In 1982 I went to see three great bands on one night as Theatre Of Hate, UK Decay & The Danse Society came to Gravesend, Woodville Halls. This was a first for me, going to see a live performance of groups that adorned my record collection; and I can’t think of many gigs over the past 32 years where I have been so excited about seeing all acts on the bill.
The Danse Society were the new kids on the block. They had released three singles on their own Society Records including the wonderful Woman’s Own; and later that year would release the excellent six track mini album, Seduction. But like many bands from the 1980s they lost something with the transition from cult ‘indie’ band to signing for a major label, Arista, to becoming an over-produced, polished gem.
Seduction – The Society Collection was originally released in 2001 on Anagram Records & is re-released via Cherry Red Records. It collects the very best of The Danse Society, except maybe for their sublime cover version of The Rolling Stones’ 2,000 Light Years From Home. Tracks from the originally three 12” singles and all six from the mini album are here; along with images of the sleeves from the Society Records period, a complete discography and interesting sleeve notes by Danse Society keyboardist, Lyndon Scarfe, where he recounts how the band lost their way after signing with a major label.
Not having a record player in the house for the past 20 years, it has been more than this since I last heard the original album, and like Lyndon Scarfe in his sleeve notes, wondered what the songs I loved so much as a teenage crimp-haired goth punk would sound like 30 years on. I remember being very disappointed hearing Southern Death Cult many years later and wondered if I would be spoiling some great memories by listening once again to The Danse Society. But as I placed the CD in the player, cranked up the speakers & subwoofer, and pushed play, I was pleasantly surprised at how fresh the music sounded, its powerful production and for one moment my hair was black and spiky and my ripped jeans were tucked into my black motorbike boots. Admittedly, I played safe and skipped to track 5 for a first taster – Woman’s Own. For me, this was one of two songs that perfectly captured everything I loved about The Danse Society. The energy, the rush, the manic tom tom drum roll and throbbing post-punk funky bass driving the song as Steve Rawlings spoken words chanted like a spellbinding mantra. This song had, and still does, everything. One of those classic songs that defies time.
Similarly, the other track I think stood a cut above the rest, both then and now, is Ambition. This plays out the other main ingredient and success of The Danse Society with its atmospheric use of synthesizer and bass, gradually building a dark mood. Tension fills the room, as did the dry ice, before the song erupts with distinctive sounding tribal drum rhythms and throbbing bass.
The Society Collection pleasantly surprised me. Songs from this period of The Danse Society do much more than stand the test of time. They sound powerful and surprisingly, considering the heavy use of synth sounds, ageless. In fact, listening to this CD had me wondering just how The Danse Society didn’t go on to become commercially successful along with the likes of Bauhaus and other members of the crimped-hair brigade.
The Danse Society – Seduction: The Society Collection is released through Cherry Red Records as part of The Goth Collectors Series, which includes the best of Alien Sex Fiend and The Specimen.
The Danse Society performing ‘Ambition’ on BBC’s Riverside (apologies for the poor sound quality)