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Andrew Cowen's Big World of Rock: Memories of a dead relationship.

Byline: Andrew Cowen

You must have seen them, those creatures of darkness who hang around the city centre, moping. With pierced faces like a wet weekend, dog collars, surgical boots, lace gloves and black lipstick, these are Birmingham's goths, a noxious sub-culture below pity and derision.

I tried to chat one up once. She told me her name was Mystryss Darque Wintyr Nyght Rayn Ravyn.

'Excuse me, young lady . . .' I asked her politely.

'Could I ask you, were we tortured and then burned at the stake as Agnostic Cathar Heretics by the Spanish Inquisition during intimately linked previous lives in the early 12th century?'

She fixed me with a withering stare. Somehow, somewhere, I could hear Bach's Toccata and fugue in D minor playing. She said nothing. I assumed she was alive. Were she dead, she'd have needed less make-up.

She had a rat on her shoulder. An old lady walked past, stopped, and joined me in staring at the ghastly apparition. She looked at the tableau before us and said: 'Yeuk!

What are you doing with that revolting creature?'

And the rat just squeaked in a somewhat depressed Brummie accent.

She was so goth that her black was blacker than black. She probably calls it 'black black.'

For ten minutes I tried to goad her into conversation. Eventually I gave in, though she did let me pay for her kebab.

Back in my day, we had real goths. First generation undead who carried around black food dye in case they had to eat anything that wasn't black.

They listened to bands like Bauhaus, Fields of the Nephilim and the Sisters of Mercy. They were invariably the sons and daughters of rectors, vergers and vicars who'd developed a taste for the macabre by hanging around graveyards too much.

I had a goth girlfriend when I was 17. Her name was Nikki Gloom and she lived in this great big house with a paddock, stables and primitive threshing machine. Her twin obsessions were Edgar Alan Poe and her pony, Cloven Hoofy.

Her bedroom was painted black. The ceiling, walls and floor. Even her mirror was non-reflective. Sometimes she would run out of candles and finding her in the dark was a serious problem, despite the messianic grunt she was wont to make when stressed.

Deep down, my Ms Gloom was an ordinary girl. Well, as ordinary as anyone whose mother claimed kinship to the Churchills and whose father flew Concorde could be. She was a year younger than me and still hadn't thrown her toys away. Her Barbies had been extensively gothed -she'd taken her crimpers to the dolls' hair and dressed them in lace. Primitive ankh tattoos were scratched on their backs with a compass and India ink. Even her dolls had PVC nappies.

I was a punk and sometimes we'd catch the train to Brighton to stroll along the pebbly beach. This was one of the few times I'd see her in daylight. She wasn't so extreme that she'd sleep in a coffin, but any glancing ray from the afternoon sun was seen as a threat to her morbid pallor.

After the sun went down, we'd head up the South Downs and light a bonfire on the edge of the cliff. She used to wonder what it would be like to be dead and I used to wonder what it would be like to push her off the edge. It was almost a symbiotic relationship.

We separated after she struck up a friendship with the college's uber-goth, a wey-faced pastiche of a bloke called Matthew Black. Black and Gloom made a handsome couple on the local green, drinking cider and pulling the wings off butterflies. They were outcasts, rebels, village idiots and they believed they were immortal.

Sadly, that wasn't true. Black was killed one night walking along a dark lane. A car full of drunken squaddies hit him from behind. They probably couldn't see him in the dark. His funeral was a peculiar affair, conducted by his own devastated father with a smattering of goths lurking, like so many tatty crows, in the shadows. Within a couple of months most of the goths had become mods, much to the relief of their parents.

The last I heard of Nikki Gloom, she was still working in the stables where her breeding acumen had turned out a few successful point-to-point nags. Her bottom, I was told, looked funny in jodhpurs and she had long since given up the goth lifestyle.

I still think of her when I'm out on a moonlit night and wonder if we ever could have had a future together. She was pretty hot for a dead chick.


Goth n.; 1 a member of a Germanic people that invaded the Roman Empire between the 3rd and 5th centuries. 2 (goth) a style of rock music typically having apocalyptic or mystical lyrics. A member of a subculture favouring black clothing and goth music
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Oct 16, 2003
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