Goths in the 80s: Jodie Meidling, Rachel Black, David Kendall
Speakers: Jodie Meidling, Rachel Black and David Kendall
Running time: 11 minutes
Jodie Meidling: [0:08] I think I became a Goth when I was about 13. And the reason that I became a Goth was because I lived in the western suburbs of Sydney. I didn’t fit in. I knew from a young age that I didn’t fit in anywhere.
Jodie cont’d: [0:22] I was into reading ‘Wuthering Heights’, and other people were into reading ‘Dolly’. So you really had no connection with them. You couldn’t sit down and say, ‘Well I’m actually reading this really great gothic novel at the moment.’ And I didn’t want to wear the same clothes as everyone else or listen to their music.
Jodie cont’d: [0:41] And when I was about 13, my family was living in an apartment, and my bedroom used to look down onto the driveway. And the woman who lived in the adjoining apartment, I used to see her coming and going, obviously, going to work and coming home and going out clubbing, and she just looked amazing. She wore the right clothes. She had amazing hairstyles. I just really wanted to meet her desperately, but I didn’t know how. I was only young and shy.
Jodie cont’d: [1:08] And before I got to meet her, she would play a song called ‘Leave in Silence’ by Depeche Mode. And the lyrics to it were that you couldn’t handle your life any more and you just wanted to leave. And that’s how I felt. I just felt no connection with anything. And I couldn’t understand, but this music was the connection. And I would actually physically lean up against the wall to hear her play this particular album.
David Kendall: [1:37] I think the 80s, for a lot of people that were there at the time, was finding out about the different styles of music, the journey from being in the 70s growing up in the suburbs, discovering that fifth and sixth form at school.
David cont’d: [1:44] It was like there is all this other stuff out there. And they were the people I tried to actually capture in the years that I was actually doing nightclubs, and come along and have a journey with us.
David cont’d: [2:07] And, ‘Ah, you might like Depeche Mode. Well try this, try this, try this.’ And a lot of those people, I’m actually still quite good friends with, that came on that sort of journey, the musical journey of discovering that Jimmy Barnes wasn’t the only thing that was played.
Jodie: [2:24] I think in the 80s it was a bunch of people who came together who didn’t fit in; people wanting to wear black and enjoy the dark side of life. And whilst it seems depressing to the outside world, to us it wasn’t necessarily like that. We enjoyed writing, and listening to music was just a huge passion.
Jodie cont’d: [2:44] And of course, there were, for me, darker sides to it, including things like being interested in sort of death, and murder, and that sort of thing, and crime, and true crime. So for some reason, it all melted together. Now not every Goth is into that, and they weren’t. It may have just been the music or the fashion that they were interested in. But I think the thing that joined us all together was the fact that we didn’t fit in and we were different.
Rachel Black: [3:12] I guess when I was at school, all the people that were creative hung out together. There were a few punks, a few Goths, not very many on the Gold Coast. Yeah. I liked to wear things that were quite different. Everyone wore fluoro boardshorts, and surf clothes, and bikinis, and I preferred black, and stripes, and more fun stuff.
Rachel cont’d: [3:37] So I guess it was kind of the freaky people all hung out together. But back then, it wasn’t called Goths, they were called Swampies, which was old ripped fishnets, ripped clothes, skirts, Winkle Pickers, and teased up hair. It was all very much like you crawled out of the swamp.
Jodie: [3:56] With clothes and that kind of thing then, it was just black, really. It was great. If you were a little bit quirky, you could wear something a bit colourful on top of that. So you might wear a long black – velvet jackets were really in if you could get a velvet long jacket, and black pants, and lots of things like lace, and silk, just anything you could get your hands on.
Rachel: [4:19] The velvet dress that I made, it was inspired by a cheongsam that someone wore. I think it was black and it had a dragon all down the arm. It was something glittery and I thought it was so beautiful having something so plain with sequins on it and under the light, it shines. So that’s the first thing I saw that inspired me for that dress.
Rachel cont’d: [4:43] And then, of course, Morticia Adams. So it was a cross between the two. And I was really into amethysts, and feathers, and nature. So when I made the dress, it was done by doing the Gladwrap trick, and then the tape, and then chopping for the seams to find the shape of my body, hand sewing it together.
Rachel cont’d: [5:02] The fabric was actually a curtain from an op shop. And the sequins on the arm were all hand done. And all the beading on the arms were things I bought, like little necklaces and things I bought at op shops, and the feathers I bought at Lincraft or something like that. And amethyst as well.
Rachel cont’d: [5:21] And I had the long train. It fitted nicely, so you got a nice cleavage. The train went, I think, about one or two metres long, but I had a little arm piece so I could wear it. The only inspiration I had was from old books, the old medieval dresses – things like that. And then also maybe seeing ‘The Young Ones’ and ‘The Damned’ on TV or a CD of Souixsie and the Banshees.
Rachel cont’d: [5:50] I don’t know. I came up with a lot of styles that I hadn’t seen anyone else wearing, which was kind of nice because I wasn’t corrupted by anything.
Jodie: [6:00] I got this crucifix at the Easter show in the 80s. This probably only cost me a couple of dollars at the time, but it has stayed with me. And it’s quite sentimental; I take this with me to every Depeche Mode concert that I ever go to overseas.
Jodie cont’d: [6:14] I think that Goths do identify with a lot of religious symbolism, and when you look at a lot of crosses and crucifixes, they’ve very much got a gothic design to them. I think that’s got a lot to do with why we like that sort of look, that whole thing.
Jodie cont’d: [6:33] I grew up in the western suburbs of Sydney, which did not have any tolerance for anyone who was different. I remember the first time I ever went to Newtown. I just felt when I walked along King Street that I had arrived. I was home. Everybody there was accepting; you could wear whatever you want. Nobody picked on you, nobody said anything. In fact, you just melted into everybody else.
Jodie cont’d: [6:54] It was very difficult to catch public transport dressed up, so I used to have to take all of my things in a bag and then usually get dressed at a railway station toilets, and get your makeup on and all that stuff, which was difficult. And even sometimes just that short trip from Central Station to where you had to go could be quite scary, because people would just be staring at you and talking about you and saying nasty things.
Jodie cont’d: [7:21] I was thinking about it, and the most fun that we would have would be getting ready at someone’s house. So we felt safe there and we didn’t have to go get ready at a toilet block at the railway station. We were able to really relax, play our music up loud, get dressed. And that was more fun than actually getting to the club.
Jodie cont’d: [7:41] But in terms of clubbing, in the early 80s before there were any Goth clubs, we all joined together. So it was gay and rockabilly, mods, punks, Goths, everybody all in the same place. The first place that I did go to was the Exchange Hotel on Oxford Street. And I remember going to Propaganda and the Cardoma Cafe. Very different venues. They had a lot of bands at the Cardoma Cafe.
Jodie cont’d: [8:11] But Propaganda was this really dark place. I remember being really frightened to go there because the really cool people went there.
David: [8:20] It was the start of the Goth clubs. The nice thing about that period was we all were experimenting, including myself, about where you actually fitted in that whole music scene. That alternative music scene was all clumped in together. At Propaganda, we definitely played left of centre. And it would cover rock and roll, rockabilly, psychobilly, Goth, indie, Australian independent, everything else that other people weren’t playing, really.
Jodie: [8:54] And I was always scared that if you got knocked back and you had to stand out the front, if the style enforcer said that you couldn’t get in, it was the worst possible torture and that you’d just have to go home. And I was always scared, thinking, do I look cool enough? Are they going to let me in?
Jodie cont’d: [9:09] And then once I was inside it was like, oh, I’ve made it. I’m here. I’ve done it. And then really enjoying just looking at other people and what they were wearing and then going home and trying to copy it. [laughs]
Jodie cont’d: [9:18] When I heard that there was going to be a very specific Goth club opening up at Site, at Kings Cross in Victoria Street, I was just so excited. I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was the best thing that was ever going to happen.
David: [9:34] The start of Sanctuary was about me meeting up with Wally. She’d come to Propaganda once, had a look at it and said, ‘Oh, this is really cool.’ But of course that closed. And Wally actually was working in the Soho Bar, part of the Site, and suggested to the owners that she could actually start up a club on a Saturday night that would fill their midnight licence requirements. She approached me and said, ‘Look, do you want to DJ at this club?’
Jodie: [10:03] And I remember the first song that we heard on the dance floor was ‘She Sells Sanctuary’ by The Cult. I’m going to cry. That just changed everything. I just felt like I had walked in – to home. And everybody there was wearing the same things and everybody was around the same age. We just instantly made friends with people that I’m still friends with today.
Jodie cont’d: [10:23] Goth is an open community where you can be whoever you want to be. It doesn’t matter how you present yourself. Even if you don’t wear the right things, it didn’t matter, and I learnt that as I went along. It’s such an open and beautiful community. There’s no judgment, and that’s why it meant so much to me. That you could wear anything and be whoever you wanted to be, and there was absolutely no judgment at all.