I have been putting off writing this article on and off for the last month and a bit. But it is a thing I have seen pop up a lot over the last few months. That was what gave me the idea in the first place when I used a short version of this explanation in a conversation online. Each time it pops up I am reminded “Finish the damn article Joe!”. So here we are at 2am on a Thursday (one week ago - Halloween stuff and an event distracted me). I should sleep but I want to get this done while I have ideas in my head
Why have I been putting this off? Life has gotten in the way. I had two events to organise and run and school holidays brought on extra problems dealing with shithead local kids to the point of getting the police involved. To say I have been stressed and a little depressed would be fair. On top of that life decided to throw a bunch of financial hurdles at us at the same time. I even had to cancel one last event we wanted to do in November as my heart and head were not in the game. Fun, fun, fun!
The storm is pretty much over now so we can get back to our irregularly scheduled programming. Next event in Early 2019 so I have time to regroup and face the December Christmas onslaught unhindered.
Enough breaking the fourth wall, lets get into it!
You know you were expecting a pic like this
Over time, the words “goth” and “gothic” have meant different things. Originally they referred to Germanic barbarian tribes who sacked Rome. So a goth was a member of one such tribe and gothic was a descriptive word for things goths do. So it is safe to say that goth was a barbarian and gothic meant barbaric. It is important to establish this as this is the meaning that was used through a lot of history. This is a loose history based on things I remember from my research and lessons over the years. I will probably get some of it wrong but it leads to a main point regardless.
Fast forward to the Renaissance and you start to hear about this thing called “gothic architecture” which referred to a type of medieval architecture mostly used for building churches. I am not going to go into a history lesson here as I am only concerned with how the word is used. In the Renaissance era people saw themselves as being a lot more civilised and advanced than the medieval era past. So big churches using flying buttresses to support walls with arched windows was seen as an old and barbaric way to build things. Hence the term gothic (or barbaric) architecture.
Fast forward a couple of hundred more years and we have authors writing about monsters and horrific events. Where did these monsters tend to live? In old gothic-styled buildings. Barbaric buildings and places. Gothic places. So what do we call written stories about this stuff? Gothic literature. Victorian literature that is gothic is barbaric because it is about monsters dwelling in barbaric places or barbaric acts (For example - Lord Byron). It is not written about civilised things.
I am well aware I am over simplifying all of this. As I said above, if you want an actual history lesson there are lots of resources out there. You will see my point later.
Yeah, yeah I’m getting there
It is the 1960s. The Doors are called gothic in an interview. And rightfully so as they sounded very barbaric compared to most bands of the time. In the 1970s Joy Division were called gothic in an interview too. Again, they sounded very barbaric compared to other bands at the time. This happened during the beginnings of post-punk. Goth as a common term was still a couple of years away.
Then the modern stuff developed in post-punk in the late 70s, modern stuff we would later call goth. For a time it was even called positive punk.
So what is the modern stuff? It took a few years as post-punk and later positive punk music established itself. But eventually it built an identity and a name. The stories you hear from how goth got its name come from a couple of varying sources. I will focus on the main two I have heard about most often. One says the media came up with it and over time it was accepted. But I like the other story better.
Andi Sexgang (of the band Sex Gang Children) lived in Visigoth Towers. He was known as the “Gothic Goblin” so his fans were called “Goths”. I first read about this in an interview with Ian Astbury. I would quote it but I can’t be arsed searching for it. Trust me it is out there.
Another I can’t be bothered looking it up while I am barely awake moment
The way I see it if we go with the Andi Sexgang story, it was just a joke name that stuck and the media started to use it after. So in a way both definitions of the origin are true. This name had nothing to do with any previous usage of the word goth. It was based on the name of a building where a musician lived and his fans.The name goth stuck and positive punk did not.
So, in the modern context regarding the goth subculture, what does goth mean? Three things.
- A particular darkly inclined music genre (or group of related darkly inclined music genres) that stemmed from post-punk and evolved over time
- The subculture for said darkly inclined music genre/genres
- A fan of goth music and/or a participant in the goth subculture
Some people may interpret these slightly differently but that is how I see it. So where does that leave the term “gothic” in the modern sense? Not far off what it meant in the historic sense. It still means barbaric but it has also picked up additional meanings like macabre, spooky and dark.
I said spooky, not spoopy!
A thing can be gothic and still not related to goth music, subculture or even goths. And while a goth will generally like some gothic things, they do not have to like all of them (or even any of them) to be goth as goth in the modern context is about the music and subculture.
“But what about gothic literature and architecture’s influence on goth?” I hear you ask. An influence is just that - an influence. It does not make it one and the same. Sure, some goths like that stuff but not all do. They do influence it in a few ways. A lot of gothic things like these are things a lot of goths like and you can see influences in fashion and song lyrics. So they are relevant but not defining.
Lets dispel a myth while we are here too. It is perfectly fine for a goth to like non-goth things or for someone who doesn’t identify as goth to like goth music and subculture. But just because a goth likes something (gothic or not), does not make it goth by default. Gothic architecture and gothic literature are not the same as the gothic subculture.
“But what about gothic art?” I have deliberately not covered that as I am not very familiar with it. But I can see that being an influence too.
I hope I have made the point clear but I will repeat it one last time. The point is goth in the modern music/subculture/person context is not the same as gothic things in the historical context or gothic the aesthetic, even if some goths may like these things.
To finish off, I got the idea for this silly song two days before Halloween and I released it on Halloween. I have been sharing it everywhere. Might as well share it here too as a little bonus.