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Being lumped together under a genre usually irritates bands, insofar as you won't find many that will say, "Our music is power metal with an undercurrent of liquid funk." Inventing genres is the job of music journalists, record shops and now streaming services, and a tricky label that's been employed over the year is goth, a loose genre that encompasses many artists that don't necessarily sound much like each other.

The phrase began to be widely used in the early-80s to describe post-punk bands with gothic overtones - musically and in their visual representation - and we still use it today to label groups like Evanescence. There's a lifestyle associated with the music, too - it's led to distinct fashion choices, and an interest in gothic literature and film - and, ever since 2009, goths have had their own day, 22 May, after 6 Music ordained it thus.

So, happy World Goth Day! We're celebrating by digging up these great shots from the BBC archive...

The Cure

The term 'gothic rock' can be traced back as far as 1967, when critic John Stickney used it to describe Los Angeles band The Doors. Ten years later, a number of groups emerged in the UK that would become called goth bands, including The Cure, often considered to be a gloomy band, although their back catalogue contains scores of copper-bottomed pop classics, like The Love Cats. Above, the band, led by Robert Smith, perform on Top of the Pops in 1989. Below, is Robert circa 2000 with Radio 1's Mark Goodier.

Siouxsie and the Banshees

The Cure formed in 1976, as did Siouxsie and the Banshees. Both groups shifted musical styles continuously, becoming more gothy in the early-80s. About the Banshees third album, bassist Steven Severin said, "Juju was the first time we'd made a 'concept' album that drew on darker elements. It wasn't pre-planned, but, as we were writing, we saw a definite thread running through the songs; almost a narrative to the album as a whole." It's considered to be an influence on the then-emerging goth scene and it was a Top 10 record, too. Here's singer Siouxsie Sioux performing on Top of the Pops in the year it was released - 1981.

Joy Division

Joy Division producer Martin Hannett once described the Mancunian four-piece as "dancing music with gothic overtones", and their label boss Tony Wilson acknowledged the reference as well, calling their music "gothic" on Something Else, a youth-focussed BBC TV show broadcast between 1979 and 1982. This photo of the group (left to right: Peter Hook, Ian Curtis, Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris) was taken during the filming of Joy Division's September 1979 appearance on the show - their only nationally broadcast TV performance. They played Transmission and She's Lost Control.


Another product of the fertile post-punk period in British music, Bauhaus formed in 1978 and made their name with four pioneering albums released between 1980 and 1983 - In the Flat Field, Mask, The Sky's Gone Out, Burning from the Inside. Minimal, discordant and often very gloomy, those four albums are considered to contain many of the touchtones of gothic rock and they proved to be hugely influential on later artists like Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails. Bauhaus split up in 1983, before reforming in 1998, and between 2005 to 2008. This shot is from when they appeared on Top of the Pops in 1983.

The Sisters of Mercy

Leeds group The Sisters of Mercy took their name from a Leonard Cohen song and combined both the dirgy feel of The Velvet Underground and the sparsity of Suicide to create a potent and very distinct take on gothic rock that made them big news in the mid-80s, in the music press and commercially. First and Last and Always (1985) and Floodland (1987) were both Top 15 albums in the UK, and they looked set to make a major breakthrough in the US. A combination of factors - constantly shifting line-ups, singer Andrew Eldritch's mental health, and issues with their label - held them back and, although Eldritch still tours as The Sisters of Mercy, often playing new songs, they haven't released an album since 1990's Vision Thing. That's Eldritch above performing on Top of the Pops in 1988.

The Mission

The Mission were formed in 1986 by two Sisters of Mercy alumni, singer Wayne Hussey and bassist Craig Adams, then Artery guitarist Simon Hinkler and Red Lorry Yellow Lorry drummer Mick Brown joined. (They were initially called The Sisterhood, much to Andrew Eldritch's annoyance - he was using the name for a side project.) They broke through with 1988 album Children - a No.2 hit in the UK produced by Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones. Since then, Wayne Hussey has been the only consistent member of The Mission, who have now released 10 albums. Hussey described the most recent one, 2016's Another Fall from Grace as "the lost link between the Sisters of Mercy's First and Last and Always and the Mission's own first album." Above, the 1990 lineup of the group are performing Butterfly on a Wheel on Top of the Pops in 1990.

The Cult

The Cult are more of a hard rock band, but they have roots in gothic rock, having been formed out of singer Ian Astbury's short-lived previous group Southern Death Cult (1981-1983), which blended post-punk with goth. They certainly looked more like a rock band than a goth group by the time the above shot was taken in 1989 on Top of the Pops. They're performing Fire Woman, the first single released from their fourth studio album Sonic Temple, and the song that broke them in the US.

Nine Inch Nails

Gothic rock was a very British 80s sound that would go on to have a huge influence on 90s alternative rock - here and in the US. The music of PJ Harvey, Marilyn Manson and Manic Street Preachers has gothic undertones, as do Nine Inch Nails' albums, although they are usually described as being an industrial band. Formed by Trent Reznor in 1988, they achieved worldwide fame with The Downward Spiral (1994) and The Fragile (1999) and remain a enormous deal. Here they are playing at the Reading festival in 2007.

The Horrors

Goth in the 2000s manifests itself in different ways. It was an influence on emo groups like My Chemical Romance, it remains an element in the sound of electronic artists like Zola Jesus, and there was also something gothy about The Horrors, who started out in 2005 as a Sonics- and Ramones-like garage rock band before experimenting with different forms, including shoegaze, psychedelia and electronica. They adopted a very gothy look in their early days, completed the goth feel by using stage names like Faris Rotter and Coffin Joe, and we find them here, above and below, performing at Reading + Leeds in 2007.

Alice Cooper

Finally, you don't half stumble upon some strange pictures in the BBC photo archives. Like this one of gothic rock pioneer Alice Cooper with well-known goth fan Theresa May. The pair were guests on an episode of The Andrew Marr Show in 2010 when May was home secretary.

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