Goth So White?
Black representation in the Post-Punk scene
Before post-punk and Goth in the early days of Punk, British film director, DJ and musician Don Letts pretty much ran the scene at The Roxy in London, spinning primarily reggae and ska music to patrons of all colours. with some of the white boys in the scene calling themselves skin and suedeheads before racist’s co opted the terms, which is showcased in the work of The Beat, and The Specials.
Even before that, there were proto-punk groups, such as Thin Lizzy, and Death, and later during the hardcore scene in DC there is the first band most people think of when it comes to black presentation and Punk: Bad Brains.
One would be gravely mistaken to think that there is no black representation in the fundamental part of Punk’s history. To illustrate this fact, all one need do is take a look at photographer Michael Putland’s 1980 portrait ‘Ladies Tea Party’ that features Pauline Black, and Poly Styrene, along with Debbie Harry, Viv Albertine, and Siouxsie Sioux, and Chrissie Hynde.
But what about Post-Punk and Goth? Some people assume there is no representation in the scene at all, and that the scene is primarily Caucasian—with some Latin and Asian representation as Goth and Post-Punk have been historically popular in countries such as China, Japan, Mexico, and Chile, for example.
Certainly there were black post-punk fans hanging out at clubs such as Danceteria in NYC, or The Batcave in London, and if you were to head over to those cities now, you would likely find representation across several generations of fans.
Perhaps in the past, if you were to ask some Goth and Post-Punk fans if they have ever heard a black singer be spun at a club they frequent, 20 ago years they might list the song from the Silence of the Lambs’s soundtrack, Goodbye Horses by Q Lazarus, or maybe the theme to The Neverending Story, where singer Beth Anderson has her duet with Limahl from Kajagoogoo.
Now, in this past decade, we have been lucky to have had two projects that were extremely popular on dancefloors from Berlin to Los Angeles in the music of O Children and Light Asylum. In fact, their songs Ruins, and Dark Allies were so popular that if you were to go out and dance at your local club, these songs may have been the only ones to remain in your memory in the aftermath of party the next day.
And on that note—let’s not forget She Wants Revenge’s Tear You Apart, which became so popular it was lovingly as overplayed as anything by Bauhaus and Joy Division.
But surely there is more than just three recent bands? And a couple of songs from the soundtracks from a fantasy film and suspense thriller.
To some, it may be easier to look to music that is more New Wave, such as in Simple Minds, Fun Boy Three, Culture Club, and Thompson Twins to find black representation, but is it really so difficult to find it in Goth and Post-Punk?
On January 20th, 2018, the first post-punk single Shot by Both Sides by Magazine turns 40 years old. The track features Barry Adamson on bass. Since black musicians have always pioneered music, Goth and Post-Punk being no exception, we decided to compose a list of poc artists new and old to encourage more diversity in the scene in the musicians whose music we listen to, and the fans who go to concerts, club nights, and festivals.
Read the full feature with videos HERE!