Thoroughly nasty and a raging success.
“We’re not trying to be nice” (host Oliver Wisdom),
“Fuck off, I don’t need your magazine” (Siouxsie),
“Give us 10p mate and you can take my photo” (guy in gents)
The queue slithered for miles, stud-linked vein of black, leathered and speared, bleached heads that shuttled relentlessly along Meard Street in the rain. All intent on reaching the buzzing electric glow that was the gateway to A Batcave. A scene casting shadows of Dante’s Inferno. But the long wait added to the awe of this dark dominion.
– excerpts from the Danceteria flyer for “The Batcave Club in NYC”
Exactly 33 years ago to the day – and also a Friday the 13th – London’s cesspool of glam-camp-androgynous-horror type post-punk scene invaded NYC’s own 6-floor counterculture club, Danceteria on 21st street. The Batcave, which was opened and operated by Specimen singer Olli Wisdom in June of 1982, transformed the dark movement in the late 70s and early 80s into a trashy, less-serious version of Bauhaus’ and Siouxsie and the Banshees’ vampirish aesthetic. The club was influential in that anyone could come to the Batcave and have a great time – no one was rejected at the door (unlike the exclusivity and pretensions of the Blitz Club). Weirdos and freaks danced together without judgement in the spider web and fog machine filled cavern. Because of its importance to the scene, the Batcave eventually became its own musical style and ignited the first flickering of early goth.
Danceteria was no different in its influence with a burgeoning community of artists and musicians in New York City who fed off each other’s energy and creativity. And in less than a year of the Batcave’s opening, Olli Wisdom and Specimen brought the party to NYC – a brilliant merging of two fashionable, experimental and artistic scenes. And on Friday the 13th of May, Specimen shared the bill with an oft overlooked and under appreciated band: Sexbeat. Luckily, there is footage of Sexbeat’s concert, a 10 minute video of the band performing the songs “Pump” and “Cheshire Cat” to an audience.
Sadly, there is little information on Sexbeat – there’s even less video and photography to document the band’s history in the early 80s. However, their track “Sexbeat” became an anthem for the Batcave community and is also a standard at most proper goth nights nowadays (it also inspired the title for my own book, Some Wear Leather, Some Wear Lace). Found on the 1983 Batcave compilation release Young Limbs and Numb Hymns, “Sexbeat” is the takeaway track on the album – an energetic song about the diverse scene that still rings true today.
Sexbeat never made a penny off it.
Sexbeat singer and guitarist Hamish MacDonald was also the Batcave’s resident DJ. During the Batcave’s takeover of Danceteria, he shared the decks with one of NYC’s most influential DJs, Anita Sarko (who sadly passed away just last year). I was lucky enough to witness DJ Hamish’s set a couple years ago. It was a skillful construction of early 80s post-punk and electronic music – he’s a true talent with an endless catalogue of dance floor tracks. (One can only imagine what it was like to hear his set in the original Batcave.)
Below is the Danceteria footage of Sexbeat 33 years ago today with cameos from Specimen (hello, Johnny Slut!) in the first minute of the video.
– Andi Harriman