ebay diary: part five

Week 8: Red Sky at Night, Death In June

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It was one of things you end up at, following links. From Psychic TV, to Coil, to Current 93 via little notes in fanzines, on record sleeves, even a couple of sentences in the NME.

20 years ago, at the ripe old age of 17, I asked the bloke behind the counter of Our Price if I could hear “The Brown Book”, an LP by a band called Death In June which I knew nothing about other than that there was some involvement by David Tibet, Rose McDowell and John Balance.

It sounded fantastic – nice and loud over the shop’s great system and headphones. Dark ballads, weird imagery and simple folky songs. The sleeve gave very little away – a skull and the title of the album. The inserts were seriously weird – some leaflets about occult supplies and some very sinister t-shirts.

The final track on side one was a dreamlike spoken word piece over a soundscape. When it finished I handed over my cash.

Death In June were one of the ultimate bands for fans who like a bit of a treasure hunt. Very few clues were ever given away. At 17, before google or discogs had even been thought of, this was quite exciting.

Putting the pieces of the jigsaw together became my new obsession, but when I saw the finished picture I was older and wiser and didn’t really like what I saw. The skull on the cover was a totenkopf and one of the songs on the album was an acapella of “Horst Wessel”. These were the first steps in the “are they dodgy or aren’t they?” tango that DIJ plays with all their fans. The consensus seems to be that everyone can get off on this elitist/faux-nazi imagery without actually being a fascist.

This flogging of “aesthetic fascism as pornography” is dealt with at length in Stewart Home’s definitive Death In June Not Mysterious.

But there were other things which set me on edge as well. Not least this, from one of the group’s newsletters: “1988 (HH) held such promise but, like the man (AH) has only proved to be treacherous”. The bands which followed in DIJ’s jackbooted footsteps took the uniforms, runes and nudge nudge nazi references several steps further without anyone raising an eyebrow.

Musically, the strummy folkiness lost its appeal when I finally got to hear Nick Drake.

The totenkopf tango continues to this day, with Douglas P (DIJ’s only permanent member) doing very nicely out of the proceeds. Dull. I’ve even grown tired of misguided attempts by anti-fascists to get worked up by the band and its posturing. I take some comfort in the fact that I never felt the need to own a Death In June wristwatch.

I didn’t have enough 12″ envelopes to get rid of my vinyl, but I had managed to keep a book about the group written by a fan, some newsletters, fanzines, etc. I knew this stuff was rare and that there would be an eager audience for it. In some ways this entire ebay exercise felt like handing down this material to a younger generation who may or may not be like I was at 17. Needless to say I had very mixed feelings about this and it was all too easy to feel a bit paternal and worried about people who were buying up all this shit off ebay. But the twin realisations that I wouldn’t have listened to anyone else at 17, and that the 37 year old me wanted cash money, stopped me making an arse out of myself.


Sure enough the book was up to just under 20 quid 2 days into the auction. I also received a number of emails begging me to end the auctions early and sell multiple items off-ebay. The book ended up at £26.00, the newsletters at £16.00, the zines etc between £2 and £12.50. Once again, the majority of this stuff went to one person to the tune of about eighty quid. A good week, all in all.


  1. AFAIK, they just ripped the totenkopf off The Leather Nun’s original t-shirts circa 79/80 – ( http://content.answers.com/main/content/wp/en/8/86/LNlogo2.jpg). Though the Leather Nun were using it in a general mindless biker bad boy way instead of pretending it was a symbol of great power and mystery. Incidentally, I think the Leather Nun fucking rock, there’s few bands from the golden age of Industrial Records who ended up pelvic thrusting to a heavy metal cover of Abba’s “Gimme Gimme Gimme” on Channel 4.

    Aesthetically, my main problems with DIJ have been 1) the vocals mostly suck – like a really, really bad Scott Walker impersonator (Jim Backhouse said that) being filtered through a pregnant cow. THE EUROPEAN BLACKBIRD IS COMING (MOOOO!!!) 2) musically, they just always seemed like a bloodless Joy Division or a less funky Bauhaus (at least ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ and ‘Terror Couple Kill Colonel’ are a bit of fun…)

    Having said that, I do seriously love the drumming on ‘Til the Living Flesh Is Burned’ and genuinely rate “She Said Destroy”

  2. ( I have only posted here about twice, both times under a pseudonym, but John knows who I am anyway! )

    I left punk rock and post punk after the first two PIL records and the first two Killing Joke albums, but I really never liked DIJ — I felt very uncomfortable with their fascist flirtation, but also, it was all done in such an expolitative, kitsch way — I got the impression they knew full well that if they camped it up in the camoflague/ancient Greek masks etc, they’d pull in the “kids” who have always liked an air of threat and amoral gloom, from the days of the first Black Sabbath album to Joy Division.

    After all — If you are a post punk band seriously down on your luck, stuck in a fading genre, then it may have seemed a smart survivial move to DIJ, stuck as they were in their “very small punk band we play RAR for a tenner” category as Crisis.

    Well, either that, or play in pubs to 15 people in studded belts/ripped leather jackets as Crisis, or get an office job or sign on.

    Was that it?

    After a google search about DIJ, I remember ending up on one of those creepy, sleazy right wing sites that leave you feeling dirty. You know the ones — they discuss everything from the supposedly “elevated/intellectual” such as Indo European nobility, mention of Aryans in Hindu scripture, ancient Celtic culture etc, right down to the stinking gutter ( “wogs out”/blacks are genetically inferior” etc ).

    Anyway, there fequently seemed to be long discussions on that kind of board about whether DIJ represented the “higher mysteries” of Aryan power — or whether they were “a bunch of vegetarian old queens” in Nazi drag. I must admit, after seeing a picture of their singer in a jacuzzi, posing in a Nazi helmet with a dagger and a bunch of roses, both categories seemed likely, and if they were making a buck out of that, it seemed pretty shameful and sickening too.

    Mass murder ( as the Nazis went in for ) is not something “cool and mysterious” to play around with — I have no objections to the “tapping” of deeper European sensibilities ( albeit often morbid ones ) that , say, Joy Division/Factory Records went in for ( tapping energies for example, from such sources as Romantic poetry, architecture, Kant’s ideas of the sublime etc ), but — let’s get it straight — a line is crossed ( in my book anyway ) when someone romaticises the impulse behind ignorance and mass murder. C’mon, under the “aestheticism” of the Nazi imagery, uniforms, architecture — Nazis were about mass ignorance and the power of brute force through blood and soil nationalism. To me, there is no way around that, however “interesting” to some their uniforms were.

    By all means, “flirt” with European sensibilities and aestheticism, after all that holds a lot of good points too ( what’s wrong with Schopenhaur , Kant etc ? ) — but I draw the line at blood and soil nationalism. That is serious in my view.

    I felt disquiet about what DIJ were/represent, either in a real, or an expolitative money making sense before that — but felt nauseous after reading the rot on those nazi boards.

    PS. John, did you get my email eventually? I sent it from my hotmail acc just in case, but I’d prefer if you reach me at my Yahoo acc.

  3. I once watched someone who believed themselves to be a genuine neo-nazi encounter a gothlet begarbed with some nazi imagery t-shirt. By the end of the encounter, the gothlet really did have something to be depressed about by having made a meal of his t-shirt and a freshly broken nose as a fashion accessory.

  4. Downpresser’s point is taken — flirt with violent imagery that taps into an unpleasant darkness — then expect a “result.” As I said, I have nothing whatsoever against “flirting” with very European classical imagery. After all, ain’t nothing wrong with Shelley’s metaphysical imagery,Kant, Pre Raphaelites, and even ( dare I say, without sounding a total pseud ) some of Nietzche’s ideas, all of which Factory went in for — but don’t f*** around with images that dealt in mass murder. To me, that’s crossing the line.

  5. P.S. I should also say, to open the debate wider ( if I may ) — I also object to any other musical genre that taps into prejudice — I also object to reggae that taps into a prejudiced form of black nationalism. I was listening to some Tappa Zukie today, an artist I have loved since circa 1976/77/78, but now I find some of the lyrics plain dumb and offensive. See the lyrics from “Ten Against One” —

    ” Black is a colour just like white — but I only think black is more perfect in Jah sight.”

    Give me a break ! I can’t listen to crap like that to be honest, even if people say it was ok within its historical context. Ignorance is ignorance, whatever time or place.

    Thankfully, lyrics that reveal prejudice aren’t that common at all in old school reggae.

    I dunno about “modern” reggae — I never listen to it. ( I’d better watch the latter part of my sentence — don’t wanna kick off a “modern reggae is rubbish” debate! )

  6. I have to agree with Martin: DIJ vocals, particularly on their earlier works, are complete cack … the music’s okay, but the singing is god-awful AND way too high in the mix. Really makes me wonder what was going through the heads of those in the recording studios when these albums were recorded.

  7. Who is something “cool and mysterious” to play around with — you have no objections to the “tapping” of deeper European sensibilities albeit often morbid ones that say Joy Division Factory Records went in for tapping energies for example from such sources as Romantic poetry architecture Kant’s ideas of the sublime etc? I think t — let’s get it straight — a line is a lot of things.

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