Joy Division, 1978-2018.

Oddly enough, I don’t recall the first time I heard “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. I quickly got used to hearing it though, a reliable floor-filler back when I was enjoying the scraps of goth you could hear at the local alternative nightclub I was sneaking into at just sixteen. Joy Division, “She’s In Parties” by Bauhaus, “Lucretia, My Reflection” by the Sisters and even “Release The Bats” by The Birthday Party. One after another, a solid lump of goth I enjoyed early in the evening to sustain me through a few hours of Nineties pop-punk and rap metal and inadvisable cocktails.

I have much firmer memories of scouring the internet – with Netscape Navigator no less! – for guides to goth, this mysterious and enticing culture I’d discovered having graduated through various levels of over-produced metal as a teenager. I’ve always been passionate about tracing back to first causes, and so many of those early websites cited the short-lived yet significant Joy Division as a progenitor of all things goth.

Weirdly, my first experience of Joy Division was “An Ideal For Living”, the first EP, rather than “Unknown Pleasures”, and its raw punk nature quite put me off. I remember listening to “No Love Lost” and being frightened out of my naïve wits!

The first album soon made its way to me, and it felt like a key in a lock. In particular, I fell for Hannett’s production – I’d never ever heard music that had such crackling depth to it, every instrument seeming to broadcast from a cold impervious void that delivered an electric, sparse sound. “Day of the Lords” was a maddeningly catchy dirge crammed with menace and meaning. “Shadowplay” was the song to rip up the dancefloor too, far more intense to me than the more familiar “She’s Lost Control” or even “Transmission”, the debut single from 1979.

In time, as I grew and encountered more goth music, Eldritch and the Sisters supplanted Joy Division at the pinnacle of my interests. Their imagery, attitudes and not to mention their repertoire all seemed like an evolution of every foundation that Curtis, Hook, Sumner and Morris had laid, although the Sisters couldn’t imitate the indescribable authenticity of Joy Division. I cannot hear “New Dawn Fades” without getting goose-pimples and a stab of delicious melancholia straight to my heart.

Joy Division provided the goth scene, and the world, with the gorgeous and disturbing melding of monotonous drumming, aggressive bass, jangling guitars and that definitive low male baritone, reciting despondent lyrics that has become a hallmark of alternative music.

From crass commercialism of their recognizable album cover onto every department store shelf, to a hundred hundred imitators and appreciators of varying quality playing the world over, Joy Division’s brief career had an impact beyond comparison. I am confident their eightieth anniversary will be celebrated with as much recognition… assuming the world has not fully slipped into that eternal dark night of isolation.

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“David Bowie needed to bugger off” – Peter Murphy takes aim.

Update 24/01/18: Peter Murphy has responded to widespread criticism of the comments he made, in a post on his official Facebook page.

David Bowie was, is, and always shall be deeply honoured, prayed for, and loved by me for his magical musical works and unmatched special influence. However, when I say that, sometime after Let’s Dance I stopped listening to the albums and appreciated the fact that he ‘buggered’ off at some point.
One, of course I was not referring to his death (for God’s sake whomever thinks that, don’t be so ridiculous). I’m talking about when he disappeared from view and lived a well earned private life, from around 2006. That edifice of ‘David Bowie‘ that seemed to hang overhead, that felt often like an ever present oppressive standard to either be compared to or to have no way to match, was lifted by Mr Bowie’s retreat for those years.
That is: when he ‘ buggered off’ ….and you know I loved him the more for being so smart as to ‘bugger off’. Until that time when, with The Next Day and two songs from Black Star, he made stunning, genuine Bowie records.

Peter Murphy has dropped some scathing comments about the late, great David Bowie in a recent interview. He was talking to a San Francisco music critic about his upcoming long residency at The Chapel, from January 23rd – February 16th, which will see him reunited for select dates with original Bauhaus bassist David J, and covering highlights from his solo career as well as with the definitive post-punk outfit.

David Bowie Death New York Apartment Memorial 2016 5

“It was a bit tiring, this whole cosmology of David Bowie. He was a spark. But it was time to bugger off. And he did bugger off.”

It seems a cruel, contrary thing to lash out at the lone artist one step removed from actual sainthood, in the eyes of a broad swathe of music-loving humanity. It can be soundly argued that Bowie paved the way for the entire alternative continuum, not just goth, and that he transcended such mundane boundaries as ‘subcultures’. Indeed, Bauhaus will be remembered as much for their popular cover of ‘Ziggy Stardust’ as for the sombre extravaganza that is ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’.

So why is the man dubbed the ‘Godfather of Goth’ biting the hand that feeds, so hard? Now he has his residency, is he lurking at the bottom of his pond, a tired old toad mired in bitterness?
I believe that Murphy sees it as his opportunity to cast off albatrosses instead – now Bowie has ascended to another plane of existence, perhaps the weight of that cover will lift from around Murphy’s skinny neck, and he can be seen for the artist he is.

Like all artists, there are songs they hate to play – usually, their most commercially successful. Murphy is coy, won’t reference the single track from his career he loathes with a passion, but you can join the dots. It isn’t Bela – in October last year, I saw Murphy play right here in Newcastle, and he ended with a very experimental take on goth’s most famous dirge.


So there’s some resentment there, and perhaps it fuelled Murphy to be the first to break through the veil of hero-worship and into the post-Bowie world. Even so, his words are tantamount to heresy and he will win no favours for his cold dismissal.
What he will win is coverage and profile-raising. The SF Chronicle covered it, and it’s being shared around social media like wildfire. I’m writing a response, and other commentators will do as well, all pushing awareness of the Bauhaus frontman’s long series of live performances coming up soon – bad news sells.

It’s not like there will be any PR fallout either. Consider the goth scene, and the subcultural champions who lead us. Those who are still alive guarantee headline slots, regardless of personal attitudes; the incendiary commentary of Morrissey, the scorn for the fans (and erratic live performances) of Andrew Eldritch, the echoing silence of Siouxsie Sioux. The only heavy-hitter from the ‘golden age’ with anything to smile about is Robert Smith, The Cure’s cheerful frontman who leads his outfit into their fortieth anniversary to universal acclaim.

For the rest of the relics from the dawn of goth, they try and warm themselves around the cold fires of bitterness and resentment. Long shall they reign, as no new challengers ever seem to appear. But that’s a topic for another time…

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Happy Noir Year!

With 2018 looming over the horizon like a particularly angry storm, it’s time to reflect on 2017 and what I was up to as The Blogging Goth. At the start of the year, I looked at the bizarre new album from American indie artists Goats, entitled ‘Goths’ and leading with a single called ‘Andrew Eldritch is moving Back to Leeds’. Quite the peculiar artifact!

The Mountain Goats - Goths

In April, there was the first of two Whitby Goth Weekends, and you can read my reviews of the Friday night and the Saturday night again! It immediately led into World Goth Day on May 22nd, and an added angle of weirdness when one of my articles ended up in an English secondary school (High School to my American readers) exam and a lot of confused teenagers got on Twitter to yell at me.

The real world saw the British government call for a General Election to secure their position and deliver ‘Brexit’ to those who voted for it. As always, I polled my readers to see if goth voting habits reflected the wider public trends. There were some surprises, but ultimately Red was the new Black for the goths of the UK!

Goth Election 2017

Festival season was upon us again in September, and I was delighted to be offered press access to the long-running EBM/Industrial/Bleep Infest in Bradford. This packed-out event was so bursting with bands and events I had to split my reviews over a number of articles, so please click here to go to the Infest hashtag!

On a much grimmer note, the rising tide of awareness of sexual crimes against women in all facets of society led me to publish an article calling for securing the goth/alt scene and the safety of female and female-identifying participants. It was very difficult to research and write – but it is even more difficult for people to have a good time in a subculture that doesn’t police against abusers. So there is hope also.

Just prior to Winter’s Whitby Goth Weekend, the Live Theatre in my home of Newcastle put on a play about that most famous of UK goth events, and invited myself and Dr Claire Nally to speak on a panel after the performance about the scene. It was a lovely and well-researched production with an amusing and excellent cast!
It rolled neatly into the event itself, and you can find my review of Winter’s Whitby Goth Weekend here.

Membranes - Whitby Goth Weekend - Mel Butler Photography

Throughout the year, I’ve also been promoting my club night Noircastle, and we held our first gig as well in November, with more to come. It’s been a challenging and exciting journey, becoming a promoter, and it is sure to take up even more of my limited time!

Finally, I look ahead to 2018, and the exciting prospects arising as a result of ongoing conversations with John Adrenochrome, a veteran goth from the Eighties and long-standing comrade in visiting Whitby, Leeds and running Noircastle. We’ll be launching our own YouTube channel On The Wire in early 2018 and adding our own voices to the chorus of discussion about the goth scene via vlogging.

Many thanks to all my followers across all my social media channels who have visited, read, liked, shared and communicated with me. I love being The Blogging Goth, and your support and feedback has been invaluable. Have a Spooky New Year and see you in 2018!

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Reviews from Whitby Goth Weekend October 2017

Whitby Goth WeekendWelcome to my reviews of the latest bands to perform at Whitby Goth Weekend – my thanks as always to the management for kindly granting me access!
One of these days I’ll have sufficient tech and time to produce a review immediately after the gig, but I do fear it’ll be a prime example of gonzo writing, straight from the dark heart of UK goth and probably incomprehensible. My notes are often copious, rarely coherent.

Still, on with the show…!
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Bram Stoker on his 170th Birthday

Bram StokerThe Irish author Bram Stoker would be 170 years old today, a respectable age approaching that of his most famous creation, the alpha vampire Count Dracula. Published in 1897, the novel ‘Dracula’ would eventually be counted as one of the greatest gothic novels ever, on a par with Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ or Radcliffe’s ‘The Mysteries of Udolpho’.
So it was a delightfully dark pleasure to attend a discussion of the man himself by his great grand-nephew, Dacre Stoker. Dacre has committed to extensive investigation of his famous relative’s life and career and I am grateful to Northumbria University for accommodating him during his tour, lecturing on Bram Stoker and making available his latest book Dracula: The Un-dead.

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