Just as Bauhaus was breaking up, a place in England opened up whose gothic importance cannot be overstated. Beginning in 1982, the Batcave intended to bring about a revival of the glam scene using bands more in line with T. Rex and Bowie. By 1983, it had transformed into the hub of gothic culture.
The Batcave became a haven for people who were tired of the New Romantic movement and up for something a little darker. Peter Murphy, Nick Cave, Robert Smith and Siouxsie Sioux were all regulars at the club, and eventually its rather unique culture began to get exported.
It started with the release of The Bat Cave: Young Limbs & Numb Hymns on vinyl. The record featured two incredibly important bands that were starting to reach a wider audience through the notoriety of the Batcave.
One was the club’s house band, Specimen, fronted by Batcave operator Ollie Wisdom. The other was the legendary Alien Sex Fiend. In addition to “R.I.P.” on the Batcave comp, ASF would launch the first of the group’s many, many singles in 1983, “Ignore the Machine.”
It was the start of an impressive streak of releases. Twelve singles and five albums from the Fiend charted on the UK Independent chart from 1983 to 1987, and all of it can be laid at the Batcave’s doors.
In 1983, the Batcave went on tour in a sense, opening goth nights at other clubs around the UK. The places where the Batcave’s macabre revue set up shop were full of kids desperate for some new dance music, and this helped spread around the emerging “etherealwave” bands like Cocteau Twins and Dead Can Dance. The advent of this style, with its haunting female vocalists and baroque electronica, is one of the most stable lines in goth history, with echoes still hitting the mainstream through examples like Evanescence.
Goth also got yet another dose of mainstream legitimacy when The Cure scored their first Top 10 hit with “The Love Cats.” The band was busy reinventing itself after the departure of bassist Simon Gallup. With Robert Smith filling in for the departed John McKay in Siouxsie and the Banshees, there were even rumors that the band had broken up.
The single set The Cure back on their path, and Smith still managed to find time to record guitar parts of the Banshees’ Hyaena and a side project with Banshees bassist Steve Severin called the Glove. The other half of the Banshees was busy as well, as Siouxsie and Budgie prepared their first full-length release as The Creatures.
If 1979 was the birth of goth, then 1983 was its original heyday. In England, the associated acts had reached enough of an audience to form a stable nucleus that was clearly gaining in appeal. The emerging power of the music video on MTV was also starting to get goth’s distinctive look a lot of attention in the United States. There’s more to come, but it’s hard to argue that there was ever a more potent time for goth than 1983.