A Brief Histroy of Goth
1979-2002


My Summary of Goth

Hippies tried to change society, Punks tried to destroy it; Goths turned their backs on it.
Note: I have been reliably informed by some of my more studious associates that some of the information in this page is "bollocks". At first I thought that they were merely fools attempting to rain on my rather splendid parade, however having reviewed the data myself 12 months on I am forced to concur and am therefore working on a new page that will be presented to you shortly.

Origins of Goth

The Album 'Closer' - Joy Division Arguably, the first groups to produce music that could be construed as "gothic" we re the punk bands Joy Division in 1979 with the singles "Transmission" and "She's lost control" and Siouxsie and the Banshees with their Kaleidoscope Album in 1980. These songs used dark imagery and depression to create an almost apocalyptic sense of impending tragedy in the listener. Although Joy Division can never really be classified as a goth band, the sound and the attitude that were in evidence here would go on to be the main style used in gothic music. The first recorded use of the term "gothic" to describe the music was Factory Records owner and five star pillock Tony Wilson on BBC Radio in 1979. He was quoted as saying Joy Division's "gothic style is an alternative to the mainstream pop scene", though their producer had deemed the band's music "gothic dance" earlier that year.

Around this time, another punk-influenced band called Throbbing Gristle began producing electronic rock music heavily punctured with machine noises. This band, signed to Industrial records and heavily influenced by Kraftwerk, would be the first in a long line of bands to use the name "Industrial" to describe their music, which at first was not linked to goth in any way. In the Flat Field (1981)

By the end of 1980 Joy Division's singer Ian Curtis had died, the band had changed their name to New Order and they had started to move into pop music. The punk scene was also well and truly buried by this point with the gap it had left filled by the emerging "New Wave" scene. In 1982 a club called The Batcave opened in London. It was begun as an answer to the increasing commercialism of New Romantic, giving to its customers a mixture of old Glam Rock and the new darker post-punk groups. It hosted bands such as UK Decay, Alien Sex Fiend, Sex Gang Children and Southern Death Cult, alongside the first of the true Goth Rock bands - Bauhaus. Along with a changed Siouxsie and contemporaries like The Cramps, Bauhaus had a theatrical but still prevalently hard sound, and the band soon gathered a cult following from the splinters of the punk scene. These included Psychobillies in Britain and Death Rockers in America. The music was now being labelled as "Positive Punk" after an article in NME describing Southern Death Cult. Goth was beginning to gain media coverage but was still to remain an underground phenomenon until a brief period of visibility in the mid-eighties, playing second fiddle to Synth Pop and New Romantic.

The Second Wave of the Goth Rock Scene - 1984-1987

The Sisters of Mercy (1984) In 1983 Bauhaus split up, with lead singer Peter Murphy embarking on a solo career. However the other bands had become firmly established, and alongside the New Romantics and Mods, Goths were becoming a recognized (if not common) sight in the streets of 80s Britain. There was a Goth scene in America as well, fueled by the arrival of the Death Rock band Christian Death, although much of the impetus for this came from the British bands of the time. In 1984, the term "Goth Rock" was being used to describe the early bands, and a second wave of groups emerged. This was spearheaded by The Sisters of Mercy, a band formed in Leeds in 1980. The Sisters were the only group of the second wave to have had a single out before 1983, and although slammed by the media for its similarity to Joy Division, the group went on to release the singles Alice, Kiss the Carpet and Temple of Love before signing a major record deal. Despite the generously sized ego of the lead singer, and various reshuffles in the lineup, they recorded three successful albums before disappearing into obscurity. The other bands of the time, including The Fields of the Nephelim, Clan of Xymox and The Chameleons all built the foundations of todays Goth culture.

Goth Music and Politics

The music was reflecting an escapism that the youth of the eighties was feeling. Disenchanted with the brash yet impotent statements of punk, and with an increasingly manufactured popular music scene that was going nowhere, the Gothic world was one where the grim reality of Thatcher's Britain didn't matter. Although politics rarely surfaced directly in the music, the dissatisfaction of disempowered youth bubbled under the surface. The exception to this was New Model Army, an openly left-wing punk band whose sound and style somehow fitted into the Goth Rock scene of the time. The band caused a stir by recording the video to their hit 51st State outside the American embassy, after wearing a jacket with "Only stupid bastards take heroin" on Top of the Pops.

The Downward Spiral - Nine Inch Nails (1994) The Fall of Goth Rock and the Industrial Renaissance

With the advent of the American grunge scene at the beginning of the nineties, and an absence of creativity in the now ageing gothic rock scene, Goth had disappeared completely underground by the middle of the nineties. In my opinion the people from the fringe of British and European culture were wooed away by the more glamorous image of the American rock stars, leaving the more subtle and darker music of Goth redundant. But Industrial, which had previously been a fringe European culture affiliated with Goth Rock, was beginning to gain popularity in the form of American bands such as Nine Inch Nails, and the increasingly popular Front 242, a belgian Electronic group. A harder and more underground sound began to gather momentum in the early to mid-nineties, heavily intertwined with American heavy metal. This hybrid sound has gained widespread popularity in the form of bands like Rammstein and Rob Zombie. Goth Rock never entirely disappeared, and more contemporary groups like Suspiria and London After Midnight have ensured that the Goth Scene has stayed (at least in part) true to its roots. Indeed, Goth Clubs in Britain and elsewhere play a large mix of music, from '77 Punk and classic Goth rock, to modern Industrial and the semi-Techno rave music of EBM.

Electronic Body Music (EBM)

Industrial had been taking a distinctly metallic direction until the early to mid-nineties, when a new group of industrial bands branched off from the heavy NIN style formula and began incorporating mainstream Techno and Dance into their music. These bands, including VNV Nation and Covenant, would create an entirely new Goth sound, labelled somewhat pretentiously as "Electronic Body Music". Just as the metal scene was given a new lease of life with Nu-Metal, the Goth scene was reinvented with the concept of Industrial and EBM raves. This new generation of Goths, which is growing in numbers from day to day, has been drawn from the dying rave scene and its members have been dubbed (even more pretentiously) "Cyber Goths". Much of this music has been seen as formulaic and bland, but there has been a considerable amount of creativity and drive in its inception and it has given many of the older Goths a new lease of life. The current Goth scene, which centres around Night Clubs in Britain and continental Europe, consists of a mixture of different people, music and lifestyles which make it one of the most diverse fringe cultures in the western world.

Types of Goth

Although the word Goth has been used to describe people who generally dress in black, there are many different classes of people who carry this title. Most Goths will: There are many other common characteristics in Goths, but they become increasingly boring and tedious to explain. Below is a list of the main kinds of Goths in evidence in the current scene, although many ommissions have been made as new kinds appear all the time, as Goths constantly try to reclassify themselves as better than other Goths.

A Typical Goth (Me)

Goth Music

Since its inception twenty years ago, Goth music has consisted of a complete mix of styles and music types. There is no single music type that can be classed as Goth music, but a large variety of types that are all Gothic to one degree or another. Here are some of the main kinds in evidence today. This is a guide only as so much information in the Goth scene is subjective.

The Sisters of Mercy (1985) Suspiria (1997) That concludes my summation of the Goth scene. No doubt any Goth who comes across it will argue with most of it and make up lies to substantiate their disagreement. If anyone has any truthful information that I could add to this then I invite you to sign my guestbook below.



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