1. ‘Ziggy Stardust’ Bauhaus (1982)
Bauhaus released the eerily dark ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ as their first single back in 1979, and it’s often said to be the first ever goth record. However, they were not just about gloom and doom and long-deceased vintage horror film actors. Lead vocalist, Pete Murphy, was always clear that the band looked to early 70s glam as much as the late 70s punk scene and late 1960s garage bands: “I always thought of Bauhaus as the Velvets gone holy, or the Sweet with better haircuts.”
Nowhere is this more evident than on their glorious 1982 cover of David Bowie’s ‘Ziggy Stardust’. As a sixth-former it was constantly on the juke box in our college refectory, so much so that as a teenager I was far more familiar with this raw, thrilling and feedback-laden parcel of joy than Bowie’s original. Just perfection.
2. ‘Dear Prudence’ – Siouxsie and the Banshees (1983)
Formed in London in 1976, Siouxsie and the Banshees were a key part of the emerging punk scene but as punk evolved into post-punk they transformed into something darker, moodier and altogether more interesting. As goth, itself, emerged as a distinct subculture later on in the 1980s, Siouxie and the Banshees were often hailed as key pioneers. They always knew how to turn out a good catchy tune though and were regular fixtures in the Top Forty and frequent visitors to the Top Of The Pops studio. None more so when they decided to cover ‘Dear Prudence’ from the Beatles’ White Album in 1983, taking the wistful, mystical Lennon ballad and reimaging it as a shiny pop classic.
Many times better than the original, the Banshees’ version, in all its jangly gorgeousness went all the way to number 3 in the UK charts in 1983 yet retained enough class and mystique for it never to be regarded as a sell-out. Utterly joyous.
3. ‘Spiritwalker’ – The Cult (1984)
Formed in Bradford in the early 1980s The Cult were previously known as Death Cult, who in turn emerged out of a band called Southern Death Cult. In terms of impeccable doomy, post-punk, dark gothic credentials, so far, so good. Over time, however, particularly when the prospect of success on the other side of the Atlantic beckoned, The Cult reinvented themselves from being cult indie scenesters in the UK to all-out stadium rockers in the US, where the band have been based ever since.
Even in their early days, however, there was always a glimmer of a rock god persona to their music, which belied their indie club roots. Long before producer, Rick Rubin, came in to help reshape the band’s sound for mainstream success, The Cult’s second single, ‘Spiritwalker’, taken from their 1984 debut album demonstrates a clear ability to turn out a great fist-pumping anthem.
4. ‘This Corrosion’ – Sisters of Mercy (1987)
Formed in Leeds in 1980, apart from a couple of year’s hiatus in the mid-80s, the Sisters of Mercy have been a consistent presence on the UK’s goth scene, albeit that in recent decades they’ve concentrated on live performances rather than new releases. The distinctive deep baritone vocal of frontman and only constant member, Andrew Eldritch makes them the ultimate goth band in many ways. But they, too, have released songs that can inspire untrammelled joy.
‘This Corrosion’ is the lead single from the band’s 1987 album, Floodland. The lyrics are a snark at former members, following a split in the band’s ranks. So far, so doom-laden, but we know from when Steve Harley released ‘(Make Me Smile) Come Up And See Me’ on an almost identical premise that songs snarking at former band members can still sound infectiously joyous. With it’s catchy, sing-along chorus and more ‘heys’ in it than the average Glitter Band single, ‘This Corrosion’ is another song to put a smile on your face and reached a well-deserved number 7 in 1987.
5. ‘Friday I’m In Love’ – The Cure (1992)
The Cure were formed in Crawley in 1978, fronted by the irrepressible Robert Smith who has remained their only constant member over the past 45 years. Certainly, both the band’s look and sound was a hit with the uber-cool alternative crowd when I was at sixth form. Smith’s instantly-recognisable look made him the ultimate goth godfather. Over time, however, he began bringing more mainstream pop sensibilities into the band’s music. This reached a pinnacle with ‘Friday I’m In Love’. When it came out in 1992 Smith described it as both a “throw your hands in the air, ‘let’s get happy’-kind of record” and “a very naïve, happy type of pop song.”
Indeed, attending Glastonbury in 2019, when The Cure were headlining, so moved was I by the happy, life-affirming, upbeat nature of this song that I ended up leading off a impromptu mass conga as ‘Friday I’m In Love’ was blasted out from the Pyramid Stage.