Archive for rosetta stone

Music for a Monday: Rosetta Stone

Posted in Culture, Music with tags , , , , , , , on September 26, 2011 by vprime

Rosetta Stone provided classic Gothic rock, not far from the model established by the Sisters, the Mission and the March Violets. They followed in the footsteps of Andrew Eldritch’s own Doktor Avalanche with a drum machine dubbed Madame Razor. I don’t make the Sisters comparisons to  belittle. There are worse influences to have, and the music that resulted is undoubtedly enjoyable if you’re a fan of Gothic rock. Singer Porl King has a smooth and wonderful voice that reminds me of Daniel Ash at his best.  But for some reason, Rosetta Stone never got much attention from the scene. Unlike the Sisters, Rosetta Stone never tried to dodge the “Goth” label. I recall sending off to Cleopatra Records for a Rosetta Stone sticker that said something along the lines of “It’s a Goth thing, you wouldn’t understand.” Rosetta Stone put out three full albums and a handful of EPs before disappearing completely. Part of what may account for this band’s brief life is timing. Their first album, An Eye For the Main Chance, came out in 1991. As the Goth scene picked up more influences from Industrial and EBM throughout the 90s, Gothic Rock fell to the side. Rosetta Stone experimented with electronic music elements, but never let those engulf the rock core of the sound, which may have led to their marginalization. The band announced their dissolution at the 1998 Whitby festival. I can’t help but think that if Rosetta Stone had been putting out records in 1981 rather than 1991, they’d be in the Gothic pantheon alongside The Sisters, The Fields of the Nephilim, Christian Death  and so on.

Cleopatra Records included this song in at least one of their Gothic Rock compilations. This is one of the few original music videos I have been able to find for this band. They certainly had the look down. That crimped hair is magnificent:

As it turns out, this is a cover of a song by a 60s German psychedelic act:

Very early version of Six Before Dawn:

Live footage. The sound isn’t great:

Another video, though it’s quite poor quality. The sound is pretty good on this one, though:

Unerotica was Rosetta Stone’s cover album. They did very interesting things with other songs on this album, and I consider it among my favorites. Here’s their version of Heaven 17’s “Temptation”:

Gary Numan’s “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?”:

Bronski Beat’s “Smalltown Boy”:

There’s an unofficial information site if you’d like to know more about this band at

Music for a Monday: Venus in Furs

Posted in Books, Culture, Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 19, 2011 by vprime

I’m devoting this Monday’s music post to a song rather than a band in honor of my forthcoming review of the novel Venus in Furs. This song describes much of the thematic content of the novel. In the book, Severin, troubled by his desire to submit to a cold, unattainable woman, finds a willing accomplice in the headstrong widow Wanda. He persuades her to take him on as a servant and to wear furs in honor of a Titian painting that he believes expresses his ideal of womanhood. Wanda treats Severin as a slave, including meting out corporal punishment as part of their agreement. The book resulted in Sacher-Masoch’s name becoming forever associated with a desire for pain.

The Velvet Underground opened the door for much of the dark music that came to be known as Goth. In the book Goth Chic, Gavin Baddeley credits Nico with inspiring the cold, seductive persona refined by later Goth women. The slow, droning sound and taboo subject matter have made this song a favorite cover for Goth bands. If you have the opportunity to read Goth’s Dark Empire by Carol Shields, I highly recommend you do. In this book, Shields explores in detail Goth culture’s interest in masochism and submission. That I’ve heard this song covered at scores of Goth shows testifies to its influence on Goth culture.

I find it interesting that this song encompasses an ambiguous perspective. It’s Lou Reed who sings the original, and the song seems to slide in and out of the perspectives of Wanda and Severin. Reed describes the scenes from the book as an impartial observer, though the chorus beginning with “I am tired, I am weary . . .” appears to be from Severin’s perspective. It makes  no sense that an observer would express this ennui, though I don’t rule that possibility out entirely. The lyrics ” Taste the whip, in love not given lightly. /Taste the whip, now plead for me” seem to be Wanda’s words to Severin, though again, I think it’s possible that the entire song is from the perspective of a reader who identifies with both characters, whose emotional investment in the book provides a deep catharsis.

The original:

Christian Death (Rozz Williams):

Boring video, great cover by the sadly underexposed Rosetta Stone:

Her Majesty Siouxsie Sioux. If the “Wanda” portion of the song as done by Siouxsie here (especially her unheimlich wail on “plead for me.”) doesn’t give you goosebumps, check your pulse :

The Eden House is former Fields of the Nephilim members Tony Pettitt and Stephen Carey. I believe the vocals here are by Faith and the Muse’s (and formerly of Strange Boutique) Monica Richards:

Remember Gary Numan? He’s back, in pog form!:

And most bizarre of all, a commerical for tires (or, shall I say ‘tyres’?):

See you in a thousand years (after my nap).