It is world Goth day Kittens!!! And to mark it I thought I would write a bit about my other family.
If you are not into Goth that’s cool, if you are and you have a different experience/viewpoint to me don’t freak out at me OK.
People ask me a lot “are you a Goth?”.
A lot of people look like they ought to be Goths and will punch you in the face for saying so, others identify as Goth to the core but you wouldn’t know it at first look. Then there are kittens like me who are obviously some kind of Goth and not ashamed of it, but not with the look most people expect.
So do I still consider myself a Goth? if so why? and what does it mean?
Gothic rock is used as a sort of umbrella term for a collection of British bands who started out of the gate opened by punk in the 1970s. But they were not going to fit into the narrow definition of that genre. Their influences were pulled from a much wider, richer world.
Those first bands like, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Doctors of madness, Joy division then Bauhaus the Sisters of mercy, and the cure never intended to give birth to a new genre that would tie them down….the birth was unplanned so to speak . All that unprotected creativity can have unexpected repercussions that change your life.
Its something we all need to remember as artists ..its always a possibility that the response your work gets is not the one you intended, then your own ‘fans’ turn on you for not being what they think you are. You can either play to what they want or try to escape , neither is easy.
This is what happened to these acts (sometimes called ‘proto-goth’) which does explain the aggressive response they have to being called Goth today. I get that entirely.
Because, as pointed out in the book “the dark reign of Gothic rock”, when punk defined its self as a genre in its own right, they divorced their..um..parents, who just got on with their creative lives as before and were never troubled much by their wayward offspring again. But Goth never did cut the cord. We just went on living in Daddies basement making unreasonable demands and drinking all the wine (and the snakebite & black). LOL
Peter Murphy has frequently spoken on the subject and he is never happy with the gothic tag “We eventually found ourselves playing to our reputation. That’s really why Bauhaus didn’t have longevity. We were just clicking with energy but, when it came down to thinking about what we were doing we realized that we were pandering to the audience, to what we thought the audience would like”.
Similar statements have been made by members of the Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Nick Cave and even The Sisters of Mercy.
When Ollie Wisdom of Specimin started the batcave club in London, and bands like Sex Gang Children, Alien Sex Fiend, The Birthday Party and more, made it their home they attracted a following of assorted weirdos who, like the bands they fell for, were united by the only thing they had in common…that they had nothing in common with anyone else.
If it seems to you at all that I am not head over heels in love with the music and style here you would be very very wrong. None of that stuff makes any difference …if I was Peter Murphy or Siouxsie it would be different, but I’m not. and I don’t need THEM to be what I AM to love them.
This (sometimes unwanted) bastard, of the bands above, that we call Goth has real value in it’s own right, whether its parents claim it or not. It has an important place in music history and has endured as an ever evolving community in a way that the infinite other musical sub-genres that the UK music scene specializes in throwing up never did.
But it does mean that you can like Bauhaus and not be a Goth, and you should be able to be a Goth without needing the approval of Peter Murphy.
But much as I love and have been inspired by it, it is not the music that makes it so important to me. I was raised with music, my Father is a professional blues singer (the real kind, not the weddings and birthdays kind!) Music was my life from as far back as I can remember. The music that moves me comes from all over the place. I have never liked being tied down…I prefer to be one with the ropes! So while Goth music is a big part of my musical life, it is just that…one part of a bigger picture.
So I suppose it must have been the look? nope but…
As a child I was always drawn to the evil queens and witches in cartoons, then later the showgirls and tavern whores in old movies. That’s where I got my ideal of female beauty from, and as I was a shy anti social child, I never had that idea replaced by fashion trends.
So I tried to create the look with what I could get my hands on. I remember shopping with my mother as a child, and her always saying “little girls don’t wear black”!
I was around 13 or 14 when I started dressing differently in public. By the time I was 16 I was in bands, going to gigs, bars, and been harassed at school for it (though that was not really a big change, I was bullied from the age of 6 so I guess I was just naturally freaky, the only change was now they had a “reason” to come after me)
They used to ask me some really stupid questions too like “what do you eat?” to which I would answer “goats dicks and babies brains”
But it was not all so amusing.
Freak hunting in my area was a sport and Goths were always in season. They wanted us dead.
And not even my own family understood, often saying that I should expect it looking like that, because that’s just the way it is. It is unsurprising that I still have an over developed fight or flight instinct!….Then there was my Mother, who loves me please don’t get the wrong idea here, always asking me (from a very young age, long before the wardrobe change) why I always had to “ruin everything”. A reference to my shyness, inappropriate responses (to things like handshakes) and weird interests. I shamed her.
The first time I went to a Goth club I must have been about 16 or 17 (no I was never ID’d) I even remember what I was wearing the first time – A black satin slip with black lace trim, a black satin corset with black lace train, black seamed fishnets and a black top hat. Any colour as long as its…you know it kittens!.
This was the 1990s and the old Goths were still on the scene, though the changing of the guard was well underway. They were the first people I ever felt totally comfortable around. The first ones who never asked stupid questions, never told me to “smile it might never happen” (I will cut you), accepted me the way I was, understood the weirdness that floats out of my mouth as if it actually made sense. But they never crowded me, just let me be and come to them.
They gave me a home, one that I rarely left from then till the club closed down, a family and a direction…so nothing much then.
When you have literally had to fight for the right to live as yourself, the external identifiers of that take on a meaning far greater than the sum of their parts. No longer just clothes and makeup, but something to define you, to protect you, to be your sword and your shield. So it is natural to become possessive over them. To feel the need to prevent them falling into the hands of outsiders. Because they attacked you and justified it by the way you dress, and now they think they can just throw on the black like it’s nothing?! they don’t deserve it, they don’t understand, they have to earn it!……
Ive been there, I get it, and it has not entirely gone away. I still get twinges of homicidal rage when I see some pop star all ‘gothed out’ to play-act at being edgy. But in the end you are really just limiting yourself .
I realized in recent years that I never think about what people think much anymore. The sign that I now REALLY don’t care what they think, despite the protestations of my former self. I feel freed from the need of my visible sword and shield, because now I know I can use them without any help from the outside. Does that make sense?.
When I first realized this there was a brief feeling of loss…I don’t need it anymore. Images of long discarded, but not forgotten teddy bears caused a bit of tear-up I am not ashamed to admit.
But I actually feel closer, more connected, to it now than I did before (as if that vulgar display of melodrama above was not evidence of Gothicness enough! LOL)
So am I a goth? yes I am, I am a Goth who knows the words to every Cole Porter song, believes that the future promised by 1930s sci-fi comics should have been what we got and we got dicked out of something gorgeous in favor of deep ugly. A Goth with a very eclectic music collection who will dance to the pet shop boys as soon as the Sisters. A goth who loves vintage pinup girls and wears 30s and 40s dresses with her spike heels and steel boned corsets.
Just like I will only ever be British no matter how long I live in America. I am a Goth because they are my home, no matter how far I wander into other lands.
Happy world Goth day Kittens keep it morbid xxx