The Old Goth Whistle Test

By on 11 May 2011

One of the things that led to the so-called “Death” of Goth in the 1990s was the lack of television exposure for the majority of bands. Some groups like The Sisters Of Mercy, The Cure, Rubicon and The Nephilim capitalised on their star status from the previous decade and soldiered on for a few more years with coverage from MTV. But for the most part, Goth bands were to become relegated to special retrospective shows on VH1.

In the 80s though, one of the places that goth bands could get a decent airing was on the BBC’s eclectic live music platform The Old Grey Whistle Test. Bands like Bauhaus, The Cult, The Damned, The Cure, and The Mission and many others found their way onto our television screens and into the pop charts.

But like all good things, The Whistle Test also came to an end leaving only a vast library of tapes in the BBC archive. Luckily though, retrospective programmes over the years have rebroadcast these performances which have then made their way onto the internet. So as World Goth Day 2011 approaches us, we at Dominion thought that we would share some of our favourite goth bands from the OGWT archives with you.

Bauhaus – ‘Ziggy Stardust’ (1982)

Bauhaus’ triumphant cover of David Bowie’s ‘Ziggy Stardust’ was a crossover hit for the band in 1982, and it made for an interesting rendition on the OGWT when Daniel Ash’s amp cuts out midway through the performance. An unintentionally funny moment that maybe should have been left on the cutting room floor?

Siouxsie And The Banshees – ‘Painted Bird’ (1982)

Siouxsie Sioux and her troupe of Banshees also enjoyed a successful year in 1982 with the release of  ‘A Kiss In The Dreamhouse’. Though it wasn’t all plain sailing as guitarist John McGeoch had to bow out due to alcohol problems. The situation was remedied by this appearance on The Whistle Test with help from a certain member of The Cure.

The Sisters Of Mercy – ‘Marian’ (1985)

Andy Eldritch and his Sisters crawled out of the reptile house with their first full-length release ‘First And Last And Always’ in 1985. The album, featuring the anthemic ‘Marian’, is still the international blueprint for gothic rock. And it is easy to see why from this performance.

The Cult – ‘Ressurection Joe’ (1984)

The Cult, formerly Death Cult, formerly Southern Death Cult enjoyed a good year with their debut album ‘Dreamtime’ being well received no doubt in part to the strong lead single ‘Spiritwalker’. By December the leaner, meaner cult were performing their second single ‘Resurrection Joe’ on the Whistle Test.

The Cure – ‘In Between Days’ (1985)

In 1985 The Cure had a new line-up, a new album in ‘The Head On The Door’ and the new single ‘In Between Days’, which enjoyed both top 40 success in the UK as well as making the band’s first minor dent in the US Billboard charts.

The Damned – ‘Shadow Of Love’ (1985)

The Damned had come a long way from their debut single ‘New Rose’ and even their first Whistle Test performance in 1979. By the time of 1985’s ‘Phantasmagoria’ and it’s lead single ‘Shadow Of Love’, The Damned had transcended their punk roots in favour of gothic melodrama.

Dalis Car – ‘His Box’ (1984)

The voice of Bauhaus and the groove of Japan, aka Peter Murphy and the late Mick Karn came together in 1984 for a surreal slice of pop experimentation. The result was Dali’s Car and their only full length album ‘The Waking Hour’ featuring this song performed on The Old Grey Whistle Test in 1984.

The Mission – ‘Severina/Tomorrow Never Knows’ (1987)

The Mission prove that you can’t keep a good goth down in this 1987 whistle test performance of ‘Severina/Tomorrow Never knows’. The Legal wrangling of their separation from Andrew Eldritch now behind them, and a debut album in the form of ‘God’s Own Medicine’ The Mission would soon become one of Goth’s biggest acts.

The Danse Society – ‘Hide’ (1982)

Nowadays The Danse Society are unfairly overlooked by the younger generations of Goths. But this fiery performance of ‘Hide’, the b-side to their December 1982 single ‘Somewhere’, is a glimpse of the true talent behind this band.

The Cocteau Twins – ‘Lorelei’ (1984)

The ethereal trio collectively knows as The Cocteau Twins may have baffled many at the time of this whistle test performance in 1984. But their blueprint would influence many of the ambient and neo-folk bands that would emerge on labels like Projekt records.

About Miranda Yardley

I'm Miranda. Bite me.

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