It’s June, 1999, or thereabouts. I’m sixteen years of age. I’m in a nightclub for the first, perhaps second time in my life. The nightclub is called Spiders, and it’s located on the edge of an industrial estate in Hull. The air as my friends and I queue up outside is foul with burnt cocoa fumes wafting from a neighbouring factory. The smell inside the club is worse.
Being 16, I can barely believe my luck when I’m granted entry. It would be some time before I realised that Spiders wasn’t merely accepting of minors’ custom, but wholly reliant upon it. I try to get my bearings. Spiders is dark. I mean really dark. To this day I’ve never been to a club that dark; I’m not sure how much it had to do with creating an ambience and how much to do with the owners’ unwillingness to fork out on electricity. After some deliberation I buy myself a Green Monster – an in-house “cocktail”, served in a pint glass – and relax. The music emanating from the dancefloor is some unremarkable Britpop hit or other.
I look at the wall. And then I realise the wall is looking back at me. In fact, the wall is moving. It dawns on me that there are six or seven people leaning against the wall, clad all in black, maintaining a monkish silence, looking distant and more than a little bit tortured. The unremarkable Britpop tune comes to an end, and there’s a brief pause while the DJ fumbles with the controls. Then a new song begins. The song is Sisters of Mercy’s ‘Alice’.
Activated as if by remote control, the sextet of black-clad folk who I’ve mistaken for a wall troop off in the direction of the music, still not uttering a single word to each other. I follow them at a short distance. When I reach the dancefloor they’re there…dancing. Well, I say dancing; more accurately they’re stomping, or sluggishly waving their torsos without moving their feet, or holding their heads in their hands as if in a rapture of pain, or pleasure, or both. It’s like some kind of demented exercise video. Other groups of similarly attired characters arrive at the dancefloor at the same time, and a few of them exchange words, dance together, get off with each other. Then ‘Alice’ stops, and every single one of them returns to the corner of the club they came from, to continue their necking or simply resume brooding in silence.
These characters, you will have gathered, are the Goths.
The top 20 in full
…what a top four!
- BAUHAUS – ‘BELA LUGOSI’S DEAD’
- JOY DIVISION – CLOSER
- THE CURE – FAITH
- SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES – JUJU
- THE BIRTHDAY PARTY – ‘RELEASE THE BATS’
- DANSE SOCIETY – THERE IS NO SHAME IN DEATH EP
- UK DECAY – RISING FROM THE DREAD EP
- SISTERS OF MERCY – ‘ALICE’
- XMAL DEUTSCHLAND – ‘INCUBUS SUCCUBUS’
- VARIOUS ARTISTS – YOUNG LIMBS AND NUMB HYMNS
- KILLING JOKE – REVELATIONS
- VIRGIN PRUNES – PAGAN LOVESONG
- SEX GANG CHILDREN – ‘MAURITIA MAYER’
- RUDIMENTARY PENI – DEATH CHURCH
- DALI’S CAR – THE WAKING HOUR
- CHRISTIAN DEATH – CATASTROPHE BALLET
- PLAY DEAD – FROM THE PROMISED LAND
- CINDYTALK – CAMOUFLAGE HEART
- AND ALSO THE TREES – VIRUS MEADOW
- DEAD CAN DANCE – WITHIN THE REALM OF A DYING SUN
‘BELA LUGOSI’S DEAD’, (SMALL WONDER 12″, 1979)
Bauhaus embody the escapist, self-dramatizing spirit of goth. Hailing from none-more-bland Northampton and led by rake-thin and androgynously handsome Peter Murphy, the band’s persona erred on the side of pantomime, but their decision to break away from the spartan realist image of punk and its immediate offspring now seems nothing if not bold. Like their hero Bowie, Bauhaus understood the importance of fantasy, and how that’s bound up in the visual: from sleeve art to clothing, make-up to stage lighting. Back when they were first trying to get signed, they issued a video rather than an audio tape to record companies.
Over the course of the four albums that they cut between ’80 and ’83, the musical identity of Bauhaus was stretched in several different directions by its members (sometimes literally: see 1981′s puckish four-part composition ’1. David Jay 2. Peter Murphy 3. Kevin Haskins 4. Daniel Ash’). There was no such confusion or conflict on their sleek, self-possessed debut single: referencing the Hungarian actor best known for playing the titular Count in Tod Browning’s 1931 Dracula, ‘Bela’ clocked in at an exquisitely arrogant 9 minutes – goodbye to punk’s loaded brevity – and could have justifiably gone on even longer. The loping intro is particularly inspired, ramping up the suspense to an unbearable level as reverbed ghost train FX shudder in and around Kevin Haskins’ bone-dry drums, David J”s descending bassline striated with Daniel Ash’s malevolent swipes of guitar. When Murphy’s campy, crudely overdubbed vocal arrives some two minutes in, you know you’re dealing with one of the all-time great pop singles. “Undead undead UNDEAD!”
11: KILLING JOKE
REVELATIONS, (POLYDOR LP, 1982)
Killing Joke’s gothic rock grew exponentially more sludgy and brutal with each passing album; by the mid 80s they were basically a metal band. Their development mirrored that of goth at large: a steady descent into the kind of macho, constipated heaviness that still characterises the genre today, at least in the eyes of outsiders. Still, their early records were terrific: particularly their third, Revelations, which they recorded with krautrock overlord Conny Plank. During the making of the album the band immersed themselves in the occult, succumbing to the paranoia that such an obsession inevitably yields, especially when paired with heavy drug use. In 1982, singer Jaz Coleman moved to Iceland, in order to survive the imminent apocalypse, with his bandmates following soon after. The apocalypse never came, and Killing Joke duly lost their mojo.