May 27 – Siouxsie, The ‘Senior’ Banshee

A sad day today in music as we mourn the deaths of Andy Fletcher from Depeche Mode and  drummer Alan White, of Yes and touring member of various other bands. At least we have one good milestone though – happy 65th to Susan Ballion…aka Siouxsie Sioux. If there was a female face of Goth to go along with the male face (which would likely be Robert Smith), it would have to be Siouxsie… who, by the way, had Robert Smith in her band from time to time!

An unhappy teen, she took readily to any counter-culture and really was drawn to the punk scene after seeing the Sex Pistols play in 1976. She says of her unhappy home and early sexual abuse within it, “early experiences are what create a lifetime of damage. the songs you write help you run from the damage.” The songs she wrote were primarily for Siouxsie and the Banshees, one of Britain’s most-influential bands of the late ’70s and ’80s.As allmusic describe them, they were “one of the most successful goth bands…evolved from a dark, confrontational punk band into a stylish alterna-pop unit”. Thom Yorke of Radiohead says “the band(s) that really changed my life were R.E.M. and Siouxsie and the Banshees”, while hard-rocking Dave Navarro says of his band, Jane’s Addiction, “I always saw (us) as the masculine Siouxshie… so many similar threads.” They were also one of the few things Morrissey and Johnny Marr of The Smiths agree on. “Excellent. They were one of the great groups of the late-’70s and early-’80s” Morrissey says while Marr admired the guitars in the band. Meanwhile, Shirley Manson of Garbage says Siouxsie embodied “everything I wanted to be” when young and that she learned to sing by listening to Banshees albums. The Banshees put out 11 albums and the first nine hit the top 20 in the UK. Their biggest hit was a brilliant cover of the Beatles “Dear Prudence” but they have a piece of musical history over here too – “Peekaboo” was the very first #1 hit on the then new Billboard Modern Rock chart in 1988. Siouxsie had a side project, The Creatures, with her husband, drummer “Budgie” but the band split when the couple did, circa 2004.

Sioux was awarded the Ivor Novello “Inspiration” Award in 2012, a sort of British music lifetime achievement award.

April 21 – Smith’s Birthday ‘Wish’ For Fans

Happy birthday to Robert Smith, main man of The Cure and many “what not to do” manuals in Hairdressing school! He’s 63 today and 30 years back he gave his fans a birthday gift of sorts. Wish, one of the band’s best-received albums came out this day in 1992.

It was their ninth studio album, coming about three years after their North American breakthrough, Disintegration. In the time between, they’d toured extensively, put out a record of remixes, fired long-time drummer Lol Tolhurst, replacing him with Boris Williams and brought in a new guitarist/bassist, Perry Bamonte. What they did keep from the end-of-the-’80s momentum though was David Allen, who co-produced it with the band themselves as he had on the previous one. As well as perhaps the concept of injecting a little levity into their gloom – “Love Song” off the previous one was arguably their biggest hit to date and the one which made them “big” in the U.S. So they followed up with an even giddier love song for this one, “Friday I’m In Love.”

That song was joined with another 11 for Wish, which runs about 66 minutes. Although the song titles leaned towards brevity (“High”, Apart”, “Cut”, “End”) the works themselves didn’t! Four songs ran past six minutes, with “From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea” pushing eight. While still resonating some degree of gloom and darkness, the sound was overall a little chippier and jangly than much of their past work and had a lot of layers. They recorded it on a 48-track recorder and used nearly every available track for each song, using a lot of over-dubbing as well as more distortion and feedback than one might have expected. “Friday I’m In Love” really stood out, not only for its cheerfulness but because they actually sped up the tape a tiny bit, to make it all the more hyper. “It makes your brain take a step backwards,” said Smith.

Reviews were, and seem to remain, somewhat mixed, with many perhaps feeling like the idea was a little better than the execution. Entertainment Weekly graded it “B”, calling it their “happiest album to date” while noting they were known for “indulging in dirge-like tempos and depressing lyrics.”) and acknowledging that “the band’s bleak…always super-arty stance has struck a chord with a significant portion of today’s youth.” Rolling Stone gave it 4-stars, suggesting “for the cult of millions, The Cure offers the only kind of optimism that makes sense.” Q also gave it 4-stars, saying “the album’s outstanding track is ‘Friday I’m In Love’” and also admiring “End” with its “see-sawing guitar riff which will probably get nicked by Nirvana.” Years later though, allmusic would give it just 2.5-stars, lowest of their records between 1984-2008. Although they liked the “jangling guitars and simple arrangements” better than earlier works and they did find four songs that “make the record worthwhile” – “High”, “A Letter to Elise”, “Wendy Time” and “Friday I’m In Love” – they found the “even-handed production” made the songs sound too much alike and too many songs seemed to have been written in their sleep.

While I termed it a birthday gift to the fans, perhaps it was the reverse. In their UK, it debuted at #1, the band’s one and only #1 album there. It hit #2 in the States, #3 in New Zealand (highest positions for one of their albums in both) and #1 in Australia as well. It went platinum in the U.S., and gold in Canada and Britain, their fourth-straight to do that in the latter. Driving that to some degree was, as expected , “Friday I’m In Love.” It was their fourth #1 song on the Billboard Alternative Rock charts, and hit #18 overall in the U.S., as well as #3 in Canada. In the UK, it peaked at #6 but sold for a long time, going platinum and becoming their biggest-selling single ever. Perhaps that was Robert’s “Wish” when he blew out his cake candles?

February 1 – On A Mission To Channel Zep?

Taking a page out of The Cult playbook – heck, taking the whole Cult playbook perhaps – The Mission veered their psychedelic Goth sound towards the hard rock stylings ala Led Zeppelin on this day in 1988. A few months after The Cult put out their Rick Rubin-produced Electric,  the Mission put out their second album, Children.

The Mission, aka The Mission UK in North America to avoid confusion with an American band name The Mission, were the…well, mission, of Wayne Hussey. The guitarist and singer had been in Dead Or Alive and left popular Goth band the Sisters of Mercy, along with bassist Craig Adams a couple of years earlier and formed their new band. Hussey’s been the only regular in the group’s 35+ year career (which did include a couple of lengthy breaks) although Adams has returned to the fold in the last decade. They’d done well at home in the UK with their debut album God’s Own Medicine, and had a chance to get their name out there some more opening for U2 on some Joshua Tree tour shows in 1987. Around the same time, Hussey became a father which apparently influenced some of his writing for the follow-up record. One wonders if he didn’t come into a stack of Led Zeppelin vinyl as well; Children was widely noted to have a Zeppelin-esque flavor to it. Mind you, that’s little surprise since they and Mercury Records brought in John Paul Jones to produce the record (and play some keyboards as well.)

The result was an album allmusic called “sprawling”. Most versions of it were 13 songs and ran about 58”; the LP was a bit shorter and some reissues have a few extra tracks. Two songs run over seven-and-a-half minutes (oddly, they were the two chosen for singles, “Beyond the Pale” and “Tower of Strength”) but a couple run less than one-and-a-half. In the case of “Shamera Kye,” a mere 34 seconds in fact! Many editions included a cover of Aerosmith’s “Dream On” for good measure.

The album was densely produced but showed off some interesting melodies, good guitar work and a number of songs that built to something. As Cryptic Rock put it, by then The Mission had “overshadowed its predecessor” (the Sisters of Mercy) and the album itself is their “pinnacle and most progressive work.” They particularly liked “Beyond the Pale” (“Hindustani-influenced psychedelia and Goth rock (which) rendered chilling results”) and the “folk-rooted guitar stylings of (Simon) Hinkler” on songs like “Kingdom Come.” Allmusic rate it 4-stars, calling it “larger than the sum of its parts”, and liking the two singles (“obviously stand out”) as well as “’Fabienne’, ‘Heat’, ‘Child’s Play’ and ‘Wing and a Prayer’” which “still rock” and applauded Jones’ bringing them a “more mature, polished sound.” However, they did find the Aerosmith cover a bit of “a questionable choice.”

Tower of Strength” – which was also mixed in a 7” single and an acoustic version – got to #12 in the UK, second-best in their long career, and was a top 10 in Ireland; “Beyond the Pale” scratched into the top 40 in their homeland, and together the album got to #2 there, one of the more successful hard-Goth efforts of the decade. However, over here, Children didn’t find all that many foster homes, having only a smattering of success on certain alternative rock and college stations.

The Mission are still going, with a surprisingly good outlook given how long it’s been since they were a major chart entity. Wayne Hussey told a reporter in Oregon not long back that they were “fortunate” in never having a smash hit because it means that they don’t have one iconic song they are tired of playing and that now he has a home studio so he can do what he wants, when he wants musically. Part of the change in attitude might come from a change in lifestyle. He pointed to a cup of tea and said “instead of white powders, now it’s honey.”

January 9 – Romance Was The Cure For Goth Stars Gloom

The “gloom-meisters” of rock didn’t sound so gloomy this day in 1988. The Cure hit the U.S. top 40 for the first time this day 34 years ago with the decidedly cheery-sounding “Just Like Heaven.” 

While they were well-known and loved in their UK (it was their 11th top 40 there, although it didn’t make the top 20 unlike four-straight of their hits from ’83 to ’85,including “Love Cats”) they had been something of an obscure, acquired taste to that point over here. They had a loyal following on campuses around the country, and L.A.’s powerful KROQ station played them regularly (that only accelerated with this one, which was the #1 song of ’87 on that station) they’d never been heard on mainstream radio nor been given much attention on MTV. This song from the double album Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me changed all that.

Formed by big-haired Robert Smith in 1976, they’d had a reputation of being insufferably gloomy, but that had changed when Smith got together with childhood sweetheart Mary Poole. He later married her and wrote their biggest hit, “Lovesong” for her. He explains “Just Like Heaven” as being about “seduction…about hyperventilating. Kissing then fainting to the floor.” His wife appears with him in the video, because “she was the girl, so it had to be her!”. Smith says he knew “as soon as I’d written it that it was a good pop song.” Indeed, so too did the record company it seems. It was the only song on the album they brought Bob Clearmountain in to work on and remix. Clearmountain had a diverse track record but consistently helped records do well, being the producer of Bryan Adams breakthrough Reckless as well as Simple Minds’ big 1985 hit Once Upon a Time as well as mixing the Rolling Stones Tattoo You and Roxy Music’s hit single “More Than This.” It helped Kiss Me… become their first platinum record in the States and get to their highest spot to that point – #6 – on the British album charts.

Perhaps the ultimate compliment to it as a love song, it even inspired a Hollywood romcom! As Entertainment Weekly put it, “guys who wear black eyeliner can be happy!

August 6 – Bauhaus Took Flight On The Wings Of A Bat

The ‘Stairway to Heaven’ for the post-punk era.” That was the singer’s description of the song which came out, to a roaring indifference at the time, 42 years ago. “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” by Bauhaus was released in a limited run of 5000 copies this day in 1979. Even though it was obscure, and on a tiny indie label called Small Wonder, it was obvious this record was something different – starting with the white vinyl it was pressed on.

The ode to vampires can be seen as rather a Gen X “Don’t Fear the Reaper” and was unlike anything else you were likely to hear at the time. Long, ghoulish, full of echoes, creaks and reverb, not to mention that one had to wait for several minutes before Peter Murphy even began to sing in his menacing baritone. All in all, it would be considered the first “Goth” record, and play a huge role in influencing the likes of The Cure and Joy Division later on.

As astonishing as the record sounded, it was all the more so because it was recorded live in the studio in just one take! In fact, Bauhaus recorded four songs in one six-hour take earlier in the year, made it a demo and got the deal with the tiny record company. All of that was happening less than 2 months after they’d formed (initially calling themselves Bauhaus 1919), with school friends David J. Haskins on bass, his brother Kevin on drums and Daniel Ash on guitars. They added in Ash’s friend Murphy to sing mostly because they thought he “looked the part” despite never being in a band.

The song came out of Ash and David J.’s fascination with vampire movies, in particular the old Dracula ones starring Bela Lugosi. David says he wrote the lyrics (all four are credited as writers) after thinking “a vampire cannot retire from being a vampire, because that’s for eternity” and likening that to Lugosi’s inevitability of being forever typecast as the one character alone.

The record, and band, might have gone unnoticed and faded into obscurity like a vampire with a stake through it, if it didn’t somehow come to the attention of influential DJ John Peel in London. The BBC personality played the record and then had them on his show, and recorded a “Peel Session” which included another, similar version of “Bela”. All that not only garnered them public notice and approval but a deal with a slightly-larger record company, 4AD. Although it never made the top 40, the song did linger on the British indie charts for two years! It failed to chart on regular sales charts in North America, but over the years they became a major concert draw and the song was voted the third-best of all-time by listeners of Toronto station CFNY in 1991.

The Goth epic has been used widely for mood in movies and on TV, including works like Good Luck Chuck and American Horror Story, not to mention the ’83 film The Hunger for which it was the theme. Interesting, because that film starred David Bowie. And while the song is dark and gothic, David J. points out “if you look at the catalog, it’s pretty diverse.” Indeed, they drew heavily from glam rock influences and had their biggest chart hit with a cover of “Ziggy Stardust”… the David Bowie song.

Bauhaus split up in 1983 when Murphy decided to go solo, with the other trio soon forming Love and Rockets. While they didn’t have a great deal of commercial success in their run, they were vastly influential and have ironically become far bigger concert attractions in two reunions since, despite waiting 25 years before putting out any new material, in 2008.

July 31 – Daniel’s Kept New Bands Rising From The Ash-es Of Old

Wow, goth’s getting a little long in the tooth! Or is that “fang”? Happy 64th birthday to Daniel Ash, the founder of goth’s godfathers, Bauhaus.

Ash grew up near and was friends with Kevin Haskins and his brother David J in Northhampton, England and had the idea of a band as a teen. When they added in Peter Murphy late in ’78, Bauhaus was born and soon we knew “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”! Although the song is often considered both the epitome of, and beginning of music’s “goth” movement, Ash never liked the term and considered them more of a darkish “Glam Rock” band. Ash was the group’s guitarist and had the goal of making the “guitar not sound like a guitar” and used e-bows and other devices to accomplish that. When Murphy left a few years later, Ash and Haskins formed Tones on Tail then, shortly thereafter, brought David J back into the fold and formed his longest-lasting band, Love & Rockets. Although they called it quits by 2008, he’s kept himself busy.

After a couple of reunions of Bauhaus this century, Ash has toured wtih a group called Poptone, with both Kevin Haskins and the drummer’s daughter, performing tunes of all three bands. He’s put out a handful of solo records, including covers of David Essex’s “Rock On” and the Classics IV “Spooky” and contributed to some movie soundtracks. Most recently, he’s joined Sade’s former bassist, Paul Denman and drummer Bruce Smith (of PIL and other bands) to form Ashes And Diamonds, who plan to put out an album this year. Although flying somewhat under the radar, Dave Navarro picks Ash as a main influence on his guitar-playing, the Red Hot Chili Peppers John Frusciante has also cited Daniel as a major influence on his work, and journalist Todd Thomas considers Ash on a par with Johnny Marr and The Edge, noting his “tone was often bright and brittle to the point of being harsh, his approach was angular”and a direct influence on Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood.

May 29 – Warsaw Of The English Variety

Neither the club nor the band really merited any huge amount of attention on this day back in 1977. The club got torn down not much more than a year later but the band went on to bigger and better. The club was the Electric Circus, a “bleak, rundown and slightly dingy” (in the words of a punk rock historian) nightclub in Manchester, England. It hosted primarily hard rock acts like AC/DC and the Scorpions, but it also had Punk Rock Sundays, no doubt an event of growing popularity in the days following the release of “God Save the Queen”.

The band was Warsaw, making their public debut, opening for up-and-coming The Buzzcocks. Warsaw took their name from David Bowie’s song “Warszawa”, and shortly after, when Stephen Morris took over the drums from Tony Taban, they became Joy Division. The genesis of the band was one year prior when Peter Hook and Bernard Sumner attended a Sex Pistols show in Manchester and decided on the spot they wanted to be in a band themselves. Hook borrowed money from his parents the next day and bought a bass, Sumner quickly got ahold of a guitar and they put an ad up in a store looking for a singer. Ian Curtis answered that and, voila – Warsaw. Later, Joy Division.

The early sound from most accounts was fairly straight-forward ’70s punk; Kevin Cummins of The Guardian was there and said “it wasn’t a great performance… they had the insouciance of young men unable to believe they were on stage.” Two sported tacky moustaches, he added. However, soon they slowed down the tempo, made the arrangements sparser and put more depth into the lyrics and became one of the most seminal bands of the decade, and with Bauhaus, the godfathers of Goth music. Of course, a short three years later, Curtis proved he wasn’t really playing with his lyrics about depression, and commit suicide. The remaining trio carried on, with Morris’ girlfriend Gillian Gilbert added in, and became New Order – a band still going to this day.

May 26 – Goth’s ‘Mission’ary Man

Happy birthday to a musician some might dub “the Gothfather” – Wayne Hussey. The rocker on a mission – and in fact, who more or less is The Mission – turns 63 today.

Hussey grew up in Bristol, England in a Mormon family (which one might imagine made them a rather distinct minority there!). Wayne however cared more for rock music than Utah-based scriptures, and was in particular a fan of T-Rex. He learned guitar while a teen and not long after that joined Dead or Alive. He says of that band’s frontman Pete Burns, “he was a really caustic type, he was cruel at times, but he was funny.” Was Burns afraid of anyone, LouderSound asked him recently. “Pete ran scared of Courtney Love, who was living in Liverpool “ at the time.

Hussey left that group before it hit it big with “You Spin Me Around”, to join industrial-cum-Goth faves the Sisters of Mercy, again playing guitar and adding some backing vocals to the dense mix. He and bassist Craig Adams quit them after the first album and founded their own band, briefly called The Sisterhood, which soon became The Mission. Or as we usually know them over here, The Mission UK. Despite a few breaks here and there, The Mission has been rolling since, with Hussey the main writer, guitarist and lead vocalist as well as the only constant member through the years. While perhaps in North America, Nine Inch Nails might be seen as the flag-bearers for the genre, when it comes to what allmusic refer to as “melodramatic industrial Goth rock”, in Britain, The Mission pretty much set the pace.

The Mission jumped out of the gates pretty well, signing to Mercury Records and opening for both The Cure and Psychedelic Furs in ’86-87. It helped their debut album,God’s Own Medicine, to break into the UK top 20 and go gold there, as well as getting a lot of attention on college radio and in darkened underground clubs over here. He became a father around that time, which perhaps inspired the title and some lyrics on the follow-up, Children, which did even better, making it to #2 in his homeland, and producing the more epic than Gothic single “Tower of Strength.” If the song bears a little resemblance to “Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin, it is no surprise. The record was produced by John Paul Jones (Hussey said he asked Jimmy Page to produce it first, but was told to ‘F*** off’) and when Loudersound suggested that he wanted to be Led Zeppelin at the time, he confirmed “I think that’s accurate.”

Although the band has delivered eight more studio albums since, and scored an American alt rock hit in 1990 with “Deliverance”, their commercial performance dropped off considerably when grunge and Britpop took over the college music scenes on the two continents a few years later. However, they’ve kept busy, still performing live (“Now I take a bit of pride in my performance,” he notes suggesting they’re quite a bit better than they were in concert during their heyday) and when not working with The Mission, Hussey’s issued some solo work, toured as a backing member of The Cure and with Gary Numan and produced some indie artists himself. And more recently, wrote an autobiography, Salad Daze. “When you get drunk, you tell some great stories,” he jokes. Currently he lives with his actress wife in Brazil.

When asked how it feels to be one of the leaders of a musical movement he reflected “it was absolutely exciting (but) nobody at the time thought ‘yeah, we’re gonna look back 30 years in time and think ‘what a great movement!’ And we didn’t christen it ‘Goth’ – it was you lot, the press.” Wonder how Courtney Love feels about being a part of the “grunge” movement?

January 3 – Bauhaus’ Dark Dreams Took Flight

As good a day as any to point to as the beginning of Goth! While Stateside, Rupert Holmes song about pina coladas and cheating spouses was the hottest thing on radio, in Britain, this day in 1980, people were listening to the BBC and the famous John Peel show and on this night, he had on Bauhaus. They played their epic “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” a nine-minute ode to bats, Hollywood’s favorite Dracula and all things dark.

It had been recorded live in one six-hour session by the then-new band about a year earlier and released as a single some months prior, but owing to its odd content, length and tiny label (Small Wonders, a company that operated out of a small record store) which turned out only 5000 copies, it was almost unknown until Peel spun it on air. Quickly it caught on and became an unofficial anthem to dreary kids dressed in black worldwide and lifted Bauhaus to a bigger record deal and some commercial success in the next couple of years with singles like “She’s in Parties” and their version of “Ziggy Stardust,” probably the most successful cover tune of one of his songs.

They split up in 1983, with singer Peter Murphy going on to a fairly successful solo career while the other three, David J, Kevin Haskins and Daniel Ash soon formed the most commercially-successful of the “family” of theirs, Love + Rockets.

October 31 – Well, This Day Is Like Halloween At Least

Time to pull this one out and blow the cobwebs off it, as if there was such a thing as an “anthem” for today, it would surely have to be Ministry‘s 1985 single “(Everyday is) Halloween.”

Perhaps fittingly it’s not necessarily that representative of the band’s output, just like despite the song title, Halloween isn’t that representative of the entire year. Ministry is essentially Chicago-based rocker Al Jourgensen, with an ever-changing lineup of musicians helping him out… since they began in 1981, he’s had 28 different members along with him! Rather like Trent Reznor and his Nine Inch Nails, the band began as close to a solo project making electropop music but quickly morphed into darker, louder industrial music. To date Ministry have put out 14 studio albums, plus a host of different live and remix albums, including one this year under the name Halloween.

The song plays out like a manifesto for fans of the Goth subculture, which not surprisingly is cited by Dave Thompson in his book Alternative Rock as “the anthem of America’s disenfranchised Goth community.” It talks of being misunderstood and dressing differently – “people seem to stop and share, they say ‘why are you dressed like it’s Halloween?/ You look so absurd, you look so obscene’…” . It fit beautifully both lyrically and musically with the kids who dressed all in black and wore white and black makeup. The movement is loosely traced back to Britain in the late-’70s and was quickly elevated to popularity by Siouxshie and the Banshees and Bauhaus.

If the song is an adopted anthem, and its black-lipsticked disciples found it a treat, they still seemed to play a trick on the band. Although the song is wildly popular, it failed to make the charts at all in the U.S., although it did precede Billboard‘s introduction of the Alternative Rock chart, which it may well have made it onto. College radio tended to like it even if it wasn’t the commercial breakthrough Jourgensen had hoped it would be. Ministry had just been dropped from their first label, Arista Records and put this out hoping to lure in interest from other big companies. Perhaps because of that, he seldom plays it live (he apparently has said he “never” played it, but some fans have recordings of him performing back in ’85-86) although he did roll it out again last year for an acoustic version with Dave Navarro on guitar. Like many new wave or post-punk songs in the ’80s however, it did find a home in Toronto on the alt rock station CFNY, where it ranked as their #41 top record of the year in ’85 and then a few years later was voted an astonishing #22 of all-time by their listeners. As well, it’s been on several compilation albums which have fared a bit better than the majority of Ministry ones, including the Art of Darkness and Rhino’s New Wave Halloween, where it sits besides the likes of “The Time Warp” from Rocky Horror and “Pet Semetary” by the Ramones.