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by Philip Sherburne

March 1, 2011

Senior Year, 1984: Goth Night

by Philip Sherburne  |  March 1, 2011

Back in high school in the mid-'80s, I did drama: not in the sense of throwing hissy fits (though I probably threw my fair share) -- I acted in school plays. The Man Who Came to Dinner, Brighton Beach Memoirs, that kind of thing. Backstage, in the dressing room, the cast would listen to music in the hours before the performance began. When my turn came to commandeer the boombox, I put in a tape of Joy Division's Closer, figuring it was a natural fit for the occasion. After all, weren't we all darkly romantic types? Judging by the reaction from my fellow thespians, I figured wrong: Led Zeppelin was more their speed. I had only succeeded in outing myself as a misfit among misfits no easy task in a room full of drama geeks, all of us coated in pancake makeup.

I don't know if it's easier being a goth in high school today; I suspect that it might be, given the way the Internet has helped disseminate and demystify any number of youth subcultures over the past 15 years. (If ever there were a kind word to be said about Hot Topic, it would have to be for the chain stores' role in taking the sting out of freak scenes.) But it was hell in my day, which was surely part of the reason that I gravitated toward records like Hell Comes to Your House.

By my reckoning, 1984 was the year that goth broke, thanks to the crossover success of records like The Cure's The Top and Depeche Mode's Some Great Reward. And, perhaps because 1984 was the year that I discovered it, I've always figured that it was all downhill from there the truly great goth records (some of which weren't really goth, but were prized by that set anyway) were recorded mostly between 1979 and 1984, and after that, the menace of death rock turned to kohl-eyed kitsch. By that entirely subjective rationale, I've fashioned this Senior Year playlist of that year's tunes (plus a handful from '83) as a tribute to the O.G. goths one high school generation before me, in the class of 1984 the kids who really suffered for this music.

Of course, there's also the time that slam-dancing to the Repo Man soundtrack in my high-school parking lot led to me getting busted for having beer in my car and it wasn't mine, I swear -- but that's another story for another time.

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