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Gothic woman, traditional style, with big hair, spikes and piercings. Gothic woman, traditional style, with big hair, spikes and piercings.

Goth is a contemporary subculture prevalent in many countries around the globe. It began in the United Kingdom during the early 1980s in the gothic rock scene, an offshoot of the post-punk genre. The goth subculture is remarkable for its longevity compared with others of the same era. Its imagery and cultural proclivities show influences from nineteenth century Gothic literature, mainly by way of horror movies (particularly cinematic depictions of vampires).

The goth subculture has associated "gothic" tastes in music and fashion. Gothic music encompasses a number of different styles. Common to all is a tendency towards a “dark” sound. Styles of dress within the subculture range from death rock, punk, Victorian, androgyny, some Renaissance style clothes, combinations of the above, and/or lots of black attire, makeup and hair.


Origins and development of the subculture

Original subculture

By the late 1970s, there were a few post-punk bands in the United Kingdom labeled "gothic." However, it was not until the early 1980s that gothic rock became its own subgenre within post-punk and that followers of these bands started to come together as a distinctly recognizable group. The opening of the Batcave in London's Soho in July 1982 provided a prominent meeting point for the emerging scene, which had briefly been labeled positive punk by the New Musical Express.[1] The term "Batcaver" was later used to describe old-school goths.

Independent of the British scene, the late 1970s and early 1980s saw death rock branch off from American punk.[2] In Germany, members of the emerging goth subculture were called Grufties (engl. "vault creatures" or "tomb creatures") in the '80s and early '90s. They represented generally a fusion between the goth subculture and the New wave movement and were forming the early part of the "dark culture."

Goth after post-punk

After the demise of post-punk, goth continued to evolve, both musically and visually. This caused variations in style ("types" of goth). Local scenes also contributed to this variation. By the 1990s, Victorian fashion saw a renewed popularity in the goth scene, drawing on the mid-19th century gothic revival and the more morbid aspects of Victorian culture. The 2003 Victoria and Albert Museum Gothic exhibition in London furthered a tenuous connection between modern goth and the medieval gothic period.

Over time, the gothic subculture has developed its own "goth slang", with regional variations.

Current boundaries of the subculture

By the 1990s, the term "goth" and the boundaries of the goth subculture had become more contentious. New youth subcultures evolved, or became more popular, some of them being conflated with the goth subculture by the general public and the popular media. This was based primarily on appearance, and the fashions of the subcultures, rather than the musical genres of the bands associated with them. As time went on, the term was extended even further in popular usage, sometimes being applied to groups that had neither musical nor fashion similarities to the original gothic subculture.

This has led to the introduction of terms that some goths and others use to sort and label associated trends and members of loosely related subcultures. These include mallgoths or Neo-Goths in the US, Cuervos in Spain, Dark In Latin America, gogans in Australia, and spooky kids or moshers in the UK. Sai Ho, a Melbourne playwright, is particularly scathing about what he terms baby goths. More positive terms, such as mini-goths or baby bats, are also used by some older goths to refer to youths they see as exhibiting potential for growth into "true" goths later on.

The response of these younger groups to the older subculture varies. Some, being secure in a separate subcultural identity, express offense at being called "goths" in the first place, while others choose to join the existing subculture on its own terms. Still others have simply ignored its existence, and decided to appropriate the term "goth" themselves, and redefine the idea in their own image. Even within the original subculture, changing trends have added to the complexity of attempting to define precise boundaries.

The music

The bands that began the gothic rock and death rock scene were limited in number, and included Bauhaus, Siouxsie & the Banshees, Southern Death Cult, Sex Gang Children, 45 Grave, The Damned, And Also The Trees, The Virgin Prunes, Joy Division, The Cure, The Cramps and Christian Death.

Bauhaus was one of the original bands in the British goth scene. Bauhaus was one of the original bands in the British goth scene.

By the mid-eighties, the number of bands began proliferating and became increasingly popular, including The Sisters of Mercy, The Mission UK, Xmal Deutschland, Dead Can Dance, and Fields of the Nephilim. The nineties saw the further growth of eighties bands and emergence of many new bands. Factory, 4AD, and Beggars Banquet released much of this music in Europe, while Geffen and Cleopatra Records amongst others released much of this music in the United States, where the subculture grew especially in New York and Los Angeles, with many nightclubs featuring gothic/industrial nights. The popularity of 4AD bands such as Dead Can Dance and The Cocteau Twins resulted in the creation of a similar US label called Projekt. This produces what is colloquially termed Ethereal, as well as the more electronic Darkwave.

By the mid-1990s, styles of music that were heard in venues that goths attended ranged from gothic rock, death rock, darkwave, industrial, EBM, ambient, experimental,synthpop, shoegaze, punk rock, 1970s glam rock (not to be confused with later glam rock), indie rock, to 1980s dance music. This variety was a result of a need to maximize attendance from everyone across the alternative music scene, particularly in smaller towns, and due to the eclectic tastes of the members of the subculture; but it also signaled new shifts in attitude. Gothic rock was originally clearly differentiated from industrial and heavy metal by older participants in the alternative scene, but newcomers and media misconceptions blurred the boundaries in the nineties as gothic rock became significantly less popular in the US and UK. Thus while industrial or heavy metal bands such as Marilyn Manson, Jack Off Jill, Nine Inch Nails, Type O Negative, Lacuna Coil, Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth, Slipknot, and Mortiis were often labeled as "goth" by the media, this categorization was strongly resisted by longstanding goths. Even more confusion was added with the rise of gothic metal, with such bands consciously using gothic imagery from the dark ages in their own music and appearance and started even following fashion trends indistinguishable from older goth ones. Arguments about which music is and is not goth became an ever more significant part of how the subculture tried to define itself.

The other significant development of the nineties was the popularity of electronic dance bands such as VNV Nation and Covenant in the goth scene. The rise of what has been called cybergoth music and style, which has much in common with techno/synthpop, caused bitter divisions between its fans and those firmly attached to the analog and/or guitar based sound of gothic rock. Bands with a darkwave sound or those such as Soft Cell, or The Cruxshadows, which combine an electronic and gothic rock sound, appeal to both sides to some extent.

Recent years have seen a resurgence in the early positive punk and death rock sound, in reaction to the EBM, futurepop, and synthpop, which had taken over many goth clubs. Bands with an earlier goth sound like Cinema Strange, Bloody Dead And Sexy, Black Ice, and Antiworld are becoming very popular. Nights like Ghoul School and Release The Bats promote death rock heavily, and the Drop Dead Festival brings in death rock fans from all over the world.

Today, the goth music scene thrives most actively in Western Europe, especially Germany, with large festivals such as Wave-Gotik-Treffen, Zillo, and others drawing tens of thousands of fans from all over the world.



Young, Robert et. al., Prevalence of deliberate self harm and attempted suicide within contemporary Goth youth subculture: longitudinal cohort study (BMJ, doi:10.1136/bmj.38790.495544.7C) published 13 April 2006

  • Baddeley, Gavin: Goth Chic: A Connoisseur's Guide to Dark Culture (Plexus, US, August 2002, ISBN 0859653080)
  • Davenport-Hines, Richard: Gothic: Four Hundred Years of Excess, Horror, Evil and Ruin (1999: North Port Press. ISBN 0865475903 (trade paperback) - A voluminous, if somewhat patchy, chronological/aesthetic history of the Gothic covering the spectrum from Gothic architecture to The Cure.
  • Hodkinson, Paul: Goth: Identity, Style and Subculture (Dress, Body, Culture Series) 2002: Berg. ISBN 1859736009 (hardcover); ISBN 185973605X (softcover)
  • Kilpatrick, Nancy: The goth Bible : A Compendium for the Darkly Inclined. 2004: St. Martin's Griffin. ISBN 0312306962
  • Voltaire: What is Goth? (WeiserBooks, US, 2004; ISBN 1578633222) - a humorous and easy-to-read view of the goth subculture
  • Andrew C. Zinn: The Truth Behind The Eyes (IUniverse, US, 2005; ISBN 0-595-37103-5) - Dark Poetry
  1. ^ Batcave club history URL Accessed April 23, 2006.
  2. ^ Archived Interview with Ms. Dinah Cancer URL Accessed April 23, 2006.

See also

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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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