A GUEST POSTING by flimflamfan
If the internet is to believed, the term Gothic Rock was coined in 1967, when John Stickney reviewed a Doors gig. Some claim that what we now know as Goth began in the late 1970s, in the UK. Others claim the roots of Goth lie in the early 80s burgeoning into a full-on scene in mid-80s – my view is more aligned to this but I don’t know enough to dispute any other view.
Like most scenes the music press garlanded this new scene only to pillory it later. Unfortunately, the scene itself, bathed knowingly in the cold blood of parody. On occasion some of the bands did dress and behave in a quite ridiculous fashion which detracted from some of the exceptional music being made.
I don’t pretend to be a Goth aficionado, but on the whole, I’d say that it’s a genre that I enjoyed. Some of my choices may be arguable, terribly obvious or possibly a tad pompous. This is intended as a flavour of Goth in no particular chronological order and definitely not sequenced – that’d take me ages.
I’ll begin where Goth entered my life (although, at this time, I’d never heard the term Goth). Hello, Dead or Alive.
I was a pain in the arse fan of Dead or Alive. The first I heard of them was the It’s Been Hours Now e.p. and I devoured all that came before and some that came after. The e.p. remains a firm favourite of mine. With a front man like Burns and the musicianship of Hussey (he’ll appear again, obviously) Dead or Alive, at this point owned Goth (all other opinions accepted). While there are several tracks that could feature here I have chosen I’m Falling.
Dead or Alive – I’m Falling (1980)
Before Cocteau Twins became synonymous with Indie, Shoegaze, Ethereal Pop, Ambient or whatever other inappropriate descriptor that was thrown in their direction they were a punk/new wave band and some will argue a Goth band – for a time. They are a band I love and I was shocked to learn that this year is 26 years on from the release of the LP Milk and Kisses. Choosing a song to add here has not been an easy task. I eventually whittled it down to two: Hazel and Perhaps Some Other Aeon. In the end I plummeted for the latter as it continues to strike me as odd that this magnificent song was initially only released on a Japanese CD reissue of Garlands (1987).
I have no clear idea where I first heard Red Lorry Yellow Lorry’s Walking On Your Hands (I suspect a short-lived club night at Rooftops on Sauchiehall Street in the centre of Glasgow but can’t be sure). However, I knew instantly that I had to dance to it. It was one of the few songs played at a Goth disco that really animated some of those dancing – the speed of that floor-face pacing, exhilarating. I can smell the dry-ice now.
A truly exceptional, pulsing, pop song.
Specimen band members ran the Batcave (a London club night, 1982). Bands that would appear there included Sex Gang Children and Alien Sex Fiend. Batcave was a place to be seen much like other scene clubs before it. Wikipedia informs us that regulars included: Nick Cave, Robert Smith, Siouxsie, Steven Severin, Bauhaus and Marc Almond.
I first encountered Specimen via children’s tv show (I still have the performance on VHS), the internet informs me the shows was called No. 73 with Specimen appearing on June 30th (1984) to perform the song below and Sharp Teeth Pretty Teeth.
I can’t say Lovers is one of the greatest songs in the world but I often think the bands place in history has often been overlooked or hastily papered-over in favour of their involvement with Batcave. Strange thing here is I’d describe Specimen as Goth-Glam-Rock. They really did like to ‘ham’ it up.
Specimen – Lovers (1983)
Come the late 80s/early 90s change was afoot in Goth-world at Glasgow’s premier Goth-haunt The Tech (Glasgow Caledonian University Student Union, as was).
Juliette was an aptly-named and rather attractive, young goth who was more than a little acquainted with white face make-up. She was on the periphery on my wee group (as I was on hers) but we got along rather well and were known to enjoy the Goth-shoe-shuffle together on more than one occasion. Imagine my smile when I see Juliette catch my eye just as the intro to The Cure’s Boys Don’t Cry begins.
We move towards each other from opposite sides of the dance floor. As we move closer – our heads floor-bound – there they were … a blimmin’ over-sized pair of trainers adorning her small feet. They looked like clown-shoes and cartoony on her petite frame. We danced – the trainers syncopating in and out of view – mesmerising. The song ended but I had to ask … “why are you wearing those trainers?” Apparently, Robert Smith had recently posed for a well-known music weekly wearing an over-sized, poorly-laced pair of pumps. As a consequence, trainers in Goth-world – were now ‘in’. Goth had, to my mind, a rather uncompromising uniform and this new-fangled change marked what I describe as the decline in Goth. When counter-culture embraces the mainstream it rarely works out well. Silly? Perhaps?
The Cure – Boys Don’t Cry (1979)
It would be just too obvious to add Bauhaus’s Bela Lugosi’s Dead, wouldn’t it? It’s a song I’m extremely fond of and one I danced to whenever I got the opportunity. This was hardcore Goth-dancing that was akin to Dynamation at it’s jittery, stop-motion best. The place to dance to this was Delirium 7 (Rooftops) and a short-lived Sunday night goth-night that also operated on Sunday nights at The Cathouse. The dance floor at Rooftops is small and the back of the wall was mirrored. Those pesky goths draped a black curtain over the mirrored wall to make the place seem more dank – if you’ve ever been to Rooftops you’ll know it was dank enough to begin with. A friend and I took great pleasure in pulling the curtain aside, on occasion, as the disco-lights reflected and caught the dancing goths like vampires in the sunlight. It was very childish of us. I’d do it again.
It was at Delirium 7 that, I requested and had my first dance to, Lagartija Nick. It was an exhilarating experience. The dance-floor was full with what seemed like cocaine-fueled Goths abandoning the cooler-than-thou aloof personas for a good old, invigorating dance – like Psychobillies slamming without the Psychobillies, or the slamming.
Bauhaus – Lagartija Nick (1982)
I know very little about Macrch Violets but I do know that many felt rather precious about the band. The first and second singles were released on Eldritch’s Merciful Release label before seemingly setting up their own label, Rebirth. Religious As Hell is the song I probably know the best but the one I’d dance to more is Walk Into The Sun. There’s a palpable indie-twee feel to this which is why I favour it.
One of my favourite bands of all time – Dead Can Dance. I care not a jot as to the many descriptors flung hastily in their direction – the music speaks for itself. I’d be an arse if I said baroque, so baroque it is – for now. My first purchase was the LP Spleen and Ideal and what a delight it is. I never thought of the band as Goth so was surprised when out one evening to hear Avatar belting out over the dancefloor. The dancefloor was sparsely populated but I did my best to fill it up – with my well-practiced Goth-walk.
Fast forward to 1993. I had just met my beau (aye, he’s still here) and we decided to take a wee trip to a small town in Ireland, Bundoran. As you do on holiday – we visited another town close-by – the more well-known, Sligo. As we casually sauntered down one of the main streets I stopped in my tracks.
Above us, across the entire street, was a banner with the art work for Dead Can Dance’s Labyrinth LP informing locals the band would be playing, in what I recall as a local warehouse. I scanned. I scanned. I hurriedly scanned the dates. I yelped, loudly. We’d still be in the area. Immediately a hunt was on to find out where we could get tickets. Tickets bought. Just before the band took the stage an announcement was made informing patrons that smoking was not allowed and photos were prohibited – both negatively affecting the experience the band wished to provide. Could it get any better? Oh, it did. It did. It. It did. I was my usual emotional mess and when the gig ended I was exhausted – in the best possible way. As the crowd began to shuffle the announcer returned “the band would like to invite you to an after-show party”. What, eh? “Will someone please pick me up from this floor!” We went. The band mingled. Way more gregarious than I had ever thought. I stood in what I kid you not was a nook – a small shallow kind of doorway – watching. My partner, new to me, said “why don’t you go say hello.” Clearly, he had a lot to learn. I continued watching, soaking the whole night in. One of the best nights of my life.
Dead Can Dance – Avatar (1985)
Unfortunately, for Fields of the Nephilim, they were drowned in negative reviews purely because of how they chose to look rather than the music they released. I believe they were unfairly maligned and an absolutely great band. Apart from the first single I think I have everything else on vinyl. Choosing a song has been difficult. Power was the first I was aware of and in terms of club nights Blue Water, Psychonaut were featured regularly to say nothing of LP tracks. However, I’m going to choose Preacher Man as the track that best fits here. I have so many fond memories of dancing to this very popular dance-floor-filler with folks who’s faces I can see now but have no idea how they are, or where they are.
Shelleyan Orphan were what I describe as niche-goth and very much on the outskirts of the scene. They have been described as Baroque-Goth-Folk. I think it’s fair to say that musically they orbited the sphere of All About Eve. On this track this vocal is much more akin to Harriet Wheeler (The Sundays) – never, ever a bad thing – and Everything But The Girl.
Strange thing about Polaricht by Xmal Deutschland. On first hearing it I thought it was a Siouxsie and the Banshees track that I hadn’t heard before – which at that time would have been most odd. A cracker to dance to and a superb introduction to the band. Had I not chosen Xmal Deutschland I would have chosen Clan of Xymox, Moscoviet Mosquito. It’s the only track I own by the band – appearing on the 4AD compilation Lonely As An Eyesore.
Xmal Deutschland – Polaricht (1987)
As JC recently posted This Corrosion – the impetus for this piece – it does make life a little easier in choosing a song by The Sisters of Mercy. Often regarded as ‘the’ Goth band The Sisters of Mercy captured and expertly exploited the scene. Later they attempted to distance themselves from it but I don’t believe anyone was having any of that. Again, I whittled this down to two songs Temple of Love and Alice. I opted for Alice as it too is a superb song to dance to. I feel guilty leaving Temple of Love on the shelf – it’s a cracker.
The Sisters of Mercy paved way for Wayne Hussey’s The Mission and brought greater prominence to The Gun Club with the addition of Patricia Morrison to the Sister’s ranks.
The Sisters of Mercy – Alice (1982)
As interest in all things Goth seemed to wane, in terms of a vibrant scene, a new scene was kicking and shouting to be heard – Industrial. Industrial cut its teeth in Goth clubs and Goths (well, some Goths) really took to it. The most prominent Industrial band at that time was Ministry in conjunction with alt. metal band Body Count. Goth clubs could no longer survive by playing the old favourites although some did attempt to fly the ‘true’ Goth flag, for a while. Now, such clubs would probably be full with nostalgia seekers and new-blood Goths.
Spearheading the change in electronica and what it termed ‘Electric Body Music’ was Front 242. It’s double a-side single Headhunter/Welcome to Paradise was a weekly staple of any Goth club night I attended – both sides of the single. I love it. Absolutely love it.
Bands loved by many but not by me: Virgin Prunes, Christian Death, The Mission, Ghost Dance, Inkubus Sukkubus, Skeletal Family, Lords of the New Church etc…
An argument to be had here is that the songs chosen above don’t accurately represent the breadth of the Goth scene. I’d agree with that. These songs/bands represent a small fraction of the bands involved in the scene and act as more of a personalised taster rather than a definition.
Accidentally, I chose 13 songs. The dark-force is strong in this one …