Speakers Push Air

Live From The Goth Trials
September 27, 2010, 5:16 pm
Filed under: Mixes, Uncategorized

Let’s get this crystal clear from the start. I was NEVER a goth.

This Is Not A Goth

True, I bore some superficial resemblance to a goth: the hair dye, the Bauhaus tshirt (the fact I can spot a Bauhaus tshirt 25 years later, even when concealed beneath a charity shop jumper), the pallor. But I was never a goth. Nor, in fact, were any of these people goths:

More People Who Weren't Goths

See, we have a problem. Things were probably different at other times in other towns in other social circles, but none of my mates were goths. Well, maybe Eddie (left in the picture above), but I don’t have his confession in writing. In fact, for one of the defining youth cults of the 80s, it seems tremendously underpopulated.For the rest of this post, when I used the word “goth”, therefore, I mean “people who got mistaken for goths but really really weren’t”.

There were actual goth trials: people suspected of being goths were hauled up before the Goth Denial Tribunal. The more they protested that they just liked the hair and Nick Cave wasn’t goth anyway, the more suspicions arose. In the end, they’d be cast into a vat of Directions. If they perished, their name was cleared, if they lived we’d point  and laugh and shift away from them, comfortable in our state of Not Gothness.

But I REALLY wasn’t a goth. I liked the hair, and Nick Cave wasn’t goth anyway.Seriously though, I was goth to this extent:

1) I set fire to my very long hair once when I was tripping and fooling around with candles. After much messing about, 3 friends – Kath, Ellie and Mandy (Kath takes centre-stage in the pic above) crimped and dyed and trimmed and left me looking like a cross between a Sigue Sigue Sputnik reject and My Little Pony (this was actually my nickname at one point). So I was a goth by accident, kinda.
2). All the hottest girls in the mid-80s were goths – think of the alternatives at the time and you’ll see what i mean . I figured I’d do better if I adopted their look, went to their clubs, read the same poetry. And remember, in the mid-80s it was absolutely impossible for the more bookish, less sports-inclined chap to have sex without the use of a Cocteau Twins album.

3.) I was in Bournemouth. There was a great gay scene but the rest of the clubs were either just chart nonsense or soulboy / casual / rare groove sort of things. Horrible. But there was the Third Side club, a tiny, unremarkable basement on the way out of town. It was a haven, a paradise, a place where you could sport brightly coloured hair without getting the shit kicked out of you. Look – it has a Facebook group (check the photos – no goths there.). So that was my first club – my only club for years, in fact. The thing about the Third Side is that, like in most small towns at the time, although nominally a goth club, it attracted pretty much any subculture that didn’t want to get lamped in one of the town pubs – so psychobillies, hippies, metallers and even the odd mod would show up. And the music wasn’t THAT goth, either. You were more likely to hear New Order than the March Violets, Iggy than Ghost Dance.
4.) I was a bit lost stylistically, but still wanted to be “something” (much as I’d have denied it). I was some weird blend of anarcho-punk, hippy, indiekid and, yes, goth. I was too busy necking acid to worry overly much about trousers. Black clothes and hair dye were just lowest common denominator signifiers of some very vague “alt” status.
5.) I never owned any records by any of the band that were actually goth – let’s face it, Sisters of Mercy and Alien Sex Fiend aside, they were all shit. And this is where things get complicated. For my money, none of these bands were goth:

The Cramps. The Bad Seeds / The Birthday Party. The Cure. Bauhaus. Siouxsie & The Banshees. New Order. Soft Cell. Joy Division. The Fall. Killing Joke. DAF. The B52s. The Smiths.

But at the Third Side, and as far as I can tell, most other goth clubs, these were the dominant bands. You’d rarely hear the “proper” goth acts – March Violets, Ghost Dance, Flesh For Lulu, Sex Gang Children, The Bolshoi (jesus christ, they were awful). The only proper goth bands you’d hear were Sisters of Mercy, Alien Sex Fiend (both great) and The Mission, who were flat out disgusting (I used to go and see them live sometimes, but the alternatives in the area in the mid-80s were Tina Turner or Magnum).

That Fact piece I linked to the other day doesn’t have much to do with goth as I recall it either – Rudimentary Peni were a particularly creative and grim anarchopunk outfit, and to leave out Alien Sex Fiend is just ludicrous. What the writer has done is, with hindsight, cherry pick the artier, less embarrassing end of things and hope he’s got away with it.

By about 1986-87, the goth scene seemed to die out for the most part, the remaining goths withdrawing into smaller groups waiting for the 2nd wave which came later, probably DID play proper goth records (by tossers like Manuscript) and is still out there somewhere, wearing a leather greatcoat and reading Terry Pratchett. This lot seem(ed) to actually be goth and proud, no mealy-mouthed denials to be had.

Most people I knew either immersed themselves entirely in metal (Guns’N’Roses got a lot of play at the Third Side, and The Cult were a pisspoor AC/DC tribute act by then), a few moved more into the industrial end of things, and most of us were probably just indiekids really anyway, and were saved by Snub TV, Dinosaur Jr and the new improved Reading Festival. I even knew a guy – someone who really WAS a goth – who started making trance records. The wanker. A lot just got married, dotted a few crystals and ceramic dragons around the house, had a penchant for purple skirts and ended up being quite fond of the Scissor Sisters.

All of which is an absurdly overlong preamble to a mix. Almost all the songs on this mix ARE NOT GOTH, with one or two notable exceptions. But they were Third Side club staples (I think: jesus, I was so drunk every time I went there, I invariably ended up sleeping in the middle of a roundabout on the way home) or seem like they were. I don’t even LIKE everything I’ve included (Kirk Brandon, I’m looking at you) but man, they take me back, and I honestly think they’re a more honest assessment of what a goth club actually played in 1985 than any amount of hipster lists citing Dead Can Dance  will ever be.

With Goth On Our Side (256kbps, 78mins, 143mb)

1. Siouxsie & The Banshees – Drop Dead / Celebration
Not Goth, although Siouxsie and Pete Murphy inadvertently invented it. Siouxsie eventually recoiled from goth, Murpy embraced it and went on to appear in one of the Twilight movies (and if you want weird subcultures, how about a Mormon-aligned, vampire no-sex cult that is laying waste to the burgeoning sexuality of a whole generation whilst showing us sparkly boys and moody girls in aftershave-advert earthtones?). This is a very, very great song and perhaps a contender for the first goth record.
2. Sisters Of Mercy – Temple Of Love (Extended Version)

Goth. Perhaps the first actual goth band. Eldritch got wryer and funnier as he got older (all grand pronouncements, Ofra Haza obsessions and fencing). This is the extended version which I’ve included because I don’t have the normal one. Sorry.
3. Alien Sex Fiend – Ignore The Machine (Electrode Mix)

Definitely goth, and yet somehow possessing qualities that goths weren’t supposed to – a fantastic sense of grotesque humour, an abandon, a daftness. They were our answer to The Cramps and The B52s but with more drugs. A brilliant band. Lived in Streatham
4. Bauhaus – In The Flat Field

Not goth, but it’s a close call. Basically a post-punk, arthouse dub band with a twat for a frontman.
5. Sex Gang Children – Times Of Our Lives

Very, very goth. Mostly awful, but I love this track. It was included on my very own Goth Starter Pack, a cassette prepared for me by Eddie Devine (appears on the left in the second pic), who was probably a proper goth, definitely a very funny bloke. The cassette also included The Bolshoi, Ghost Dance and Flesh For Lulu. This mix doesn’t – can you work out why?
6. Theatre Of Hate – Do You Believe In The Westworld

Not goth. Can’t abide this band or Spear Of Destiny (Liberator nearly made the mix but I just couldn’t do it, this is the less awful alternative). Horrible nonsense but goth faves. People argued over whether Brandon was a fascist or “a gay” or a gay fascist. I just thought he was a wanker.
7. The Stranglers – Something Better Change

Not goth, but all-pervasive in that world. Despite grudgingly liking a few Stranglers tunes, I loathe their pubrockiness, their misogyny, their sleazy horribleness.
8. The Fall – Oh! Brother

Not goth, but often heard at the Third Side. I’d love to have presented MES with footage of a couple of dozen Third Side denizens doing the chicken dance to this and seen his goblin face contort in amphetamine horror.
9. The Cult – She Sells Sanctuary
Probably not goth but it’s a close call. The Cult were rubbish, and so were Southern Death Cult. Get over it. But Ian Astbury’s a sweet bloke and this is great.
10. The Birthday Party – Release The Bats
Not goth. Probably taking the piss out of goths, in fact. I’m not sure I even heard this in the Third Side, but it feels like I did.
11. Killing Joke – Love Like Blood
Not goth. Always found Killing Joke leaden and joyless and drab, in all the worst ways. But alongside War Dance and Requiem, this completes a hat-trick of great songs.
12. Gina X – No GDM
Not goth, but another Third Side gem. I know nothing about this record save that it’s marvellous, it’s something to do with Quentin Crisp and it sounded so alive and shiny and lush compared with the records being played either side of it.
13. DAF – Der Mussolini
Not goth, but like Gina X, totally rinsed down the Third Side. I like this track a lot but never made it through any other DAF records, far too dull.
14. Soft Cell – Sex Dwarf
Not goth, and yet in some ways the best goth record ever if goth was how it ought to have been rather than how it was. The sleazy, transgressive side of goth (not much in evidence in the Third Side, sadly). An old friend of mine mistakenly played the promo video for this on the bank of TVs in the Poole branch of Boots one Saturday afternoon. It didn’t go well.
15. Animal Magnet – Welcome To The Monkeyhouse
Not goth, yet – as far as I can tell – played every week in every goth club from Poole to Pontefract. I don’t know anyone who’s ever heard this who hasn’t at least flirted with gothdom. I really couldn’t tell you a thing about it, and can’t be bothered to google and pretend I do.
16. New Order – Temptation
Not goth, but utterly beloved of goths. This also seemed to get played every week and alongside the Smiths and Jesus & Mary Chain (also regularly heard) offered some of us a way out.

If I’d had more space on a CD (and hadn’t forgotten them, or they were too obvious) songs by The Cure, The Cramps, Zodiac Mindwarp and The Smiths would have made the grade. Danielle Dax, however, never stood a chance, by virtue of being shit.

6 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Wot no Cocteaus?

Comment by Lazy Llama

Wot no Blood & Roses?

Comment by Martin C

[…] be a history of what was popular with goths (not least because of the author’s youthfulness). Comrade Stagger Lee’s response to the FACT article included some personal history, a mix and some good examples of […]

Pingback by uncarved.org blog » Blog Archive » the historification of “goth”

I was never a goth. Oh ok, let’s face it, I was. I couldn’t help it. The crimped, backcombed mass of black dyed hair was a bit of a giveaway, although I did the draw the line at having a face permanently covered in thick white panstick make-up. Instead, I did rock a lot of black eyeliner tho, with red inside on the edge of the eye for that dead/undead/heroin addict look. I was still wearing eyeliner and crimping until the dawn of Britpop, that’s how goth I was.

Being goth was curious, because as great as the music was, it wasn’t just about the music. I hate to say it, but it was a “fashion”. A high street fashion, in fact. Lots of people looked goth, but weren’t really, actually goth. A band like Fuzzbox, for example, had all the goth trimmings, but were no goth band. And “goth” music was not really one type of music: can you imagine The Cocteau Twins and Alien Sex Fiend chatting at a party? Bands like The Smiths were totally acceptable to goths, despite there being nothing goth about them – well, only the misery, perhaps…

Looking at my record collection of the time, only a small part of it is goth (well, ok, maybe a third). The rest is just great alternative music (and some bad 80s pop cheese). But I don’t want to disparage goth. The power of it was that it brought people together. Anyone in black, with crimped hair, could join the gang. The music was great (although in retrospect, some of it is pretty bad), but what I love most about goth was that it soundtracked one of the best, if not THE best, chapters of my life; and introduced me to an incredible group of people who will remain friends for life.

Finally, I’d like to give an honourable mention to one band not mentioned above, Fields Of the Nephilim: ridiculous in the extreme, with pompous overblown tunes and flour in their hair, but great nonetheless. For the sake of preserving friendships, I will keep my accolades regarding All About Eve to myself 🙂

Comment by 50 foot Cromie

[…] that have lain dusty a few seasons, really rather good a lot of them are too. In retrospect we should have seen this coming. To be clear from the start, none of the collective were ever goths. No indeed […]

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