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
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.
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
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 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
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:
Dress in black. Only the most pretentious and ironic Goths dress in any other way, althought most Goths will wear silver, white, purple or red on top of black. Sometimes frilly white shirts are worn but this can often lead to fights (though very rarely physical confrontation as most Goths are pussies).
Be pretentious. All Goths are pretentious, they will display contempt for non-Goths, and scorn for other Goths. When they are sat down together they will analyze each other and argue over any issue. Never argue with a Goth.
Have extensive knowledge of computers. Most Goths were once computer geeks and many still are, they may also play Warhammer from time to time.
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.
Trad Goths (or Romantic Goths). Traditional Goth is the name given to the late eighties Goth fashion, and it represents the most popular sect of Goth. Trad Goths will wear more white and purple than other goths, and are sometimes called Romantic Goths because of their blatant plaigerism of the New Romantic scene of the eighties. Music Taste: 80s Goth Rock, New Romantic, Pop-Goth, Darkwave, Synth.
Fetish Goths. The Goth scene has always attracted people with broad sexualities. This category includes the Transvestites, S&M fetishists and just plain freaks who frequent the Goth clubs. Leather and bondage gear are especially popular with Synth and EBM fans. Music Taste: Goth Rock, Synth, EBM.
Punk Goths. For those who have attitude and slightly less intelligence than other Goths, Punk is a natural bed partner (and, perhaps, the only bed partner). They wear less makeup and often have black Mohican haircuts. They are perhaps the closest thing to the original Death Punk/Goths of the early eighties that are around today. Music Taste: Sisters of Mercy, New Model Army, Punk, Heavy Industrial.
Cyber Goths. The new EBM scene has led to the rise of these semi-ravers. They often wear fetish gear and bright flashing lights to annoy the more reserved Goths. They also annoy everyone else. Many have annoying voices, some have annoying haircuts and all of them have annoying faces. Music Taste: EBM, Techno, some Industrial, some Industrial Metal.
Industrial Goths (or Rivetheads or Cyberpunks). These Goths go by different names in different places but are most commonly known as Industrial Goths. They stem from the late eighties industrial scene and have changed little in the last decade. Many of them have headed in the Cyber direction since EBM took over the industrial scene, and they are not as common in Britain any more. Music Taste: Industrial, Industrial Metal, some Goth Rock.
Dinogoths. This group, named by someone who is getting there himself, are the prehistoric Goths who used to roam the nightclubs 64 million years ago. They can still be seen, faces hideously contorted from years of poncing, prowling the dancefloor in a style reminiscent of the Tyranosaurus Rex himself. These are the true Goths from the early eighties who have never grown out of it. Many are still trying to prove to their mothers that its not "just a phase". Music Taste: Mostly a staple diet of Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus, plus other music from that time, however, many have embraced the modern music scene in order to recapture their youth. No comment.
Literary Goths. There are many Goths who don't listen to the music at all, but frequent the nightclubs because they dress in black and have nothing else to do. Many of them read Gothic literature and so I have classified them here as Literary Goths.
Non-Goths. The Heavy Metal scene has been heavily influenced by Goth over the years, as have many rock scenes. Bands like Marilyn Manson and Cradle of Filth use dark imagery and thus have been labelled as Goth. This music however is not Goth, it lacks the subtlety or variety that Goth has, and has a completely independent fanbase. Many people who listen to this music believe that they are Goths, and have been called Goths by others. Music Taste: Dark Metal, Black Metal, Doom Metal, Industrial Metal.
I have labelled these people as Non-Goths, though I have thought of many other labels which were less kind. This is because I am a Goth who gets protective (some would say motherly) about my culture and sees the image I use being misused by others. Although this may be prescriptivist, I will refer you to my home page with the paragraph starting "As you may be able to tell...".
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.
Gothic Rock. This form of music is the one most commonly associated with Goths, being the first form of music to be labelled as such. It includes a wide range of bands from the last twenty years but has been taken over by the electronic music of EBM and Industrial.
Key Bands: Bauhaus, Sisters of Mercy, The Cure, The Cult.
Recent Bands: London After Midnight, The Horatii.
Origins: Started primarily by Joy Division (1979).
Approx Peak: 1983 - 1987.
Influenced by: Punk, Glam.
Influence on: Metal, Industrial, Electronic, Pop.
Industrial. Industrial music represents the heavier and more aggressive side of Goth music. It ranges from the almost-metal of Nine Inch Nails to the almost-pop of Front 242. Although it started at the same time as Joy Division, its popularity did not reach its peak until after 1990.
Key Bands: Nine Inch Nails, Front 242, Throbbing Gristle.
Recent Bands: Front Line Assembly, Skinny Puppy.
Origins: Throbbing Gristle (1979). The name "Industrial" comes from their record label.
Approx Peak: 1987 - 1994.
Influenced by: Punk, Synth Pop, Metal.
Influence on: Metal, Goth Rock.
EBM. By 1996 it seemed that Goth music had finally been overrun by the more popular music scenes in America, when a new wave of European groups began to emerge on the back of Industrial. The underground rave scene, fuelled by the drug Ecstacy, had began to stagnate and its appeal was waning although raves were (and still are) popular. Some of the fringe ravers of this time would meet up with the Rivetheads in America and Europe and create the hybrid sound of EBM. Whether the popularity of EBM continues to grow or whether it becomes another of many of the fads in the Goth scene is yet to be seen, but at present it is perhaps the most popular form of Goth.
Synth Pop. During the peak of Goth in the early 80s, Synth Pop was heavily intertwined with the underworld music scene. Although it cannot be classed as truly Gothic, it has played an important role in the music scene and is still played in the clubs.
Key Bands: Depeche Mode, Soft Cell, Gary Numan, John Foxx.
Origins: Suicide and Kraftwerk (1970s).
Approx Peak: 1981 - 1988.
Influenced by: Disco, Soul, New Romantic, Goth Rock.
Influence on: Goth Rock, Industrial, EBM, Dance Pop.
Darkwave, Coldwave and Dark Ambient. This group is collectively called Darkwave, with separate categories comprising of the more experimental side of Goth. Early darkwave was similar to Goth Rock in that it was mostly guitar driven, but now includes Dark Ambient music which is electronic. This music is much less well known than any of the other forms of music written here, but it has been around almost as long as Goth Rock.
Key Bands: Sol Invictus, Current 93, Nick Cave, Cocteau Twins.
Recent Bands: Diary of Dreams, Die Form, Delerium.
Origins: Goth Rock bands of the early and mid eighties using experimental sounds.
Approx Peak: Not really applicable as experimental Goth has never been overly popular.
Influenced by: Many Sources, esp. Goth Rock, Industrial, Synth, Pop.
Influence on: Goth Rock, Industrial.
Gothic Punk (inc. Death Rock and Death Punk). Just like with Synth Pop, Punk formed an integral part of the Goth scene both in its creation and subsequent establishment. I have put the punk bands that have been associated with Goth over the years in this category, as they will be liked by Goths, yet not broadly classified by the media or those from separate cultures as "Goth Bands". Death Rock and Death Punk were forerunners to Goth in the USA but they made slightly less impact in Europe when they arrived after Goth Rock was already firmly established.
Key Bands: Christian Death, Alien Sex Fiend, New Model Army, Joy Division.
Influenced by: Punk, Glam, Stadium Rock.
Influence on: Goth Rock, Metal.
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.