The Danse Society are one of my personal favorite post-punk bands who managed to blend synthesizer-heavy sounds into a traditional band format, even pushing the new wave line with 80s-tastic tracks like “Say It Again”. Baby-faced Steve Rawlings (see above) took the helm as vocalist, with his long flowing hair, clusters of earrings, and low, Dave Vanian-esque vocals. But Steve’s voice isn’t the only thing that was similar to Mr. Vanian, frontman of the punk-cum-post-punk band The Damned.
In 1980, the Barnsley band Y? – a pre-Danse Society iteration of the band – was asked to play the second annual Futurama Festival in Leeds, whose slogan was “the world’s first science fiction music festival”. The flyer from the festival boasts an incredible line up of early post-punk and industrial bands such as Soft Cell, Modern English, U2, Clock DVA and Echo and the Bunnymen with Gary Glitter and Siouxsie and the Banshees as the headliners.
Even though the band Y? was asked to perform (seen in the left column), they coalesced with the band Lips-X before the festival and changed their name to Danse Crazy (which you can see painted on the backdrop in the video). Luckily enough, the Futurama Festival was filmed for the BBC so there is evidence of this early interpretation of the band. Placed between U2 and Soft Cell in the Saturday line-up, Danse Crazy performed their song “Sink”, a precursor to the familiar Danse Society sound. But what is most peculiar is a very young Steve Rawlings.
Steve’s outfit of a ruffled shirt and a Dracula cape with a tall, scalloped collar fits nicely with his white face, death brows, contoured cheekbones and black lips. To be honest, I was a skeptic when I first saw the footage of “Sink”, wondering what this young Byronic vamp did to Steve Rawlings. Despite the higher pitched voice and the proto-goth getup, there is no doubt it is Steve who had adopted the Dave Vanian aesthetic before it became a standard “goth” look a couple years later.
In between the Futurama Festival and the broadcasting of it on BBC, Danse Crazy changed their name to Danse Society. Even though the song “Sink” was never recorded, the performance is an indicator to the post-punk synthesizer sound of the band’s first 12″ single “Clock” in 1981. But alas, I’ve yet to uncover more footage or images of proto-goth Steve Rawlings – or the entire BBC recording of the festival, for that matter.
Watch the Danse Crazy performance here:
Thanks to the official Danse Society YouTube.
– Andi Harriman