The Seven Ages Of Goth

This is not meant as a complete history of goth, as that would be a huge book. Instead, we're aiming to give a simple overview of the musicians, songs and albums that have most defined the genre.

Many deserving artists have been left out, and some that we're sure some people feel are not worthy of space have been included. We encourage people to suggest other others they feel to be significant in the comments, and thereby enrich us all.


1. Ancient Goths (Approx. 5 million B.C.- A.D. 1970)

In the beginning, there was darkness. It was an all right darkness, not a great darkness. It was, you know, a good first try. Before the coming of real goth music, most of the people who would today be at home with the label were either labeled crazy or just sad bastards. Take Screaming Jay Hawkins, for instance, who was big in the 1950s with "I Put a Spell on You."

Hawkins started wearing capes, carrying smoking skulls, and singing about voodoo after leaping out of a coffin. These are all activities that goths learn in evil preschool. Before him, you have Frederic Chopin, all draped in black playing sad little nocturnes back in the 19th century. He wrote upbeat stuff too, but his haunting nocturnes are what most people know these days.

Hell, Chopin was even once described by his girlfriend as a "beloved little corpse." Call someone that at one of Numbers' Underworld nights and you'll be knocking stompy boots together in the bathroom before you know it!

2. The Nightmare Begins (1971-78)

The evolution to goth music continued throughout the 1970s, thanks mostly to the work of two men: Alice Cooper and David Bowie. Cooper took Hawkins' ideas and ran with them, beginning with his 1971 tour for the Love It to Death album, which featured Cooper being tortured and ultimately executed by electric chair onstage.

Though Cooper had started out with a more psychedelic sound and a more androgynous glam look, he fully transitioned into a villainous, monstrous character over the course of the next several albums. He would release a string of classic, increasingly dark LPs with his original band, including Killer and Billion Dollar Babies, culminating with his legendary 1975 solo album Welcome to My Nightmare.

One the flip side, where Cooper grew darker, Bowie grew more otherworldly. Like Cooper, Bowie abandoned his psychedelic side for a new persona in the form of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars in 1972. Dressed in a striking costume with his flame-colored hair, Bowie set the bar for all future glamorous personas. His influence can be keenly felt in how he inspired the next age.

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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner