, featuring "Are you receiving?", "Turn to Red" and "Nervous System" on Malicious Damage records.

Oct 30: Adam & the Ants release their debut LP, "Dirk Wears White Sox"


Nov 7: The Damned release "Machine Gun Etiquette"

Nov 10: The Lemon Kittens release a 7-track 7" EP "Spoonfed & Writhing"

Nov 14: The Damned release "I Just Can't Be Happy Today"

Nov 15: Gary Numan releases "Complex"

Nov 17: Joy Division release "Transmission" on Factory Records

Nov 20 : DAF make their British debut in Norwich

Nov 26: Joy Division record their second John Peel session: "Love Will tear Us Apart", "24 Hours", "Colony" and "The Sound of Music"


Dec 10: Throbbing Gristle release "20 Jazz Funk Greats"

Dec 26: Joy Division feature on the Earcom 2 compilation from Fast records with "Auto Suggestion" and "From Safety to Where?"

Overview . Events . Releases . Sessions . Images

1980 is the year that some of the second wave of goth bands- Danse Society, Play Dead, Sisters of Mercy- formed, and when several goth classics- "Dark Entries", "A Forest", "Seventeen Seconds", "In the Flat Field" were released.

It's also the year when New Romantic started emerging. I've included a sizable quote from a Duran Duran interview at the end of the year which underlines the essential differences between New Romantic and Goth.

Towards the end of the year, according to Abbo from UK Decay, came the first slight inklings of a goth "movement": "suddenly there seemed a pool of bands- us, Killing Joke, Bauhaus... and that was when people started talking about a movement, but none of the bands really got on with each other."

Chronological list of events, releases and sessions:

Jan 3: Bauhaus broadcast their debut Peel session: A God in an Alcove, Spy in the Cab, Double Dare and Telegram Sam.
Jan 4: Japan release "Quiet Life" (LP)
Jan 8: Cabaret Voltaire release "Silent command" (single)
Jan 9: UK Decay release their second single, the "Black 45" EP on Plastic records.
Jan 10: John Foxx releases "Underpass" (single)
Jan 11: The Sound release their debut single, "Physical World"
Jan 14: Wasted Youth release "Jealousy"/"Baby"
Jan 16: Bauhaus release "Dark Entries" on Axis records via Beggars Banquet. Axis records is shortly to become 4AD.
Jan 17: John Foxx releases "Metamatic" (LP)
Jan 20: A Certain Ratio release a limited edition of 400 cassettes called "Graveyard and the Ballroom"
Jan 20: Siouxsie comes third in the NME reader's poll for "Best Female Singer" (first was Kate Bush, second was Debbie Harry).
Jan 24: Adam and the Ants split, with all the group bar Adam going on to form Bow Wow Wow
Jan 30: Psychedelic Furs release their second single, "Sister Europe"


Feb 1: OMD release "Red Frame White Frame" (single)
Feb 4: The Lemon Kittens split, leaving only Karl Blake and Danielle Dax.
Feb 9: Lydia Lunch releases her first solo LP, "Queen of Siam"
Feb 16: The Boys Next Door become The Birthday Party and move to England, releasing one last single as Boys Next Door, "Riddle House".
Feb 17: Bauhaus get a half-page article in Sounds, who say: "Whatever it is that these Phantoms of the Teenage Opera have got, it's worth checking out".
Feb 22: OMD release their debut LP.


Mar 3: Psychedelic Furs release their debut LP
Mar 2: Joy Division are voted 8th "Best New Band" in the Sounds Reader's Poll.
Mar 6: Siouxsie and the Banshees release "Happy House"
Mar 6: Killing Joke release "Wardance/Pssyche"
Mar 7: Adam and the Ants release "Kick/Car Trouble"
Mar 10: The Cure broadcast their second Peel session: A Forest, , 17 Seconds, Play For Today and M.
Mar 11: DAF release "Kebabtraume" (single) on Mute.
Mar 15: Chrome release "New Age2 (single) on Beggars Banquet.
Mar 17: Killing Joke record their second Peel session: Change, Tomorrow's World and Complications.
Mar 18: Joy Division release "Licht und Blindheit", a single limited to 1578 copies and featuring "Atmosphere" and "Dead Souls".
Mar 18: Throbbing Gristle release a "conceptual box" called "24 Hours".
Mar 19: Fad Gadget releases his second single, "Ricky's Hand", on Mute
Mar 19: Japan release "I Second That Emotion", a Smokey Robinson cover.
Mar 19: The Virgin Prunes support U2 at Acklam Hall and are reviewed by Dave McCulllough of Sounds, who says they are: "part glam-rock, part punk-shock, part pure innovatory outrage... a swathing, scything music form thart is Banshees-like but less staid, less self-consciously new and stylistically uninhibited".
Mar 20: John Foxx releases "No-one's Driving".


April 1: Einsturzende Neubauten make their live debut in Berlin.
April 1: The Cramps release "Songs The Lords Taught Us" (LP) on IRS.
April 1: Cabaret Voltaire release a 12" single, "Three Mantras"
April 2: A tape of Neubauten's gig, "Moon 1st April" is available from Blixa Bargeld's second hand store, Eisengrau (and is on the Eisengrau label).
April 3: The Cure release "A Forest"
April 5: Chrome release "Red Exposure" (LP)
April 17: The Cure release "Seventeen Seconds" (LP)
April 18: Joy Division release a free flexi-disc, "Incubation/Komakino"
April 19: Echo and the Bunnymen release their second single, "Rescue".
April 28: Joy Division film the video for "Love Will Tear Us Apart" in a disused rehearsal studio in Manchester.
April 29: UK Decay broadcast their debut Peel session: Rising From The Dead, Unwind Tonight, Sexual and For My Country.
April 30: Throbbing Gristle release "Zyklon B Zombie" (single)


May 5: Blancmange release a six-track EP called "Irene and Mavis".
May 11: SPK release their Factory single (on Throbbing Gristle's Industrial records) in the UK - it was released in Australia in 1979.
May 13: Gary Numan releases "We Are Glass" (single)
May 15: The Human League release their second album, "Travelogue"
May 15: Artery release a double single, "Unbalanced"
May 18: Ian Curtis of Joy Division hangs himself in his old house in Macclesfield.
May 25: Bauhaus are reviewed in Sounds by Phil Sutcliffe, who says "The band... have an aggressively weird stage act using lots of make-up, freak hairstyles and darkness cut by strobes, back-lighting and a floodlight occasionally fired at the audience."
May 26: Crisis release their "Hymns of Faith" EP. Tony Wakeford and Douglas Pearce later go on to form Death In June.
May 27: Einsturzende Neubauten release their first single, "Fur Den Untergang/Stahlversion" on Monogram Records.
May 29: The Birthday Party release their first LP as such, the self-titled The Birthday Party, which is available only in Australia. It includes some tracks recorded as The Boys Next Door.
May 30: Siouxsie and the Banshees release "Christine/"Eve White, Eve Black".


Jun 14: DAF release "Die Kleinen und Die Bosen" (LP) on Mute records.
Jun 19: Modern English release "Swans on Glass"/"Incident" on 4AD.
Jun 20: Joy Division release "Love Will Tear Us Apart".
Jun 20: Ultravox release "Sleepwalk" (single)
Jun 21: Throbbing Gristle release "Heathen Earth" (LP)
Jun 28: The Birthday Party release "Mr Clarinet"/"Happy Birthday" in the UK on 4AD. It was previously available in Australia on Missing Link.
Jun 29: The Birthday Party make their UK debut at The Rock Garden.


Jul 6: Wasted Youth's show tonight at the Fulham Greyhound is reviewd for Sounds by Steve Keaton, who says: "Throughout, the music proves itself to be a Gothic Mansion, haunted by electronic bats"
Jul 11: Ultravox release "Vienna" (LP)
Jul 11: John Foxx releases "Burning Car"
Jul 12: Wasted Youth release their second single, "I'll remember you"/"My Friends Are Dead"
Jul 17: Joy Division release "Closer"
Jul 18: Echo and the Bunnymen release their first LP, "Crocodiles"
Jul 25: Adam and the Ants release "Kings of the Wild Frontier" (single). It features two drummers, and Adam goes on at length about his "tribal" sound in an interview with Sounds.
Jul 29: New Order make their live debut at the Beach Club in Manchester, playing a purely instrumental set.
Jul 29: The Face, a new style/music magazine, has its debut issue, featuring Toyah, The Human League, Echo and the Bunnymen, U2, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Ultravox, Peteer Gabriel and Pink Floyd.
Jul 31: Bauhaus release "Terror Couple Kill Colonel" on 4AD. The inspiration for the song is taken from a newspaper headline.
Jul; 31: Cabaret Voltaire release "Voice of America" (LP)


Aug 1: Siouxsie and the Banshees release their third LP, "Kaleidoscope"
Aug 1: The Associates release their debut album, "The Affectionate Punch".
Aug 13: Classix Nouveau release their debut single, "The Robots Dance"
Aug 14: The Gun Club get a few paragraphs write up in the new Slash magazine.
Aug 15: Gary Numan releases "I Die You Die"
Aug 19: UK Decay and Wasted Youth play the Number 1 Club in London.
Aug 27: UK Decay release "For My Country"/"Unwind" on Fresh records.
Aug 27: Danse Crazy, later to become Danse Society, play their debut gig at the Royal Hotel in Sheffield.
Aug 30: The Lemon Kittens, now just Karl Blake and Danielle Dax, release their debut album, "We Buy A Hammer For Daddy" on United Dairies records.


Play Dead form in Oxford
Danse Society record "There is No Shame in Death" and "Dolphins" in Manchester
Sep 1: The Cramps release "Garbageman" (single) in the US.
Sep 5: Gary Numan releases "Telekon" (LP)
Sep 6: The Sound release "Heyday"/"Brute Force"
Sep 9: The Cramps release "Drug Train" (single) in the UK.
Sep 9: Fad Gadget releases "Fireside favourites"/"Insecticide".
Sep 13: The Futurama Festival in Leeds features Soft CCell, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Echo & the Bunnymen, Wasted Youth, Clock DVA, Altered Images and Danse Crazy.
Sep 14: Stevo, the DJ at Billy's Club and general provider of the soundtrack to the new scene brewing in the electric underground has his current Top 20 records published in Sounds under the heading "Futurist Playlist". Top tracks are "Isolation by Joy Division, "I Die You Die" by Gary Numan, "Ashes to Ashes" by Bowie, "Terror Couple Kill Colonel" by Bauhaus and "Fireside Favourites" by Fad Gadget. Also featured are Modern English, Pere Ubu, Throbbing Gristle and the Human League.
Sep 12: David Bowie releases "Scary Monsters" (LP)
Sep 19: Ultravox release "Passing Strangers" (single)
Sep 20: Chrome release "Half Machine Lip Moves" (LP)
Sep 22: The Damned release "History of the World (Part 1)" (single)
Sep 22: New Order begin recording "Ceremony" in Eastern Artists Recording Studios in the US.
Sep 25: OMD release "Enola Gay" (single)
Sep 25: The Birthday Party record their first Peel session: Cry, Yard, Figure of Fun and King Ink
Sep 28: New Model Army have a 5-track cassette available and play tonight at the adelphi Hotel in Harrogate.
Sep 29: Demons (formerly Demon Preacher) release "Action By Example"/"I Wish I Woz A Dog". Singer Nick Wade later went on to form Alien Sex Fiend, and "I Wish I Woz A Dog" would resurface on their first album .


Oct 1: Killing Joke release "Requiem"/"Change"
Oct 2: Echo and the Bunnymen release "The Puppet"/"Do It Clean"
Oct 3: Adam and the Ants release "Dog Eat Dog"/"You're So Physical", which is their first big hit, peaking at No.4. Adam later appears on TOTP waving a sabre around.
Oct 4: Joy Division release "She's Lost Control"/"Atmosphere" on American import.
Oct 8: Soft Cell release their debut EP, "Mutant Moments"
Oct 8: The Birthday Party play with DAF at The Moonlight Club whilst UK Decay play with The Dead Kennedys at the Music Machine (both in London)
Oct 9: DAF release "Tanz Mit Mir" (single) on Mute.
Oct 10: Japan release "Gentleman Take Polaroids" (single)
Oct 11: The Birthday Party release "The Friend Catcher" on 4AD.
Oct 13: Killing Joke release their self-titled debut LP on Malicious Damage.
Oct 24: OMD release their second album, "Organization"
Oct 24: Japan release "Gentlemen Take Polaroids" (LP)
Oct 27: The Sound release their debut LP, "Jeopardy"


Nov 1: Theatre of Hate release their first single, "Original Sin"/"Legion".
Nov 3: Spandau Ballet release their first single "To Cut A Long Story Short", which reaches No.5
Nov 5: Fad Gadget releases his first LP, "Fireside Favourites", on Mute.
Nov 3: Our Daughter's Wedding release "Lawn Chairs"
Nov 5: Bauhaus release their debut album, "In the Flat Field" and "Telegram Sam"(single). The album is slammed by Dave McCullough in Sounds, who says: "It features a lead singer who writes bad poetry... and a band behind him who combine to mistake the youh-club version of Joy Division for Mountain". In the NME, Andy Gill also slams it, calling it "doom for doom's sake. And in Sounds, Andy Gill slams Telegram Sam in the singles reviews.
Nov 5: The Sisters of Mercy release their debut single, "Damage Done"/"Watch". Robbi Millar in Sounds reviews it thus: "...sometimes I wonder if Ian Curtis knew what he was letting the world in for when he died for us. Certainly the Joy Division circus hasn't left us yet and its impressions grow increasingly gloomy by the day"
Nov 6: Adam and the Ants release their second LP, "Kings of the Wild Frontier"
Nov 8: Throbbing Gristle release two single simultaneously: "Distant Dreams" and "Something Came Over Me".
Nov 10: Visage release "Fade To Grey" (single), which reaches No.8 in the charts.
Nov 12: Modern English release "Gathering Dust" (single) on 4AD.
Nov 13: The Church release their debut single "She never Said"/"In a Heartbeat" in Australia.
Nov 25: Modern English record their debut Peel session: "Mesh and Lace", "A Viable Commercial", "Black Houses" and "Sixteen Days"
Nov 25: The Damned release "They're ain't No Sanity clause"
Nov 27: Adam and the Ants release "Antmusic"
Nov 28: Stevo, self-styled "Futurist DJ", puts on an event at the Scala Cinema with Richard Strange, Naked Lunch, Soft Cell and Blancmange.
Nov 28: Siouxsie and the Banshees release "Israel"/"Red OverWhite"
Nov 30: Nurse With Wound release two albums simultaneously: "Merzbild Schwet" and "To the Quiet Men From A Tiny Girl", both on United Dairies.


Play Dead begin recording their first single at Hallmark studios
UK Decay record "Unexpected Guest" at Southern Studios
Dec 2: Flexi-Pop magazine makes its debut.
Dec 5: Killing Joke play with Theatre of Hate at the Cedar Ballroom in Birmingham.
Dec 8: Visage release their debut LP on Polydor.
Dec 13: Duran Duran get a two page article in Sounds, despite not having released a single yet. Talking of Spandau Ballet, Nick Rhodes says: "We're not trying to move away from that scene, the main chunk of our audience in Birmingham is those people, but we're not tied to it as Spandau obviously are. When people come and see us we'd much rather that they dance and have a good time rather than dress up in the clothes and just look, which a lot of them do." Andy Taylor chimes in "It's phenomenal. Friday night down the club (the Rum Runner) there' 600 of them. That's a lot of poseurs for Birmingham." John taylor says: "One of the est pouints Sapandau made, which we certainly agree with, that's the whole good time thing. The last thing in the world we're ever going to sing about is bad times. There are already too many bands doing that.... I think it (the band's approach to music) can pick up on the teenybop market.. We're definitely aiming towards a mass market...".
Dec 16: Dead Or Alive release their debut single, "I'm Falling"/"Flowers"
Dec 29: Department S release "Is Vic There?", which reaches No.22 in the charts.
Dec 31: In the Sounds reader's poll, Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" is voted No.2 in Singles of the Year (no.1 was "C30 C60 C90 Go!" by Bow Wow Wow, no.3 was "Going Underground by the Jam, No. 7 was "Holiday in Cambodia" by the Dead Kennedys, no.10 was "Staring at the rude Boys" by the Ruts). "Closer" is voted No.4 in the Albums of the Year (No.1 was the Talking Heads "Remain in Light", "Crocodiles" by Echo and the Bunnymen was No.10).

Overview . Events . Releases . Sessions

In many ways, 1981 continued what had begun in 1980. Whilst New Romantic bands were riding high in the charts, the second wave of goth bands were out there gigging, appearing on Peel sessions and releasing singles.

One of the most important events of the year was Abbo from UK Decay suggesting "gothic" as a tag for the emerging movement of bands in an interview with Steve Keaton of Sounds in February. Whilst it was another three years before the tag "goth" was to become common, Abbo was the first person to suggest "gothic" as a tag for the movement.

Chronological list of events, releases and sessions:

Jan 8: Foetus Under Glass (ie Jim Thirlwell) releases his debut single, "OKFM"

Jan 8: The Virgin Prunes release their debut EP, "Twenty Tens"

Jan 11: Joy Division come second (after The Jam) in the NME reader's poll for 1980. Siouxsie wins Best Female Singer and The Jam win just about everything else.

Jan 12: Spandau Ballet release"The Freeze", which reaches No.17 in the charts.

Jan 14: Ultravox release "Vienna", which reaches No.2 in the charts.

Jan 15: The Cure broadcast another Peel session: Holy Hour, Primary, All Cats Are Grey and Forever.

Jan 22: New Order release "Ceremony"/"In A Lonely Place"

Jan 24: Clock DVA release two albums: "White Souls in Black Suits", a tape cassette on Industrial Records, and "Thirst", on Fetish records.

Jan 25: Sounds feature a special two-page debate on Oi!

Jan 26: Classix Nouveaux release Guilty/Night People.

Jan 30: Duran Duran release their debut single, "Planet Earth". In an interview with NME, John Taylor says "What we're doing is European white disco"

Jan 31: Stevo's label, Some Bizarre, relases the "Some Bizarre album". This is a roundup of various "Futurist" bands, all of whom have featured in Stevo's concert/club events or in his Futurist chart in Sounds. The bands are Illustration, Depeche Mode ("Photographic"), The The, B Movie, Jell, Blah Blah Blah, Blancmange ("Sad Days"), Soft Cell ("The Girl With The Patent Leather Face"), Neu Electric, Naked Lunch, The Fast set, and The Loved One. Talking to Sounds, Blancmange deny they're Futurists, but Depeche Mode say "OK, we're futurists. We've always been futurists... we never had anything to do with

New Romantics..."

Jan 31: The Virgin Prunes ("Red Nettle"), Cabaret Voltaire and DAF appear amogst others on the NME C81 cassette compilation.


Feb 4: United Dairies release a compilation album, "Hoisting The Black Flag", featuring The Lemon Kittens ("Funky 7"), Whitehouse, Mental Aaardvarks, David Cross, Nurse With Wound, Truth Club and Hamilton/Duarte.

Feb 6: Charge release an LP called "Caged & Staged"

Feb 15: The Lemon Kittens release their second EP, "Cake Beast"

Feb 16: New Order record their first Peel session: Truth, Senses, Dreams Never End and ICB

Feb 17: Dead Or Alive record their first Peel session: Nowhere to Nowhere, Flowers, Running Wild, Number 11.

Feb 18: UK Decay release their fourth single, "Unexpected Guest"/"Dresden", on Fresh records. In an interview with Steve Keaton from Sounds, Abbo inadvertently named the goth movement: "he said 'it's gonna be a movement' and we're going nah, we'll be gone in six months. He said you've got to get a name for it, it's not dance or alternative or New Pop or mod... and I remember saying 'we're into the whole Gothic thing'... and we sat there laughing about how we should have gargoyle shaped records and only play churches. Course he put it all in the interview.. for six months everything went quiet then when the album came out everyone was asking 'what's this Gothic tihng you're into?' And it's a total joke!"

Feb 18: Siouxsie and the Banshees broadcast a new Peel session: Halloween, Voodoo Dolly, Into The Light, But Not Them.

Feb 20: Depeche Mode relese their debut single, "Dreaming of Me"/"Ice Machine". In an interview with Sounds, Dave Gahan denies being part of the Futurist scene.

Feb 27: Spandau Ballet release their debut album, "Journeys to Glory", which reaches No.5 in the charts.

Feb 27: Heaven 17 release their debut single, "(We Don't Need This Fascist) Groove Thang"


Mar 2: The Cure broadcast a session for Richard Skinner's Radio 1 Evening Show: The Funeral Party, A Drowning Man, Faith.

Mar 3: Visage release Mind of a Toy/We Move, which reaches No.13 in the charts.

Mar 5: The Meteors release a 4-track EP, "Meteor Madness"

Mar 7: Theatre of Hate release their first LP, "He Who Dares Wins". It's an "official booteg" recorded live in Leeds.

Mar 8: Soft Cell broadcast a session for Richard Skinner's Evening Show: Bedsitter, Chips on my Shoulder, Seedy Films, Youth, Entertain Me.

Mar 14: The Church release their second single, "The Unguarded Moment", which reaches No.22 in the Australian charts.

Mar 16: Adam & the Ants currently have two singles in the Top 20, "Ant Music" and "Kings of the Wild Frontier".

Mar 18: Fad Gadget releases "Make Room"/"Lady Shave".

Mar 20: Bauhaus release "Kick in the Eye" on Beggars Banquet.

Mar 21: Soft Cell release "Memorabilia"/"A Man Could Get Lost"

Mar 23: Spandau Ballet release Musclebound/Glow

Mar 26: The Cure release "Primary"/"Descent"

Mar 27: The Cramps release their "Psychedelic Jungle" LP.

Mar 28: SPK release their "Information Overload Unit" LP.

Mar 30: The Birthday Party release their "Prayers on Fire" LP


Apr 3: Theatre of Hate release "Rebel Without a Brain"/"My Own Invention"

Apr 5: The NME do a 3-page spread on the California punk scene where they mention a new phenomenon, "slamming in the pit" at the front of the stage: "You hurtle from side to side, elbows out, fists flailing and collide with the people around..."

Apr 9: Echo and the Bunnymen release their "Shine So Hard" EP.

Apr 10: Modern English release their debut LP, "Mesh And Lace" on 4AD.

Apr 13: The Church release their debut LP, "Of Skins And Hearts"

Apr 17: The Cure release "Faith"

Apr 17: The Human League release "Sound of the Crowd", their first chart hit (No.12).

Apr 20: Play Dead play the Rock Garden in London

Apr 21: Kraftwerk release "Pocket Calculator"

Apr 21: Classix Nouveau release "Tokyo"

Apr 26: Culture Club are currently rehearsing under the name Sex Gang Children

Apr 27: Killing Joke broadcast a new Peel session: The Fall of Because, Tension, Butcher

Apr 28: The Birthday Party record another Peel session: Roland Around In That Stuff, Pleasure-Heads Must Burn, Loose, Release The Bats.

Apr 29: Adam And The Ants release "Stand And Deliver", which reaches No.1 in the charts.

Apr 29: Japan release The Art of Parties/Life without Buildings

Apr 30: DAF release a new LP called "Alles Ist Gut (All Is Good)"

Apr 30: Killing Joke release "Follow The Leaders"/"Tension".


May 1: Theatre of Hate, Modern English and The Birthday Party play the University of London Union.

May 3: 999/UK Decay/Department S/Meteors play at the Lyceum

May 4: The Sisters of Mercy make their live debut opening for the Thompson Twins at York University.

May 7: Classix Nouveau relase an album, "Night People"

May 8: The Cramps release "Goo Goo Muck"/"She Said"

May 8: UK Decay/The Dark/Play Dead play Brady's in Liverpool

May 11: Play Dead release their first single, "Poison Takes A Hold"/"Introduction"

May 11: Heaven 17 release "I'm Your Money"/"Are Everything"

May 15: Siouxsie and the Banshees release "Spellbound"/"Follow The Sun"

May 19: UK Decay/The Dark/Play Dead play the London Venue

May 22: DAF release "Der Mussolini"/"Der Rauber Und Der Prinz"

May 25: Dead Or Alive release "Number 11"/"The Name Game"

May 29: Echo And The Bunnymen release their second album, "Heaven Up Here"

May 29: Ultravox release "All Stood Still"/"Alles Klar"

May 30: Depeche Mode release their second single, "New Life"/"Shout"


Jun 2: The Lemon Kittens ("In Wooden Brackets") and The Virgin Prunes ("Third Secret") appear on an avant-garde comilation called "Perspectives and Distortions"

Jun 3:Throbbing Gristle release a new single "Discipline"

Jun 4:Clock DVA release a new single, "Four Hours (remix)"

Jun 4: Psychedelic Furs release "Pretty In Pink"

Jun 9: Duran Duran release their debut album.

Jun 9: Killing Joke record a Radio 1 Evening Show sesssion for Richard Skinner: Tension, Unspeakable, Exit.

Jun 13: Nurse With Wound release their fourth album, "Insect And Individual Silenced"

Jun 15 : Our Daughter's Wedding release their second single, "Lawnchairs"

Jun 16: Siouxsie And The Banshees broadcast a Radio 1 Evening Show sesssion for Richard Skinner:Red Over White, Arabian Knights, Head Cut, Supernatural Thing

Jun 17: The Chameleons broadcast their first Peel session: The Fan And The Bellows, Looking Inwardly, Here Today, Things I Wish I'd Said

Jun 18: Killing Joke release their second LP, "What's This For?"

Jun 19: Siouxsie And The Banshees release their fourth album, "Ju Ju". A sounds review by Betty Page says: "this is the soundtrack of the unknown, hinting darkly at black magic, witchery, murder and death... the Banshees are wailing again, doom is at the door, creating... something intriguing, intense, brooding and powerfully atmospheric".

Jun 23: The Meteors broadcast a Peel session.

Jun 25: Cabaret Voltaire broadcast a Peel session.

Jun 26: Bauhaus release "The Passion of Lovers".

Jun 26: Bauhaus/Subway Sect/Birthday Party play the Lyceum in London. Johnny Waller reviews the gig for Sounds, and said Pete Murphy was "...a parasitic ghoul, robbing wardrobe and record collections rather than graves, but always with grace and style. This particular Rocky Horror Show is brash and trash, ludicrous and camp... Bauhaus' time is nigh"

Jun 27: Virgin Prunes release "In The Grey Light" EP.

Jun 29: Visage release "Visage (Dance Mix)"/"Second Steps"


Jul 5: Throbbing Grislte announce that they've split.

Jul 7: Kraftwerk release "Computer Love"/"The Model", which eventually reaches No.1 in the charts in February 1982.

Jul 10: Spandau Ballet release "Chant No.1 (We don't need this pressure on)"/"Feel The Chant", which reaches No.3 in the charts. In an interview for Trouser Press, Gary Kemp said: "What we wanna do is create a soundtrack for what goes on in our clubs... in fact the music is irrelevant; the people in the club are the most important thing... we're not into that band-playing scene..."

Jul 13:The Church release a double pack single in Australia: "Tear it all away"and 4 other tracks.

Jul 15: Charge release their vinyl debut, the "Kings Cross" EP.

Jul 16: Duran Duran release "Girls On Film"/"Faster Than Light"

Jul 16: The Meteors releasea collaboration album, "The Meteors Meet Screaming Lord Sutch"

Jul 18: Soft Cell release "Tainted Love"/"Where Did Our Love Go"

Jul 18: You've Got Foetus On Your Breath release "Wash It All Off"/"Today I Started Slogging Again"

Jul 20: Danse Society release their debut single, "Clock"/"Continent". Mick Sinclair reviewed it in Sounds: "Weird looking quads from Barnsley, veering towards Bauhaus-ian mock horror but held on course by pinpoint drumming and funkish bassing."

Jul 21: Theatre of Hate release "Nero"/"Incinerator"

Jul 24: Siouxsie And The Banshees release "Arabian Knights"/"Supernatural Thing"

Jul 28: Einsturzende Neubauten release a double 7" pack featuring "Kalte Sterne" and 4 other songs.

Jul 30: The Human League release "Love Action"/"Hard Times", which reaches No.3 in the charts.

Jul 31: The Birthday Party release "Release The Bats"/"Blastoff" on 4AD.

Jul 31: Modern English release "Smiles And Laughter"/"Mesh And Lace"


Aug 5: UK Decay broadcast a new Peel session: Last In The House Of Flames, Stage Struck, Glass Ice, Duel.

Aug 7: US group 45 Grave release their debut single, "Black Cross"/"Wax"

Aug 14: Ultravox release "The Thin Wall"

Aug 17: Cabaret Voltaire release a new LP, "Red Mecca"

Aug 20: OMD release a new single, "Souvenir", which reaches No.3 in the charts.

Aug 21: Gary Numan releases a new single, "She's Got Claws".

Aug 24: Theatre of Hate broadcast a second Peel session: Love Is A Ghost, Conquistador, Do Yuo Believe In The Westworld, Propaganda.

Aug 30: The Chameleons get a half-page write-up in the NME.

Aug 31: The Gun Club release an album, "Fire Of Love"


Sep 4: Adam And The Ants release "Prince Charming"/"Christian D'or", which reaches No.1 in the charts.

Sep 5: Gary Numan releases a new LP, "Dance", which has the music press accusing him of jumping on the New Romantic bandwagon rather too late.

Sep 7: Depeche Mode release their third single, "Just Can't Get Enough"/"Any Second Now", which reaches No.3 in the charts.

Sep 11: Ultravox release a new LP, "Rage In Eden"

Sep 12: The Cramps release "The Crusher"/"Save It"

Sep 14: The Meteors release "The Crazed"/"Attack of the Zorch Men"

Sep 18: Heaven 17 release their debut LP, "Penthouse And Pavement"

Sep 24: Wall of Voodoo release their first LP, "Dark Continent"

Sep 25: The Creatures (ie Siouxsie and Budgie) release a double single featuring "Mad eyed Screamer" and 4 other tracks.

Sep 25: New Order release "Everything's Gone Green"/"Procession" on 7".

Sep 26: The Lemon Kittens are reviewed live in Sounds by Johnny Waller: "Visually the band are equally bizarre. All four of them being covered head to toe in psychedelic body paint, though out moded laws of propriety meant that only vocalist Danielle was wholly naked on stage. Danielle Dax, in fact (even forgetting her obvious charms) has a remarkably compelling style."

Sep 29: Throbbing Gristle release "Greatest Hits (entertainment through pain)"

Sep 30: The Virgin Prunes release "A New Form Of Beauty: 1"


Oct 3: The Cure release "Charlotte Sometimes"/"Splintered In Her Head"

Oct 3: UK Decay release "Sexual"/"Twist In The Tale"

Oct 13: Modern English broadcast a new Peel session: Someone's Calling, Face of Wood and Being John Peeled

Oct 15: Joy Division posthumously release "Still"

Oct 16: Bauhaus release "Mask", their second LP.

Oct 16: The Human League release "Dare"

Oct 22: The Sound release a new LP, "From the Lion's Mouth"

Oct 23: UK Decay release their debut LP, "For Madmen Only"

Oct 29: Soft Cell release "Bedsitter"/"Faculty Girls", which reaches No.4 in the charts.

Oct 30: Ultravox release "The Voice"/"Paths and Angles", which reaches No.16

Oct 30: OMD release an LP, "Architecture and Morality"


Nov 4: Depeche Mode release their debut LP, "Speak and Spell". Betty Page reviews it in Sounds: "...trendy electro-disco beats go hand in hand with choirboy melodies..."

Nov 5: The Meteors record a session for Kid Jensen's Radio 1 Evening Show.

Nov 6: Japan release "Visions of China"/"Swing"

Nov 7: The Virgin Prunes release "A New Form Of Beauty: 2"

Nov 9: Fad Gadget releases his second album, "Incontinent"

Nov 11: 45 Grave and Christian Death feature on an American compilation LP, "Hell Comes To Your House"

Nov 13: Japan release a new LP, "Tin Drum"

Nov 14: New Order release their first LP, "Movement", which reaches No.30 in the LP charts.

Nov 15: "Deaf", an LP by You've Got Foetus On Your Breath, is released in the UK by Rough Trade a month after its release in America.

Nov 16: Duran Duran release a new single, "MY Own Way"

Nov 20: The Human League release "Don't You Want Me Baby"/"Seconds", which reaches No.1 in both the UK and US charts

Nov 20: Adam And The Ants release a new LP, "Prince Charming"

Nov 22: In a two-page interview with Paul Morley in the NME, Robert Smith says: "I know we've failed because The Cure haven't built up something as powerful as Joy Division that is strong enough to resist the narrow attacks of grayness and introversion... it hasn't proved that bad... we're still here".

Nov 23: Soft Cell release their debut LP, "Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret"

Nov 25: Play Dead release their second single, "TV Eye"/"Final Epitaph"

Nov 30: Cabaret Voltaire release "Eddie's Out"/Walls of Jericho"

Nov 30: Danse Society broadcast their first Peel session: Sanity Career, We're So Happy, Woman's Own, Love as a Positive Narcotic

Nov 30: Adam & the Ants release "Ant Rap"/"Friends"


Dec 2: Danse Society release a 3-track EP: "There Is No Shame In Death"/"Dolphins"/These Frayed Edges"

Dec 4: Siouxsie And the Banshees release a compilation LP of their singles to date, "Once Upon A Time: The Singles"

Dec 9: Theatre of Hate release "Do You Believe in the Westworl"/"Propaganda"

Dec 10: The Birthday Party broadcast a Peel session: She's Hit, Bully Bones, Big Jesus Trash Can, Six Inch Gold Blade

Dec 14: Southern Death Cult get their first review in the majot music press, by Steve Keaton of Sounds: "Supporting were a remarkable new band from darkest Bradford called Sudden Death Cult [sic]"... The singer is weird, really weird. His face.. is hidden beneath an avalanche of red and black hair and rabbit skin pom-poms and he wardances around the stage in authentic B-movie Western style.. The music reflects the heavy Indian motifs.. it's dense, dark and vaguely primitive. Sort of Bow Wow Wow without the frills.. They lope with confidence through numbers like "Apache" and "Moya" whilst the audience stand bemused."

Dec 16: Killing Joke broadcast their fourth Peel session: The Hum, Empire Song, We Have Joy, Chop Chop.

Dec 17: Xmal Deutschland release "Schwarze Welt"/"Die wolken"/"Gross stadtindianer"

Dec 12: New Order release the 12" of "Eveything's Gone Green", backed with "Cries And Whispers"/"Mesh"

Dec 30 : Gene Loves Jezebel play their first ever gig under that name, at the London Institute of Contemporary Arts, having previously played a few dates as Slav Arian.

Dec 31: In the NME Reader's Polls, Siouxsie wins "Best Female Singer", The Jam win "Best Group", "Heaven Up Here" wins album of the year, "Ghost Town wins "Single of the Year", Paul Weller wins "Most Wonderful Person" and Adam Ant wins "Creep of the Year"

After the Beginning

As I've outlined already, by late 1983 goth was a fully-formed subculture, and by 1984/85 bands were starting to get irritated with being labelled "goth" bands.

By 1985, "goth" had changed considerably from its early roots.

Most of the early bands had split up (Bauhaus, UK Decay, Sex Gang Children, Southern Death Cult) or mutated in a pop direction (Danse Society, the Cure) and the original movement seemed to have ground to a halt.

The way was now clear for what I call the "Gothic Rock" bands, as distinct from the earlier "Gothic Punk" bands.

The remains of Southern Death Cult, after a brief stint as Death Cult, had become simply The Cult. They moved steadily in first a "hippy-rock" direction (with the "Love" album) and then a full-on Rawk! direction (with the "Electric" album).

Meanwhile, Craig Adams and Wayne Hussey, having left the Sisters of Mercy when they split in 1985, formed The Mission, who were to become prime purveyors of the "Gothic Rock" style, borrowing heavily from 70s rock bands.

Sisters frontman Andrew Eldritch, after major legal wrangles with Adams & Hussey over use of the name Sisters of Mercy and Sisterhood (Eldritch released the Sisterhood album "Gift" to stop them using the name), essentially became the Sisters of Mercy, teaming up with Patricia Morrison on "Floodland" and Tony James on the rockier "Vision Thing".

The classic "gothic rock" axis was completed by latecomers Fields of the Nephilim, whose sound took the deep-vocal atmospherics of The Sisters of Mercy and took it in a direction that eventually ended up not far from prog rock.

Meanwhile the Cure, having pulled back from full-on pop mode, were still popular amongst goths, as were the Banshees, who'd moved in a melodic and mellower direction.

Somewhere along the line All About Eve also got conscripted into the Gothic Rock canon, which given their pleasant, inoffensive hippy-folk sound, showed just how far the idea of "goth" had strayed from its early post-punk roots.

Fashion trends changed in line with the sound, so the earlier "glam-punk" look became less common and a "dressier" style took over. For men, spiky hair and ripped clothing became less prevalent and long hair, hats and more expensive-looking shirts and coats started to appear. For women, flouncier, frillier styles also started to take over.

The evolution of the gothic style can be seen in my own picture gallery.

Along with the evolution in style towards a more genteel look, people also started to look back to 18th/19th century "gothic" styles in literature and dress. This was probably largely a result of the scene having been labelled "gothic", and is an interesting example of the effect a label can have upon a scene.

The UK alternative scene in the mid-to-late 80s was dominated by this Gothic Rock sound and style, with the above bands making frequent appearances in the mainstream charts and selling out larger venues.

However, whilst popular, much of the "Gothic Rock" was very far removed from the early scene.

Whereas the gothic pioneers were innovators, in search of something fresh and interesting instead of a punk scene that had quickly grown stale, many of the Gothic Rock bands were content to plunder the past - the Mission and the Cult were particularly guilty of this, plundering the likes of Led Zeppelin and AC/DC.

Paradoxically, whilst Punk had in part been a reaction against the excesses of stadium rock bands, Goth, which evolved from Punk, had reinvented it.

This was eventually to be its undoing, since the alternative scene moved away from Gothic Rock to Rock, with bands like Zodiac Mindwarp and Crazyhead, and then to the inevitable reaction against goth, with indie bands like Carter and Neds Atomic Dustbin favouring a no-frills unpretentious scruffy look and sound that was in direct opposition to the overdressed look and sound of Gothic Rock.

Then there was Acid House, Baggy, Grunge and Industrial, all of which ate away at the goth fanbase until by the early 90s goth was looking very shaky. There were occasional flashes of life, such as the success of the 1992 remix of "Temple of Love" (with Ofra Haza), but the sure sign of a scene in terminal decline was the lack of popular new bands coming through. There were bands out there, such as Rosetta Stone and Children on Stun, but they only had a small (though admittedly dedicated) following. By the mid-90s Goth had become a minority interest in the UK, and remains so to this day. Certain aspects of the goth look and sound have been appropriated and re-invented, notably by the metal scene, but there is no sign of Goth, whether in its original or Rock form, becoming popular again.

Elsewhere things were different, and the goth scene is still huge in certain other countries, notably Germany. In Europe the goth scene merged to some extent with the industrial scene to create an "industrial goth pop" sound that was to dominate the goth/industrial scene in the late 90s and early years of the current millennium.

Curiously, there now seems to be a resurgence of interest in the earlier, punkier goth sound ("Deathrock" in US parlance), so things might yet come full circle.

About the Author

Pete Scathe was born a long long time ago in a music scene far far away.

Suffice to say I was a teenager in the late 70s and early 80s, which pretty much coincides with the rise of Goth.

I was living in Portsmouth, on the South Coast of Britain. Although it could hardly be regarded as a hip and happening place, it had its fair share of goth bands play there, including Sex Gang Children, Alien Sex Fiend, The March Violets (twice!) and the Sisters of Mercy. It was also reasonably close to London, which certainly was hip and happening.

As far as I can remember, I first became aware of goth bands via John Peel's radio show. I was into "alternative" bands in general, and goth bands were simply part of a wider scene that involved bands such as Joy Division, (early) New Order, Fad Gadget, Killing Joke, The Chameleons, The Birthday Party, Cocteau Twins, Rudimentary Peni and so on. Bands such as Danse Society and Play Dead fitted perfectly into this wider post-punk scene, and at no time did I ever care about whether bands were "goth" or not. It just happened that a sizeable percentage of the bands I liked were bands who would later be tagged "goth", and somewhere along the line I moved from a "monochrome punk" look to a "goth" look.

It helped that being skinny was a positive advantage in the goth scene, and that an extended goth mohawk added about six inches to my height (many drunken goths had long conversations with the top of my mohawk).

I liked the music, I liked the look, and I liked the people.

The early years of the goth scene were brilliant as far as I was concerned.

In 1984 I moved to Bath University, where I had a great time (which didn't help my degree studies).

In 1985 I went to Sheffield University, where I had a horrible time (which didn't help my degree either).

In retrospect, I think one of the reasons I didn't enjoy Sheffield so much was that my time there coincided with the death of the original goth scene. Most of the bands I liked had either split up or gone in directions I wasn't keen on, and the original goth scene was giving way to Goth Rock. As readers of my Later History of Goth can probably fathom, I was never a fan of that genre. By the late 80s/early 90s I had moved back to Portsmouth and virtually given up on the goth scene. Although every now and again a goth band would come along whom I liked, the dominance of such bands as Nosferatu was enough to put me off the scene as a whole, and most of the bands I liked were bands with a gothic edge to their sound rather than goth bands as such.

However, by the mid- to late 90s I'd got back into the scene, and in March 1997 I started up a goth night in Portsmouth, Resurgence, which has been running ever since. Around the same time, it struck me that there was no one reliable source on the early history of goth online, and in a moment of madness I decided to write one.

I currently make a living from DJing three alternative nights in Portsmouth and Bournemouth - not goth nights, I hasten to add, it's well-nigh impossible to make a living from goth DJing in the UK. Fortunately I have a fairly broad music taste. I also have a broad range of interests, including Medieval History and fast cars that go expensively wrong (if you want to have a healthy bank balance, never ever buy an Mi16).

I'm also very, very bad at answering emails, so apologies if you're one of those legions of people who've emailed me about the site and never got an answer.

Links (various)


Copyright : © Pete Scathe

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