ⓘ Goth subculture


ⓘ Goth subculture

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, was 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 Epoque, or combinations of the above. The style usually includes dark attire often black, dark makeup and black hair. The subculture continues to draw interest from a large audience decades after its emergence.


1.1. Music Origins and development

The term "gothic rock" was coined in 1967, by music critic John Stickney to describe a meeting he had with Jim Morrison in a dimly lit wine-cellar which he called "the perfect room to honor the Gothic rock of the Doors". That same year, Velvet Underground with a track like "All Tomorrows Parties", created a kind of "mesmerizing gothic-rock masterpiece" according to music historian Kurt Loder. In 1977, the F Club night in Leeds began, which would be foundational to the development of the goth subculture, due to it leading to the formation of gothic rock band the Sisters of Mercy. In the late 1970s, the "gothic" adjective was used to describe the atmosphere of post-punk bands like Siouxsie and the Banshees, Magazine, and Joy Division. In a live review about a Siouxsie and the Banshees concert in July 1978, critic Nick Kent wrote that concerning their music, "parallels and comparisons can now be drawn with gothic rock architects like the Doors and, certainly, early Velvet Underground". In March 1979, in his review of Magazines second album Secondhand Daylight, Kent noted that there was "a new austere sense of authority" in the music, with a "dank neo-Gothic sound". Later that year, the term was also used by Joy Divisions manager, Tony Wilson on 15 September in an interview for the BBC TV programmes Something Else. Wilson described Joy Division as "gothic" compared to the pop mainstream, right before a live performance of the band. The term was later applied to "newer bands such as Bauhaus who had arrived in the wake of Joy Division and Siouxsie and the Banshees". Bauhauss first single issued in 1979, "Bela Lugosis Dead", is generally credited as the starting point of the gothic rock genre.

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 Londons 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.


1.2. Music Gothic genre

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 Divisions 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. Theyre 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 the 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.

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.


2. Art, historical and cultural influences

The Goth subculture of the 1980s drew inspiration from a variety of sources. Some of them were modern or contemporary, others were centuries-old or ancient. Michael Bibby and Lauren M. E. Goodlad liken the subculture to a bricolage. Among the music subcultures that influenced it were Punk, New wave, and Glam. But it also drew inspiration from B movies, Gothic literature, horror films, vampire cults and traditional mythology. Among the mythologies that proved influential in Goth were Celtic mythology, Christian mythology, Egyptian mythology, and various traditions of Paganism.

The figures that the movement counted among its historic canon of ancestors were equally diverse. They included the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Friedrich Nietzsche 1844‒1900, Comte de Lautreamont 1846‒1870, Salvador Dali 1904‒1989 and Jean-Paul Sartre 1905‒1980. Writers that have had a significant influence on the movement also represent a diverse canon. They include Ann Radcliffe 1764‒1823, John William Polidori 1795‒1821, Edgar Allan Poe 1809‒1849, Sheridan Le Fanu 1814-1873, Bram Stoker 1847‒1912, Oscar Wilde 1854‒1900, H. P. Lovecraft 1890‒1937, Anne Rice 1941‒, William Gibson 1948‒, Ian McEwan 1948‒, Storm Constantine 1956‒, and Poppy Z. Brite 1967‒.


2.1. Art, historical and cultural influences 18th and 19th centuries

Gothic literature is a genre of fiction that combines romance and dark elements to produce mystery, suspense, terror, horror and the supernatural. According to David H. Richter, settings were framed to take place at "…ruinous castles, gloomy churchyards, claustrophobic monasteries, and lonely mountain roads". Typical characters consisted of the cruel parent, sinister priest, courageous victor, and the helpless heroine, along with supernatural figures such as demons, vampires, ghosts, and monsters. Often, the plot focused on characters ill-fated, internally conflicted, and innocently victimized by harassing malicious figures. In addition to the dismal plot focuses, the literary tradition of the gothic was to also focus on individual characters that were gradually going insane.

English author Horace Walpole, with his 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto is one of the first writers who explored this genre. The American Revolutionary War-era "American Gothic" story of the Headless Horseman, immortalized in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" published in 1820 by Washington Irving, marked the arrival in the New World of dark, romantic storytelling. The tale was composed by Irving while he was living in England, and was based on popular tales told by colonial Dutch settlers of the Hudson Valley, New York. The story would be adapted to film in 1922, in 1949 as the animated The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, and again in 1999.

Throughout the evolution of the goth subculture, classic romantic, Gothic and horror literature has played a significant role. E. T. A. Hoffmann 1776–1822, Edgar Allan Poe 1809–1849, Charles Baudelaire 1821–1867, H. P. Lovecraft 1890–1937, and other tragic and romantic writers have become as emblematic of the subculture as the use of dark eyeliner or dressing in black. Baudelaire, in fact, in his preface to Les Fleurs du mal Flowers of Evil penned lines that could serve as a sort of goth malediction:


2.2. Art, historical and cultural influences Visual art influences

The gothic subculture has influenced different artists - not only musicians - but also painters and photographers. In particular their work is based on mystic, morbid and romantic motifs. In photography and painting the spectrum varies from erotic artwork to romantic images of vampires or ghosts. There is a marked preference for dark colours and sentiments, similar to Gothic fiction. At the end of the 19th century, painters like John Everett Millais and John Ruskin invented a new kind of Gothic.


2.3. Art, historical and cultural influences 20th century influences

Some people credit Jalacy "Screamin Jay" Hawkins, perhaps best known for his 1956 song "I Put A Spell On You," as a foundation of modern goth style and music. Some people credit the band Bauhaus first single "Bela Lugosis Dead", released in August 1979, with the start of goth subculture.


2.4. Art, historical and cultural influences 21st century

The British sitcom, The IT Crowd featured a recurring goth character named Richmond Avenal, played by Noel Fielding. Fielding said in an interview that he himself had been a goth at age fifteen and that he had a series of goth girlfriends. This was the first time he dabbled in makeup. Fielding said that he loved his girlfriends dressing him up.


3.1. Characteristics of the scene Icons

Notable examples of goth icons include several bandleaders: Siouxsie Sioux, of Siouxsie and the Banshees; Robert Smith, of The Cure; Peter Murphy, of Bauhaus; Rozz Williams, of Christian Death; Olli Wisdom, leader of the band Specimen and keyboardist Jonathan Melton aka Jonny Slut, who both evolved the Batcave style); Ian Curtis, of Joy Division; and Dave Vanian, of The Damned. Some members of Bauhaus were, themselves, fine art students or active artists. Nick Cave was dubbed as "the grand lord of gothic lushness". Nico is also a notable icon of goth fashion and music, with pioneering records like The Marble Index and Desertshore and the persona she adopted after their release.


3.2. Characteristics of the scene Influences

One female role model is Theda Bara, the 1910s femme fatale known for her dark eyeshadow. In 1977, Karl Lagerfeld hosted the Soiree Moratoire Noir party, specifying "tenue tragique noire absolument obligatoire" black tragic dress absolutely required. The event included elements associated with leatherman style.

African and Caribbean influences on gothic style are often missing from conversations: Jalacy "Screamin Jay" Hawkins used voodoo imagery mixed with "spooky theatrics" to create a unique style, positioning him as one of the first goths. He would often use onstage props that reflected his goth and voodoo style, such as skulls, staffs, candles, tombstones, and bones.

Siouxsie Sioux was particularly influential on the dress style of the Gothic rock scene; Paul Morley of NME described Siouxsie and the Banshees 1980 gig at Futurama: a moral center: neither terrifyingly malevolent supernatural creatures nor like Anne Rices protagonists tortured souls torn between good and evil, these vampires simply add blood-drinking to the amoral panoply of drug abuse, problem drinking and empty sex practiced by their human counterparts", many of these so-called "human counterparts" identified with the teen angst and goth music references therein, keeping the book in print. Upon release of a special 10th anniversary edition of Lost Souls, Publishers Weekly - the same periodical that criticized the novels "amorality" a decade prior - deemed it a "modern horror classic" and acknowledged that Brite established a "cult audience".

Neil Gaimans graphic novel series The Sandman influenced goths with characters like the dark, brooding Dream and his sister Death. The 2002 release 21st Century Goth by Mick Mercer, an author, noted music journalist and leading historian of gothic rock, explored the modern state of the goth scene around the world, including South America, Japan, and mainland Asia. His previous 1997 release, Hex Files: The Goth Bible, similarly took an international look at the subculture.

In the US, Propaganda was a gothic subculture magazine founded in 1982. In Italy, Ver Sacrum covers the Italian goth scene, including fashion, sexuality, music, art and literature. Some magazines, such as the now-defunct Dark Realms and Goth Is Dead included goth fiction and poetry. Other magazines cover fashion e.g., Gothic Beauty; music e.g., Severance or culture and lifestyle e.g., Althaus e-zine.

31 October 2011 ECW Press published the Encyclopedia Gothica written by author and poet Liisa Ladouceur with illustrations done by Gary Pullin. This non-fiction book describes over 600 words and phrases relevant to Goth subculture.


3.3. Characteristics of the scene Graphic art

Visual contemporary graphic artists with this aesthetic include Gerald Brom, Dave McKean, and Trevor Brown as well as illustrators Edward Gorey, Charles Addams, Lorin Morgan-Richards, and James OBarr. The artwork of Polish surrealist painter Zdzislaw Beksinski is often described as gothic. British artist Anne Sudworth published a book on gothic art in 2007.


3.4. Characteristics of the scene Events

The goth scene continues to exist in the 2010s. In Western Europe, there are large annual festivals in Germany, including Wave-Gotik-Treffen Leipzig and Mera Luna Hildesheim, both annually attracting tens of thousands of attendees. Famous Castle PArty is the biggest festival in Poland. The Lumous Gothic Festival more commonly known as Lumous is the largest festival dedicated to the goth subculture in Finland and the northernmost gothic festival in the world. The Ukrainian festival "Deti Nochi: Chorna Rada" Children of the night is the biggest gothic event in Ukraine. Goth events like "Ghoul School" and "Release the Bats" promote deathrock and are attended by fans from many countries, and events such as the Drop Dead Festival in the US attract attendees from over 30 countries. In England, Whitby Goth Weekend is a music festival held twice a year in Whitby, North Yorkshire. In the US, events such as Bats Day in the Fun Park celebrate the culture, as well as the Goth Cruise, and the Gothic Cruise.


3.5. Characteristics of the scene Interior design

In the 1980s, goths decorated their walls and ceiling with black fabrics and accessories like rosaries, crosses and plastic roses. Black furniture and cemetery-related objects like candlesticks, death lanterns and skulls. In the 1990s the interior design approach of the 1980s was replaced by a less macabre style.


4.1. Sociology Gender and sexuality

Since the late 1970s, the UK goth scene refused "traditional standards of sexual propriety" and accepted and celebrated "unusual, bizarre or deviant sexual practices". In the 2000s, many members ". claim overlapping memberships in the queer, polyamorous, bondage-discipline/sadomasochism, and pagan communities".

Though sexual empowerment is not unique to women in the goth scene, it remains an important part of many goth womens experience: The ". ", and that it was most possibly due to a selection mechanism persons that wanted to harm themselves later identified as goths, thus raising the percentage of those persons who identify as goths. According to The Guardian, some goth teens are at more likely to harm themselves or attempt suicide. A medical journal study of 1.300 Scottish schoolchildren until their teen years found that the 53% of the goth teens had attempted to harm themselves and 47% had attempted suicide. The study found that the "correlation was stronger than any other predictor". The study was based on a sample of 15 teenagers who identified as goths, of which 8 had self-harmed by any method, 7 had self-harmed by cutting, scratching or scoring, and 7 had attempted suicide.

The authors held that most self-harm by teens was done before joining the subculture, and that joining the subculture would actually protect them and help them deal with distress in their lives. The authors insisted on the study being based on small numbers and on the need of replication to confirm the results. The study was criticized for using only a small sample of goth teens and not taking into account other influences and differences between types of goths; by taking a study from a larger number of people.