After the Beginning

As I've outlined already, by late 1983 goth was a fully-formed subculture, and by 1984/85 bands were starting to get irritated with being labelled "goth" bands.

By 1985, "goth" had changed considerably from its early roots.

Most of the early bands had split up (Bauhaus, UK Decay, Sex Gang Children, Southern Death Cult) or mutated in a pop direction (Danse Society, the Cure) and the original movement seemed to have ground to a halt.

The way was now clear for what I call the "Gothic Rock" bands, as distinct from the earlier "Gothic Punk" bands.

The remains of Southern Death Cult, after a brief stint as Death Cult, had become simply The Cult. They moved steadily in first a "hippy-rock" direction (with the "Love" album) and then a full-on Rawk! direction (with the "Electric" album).

Meanwhile, Craig Adams and Wayne Hussey, having left the Sisters of Mercy when they split in 1985, formed The Mission, who were to become prime purveyors of the "Gothic Rock" style, borrowing heavily from 70s rock bands.

Sisters frontman Andrew Eldritch, after major legal wrangles with Adams & Hussey over use of the name Sisters of Mercy and Sisterhood (Eldritch released the Sisterhood album "Gift" to stop them using the name), essentially became the Sisters of Mercy, teaming up with Patricia Morrison on "Floodland" and Tony James on the rockier "Vision Thing".

The classic "gothic rock" axis was completed by latecomers Fields of the Nephilim, whose sound took the deep-vocal atmospherics of The Sisters of Mercy and took it in a direction that eventually ended up not far from prog rock.

Meanwhile the Cure, having pulled back from full-on pop mode, were still popular amongst goths, as were the Banshees, who'd moved in a melodic and mellower direction.

Somewhere along the line All About Eve also got conscripted into the Gothic Rock canon, which given their pleasant, inoffensive hippy-folk sound, showed just how far the idea of "goth" had strayed from its early post-punk roots.

Fashion trends changed in line with the sound, so the earlier "glam-punk" look became less common and a "dressier" style took over. For men, spiky hair and ripped clothing became less prevalent and long hair, hats and more expensive-looking shirts and coats started to appear. For women, flouncier, frillier styles also started to take over.

The evolution of the gothic style can be seen in my own picture gallery.

Along with the evolution in style towards a more genteel look, people also started to look back to 18th/19th century "gothic" styles in literature and dress. This was probably largely a result of the scene having been labelled "gothic", and is an interesting example of the effect a label can have upon a scene.

The UK alternative scene in the mid-to-late 80s was dominated by this Gothic Rock sound and style, with the above bands making frequent appearances in the mainstream charts and selling out larger venues.

However, whilst popular, much of the "Gothic Rock" was very far removed from the early scene.

Whereas the gothic pioneers were innovators, in search of something fresh and interesting instead of a punk scene that had quickly grown stale, many of the Gothic Rock bands were content to plunder the past - the Mission and the Cult were particularly guilty of this, plundering the likes of Led Zeppelin and AC/DC.

Paradoxically, whilst Punk had in part been a reaction against the excesses of stadium rock bands, Goth, which evolved from Punk, had reinvented it.

This was eventually to be its undoing, since the alternative scene moved away from Gothic Rock to Rock, with bands like Zodiac Mindwarp and Crazyhead, and then to the inevitable reaction against goth, with indie bands like Carter and Neds Atomic Dustbin favouring a no-frills unpretentious scruffy look and sound that was in direct opposition to the overdressed look and sound of Gothic Rock.

Then there was Acid House, Baggy, Grunge and Industrial, all of which ate away at the goth fanbase until by the early 90s goth was looking very shaky. There were occasional flashes of life, such as the success of the 1992 remix of "Temple of Love" (with Ofra Haza), but the sure sign of a scene in terminal decline was the lack of popular new bands coming through. There were bands out there, such as Rosetta Stone and Children on Stun, but they only had a small (though admittedly dedicated) following. By the mid-90s Goth had become a minority interest in the UK, and remains so to this day. Certain aspects of the goth look and sound have been appropriated and re-invented, notably by the metal scene, but there is no sign of Goth, whether in its original or Rock form, becoming popular again.

Elsewhere things were different, and the goth scene is still huge in certain other countries, notably Germany. In Europe the goth scene merged to some extent with the industrial scene to create an "industrial goth pop" sound that was to dominate the goth/industrial scene in the late 90s and early years of the current millennium.

Curiously, there now seems to be a resurgence of interest in the earlier, punkier goth sound ("Deathrock" in US parlance), so things might yet come full circle.