Californian lo-fi indie folk band the Mountain Goats gained some press inches and media hype last year with their single “Andrew Eldritch is moving back to Leeds”, a witty song about the general indifference that would surround the prodigal son’s return to the self-proclaimed capital of the People’s Republic of West Yorkshire. Whilst the song’s central concept is based on a false premise, in that Eldritch has maintained a presence in the Leeds area over the years despite spending much of his time on mainland Europe (primarily in [West] Germany, the Netherlands and Spain according to his own interviews), there was one section of the lyrics (“Guys in Motorhead jackets, Who knew him way back then, Haven’t raised a drink in years, But now meet up again”) which reminded me that goth nostalgia tourism was once a thing in Leeds. Indeed, the very university from which Eldritch dropped out at the turn of the 1980s began to use the city’s “birthplace of goth” image to market itself at impressionable Sixth Formers less than a decade later, and even now I (as no doubt are many others) am occasionally contacted by fans of the band from all over the world who are making a pilgrimage to the city and want to know the best places to visit.
One day in the future, long after Eldritch has shuffled off this mortal coil, the city will belatedly embrace the legacy of a rare creative flourish within the metropolis and will hopefully site “black plaques” on some of the key buildings to help goth tourists eager to spend the “dark pound” in the city to navigate their way around. But until then, hopefully these few annotated aerial photos from the ever-wonderful Google Maps might be of use to some.
Photo 1 – Studentsville
To those who have never lived in Leeds, the northern suburb of Headingly is synonymous with sport, being the home of and giving its name to the back-to-back rugby league (Leeds Rhinos) and cricket (Yorkshire CCC) stadia labelled at the bottom left of the image above. But to Leodensians the suburb and the neighbouring districts of Hyde Park and Burley have in recent generations been first and foremost linked to the city’s transient student population which has colonised the seemingly endless rows of red brick terraced streets originally intended to house the workers from city’s many cotton mills back in the days when the city dominated the British Empire’s rag trade. These streets dominate this aerial image, and one of these, marked at the bottom of the red number 1 on the image, was (and indeed still is) Village Place, a cul-de-sac in the Burley area down towards Kirkstall Abbey, where Eldritch and Marx lived at house number 7 (along with Eldritch’s girlfriend Claire) in the mid-1980s. This unprepossessing house was effectively the headquarters of Merciful Release records, and its address famously featured on the lyric sheet of The Reptile House EP. Gary Marx described the house superbly in Mark Andrews’ piece for The Quietus: “The popular myth appears to be of Hunter S. Thompson taking over Bruce Wayne’s Batcave, with high-tech excess being the order of the day. The curtains downstairs stayed closed at the front of the house all the time, which no doubt gave it the air of a drug-den. The reality was that it was in a quiet street of about 20 houses and our neighbours – Jack and Nora – were people we got on with, amazingly given the racket they had to tolerate.”
(Photo credit - Mike Read)
The house was also the scene of Wayne Hussey’s infamous audition to join the band in October 1983, as humorously recounted in the first volume of his autobiography published in May 2018, Salad Daze. Incidentally, Si Denbigh inherited the house’s sofa (which seems to feature in most stories about 7VP) when Eldritch moved on from the house, and he himself in turn gave it away just a couple of years ago having advertised it on Facebook thus: “This is the sofa that used to reside in 7 Village Place, also known as The Reptile House. Many songs were written upon it, much excess performed, schemes hatched, dark games played, and many a famous arse has sat upon it. At some point I inherited it. This sofa is more gothic than anyone! If it could write a book …A bit of Leeds history”. Hopefully the sofa has been preserved for posterity (although not necessarily, given its condition, for more posteriors), as one wag commented at the time “Ben Gunn is probably still down the back of it.”
Anyone wishing to make a pilgrimage to Village Place from central Leeds could either take a bus up Burley Road or take the train just one stop from the main Leeds railway station on the Harrogate line, alighting at Burley Park station (marked with the British Rail symbol on the Google aerial photo), which is just a few minutes’ walk from 7VP. Incidentally, Wayne Hussey would move into a house directly opposite this station when he himself came through to live in Leeds after the successful audition. Burley Park itself (i.e. the actual park, not the station) is the site of one of the more famous TSOM photoshoots of the Hussey era, when Tony Mottram snapped the group there in full gothed-up hat regalia on a chilly but sunny day, prints of which can still be ordered from the photographer in question.
(12, St John's Terrace - Google Streetview)
Our Sisters tourist could then walk south (although it looks north on this image) past the wonderful contemporary venue The Brudenell Social Club (where Near Meth Experience – who may or may not be relevant to us - played a benefit gig for Si Denbigh a couple of years back) towards Woodhouse Moor, the large park at the top of the image which is effectively the dividing line between residential Headingly/Hyde Park area and the university precinct beyond. No. 2 on our map marks the location of 12, St John’s Terrace, where Eldritch lived before moving to 7VP, much more conveniently situated for the university and indeed the city itself. This address featured on the band’s first promotional demo tape, and Eldritch was based here for the first couple of years of the 1980s. Jon Langford (or The Three Johns, who guested for the band at some live shows in early 1982) recalled in a 2016 interview, “Andy lived in the same street as me…On Bellevue Road.” (St John’s Terrace being one block of large terraced houses on that road).
The other numbers (3, 4 and 5) on the bird's eye view of Leeds' student residential district refer to places either on or in the vicinity of the university campus itself, being St George’s Field, the University Union and the Faversham pub respectively….but these will feature in the second part of our aerial guide to Eldritch’s Leeds.
(Thanks to Mike for sharing the photos of his pilgrimage to 7VP with the 1980-1985 TSOM FB Fan Group, and to Ed, Phil , Bruno, Si, Wayne and others who have helped either willingly or inadvertently with this post.)