“When you want to run
But your legs are numb
And the taste death
Dances on your tongue
Are you scared?”
The goth subculture is a subculture that began in England during the early 1980s, where it developed from the audience of gothic rock, an offshoot of the post-punk genre. The name, goth subculture, derived directly from the music genre. Notable post-punk groups that presaged that genre and helped develop and shape the subculture, include Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joy Division, Bauhaus and The Cure. The goth subculture has survived much longer than others of the same era, and has continued to diversify and spread throughout the world. Its imagery and cultural proclivities indicate influences from 19th-century Gothic literature and gothic horror films. The scene is centered on music festivals, nightclubs and organized meetings, especially in Western Europe.
The goth subculture has associated tastes in music, aesthetics, and fashion. The music preferred by the goth subculture includes a number of different styles, e.g. gothic rock, death rock, post-punk, cold wave, dark wave, and ethereal wave. Styles of dress within the subculture draw on punk, new wave and new romantic fashion as well as fashion of earlier periods such as the Victorian and Edwardian eras (Belle Époque), or combinations of the above. The style usually includes dark attire (often black), pale face makeup and black hair. The subculture continues to draw interest from a large audience decades after its emergence.
Origins and development
Bela Lugosi’s Dead
In 1979, Sounds described Joy Division as “Gothic” and “theatrical”. In February 1980, Melody Maker qualified the same band as “masters of this Gothic gloom”. Critic Jon Savage would later say that their singer Ian Curtis wrote “the definitive Northern Gothic statement”. However, it was not until the early-1980s that gothic rock became a coherent music subgenre within post-punk, and that followers of these bands started to come together as a distinctly recognizable movement. They may have taken the “goth” mantle from a 1981 article published in UK rock weekly Sounds: “The face of Punk Gothique”, written by Steve Keaton. In a text about the audience of UK Decay, Keaton asked: “Could this be the coming of Punk Gothique? With Bauhaus flying in on similar wings could it be the next big thing?” In July 1982, the opening of the Batcave in London’s Soho provided a prominent meeting point for the emerging scene, which would be briefly labelled “positive punk” by the NME in a special issue with a front cover in early 1983. The term “Batcaver” was then used to describe old-school goths. Independent from the British scene, in the late 1970s and early 1980s in California, deathrock developed as a distinct branch of American punk rock, with acts such as Christian Death and 45 Grave.
The bands that defined and embraced the gothic rock genre included Bauhaus, early Adam and the Ants, the Cure, the Birthday Party, Southern Death Cult, Specimen, Sex Gang Children, UK Decay, Virgin Prunes, Killing Joke, and the Damned. Near the peak of this first generation of the gothic scene in 1983, The Face‘s Paul Rambali recalled that there were “several strong Gothic characteristics” in the music of Joy Division. In 1984, Joy Division’s bassist Peter Hook named Play Dead as one of their heirs: “If you listen to a band like Play Dead, who I really like, Joy Division played the same stuff that Play Dead are playing. They’re similar.”
By the mid-1980s, bands began proliferating and became increasingly popular, including the Sisters of Mercy, the Mission, Alien Sex Fiend, the March Violets, Xmal Deutschland, the Membranes, and Fields of Nephilim. Record labels like Factory, 4AD and Beggars Banquet released much of this music in Europe, and through a vibrant import music market in the US, the subculture grew, especially in New York and Los Angeles, California, where many nightclubs featured “gothic/industrial” nights. The popularity of 4AD bands resulted in the creation of a similar US label, Projekt, which produces what was colloquially termed ethereal wave, a subgenre of dark wave music.
Lucretia My Reflection
The 1990s saw further growth for some 1980s bands and the emergence of many new acts, as well as new goth-centric U.S. record labels such as Cleopatra Records, among others. According to Dave Simpson of The Guardian, “in the 90s, goths all but disappeared as dance music became the dominant youth cult”. As a result, the goth “movement went underground and mistaken for cyber goth, Shock rock, Industrial metal, Gothic metal, Medieval folk metal and the latest subgenre, horror punk”. Marilyn Manson was seen as a “goth-shock icon” by Spin.
“1, 2, 3, 4
Fear is waiting at your door
5, 6, 7, 8
Will you take the bait? “