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|Address||Meard Street, Soho, London|
The Batcave was a nightclub in London, at Meard Street, Soho. It is considered to be the birthplace of the Southern English goth subculture as it had already been established in Northern England, in particular Leeds Manchester and Belfast. Though when the culture was being developed in the North of England it was commonly known as alternative prior to having been given the goth moniker. As one of the most famous meeting points for early goths, it lent its name to the term Batcaver, used to describe fans of the original gothic rock music, who would adorn themselves in Batwing Coffin necklaces to distinguish themselves from other less prolific goth nightclubs. The term "Batcave" is also still used by Europeans to refer to gothic music with a prominent post-punk sound and spooky atmospheres.
The club opened in July 1982. Originally specialising in New Wave and glam rock, it later focused on gothic rock. Ollie Wisdom, the lead singer in the house band Specimen, ran the club with Specimen's Jon Klein as Art Director, and initially with the assistance of production manager Hugh Jones. Famous regulars at the Batcave included musicians such as Bauhaus, Robert Smith, Siouxsie Sioux, Steve Severin, Foetus, Marc Almond and Nick Cave.
A diverse array of bands would play at the club, alongside 4 hour sets from their resident DJ Hamish MacDonald, with guest DJ upstairs at Leicester Square, Anni Hogan, DJ of pioneer gothic rock nightclub Le Phonographique &(Marc Almond band member). The bands involved included electronic leading act Alien Sex Fiend, the host's band Specimen who took ample influence from 1970s glam rock, Hamish's band Sexbeat, and Sex Gang Children, who would go on to prove influential in the gothic rock, dark cabaret and deathrock movements. The club also showed 8mm movies in the old theatre and occasionally featured unusual cabaret such as Mr. Swing the Fakir. Much of the image and fashion used by the subculture can be traced back to the bands that played at the Batcave.
In 1983, a vinyl record entitled The Batcave: Young Limbs And Numb Hymns was released on the London Records label. The compilation included Specimen ("Dead Mans Autochop"), Sexbeat ("Sexbeat"), Test Dept. ("Shockwork"), Patti Palladin ("The Nuns New Clothes"), James T. Pursey ("Eyes Shine Killidiscope"), Meat of Youth ("Meat of Youth"), Brilliant ("Coming Up For The Downstroke"), Alien Sex Fiend ("R.I.P."), and The Venomettes ("The Dance of Death"). The inside notes:
"Look past the slow black rain of a chill night in Soho; Ignore the lures of a thousand neon fire-flies, fall deft to the sighs of street corner sirens — come walk with me between heaven and hell. Here there is a club lost in its own feverish limbo, where sin becomes salvation and only the dark angels tread. For here is a BATCAVE. This screaming legend of blasphemy, Lechery, and Blood persists in the face of adversity. For some the Batcave has become an icon, but for those that know it is an iconoclast, it is the avenging spirit of nightlife's badlands — its shadow looms large over London's demi-Monde: It is a challenge to the false Idol. It Will Endure."
In terms of modern club culture, the Batcave has to be seen as the root of indie dance music. Its two rules: 'No Funk, No Disco' set it apart from the norm of club music in the early-'80s. It was the first club specifically geared to provide a dance floor for punk, rock, rockabilly, glam, reggae, garage, trash and psychedelia, and was set right in the path of the 'third wave' of punk, the post-Antz tribalism of Southern Death Cult, and the new electronica being embraced by The Cure and New Order. Within months, the DJ setlist was being quoted in The Face and Sounds, and the club began to be the soundtrack to the zeitgeist of the mid-1980s.
In 2008, Specimen played live at a 25th Anniversary Batcave party hosted by Club Antichrist in London. The show was recorded as a live album, Specimen Alive at the Batcave and released on Eyeswideshut/Metropolis Records. In 2009, Specimen's Jonny Slut and Jon Klein appeared at New York's Fashion Institute of Technology following the exhibition 'Gothic Dark Glamour', which featured Jon Klein's 1983 'Pigeon Shit' DIY stage outfit alongside high fashion designers such as Christian Dior and Alexander McQueen. The Fashion Symposium acknowledged the Batcave as a major influence on current high fashion.
In popular culture
The river goes where the water flows
But no one knows when the Batcave closed
- Moloney, Eugene (16 December 1983). "The Irish News". Belfast Underground Clubs. The Irish News Ltd.
- Lowey, Nick. In The Batcave With Mr & Mrs Fiend: Alien Sex Fiend On Goth & Marriage TheQuietus.com. 8 September 2010