Forty Years of Face-to-Face: “The Scream” released this day in 1978

Siouxsie and the Banshees, 1979 – By Source, Fair use, Link

One of the most recognizable bands in the goth pantheon, Siouxsie and the Banshees released their debut album “The Scream” on 13th November 1978. They had impeccable punk credentials, would go on to be populated by a talented brace of musicians including Steven Severin, Martin McCarrick, Robert Smith and John McGeoch, and all led by the mesmeric Siouxsie Sioux, an indecipherable silent movie star turned furious postpunk prophet swathed in the timeless fashion of the underworld that would become a universal constant for an undying subculture.

Their origins are fascinating – Sioux and Severin formed the band on a whim, with an opportunity to play support to the Sex Pistols that Sioux, a fervent fan, didn’t want to miss. They can later boast they played one of the earliest ever punk festivals in 1976, on stage with the likes of The Clash, The Damned and the Buzzcocks.
The band amazingly busked the whole thing, improvising a twenty-minute set with Sioux reciting random memorized text including The Lord’s Prayer. It probably didn’t help they had Sid Vicious behind the drums in this first ever lineup!

Despite an urge to split the band up, some fast talking ensured the Banshees stayed together, and ascended quickly to dizzying heights – magazine front cover material, an appearance on Tony “Mr. Manchester” Wilson’s show So It Goes, and a Peel session all in the can by ’77. Next they needed that debut album, and after a guerrilla, punk-promo campaign of vandalism around London by a fan, Polydor delivered a contract in June ’78 that the Banshees signed.

There was one frantic week in August when they recorded The Scream, and it spent the next three being produced, mastered and polished. The result catapulted into the music journalism world like a divebomber, scattering glowing reviews everywhere. Melody Maker praised the sound as “strong, abrasive, visceral and constantly inventive.” Kris Needs, writing in Zigzag was effusive, saying

It is certainly a special classic to join milestones like Diamond Dogs, Roxy Music’s first and (Lou Reed’s) Berlin.

Rolling Stone called it a “striking debut album” and prophetically described their music “…acknowledges the enduring power of the Old Wave, but yields not an inch in its assertion of the New.”

It’s a brilliantly accurate description. Even in this first recording, you can hear Siouxsie’s strident, challenging tone enveloped by icy expanses of discordance, and hypnotic pulsing rhythm.
It’s clear they’re going to tire of the restraints of the contemporaries in punk, and even post-punk, and aspire to something newer and darker. By 1981 they had that down with the darkly delicious fourth album Juju, helping set the boundaries of what we now know to be goth rock.

But right now, time-travelling back forty years exactly to 13 November 1978, the Banshees have an album that only hints at their vast, exploratory future and the eternal mark they’ll leave on untold generations of fans and follow-on musicians. It’s revelry and rawness and a riotously good start for a band who’ll reach further than they can probably imagine at this moment…

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National Black Cat Day: Goth Holiday!

Would you believe that the 27th October is National Black Cat Appreciation Day? This year it’s on a Saturday – sorry, #Caturday – and it’s right before Halloween. Whilst you’re reading this, I’m in Whitby for the Goth Weekend. It’s like the dark side of every moon just aligned!

Please enjoy some carefully curated content containing our cuddly, curious cat comrades. Remember, according to figures black cats who desperately need homes are often overlooked at shelters, spending up to a week longer in care. If you can give a loving home to a needy cat, please consider a pitch-black puss!

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BORLEY RECTORY – A creepy Q&A with director Ashley Thorpe

Followers will know I’m excited to be hosting a Q&A session with director Ashley Thorpe, after a screening of his animated documentary, Borley Rectory, on Sunday at 5pm. To whet your appetite, first enjoy the trailer for this witty, intriguing production…

I’ve been lucky enough to have an early preview of it, so I can challenge Ashley with some pointed questions, and I can recommend this imaginative, intriguing, eerie film to any ghost story connoisseur.
Not a regular A-to-B thriller, it instead strings together the rumours, allegations, experiences and experiments that swirled around the ‘most haunted house in England’ from the very first encounters, to the building’s violent perishing in a fire on the eve of World War II.

It’s well anchored by a cast of familiar faces, including the creepily commanding presence of actor Reece Shearsmith – of the League of Gentlemen and Inside No. 9 fame – and the exceptionally expressive Jonathan Rigby as famed paranormal investigator Harry Price.


Reece Shearsmith and Jonathan Rigby, courtesy of Carrion Films

There are dramatizations of somber seances conducted in shadowy chambers, words scratched into the walls, dangerous liaisons masked by staged spookiness, an unwise journalist chasing ghouls in the gardens, pleas for help from entombed emanations, and all of it swathed in a spectacularly unique rotoscoping / animation effect that transports the entire film into the realm of the supernatural itself.

Through excellent use of costuming, props and design it moves seamlessly from the 18060s to the 1940s, and we are transported along with it, an unseen audience watching the interaction between characters and the structure, a battleground for belief and deception. The horror is most expertly demonstrated with the shadowy shapes half seen – much is obscured and left to the imagination, as is admirable, but occasional moments may cause even the hardened viewer to jump as unexpected activity of a mysterious origin besets the frequent, short-lived residents of Borley Rectory.

Please join us at Whitby Pavilion on Sunday 28th October at 5pm for a unique screening of this paranormal production, followed by a Q&A session with director Ashley Thorpe conducted by yours truly. All thanks to Absinthe Promotions, organizers of the first Tomorrow’s Ghosts festival who promise an array of frightening fascinations for the fervent fans of fear!


Some of the cast explore the boundary between life and death within Borley Rectory – courtesy of Carrion Films.


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Whitby Week!


Image courtesy of Baxter Photography

It is Whitby week, as hordes of goths, punks, post-punks and those uncateogrized descend on the small North Yorkshire town for the biannual music festival. I’ll be heading over on Thursday to begin the drinking, dancing, and describing events for The Blogging Goth, of which there is an enjoyably bewildering array.

Thanks to the kind people at Absinthe Promotions, I’ll be taking in the bands at the Pavilion on Friday and Saturday night. In exchange, of course, I’ll be hosting the Q&A sessions with Ashley Thorpe of the animated film Borley Rectory and author Jonathan Rigby’s presentation entitled Euro Gothic: Classics of Continental Horror Cinema.

During the day I’ll be perusing the shopping at the Bizarre Bazaar, the Dark Days market and the town itself… or dropping into the final Whitby Kustom Car Show… and live-streaming the charity football match El Gothico… or taking in the sights of the Illuminated Abbey (15% off for wristband holders from Tomorrow’s Ghosts)… not to mention the live music available from Gothtown and the Official Fringe.
If I feel brave I might even risk a trip to Old Town during the day, but the crowds usually defeat that initiative. I’ll also be speaking to a crew making an independent documentary film about the weekend, so if you’ve got a burning urge to convey your experiences of the festivities or the goth scene in general, why not be in touch?

Tomorrow's Ghost festival

I find myself wondering how to refer to the weekend however. We’re all going to Whitby, for Goth activities, over the Weekend. We’ve been calling it Whitby Goth Weekend for twenty years. However, WGW is currently only operating the Fringe events at the Abbey Wharf, and the Bizarre Bazaar.

The name itself is a trademark of the company Top Mum Promotions. Should we keep using it as a common term everyone recognizes –  or is it time to distinguish the title of a separate event from the various activities taking place during a ‘festival’ that belongs to no one organizer? Let me have your thoughts below…

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Bowie and Bauhaus: Ziggy Stardust is buried in Camden

One of the earliest progenitors of goth rock, Bauhaus were at their peak in 1982 when they recorded a cover of the 1972 album track “Ziggy Stardust” by David Bowie, from the album “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust”. That it was all to spiral into breakup and resentment is as inevitable as night follows day in this fractious scene of ours.

Nevertheless, it was as golden to Peter Murphy as it was to Bowie. Released as a single just ahead of their third album “The Sky’s Gone Out”, it exploded in popularity and catapulted the band onto Top of The Pops. The album itself reached number four in the UK charts, a position unchallenged by any preceding or successive release by Bauhaus.

Bowie’s benediction continued to buoy up Bauhaus, with the band turning in a memorable performance in the horror movie “The Hunger” starring Bowie and Catherine Deneuve that was filmed in ’82 and released in ’83. The film opens with a caged Murphy crooning to a nightclub of post-punks and new wavers, stalked by the vampire lovers Miriam and John Blaylock. Treasured by goths for its gorgeous melding of sex, death and style, it was also the death-knell for Bauhaus who split up in July 1983 – one potential cause, the focus on Murphy above his bandmates in their brief movie appearance.

That appearance is a gorgeous opening sequence, and in part it seems inspired by the ridiculously gothic video for “Ziggy Stardust”, in which the band perform a truly underground gig – in an expansive Camden basement that doubles as a live music venue for alternative bands – of course!
Here, Murphy is locked up in a tiny cage again, released to perform the track with all the manic energy he is famed for. He stage dives into an audience of rampant, adoring, manic goths and punks who then bear aloft a shrouded body they hustle away into the shadowy catacombs. It’s a beautiful slice of gothic extravagance and sets in stone that Bauhaus imagery of death, excess and camp horror fun.

Notwithstanding Peter Murphy’s muffled resentment of the influence Bowie had on so many musicians – including him, we must give our unending thanks to the incomparable artist who first broke down the walls of conformity that led to goth’s ascendancy and, I hope, would appreciate every twisted evolution his music inspired.

Pictures courtesy of Fin Costello / Redferns.
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