Good Goth! mansions with turrets, cobwebs and bats, gilt and red velvet.
Goth's immediate statement is visual as much as musical. The dry ice is
essential, all-black vestments are de rigur, white-pan make-up an optional
but frequent extra.
It's all about mysticism, eastern tidbits and possible hallucinatory herbal
influences... Are they ever seen in daylight, are they the undead, have they
a taste for fresh blood? Probably not, but it just goes to show how
deceptive looks can be.
Goth roots rest firmly in early 70's progressive rock, Zeppelin were the prime
exponents, founders and purveyors of hard heavy riffs temepered with Moroccan Roll.
Deep Purple, Curved Air, Moody Blues, Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull, Grand Funk Railroad,
Emerson Lake and Palmer and The James Gang added 12-string guitars, rockin' bass riffs,
woodwind instuments and exotic percussion. Tablas and sitars, violins and flutes.
Rock would never be the same again.
The antidotes to vapid, trashy three-minute throwaway pop singles sung by squeaky-clean
Abba's were 15 minute grand opuses. Intelligent well-crafted rock to counter Tin
Pan Alley's gooey output. Boy Meets Girl just wasn't satisfying to shipwrecked conquistadors
or Black Nights in White Satin. Rich orchestral sounds abounded, they made the
drums sound like Misty Mountains.
The anti-commerciality ironically became a thriving business, thoses that lived through it
became stadium bands, early beliefs altered as platinum albums flooded in. They became
dinosaurs, but the dinosaurs weren't really extinct...
Punk reared it's ugly head and in the same way rejected bland, `meaningless` pop. Radio
One would never be the same again, the kids were alright, the music went back to the streets
where it belomged. Some of these bands moved on, metamorphosised and learned their instruments.
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the Goth spirit returned within the decade. Back in force
it's planted as firmly as ever.
Whatever the implication of the word Goth, some bands who fall without a doubt into the category
are surprisingly unwilling to recognise their influences. But we know you only have to look and
listen, come on guys, your roots are showing.
What's it all about then, this Goth stuff, and where did it come from? Music bizz pundits who
really ought to know better point fingers at the recent crop of gothists, but I'd like to suggest
that the spirit of goth goes back a veery long way indeed. Goth is all about an atmosphere you
could cut with a knife, and not just because of the excess of dry-ice. It's Bela Lugosi haunting
a dark alley in the darkest hour just before dawn playing dungeons and dragons, the full Hammer
Horror imagery with the bass amp turned right up to 11.
Jimmy Page was a successful session player - did you know he contributed to tracks by The Stones,
Joe Cocker and even Donovan before leaving the Yardbirds in the summer of '68 to form Led Zeppelin?
He'd met John Paul Jones who was doing some arrangements for a Donovan album he was working on too.
Already technology was leading studio musicianship away from basic playing and into the realms of
multi-tracking and effects, underdeveloped as these may have been then.
Jimmy Page said at the time that he wanted Zep to be "raw and basic. That was the whole thing that
made the Yardbirds happen. To go into your own thing is fine, but it has to be a form of experimentation
that evolves from a basic sound that everyone else knows and can relate to." Now this isn't the time
or place to go into the meteoric rise and subsequent decline of the Zeps, but lest we forget, there's
hardly a band out there, and particulary those of the gothic persuasion, who if they're being really
honist acknowledge their debt to the band who penned "Kashmir" amoungst so much else.
Stadium rock self-sanitised and the dinosaur bands self-destructed, the goth spirit went under-ground,
resurfacing later in the 70's once the bands with a will to continue dropped the worst exesses of punk
and rediscovered music by the kids for the kids. No studio indulgences and pretentious live posturings,
bands like The Damned, Siouxsue and then The Bunnymen grew out of those heady days.
In neatly ironic twists Planty himself was oft spotted at Damned gigs and John Paul Jones as we all know
went on to produce The Mission. Small old world, innit!
So what does it take to make a goth album? This isn't a how to in five easy lessons, a truncated
linguaphone-course equivilant without the cassettes, just an aide ti spotting when it really is and when
you're being had. Essential of course are the quasi-oriental chords (hence the reference to `Kashmir'.
Listen and weep at the perfection of that one); exotic acoustic chords; heady, redolent strings. The
seminal goth albums of the early 80's were both released in 1981. `Heaven Up Here' by Echo and The Bunnymen,
and `Ju Ju' by Siouxsie and the Banshees. They're both packed to the gills with Eastern atmospherics and
dramatic tensions. Spooksville rules!
The Bunnymen lost their way and Siouxsie went pop paving the way and leaving the field clear for the 3rd
generation of gothsters. The Mission are the classic torchbearers, no compromise here, The Cult still
toy with goth, Balaam and the Angel are tinged with it, All About Eve like it, Fields of the Nephilim live
it, The Sisters of Mercy are it, and the Damned personify it.
It's really all about that evolution thet J. Page esquire referred to earlier. Ya see, the song does remain
pretty much the same.
Gothic Links -