How The Goths Paved the Way in the 90s

by Aayushi Mehra


From their first gig, on New Year’s Eve, 1989, The Goths began running a long process of fine-tuning and evolving their sound with every show they played.


Their first gig included two newly minted songs, ‘Full Moon In October‘ and ‘Citadel‘, as the Blakeney-Stowmarries songwriting partnership started churning out compositions in unison.



Spreading their wings


The second gig saw the debut of a new song, ‘Raven‘, whose lyrics, somewhat poetically, mirrored the idea of things taking flight.


It was the beginning of a new decade, the 90s, and The Goths had hit the ground running with a striking ballad.





Overshadowed at the time by ‘Raven‘, another newly minted song, ‘Midnight‘, had with it a new, world-weary maturity, and so too a unique style all of its own.



Riffs and cadences


Leading up to these early gigs, The Goths had for some time been stock-piling a load of riffs, basic structures and concepts for possible future use.


In a short space of time came ‘Don’t Want to Die‘, to some extent a rather different kind of song, and one that was somewhat reminiscent of the Old West tale.


The Goths songwriting was diversifying and the duo were increasingly meeting in private to discuss or write new songs, or to attend more and more rehearsals for upcoming gigs.


One new song dubbed ‘Bare Truth‘, had, at its basis, begun as a two-note chord riff that was intertwined with heavy grooves and ‘bane-and-fantasy’ lyrics to totally bamboozle audiences.





From this rapid rise in the number of songs, in such a short space of time, came a follow-up, ‘Quest‘.





Ultimately timeless


The Goths had adapted the arc of their writing style to draw more from a semblance of truth, or an expression of human interest, rather than merely the suspension of disbelief.


Quest‘ had gained The Goths a pat on the back from their loyal following, who had loved the genre-busting orientation and The Goths overall vibe.


The Goths were now prolific at laying down a sound that would become their own, and one that would ripple across the rooms of many a venue to this day.



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A Trip Through the Golden Age of The Goths

by Aayushi Mehra



Delving into some of The Goths hits it’s fair to say that all Goths fans have their own favourites.


It’s easy to be struck by a musicality that’s fresh and creative, and drawn from eclectic tastes – tastes shared by others of The Goths equally eclectic fanbase.


Each piece of music has the power to transport audiences to alternative worlds, with lyrics that both intrigue and bind the pieces of song together.


Music fans oftentimes enjoy deriving their own personal meanings from a song or songs then comparing later theirs to those of the songwriter’s themselves.


Learning the meanings that The Goths themselves have to their songs can enrich a listener’s take out and can quite often cast a very different light on things indeed.



Playing it where it lays



As The Goths exposure began leading to audiences increasingly aligned to their style, so too a newfound confidence took hold in their performances and songwriting that fostered a sense of freedom and conviction all of which led then onto the new pathways stretching out before them.


The Goths also knew that their followers would be along for the ride.


Their sellout at The Sitting Duck, West End demonstrated this new confidence that saw them perform personal intimate concerts showcasing both earlier and newly minted material side by side.


The escape from their residency at The Bohemian on Elizabeth Street saw them continue onto breakout performances at Bertie’s & Metropolis, The Dead Rat, The Osbourne and The Zoo, Fortitude Valley, where The Goths were one of the venue’s first performing acts.


Leading to all these gig bookings, chord structures and riffs had rapidly become songs.


Battle Axe‘, with its barbarian battle scenes sandwiched between Viking myth and legend inserted onto a bluesy canvass, seemed to glue their audience to the spot in a state of awe.


The same could be said for the swampy grind of ‘Werther‘, based on Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther, a song which by 1990 standards seemingly had come out of nowhere, with ‘Crusade‘ echoing its catchy Middle Eastern hooks as The Goths began flexing their creative muscles and started exploring new sounds.


But then came one newly monster-movie mash minted track titled ‘Smorgasbord‘ that on the surface at least seemed to point The Goths back to a mode more akin to their 1980s days.





A turning point               



Smorgasbord‘ signaled a development from the manic songwriting once referred to as the ”phase of uncontrolled productivity” brought on when The Goths first started performing live.


Songs had been churned out with wilful abandon, the band’s catalogue began to grow, yet ‘Smorgasbord‘ represented a new advance entirely and with that came a newer approach.


Rather than the lyrics being the focus of the songwriting, The Goths now moved to invest themselves in the music first and foremost.


Mother of Zorba‘ appeared in this new vein, the effect of which on The Goths songwriting proved groundbreaking.


Here was a song that dealt with a singular and unique theme, exploring the overly-mothered scenario or use of punishment to correct disobedience, essentially paying homage to Austrian author Leopold Ritter von Sacher-Masoch, renowned for his romantic stories of Galician life, and whose most notable work, Venus in Furs, had been lionized by The Velvet Underground with their song titled using the same name more than two decades earlier.





Frankenstein‘ too emerged, no less than a summary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, quickly followed by ‘Crypt‘, a brooding impression of the mummy’s curse, an impressionistic account of related, mysterious deaths surrounding the excavation of tombs, said to be blasphemy to defile.





Inspiring with inspiration



Practically every Goths song has its roots in literature, yet literary themes were by now becoming the major inspiration and as such, themes would now go on to further inspire fans and listeners alike.


The Goths possessed a certain substance that fans or casual listeners could easily access, and that could lead many to rediscover some of the greatest works in history.


If fans love one of The Goths next tracks, Act Five Scene One‘, it might be because they recognise in it the retelling of its famous Gravediggers scene from Shakespeare’s Hamlet.





And if Goths fans love the follow-up to that, ‘Cathedral‘, it might be because they are touched upon by the heavy influence of architectural mythology that weighs deep within it.





In all, these are the connections that make it so enjoyable to be a Goths fan, and why new Goths fans continue to discover these and many more delights from this group today.





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Everything You Always Wanted to Know About The Goths But Were Afraid to Ask

by Aayushi Mehra


The zenith of The Goths phase of uncontrolled productivity finally played out with two songs, ‘Ruins‘ and ‘Neck Romancer‘.


Ruins‘, about anything and everything that dissipates and falls apart, or goes down a more explicit path – that of the skeleton of a smoldering old cathedral for instance, was presented at the same time as ‘Neck Romancer’, cut from the same cloth as ‘Frankenstein‘, though with respect to the poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Der Zauberlehrling, written in 1797.


The stock pile of riffs and chord structures, once a mine of new songs, was by now dwindling fast, although The Goths creative spark was not yet extinguished.


There was still time to dig deep, and to uncover any music written by lead singer Johnny Stowmarries from when he was a teenager, many years in fact before The Goths had ever formed.



The disease called man



Stowmarries in 1980, at the age of fourteen, had written a piece of music that The Goths would now dust off ten years later in the hope of making it part of their show.


Lyrics were lifted roughly from works by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, renowned for his teachings on religion and morality, and in particular his most notable work, Thus Spake Zarathustra, with one of its most enduring of quotes, “The earth hath a skin and this skin hath diseases. One of these diseases is called ‘man’“.


Thus titled ‘Skin Feature‘, the lyrics were shaped along the most weirded-out of lines – B movies, five-star video grading, the Disney feature Mary Poppins – all of which ended up on a raucous vanities bonfire to cap off what proved, to all intents and purposes, a boisterous, crowd-pleasing, funk-fueled odyssey.



Fuel to the fire



Put It On‘, another earlier Stowmarries song, this time from 1984, was also tapped.


Put It On‘ told of a conflagration sweeping through town, consuming all in its path, yet the chorus, ‘but we want to put it on, were going to put it on‘, hinted at quite a bit more mysterious, possibly even obscured, goings on.


The frame of lyrics suggested a narrator, or a kind of medium or guide, listing the falling buildings, sirens, smoke inhalation and so on, before revealing the rather enigmatic coda.



A return to the spirit world



One riff Stowmarries had up his sleeve, from 1986, would form the basis of yet another song, ‘Waft Off‘.


Waft Off‘ was also framed, resembling notes received through the agency of a medium or séance, but this time inspiration came from The Jezebel Spirit, an Eno–Byrne single from 1981 whose vocal track used snippets from the recorded exorcism of a possessed woman.


Stowmarries spliced together vocals in the studio to mimic snippets in the way the William S. Burroughs method of cutting up text into random patterns was used to generate a word flow.





Instead of an individual possessed, ‘Waft Off‘ was a haunted house, full of enigmatic lines, ‘Queens gotta lean‘ for instance, and featured a mix of jive-talk and now outmoded terms, such as ‘orison‘, an archaic word for ‘prayer‘ no longer part of the language.



Songwriter unbound



Reworking these early fragments of music into complete songs seemed to boost The Goths creative flow, and a new song, ‘Smashed‘, came first in a clutch of tunes written entirely from scratch.


Smashed‘ was laden with dream symbols. Although new songs were now back in the pipeline, there was, raised again, the spectre of slight unease that perhaps time itself was now running out.





Smashed‘ was a self-reflection as songwriting fortunes were now more affected by dwindling supplies of music and fewer of the creative bursts that had previously sustained their output.


Specifically, ‘Smashed‘ was about being broken through like a smashed window, questioning things like direction and survival that for The Goths pointed to the shape of things to come.





Tree‘ was next among completed songs. Its theme was to the entirety of a spooky place, not down to any one, singular thing, but down to the wholeness of a place or places.


The music of ‘Tree‘ set in play a slight apprehension of something beyond the instances of owls or bats, to what might otherwise be sensed as the unsettling sigh through a tree.


Tree‘ was also framed from the perspective of a narrator or imaginary observer as watcher or describer of things, putting it thematically on par with ‘Waft Off‘ and ‘Put It On‘.


Next, was ‘Apocalypse‘. Its lyrics, by Percy Blakeney, influenced by medieval depictions of the Apocalypse, were then woven into music composed by Stowmarries.


And so it went.


Gloom‘ drew on classical music – a way of freeing The Goths from the limitations of the three-minute song. Here presented the chance to record an instrumental track and evoke some of their much-loved prog-rock.





My Best Friend Thinks He’s a Vampire‘ sprang from a snippet of overheard conversation by Blakeney that sounded a lot like ‘rigor mortis is a sound investment‘.




The actual subject, likely some sort of investment strategy in mortars for concrete, not mortis, was built up into lyrics based on the assumption that the only person who would say something like that would be someone who only thinks he’s a vampire and is trying to convince someone to join him.





Grave Rock‘ was a four minute instrumental track The Goths were commissioned to come up with as theme music for the opening and closing sequences to a pilot for an anthology television series made by film director Shane Wraight, along the lines of Tales from the Darkside.


The soundtrack was made, with Wraight at the time, into The Goths ‘Grave Rock’ film-clip music video.




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