Specimen - Bending genders for Art.

Specimen – Live At Paris Theatre, London – 1983 – Past Daily Soundbooth

Specimen – Bending genders for Art.

Specimen – Live At Paris Theatre – November 19, 1983 – BBC Radio 1 In Concert Series – BBC Radio 1 –

Specimen in concert tonight. Considered one of the pioneers of Goth, who did their level best to mix things up quite a bit – outrage, blending and bending of genders, perfecting Deathhawk hair, weaving in and out of Punk, post-Punk, dabbling in Blitz and generally taking the 80s on a ride through Mayhem City and back.

They were the ones. You can point to pictures of Olli Wisdom and gasp “That’s IT!” and a whole subculture of music and night-people appeared in front of you. This was the antithesis of Punk – leaning more on Glam for its direction and homage.
It was, to be honest, a somewhat limited genre – only in the sense that it wasn’t easy to pull off. There were a few bands who could bend genders seamlessly and match stylistic presence but not many. Siouxsie and The Banshees is probably the most notable and ironically, Specimen guitarist Jon Klein wound up working with Siouxsie after Specimen’s demise.

The band was formed in 1981 in Bristol, England by vocalist Olli Wisdom with guitarists Jon Klein (from Europeans) and Kevin Mills (from the X-Certs). Their first show was at a street party celebrating the wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer. In 1982, the band relocated to Soho, London, where Wisdom founded the infamous Batcave weekly club-night. Ian Astbury described the band’s unique hybrid of punk and glam: “Specimen were very dark, but they were as much German as they were The Addams Family. They were like a Death Bowie.”

When approached by Wisdom and asked to join Specimen, original keyboardist Jonny Slut initially declined because he could not play any instruments. Wisdom insisted and Slut eventually learned to play the keyboard by utilizing guiding stickers. Sporting what would become known as deathhawk hair, Jonny Slut proved no less photogenic than frontman Olli himself in mascara and black lace.

While the band were together, they never released a full album, only singles and a mini album. However, in 1997, two full-length compilations were released featuring various Specimen songs. In 1985, the original Specimen lineup broke up after the release of the Sharp Teeth Pretty Teeth single. Olli Wisdom moved to San Francisco, and formed a short-lived American version of Specimen. He would later go on to produce psychedelic trance music under the name Space Tribe. Wisdom died in August 2021.

To get an idea of where Goth was coming from and how it was starting, here is a set performed by Specimen and recorded fora BBC Radio 1 and their In Concert series.

Or if you prefer:

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