That's right. It wasn't Moz. It wasn't The Cure. It wasn't Joy Division. The REAL godfather of Goth is Del Shannon. Yes, THAT Del Shannon. The man who blessed the world with the classic mood piece "Runaway," and who in 1990 shot himself due to a lifelong depression that was in no way helped by the Prozac he was taking. If you doubt me, and I KNOW you do, just listen to the aforementioned song, or "Keep Searchin'," or "Stranger In Town," or the classic "Sister Isabelle," where Del's bitch leaves him for Jesus and becomes a nun, and Del proceeds to scream at her, "Does He need you more than I do?" Strangely, Del has never gotten his due, and I aim to set the record straight once and for all.
"But...but...couldn't Goth easily trace itself back to country or the blues?" The answer to that is a resounding NO. Let's look at the evidence, shall we? Most Goth music is performed by pale, scrawny bitch men who would rather pop pills than down some hard liquor, and who focus more on THEIR pain then pain in general. Goth performers whine or moan rather than snarl or scream, and Del's career was littered with more whine than an Italian resteraunt. Also, Goth music shoots for atmosphere rather than force, and Del's music certainly had enough of that. "Runaway" is a song that still scares the shit out of me, and has by far the creepiest solo that I've ever heard in any pop song. That goddamn keyboard popped up in many of his other songs, including upbeat dance songs like "Handy Man," where it gives a regular happy song a disturbingly eerie feel. Then there's "Keep Searchin'," with a guitar that sounds a bit off, a shrill organ in the background, echoing hard stomps during the chorus, and Del's ambulance shrieks.
And what is one supposed to make of the song "Stranger In Town," which is by a longshot THE most paranoid song of the 60s? "Stranger in town...he's out to get me..." Del sings, followed by more echoed thumps and a tamborine, after which Del lowers his voice and sings in a hushed voice, then starts yelling "yeah, we'll run" over and over, resulting in a song that should send any self-respecting goth straight to the medicine cabinet. This creepiness is something that oozed itself into almost everything in Del's catalog, and by doing a little "searchin'," you'll find plenty more of these frowny delights in any of his CDs that you may or may not decide to pick up.
Aside from that, there is also another key ingredient to Del's foresight, and that's his bitchiness. "Hat's Off To Larry" is the ULTIMATE bitchfest, where Del taunts his ex-girlfriend by telling her how happy he is that the guy she left him for fucked her and left her, and then has the nerve to tell her that he wants her back! Or how about "So Long Baby," where Del tells his ex girlfriend to fuck off, because even though she cheated on him, he cheated on her too, and he wants her to stay "far, far, far, far, far from me, me, me, me, me"? Then there's "Little Town Flirt," about a slut who "plays around with every guy who walks by," but you'd have to be blind to not be able to figure out the real story. She dumped his ass for someone else, so it's up to Del to warn not only her new boyfriend, but every guy in town that she's a whore who'll toy with you until she gets what she wants. Now THAT'S bitchiness!
Of course, Del's career went down the toilet when everyone decided that they wanted to look and sound British, and it wasn't until the 80s that he managed to chart again with a cover of "Sea of Love." There was also the rumor that he would join the superstar shitfest the Traveling Wilburys, but that didn't happen, because he started taking Prozac and, as stated earlier, shot himself. Thus, the first Goth king made the ultimate Goth exit.
When Del dropped out of the top ten, it was up to Brian Wilson to teach the Beach Boys how to mope, and with the release of "In My Room," the Goth crown was stolen and placed on the new kings. While a case can be made for The Beach Boys keeping the Goth tradition alive, it was Del Shannon who was the pioneer, the originator, and the almighty God of it. After all, you wouldn't confuse Jesus with the Apostles, now would you?