I first met Goths in 1982, although I probably thought they were “Punks” at the time… and maybe they did too. Their appearance was dramatic: pale faces, black eye-liner, dark clothes – pre-Raphaelite-witchy-hippy-punks – Laura Ashley’s evil siblings.
One Goth girl, in my English class, seemed to embody Kate Bush’s song Wuthering Heights from 1978: Catherine from Glossop (up on the Moors) was aloof, pre-occupied and disappeared soon after the course started. Apparently she dropped out because she couldn’t stick the tedious bus journey.
Another, Andrea from Failsworth, was Morticia in a mini-skirt. Her long hair was not back-combed, like many people’s, and she always looked as neat as a new pin. Like me, she had been to a comprehensive, so we shared a certain lack of sophistication in our general approach to life, although I deferred to her superior self-assurance. I remember asking her how she could be a Punk and still be so tidy and clean. She patiently explained that her style inspiration came, not from punk bands, but from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which I’d never even heard of.
When I finally managed to see the film, it was like watching Carry On Grease meets The Munsters… subversive yet familiar, weirdly inclusive and up-beat: “Don’t dream it, be it!” Rocky Horror’s camp B-movie obsession was shared by bands at the time like The Cramps and even Bauhaus, but seemed far removed from the bleak introspection of Joy Division, now considered ‘proto-goth’ with the benefit of hindsight.
Though irony seemed crucial to Andrea’s theatrical Goth world, she herself was straight-forward, sunny and not ironic or arch. Her favourite haunt was the newly opened Affleck’s Palace in town. One Wednesday afternoon, we bussed to Piccadilly and she showed me where it was, along Tib Street, and then laughed as I gawped at the confusing array of “stuff”.
The mix was very similar to what you see there today, though the stalls occupied less space and looked more ramshackle. There were posters, second-hand clothes, bags, suitcases and records, independent label clothing, alternative jewellery, punk and pvc clothing, some of which looked like actual bondage gear… It was an abundant hoard of sub-culture consumables for young people… props for assembling new identities in a hurry… particularly useful for students, and there were always lots of those in Manchester.
The Church Street entrance was the front door in 1982 (I think the Oldham Street ‘arcade’ opened later) and the staircase is very much as I remember it. And it still has a Rocky Horror vibe, even now.