The band UK Decay although grounded in punk, developed into a seminal Post–Punk outfit with a global presence – an important early link between the Punk and emerging Gothic subculture.
“No band in the UK deserves more credit than UK DECAY for what they did in the early years of the Goth scene, which may have struggled to expand were it not for their activities, endlessly touring, always helping bands, networking benevolently before networking was a concept. The help they offered other bands was as immense as their inspirational sound.” Mick Mercer
The cult that came before the cult
In December 1982 just a few days before the band split up an article written by journalist Richard North featured in the New Musical Express. The article was titled ‘Luton and Burning’ and in a quite innocuous sort of way the obligatory photo was given the subtitle “The cult that came before the cult”. It’s not known if the reference to the ‘cult’ was anything to do with the Bradford band Southern Death Cult who at the time had only just lost the ‘Southern’ to become plain Death Cult. The Cult without ‘Death’ was still in the future at the time the article was written. In the article which came out prior to Richard’s famous ‘Positive Punk’ feature, he makes references to an emerging new cult of sibling bands to UK Decay’s patronage..
“The band have been working for three years now as the purveyors of a heavy, harsh and sometimes discordant musical style that has suddenly been picked up by the likes of The Sex Gang Children, Danse Society and Ritual and made into a cult.”
Richard was no ordinary wet behind the ears, music journalist, he was of a new breed of street smart hacks that had been well and truly apprenticed in the D.I.Y post punk fanzine culture. He was formerly editor of the ‘Kick’ fanzine and also a founding member of the ‘Positive Punk’ band Brigandage. The music press were at last listening to the criticism’s from the street, Richard had a grip on the emerging scene and so he was employed to write about it.
Back in late 1982 it did feel like there was something new emerging, it could easily have been described as a ‘cult’, perhaps not in the Charles Manson kind of way, but an odd mix of a passionate and positive outlook, juxtaposed with gruesome and occultist imagery. Most of those that were in on the scene in London at that time knew that once UK Decay split up at the end of 82, everything was up for grabs. Members of the band were pretty close to Richard, whom often attended Decays London and Home Counties gigs during 81 and 82 and there had been discussions between them about an emerging scene and possible names for it, it was just plain obvious.
The ‘gothy’ tag had been percolating it’s way out of the dark night and towards the light of day since early Steve Keaton’s UK Decay Sounds article quoting Abbo’s in Brussels “The Face Of Punk Gothique” appeared in early 1981. It wasn’t until later in 83 that the term ‘goth’ emerged and became mainstream but not before the false start name ‘Positive Punk’ coined by Richard made a bold attempt to title the cult. But the sentiment was right and it was the stepping stone, with the new bands, with a new club concept provided by ‘The Batcave’ and with new fashions and styles to match, ‘Goth’ took on the world.
To anyone in the know back in 1981/1982 including journalist’s Richard North, Mick Mercer, Steve Keaton, Johny Waller and with thousands of ‘positive punkers’, and embryonic ‘goths’ there can be absolutely no doubt that UK Decay provided a pivotal and quintessential role in the developmental stages of the new proto-gothic genre.
Don’t let anyone tell you any different, Decay’s split at the end of 82 was akin to a sacrificial event with biblical connotations for the Goth movement. UK Decay simply weren’t around around to counter the critics and the creative historian’s who rearranged ‘goth’ to suit their own likenesses.