Olli Wisdom in 1982: frontman for his goth band Specimen and the runaway once-a-week success the Batcave. Photo © Shapersofthe80s
❚ A MIGHTY ROW EXPLODED THIS WEEK at Facebook over who “created” the dress-up club-night called the Batcave in London in 1982. Not for the first time, former Blitz Club deejay Rusty Egan has claimed it was himself, but now the influential Batcave deejay Hamish Macdonald has weighed in with his version of its birth. As a Wednesday club-night at Soho’s legendary Gargoyle club, the Batcave was one chapter in the birth of Goth in the UK which had been brewing since 1978.
Egan has been making surprising claims during the past two years in the process of trying to remember and formalise his own pioneering exploits before his wilderness years. Prime among these claims being put about by his PR team is that he “single-handedly changed the course of music” in the post-punk vacuum, which seems implausible given that the mighty upheaval that reformed the UK’s music and fashion industries as the Eighties dawned was all too conspicuously driven by collaboration among restless young entrepreneurs and style-leaders.
I raised an eyebrow on 25 February when Egan claimed at Facebook that he (using the Royal We) “started the club” – specifically the Batcave night – and again on 26 March when he even claimed “I signed Specimen and started Batcave”. I asked him how he explained that? Egan replied: “I signed Ollie Wisdom (Specimen) and to finance the band I introduced them to a club they added Hamish Macdonald. We recorded the Batcave Album at Trident.” (Any mis-spellings are Egan’s.)
A couple of months later, on 1 July, Egan posted another claim using the Royal We about “creating The Batcave”. So I challenged this by commenting on his post: “That’s not what Hugh Jones told a Goth seminar at the Brighton Fringe Festival recently. He very clearly claimed to have ‘created’ and actively run the Batcave from the day it opened in 1982.”
The festival event titled The Gothic in Music on 29 May featured an erudite illustrated lecture by musician Ian Trice on the origins of the words Gothic and of Goth in particular from Screaming Lord Sutch in 1963 via Bauhaus’s Year Zero of Goth in 1979, and Siouxsie Sioux as Queen of Goth from 1980, plus the “Goth-glam” of the Batcave which “gave a focus for the scene” to its end in about 1987 in the face of the emerging “grebo” scene. Events manager Jones spoke in the panel discussion that followed and later made clear that even the presence of Olli Wisdom, the black-lace-clad frontman of the Batcave house-band Specimen, emerged only after his club-night had been running and showcasing new rock bands for about three months.
The Gothic in Music debate at Brighton Festival, May 2019, L-R: Simon Price, Rose McDowall, plus Batcavers Hugh Jones, Jon Klein, and Jonny Slut. They discussed the opening night of the Batcave in 1982. (Photo © Shapersofthe80s)
This week, however, the same Facebook post burst into flame when the respected Batcave deejay Hamish Macdonald waded in to demolish Egan’s remarks in great detail. He was applauded by Olli Wisdom and other commenters. All of which suggests that the origins of Goth remain a contested story by those who were among its originators. So if you played a role in the evolution of UK Goth please join the debate at Shapers of the 80s. Here’s what the protagonists have said to each other over the past week. . .
THOSE VERBATIM COMMENTS AT FACEBOOK
❏ Retaining all original wayward spellings and typos
Deejay Rusty Egan before his trademark quilted bedhead
1 JULY 2019
In Blitz Kids page in fb a page that celebrates all things related to the Club. I am reminded by a member of my contribution to music / The Blitz / Visage/ Skids/ Ronny/ Rich Kids/ The Senate / Burundi Black/ Madonna/ Nona Hendryx / Twilight Zone / Club for Heroes/ Camden Palace / loads of bands promoting Depeche Mode Soft Cell / Remixing U2 B-Movie -Space – Signing Johnny Hates Jazz – Specimen and with them creating The Batcave too many musical relationships and many many more up to 1990 when I opened Embargo or was that all not reported ?
David Johnson There you go again, Rusty, claiming to have “created” the Batcave. That’s not what Hugh Jones told a Goth seminar at the Brighton Fringe Festival recently. He very clearly claimed to have “created” and actively run the Batcave from the moment it opened in 1982. 4 JULY
Rusty Egan David Johnson who is Hugh Jones? Did he pay for it? The album ? Sigh Specimen? Fund it through the club ? Promote tbe club with flyers or did he work for the venue? Sorry but We financed it from Trident Studios while i signed the bands. 9 JULY
David Johnson Rusty Egan – He wasn’t talking about an album or a band. But running a new club called the Batcave. 10 JULY
Rusty Egan David Johnson Set up and financed by the record label publishers who gave the club the support they needed. I said it would be packed in 4 weeks and we promoted it from my office.Sorry but my office Ran the Camden Palace bookings and djs and music and PR we did not take out the empty bottles. I was also partners with Kevin Millins He ran Heaven Tuesdays and Thursdays and was the most innovative promoter I knew. We lasted till The Playground at The Lyceum that club said Steve and Rusty but it was in fact Rusty and Kevin, Steve showed up . 14 JULY
David Johnson Rusty Egan – You have become the Boris Johnson of pop, all bluster and blather about everything else but answering the question. You have claimed the word “created” about your role in the Batcave three times in recent months and yet now you bang on instead about “promoting”. What you and Strange initiated with the Blitz was the club-night run on DIY energy as a private party that needed no hoards of cash to promote, only word of mouth, so why was so much dosh from your promotions agency required to launch a Batcave? We all know that someone else “created” the Batcave without a hint of goth as probably the only London club staging indie rock bands, as opposed to dance music. Specimen and gothic black lace only emerged later. 15 JULY
Rusty Egan Then i did a good job. We financed it and the band and the album and the old Compton street flat and let that mouthy bitch Steve Severins GF do wtf she wanted. I never wanted any credit and i played the same records at Trash Tuesday’s at Camden Palace. We needed The Specimen on top and it helped financialy as i had Chiefs of Relief as well. The club was not my interest we got the album in Sire with our other bands we punished soft cell b movie six sed red etc. You were all excellent and i have spent my life finding talent and putting them together. 10 JULY
Olli Wisdom Rusty Egan complete bullshit
Throwing down a gauntlet: deejay Hamish Macdonald with evil doll baby, at the Batcave 1983
Hamish Macdonald I’m very confused! I was the DJ at the Batcave, saw it rise, was fired before it sank, but Specimen ran the Batcave. Jon Klein, Sophie Sexbeat, Johnny Jonny Melton Slut created the look and I helped develop the sound of one generation into the sound of the next, creating the alternative dance floor for a new generation.
This was reinforced by DJing for John Curd’s gigs (Ants, Bow Wow Wow, Cramps, PIL, Killing Joke, Southern Death Cult, UK Decay, Sex Gang Children, Bauhaus, Meteors, Dead Kennedys, Sisters of Mercy, Gun Club, Yellowman, 999, UK Subs, Richard Hell, Johnny Thunders…. etc, etc) and making and selling badges for most of the independent bands and labels. I saw that generation come into being and I don’t remember anyone being the “creator”, other than those who turned up every Wednesday night and ran it like Harvey Birrell and Ross Malyon and Buda Ian Carpenter who helped decorate it with Olly and Jon and various Specimen family and crew – Flynn, Lucy Roachclip, Kevin Mills et al.
Anni Anni Hogan joined to play upstairs in Leicester Square and drivers and crew like Christine, Anna, Jos Grain (Pork Helmets) played their part, Hugh Jones acted as some sort of weird PA but no one created the Batcave other than Jon and Olly; and even that was basically finding the venue, daubing on the decor and publicising the night. I played the music and people came back… again and again… and more.
Check this review from a goth website: Hamish was the DJ at the infamous Batcave Club 1982-1984, birthplace of goth, industrial, fetish and death rock, and formed Sexbeat, almost as a statement of celebration of a new culture, in those halcyon days of the post-punk club scene. The insanity of who would regularly attend this now legendary club is reflected in the song’s lyric, for the Batcave would let anyone in – as a reproof to the snobbery of the chic clubs that had traded off the back of the “new romantic” movement, and who would regularly refuse entry to those deemed unworthy, purely because of what they were wearing or looked like.
The Batcave knew no bounds, even morally, and touched base with psychobilly sensitivities, Cure fetishists, Japanese voyeurs, S and M, electronic sweat, Banshee voodoo, punk sex, suicide, necrophilia and narcotics.
BATCAVE OLDIE: Oh, another thing about the music. It was actually much more diverse than you would expect. It wasn’t all Siouxie, Bauhaus, Alien Sex Fiend and Flesh for Lulu. The night usually started with some dub reggae with a rasta guy toasting over it. Toasting was a precursor to rap if you’re not familiar with it. There would also be some early Prince, Grandmaster Flash, Bowie, and a little old school Glam Rock. 11 JULY
Sophie Chery Hamish Macdonald well done Hamish, I think Rusty has hit early senility…. 11 JULY
Rusty Egan Rusty is not senile Rusty signed and paid for everything. Simple So you are saying IF I did not sign the band , Record Kiss Kiss Bang Bang , Get Sire USA over to see them and set them up in my office , make the BATCAVE ALBUM then they would have done it all themselves? Don’t ****ing insult me over history. I know what i did , I know what i paid for and I know my return was Sweet FA. If Ollie and John had not met me I am sure they would have still made some records on their own label and they might have got the club together. I had 1500 in Camden 3 nights a week , why would i give a **** about Meard Steet , It was the music and the band that I was interested in not The Club. You can’t now claim I had **** all to do with it. Nice guy or what I left the ****ing Blitz Kids Group because of A******s. I know what i did … and David Johnson can say whatever he wants . he writes I do….. still doing it today , helping artists make music . not a crime is it…………. 13 JULY
Ross Malyon It’s kinda weird, some people claiming a part in the birth of a popular movement. I can confirm that Hamish Macdonald is the one who can attest to saying it like it is. The fact he gives credit where credit is due and does not claim the whole thing as creation must give everyone here a clue as to credentials. I’m confused, Rusty Egan creating the Batcave? Not in my memory. 10 JULY
love it!!!!!! 11 JULY
Rusty Egan Hamish Macdonald i SIGNED YOU and recorded Sexbeat and was a dj 5 years before playing Trash Punk Oh and Produced some records. Hamish I am not saying I was the DJ .Ollie & John had me behind them to open the doors and finance it .You can have the creative dj role and the band but I made the albumand signed the bands and got the club to take on the nights. Its called baking the idea mind you I was still DJing Tuesdays at TRASH and booking the bands. 13 JULY
Olli Wisdom Sorry Rusty but you didn’t start finance or run the Batcave. Distorted memory
Rusty Egan I did 100% . Metropolis Music /Trident Studios yes we did . 13 JULY
➢ Click here to verify all of the above
on Rusty Egan’s page at Facebook
WERE YOU A BATCAVER IN 1982?
❏ Please add your comment in the box below this item if
you too helped create the Batcave
HUGH JONES ON OUTGROWING GOTH:
➢ All about Olli Wisdom and Specimen
➢ Hamish Macdonald at Facebook
➢ Pete Scathe’s definitive website about Goth, with background to the Batcave
➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
My Face cover story about the burgeoning one-nighters at 69 Dean Street – which included the Batcave