Gargoyle Sox and That Song

Published on May 30th, 2009 in: Issues, Music, Pop Culture Holy Grail |

By Less Lee Moore

wtul tape

Anyone who’s discussed music with me at length knows about the box of dusty old tapes I’ve kept since I was a teenager. Back in the day, when my music taste was heavily informed by WTUL New Orleans, I would spend hours taping songs from the radio. In fact, I didn’t buy a whole lot of albums at that point because buying blank tapes gave me more bang for my broke teenaged buck.

After moving across the country a few times, I eventually condensed this collection of what used to be almost a hundred tapes to about thirty of them. Many of them don’t even have cases, meaning they don’t even have track listings. Yet, I’ve heard them so many times that I can name at least five songs off each one just by looking at the tape. (One, a blue cassette of Barry Manilow Live, was painted over with silver paint pen and just thinking about it reminds me of Bronski Beat and Cabaret Voltaire.)

Another has a reconfigured recipe label on it to cover whatever was on it before and this is one that has That Song I Really Like But Have Never Known Who Sings It.

Part of the problem was that the DJ who played the song was ending his shift and never stated who the artist was or what the song was called and didn’t tell the next DJ, either. Plus, he’d forgotten to change the RPM speed from the previous song before he put this one on. This resulted in the first 1/3 of the tune being veeerrrrry slllloooowww and warped, thus making it that much more difficult to identify.

I started playing the song on this tape for people in the early ’90s, when I was attending the University of California in Santa Barbara, but no one could identify the song. For the next ten years, whenever I’d meet someone who seemed to have a deep knowledge of ’80s music—particularly of the Goth persuasion—I’d play the song for them, each time hoping they’d know what the hell it was. I actually liked the song (at least the part that was normal speed) and it drove me batty not knowing who or what it was.

g sox cover
As The Master Sleeps

With the advent of technology and the ability to record digital versions of taped music via the home computer, I recently had my chance to share this unknown song with the world of the Internet, in the hopes of finally finding out who sang it.

The tape was of such poor quality (being about twenty years old and a retaped cassette with no case at that) that I could barely make out any lyrics. I tried Googling the few snippets I could decipher, but no luck.

my final surrender
but I’d been in the old house many nights before
. . . dream with no sense of fear or thought of escape
but tonight was different
when I came to I found myself in some sort of lair . . . snake on a spire
. . .
and ever since it’s been a life in hell
and ever since it’s been a life in hell

Then I uploaded it to the Internet and shared the link with my Facebook pals. Suggestions ranged from Fields Of The Nephilim to “one of those random bands that no one cares about like The Marionettes or Play Dead.” Someone else suggested early Christian Death. I looked up songs on MySpace and YouTube as well as the discographies of all four bands and quickly realized they were not responsible for this song.

Then a kind soul (who asked to remain anonymous) emailed me and said he was certain that the song was by a short-lived mid-’80s Goth band known as Gargoyle Sox. After a hearty laugh at the name of the band, I looked them up and sure enough, someone had uploaded their music to a blog, which I immediately downloaded (Shhh! Don’t tell!). The song was mislabeled as “Little Pink Playhouse” but further listening has revealed that it is actually called “Succubus” and appeared on their 1985 EP As The Master Sleeps.

gargoyle sox
Gargoyle Sox

Apparently Gargoyle Sox was the brainchild of John Koester and Matt DeWan, who also ran a label called Manster Records in Detroit. Manster Records is no longer with us, but from its corpse rose Manster Music, a label with a website devoted to all the artists, past and present, who appeared on Manster.

According to the Gargoyle Sox bio on the Manster Music page:

From the industrial wastelands of Detroit came GARGOYLE SOX. Their dark, brooding songs feature throbbing guitars and pounding bass lines driven by drum machine crashes and pre-programmed synthesizer madness. The legends tell of wretched souls who witnessed a GARGOYLE SOX concert and have never been the same.

Listening to the rest of the Gargoyle Sox catalog (which also includes a full-length called Headless Horseman) reveals that none of the band’s songs are quite as good as “Succubus,” which is itself somewhat corny, but does have great atmosphere and a cool story to tell. It’s fine by me, because it’s awesome to finally know who sings the song and to listen to a clear version of it (with no parts slowed down) after all these years.

In fact, “Succubus” is such a cool song, I think it deserves more attention. Perhaps a current band—such as the mighty Weep—could cover it and bring “Succubus” to a wider audience. I’m sure the old Goths in this world would be pleased.

Both As The Master Sleeps and Headless Horseman have been remastered and reissued on CD and are available via Manster Music.

6 Responses to “Gargoyle Sox and That Song”

  1. Matt Dewan:
    January 29th, 2010 at 10:23 pm

    Hey Pop Shifter,
    I’m one of the two Gargoyle Sox, and I enjoyed your story very much. It’s nice to know our songs are still remembered and appreciated. One quick note: Another album available at Manster Music, entitled, “Rubber,” is John Koester and myself. We generally refer to it as the lost 3rd Gargoyle Sox album. Kinda like “The Dukes of Streatospheare” is to XTC, if you’re hip to that band. Keep on listening! Thanks.

    Matt Dewan

  2. Khaosnaut:
    February 9th, 2011 at 8:41 am

    I myself stumbled upon this page looking for Jon Koester. Specifically as writing lyrics for the band “Rubber”. I managed to pick up this really obscure album:
    I have never been able to find lyrics for these songs. The Almbum jacket has no lyrics, but a brief description of the bands and mentions John Koester lead lead Gargoyle Sox through two LPs. So I guess it was post-Sox work.

  3. Nad:
    November 22nd, 2012 at 1:48 am

    Absolutely true review. Cool to read this…This wretched soul witnessed Gargoyle Sox and has never been the same…;)
    Still feeling lucky to have experienced the Detroit scene and the coolest talented people for a bit… My tapes are still intact and playing, and resurrecting round-about Halloween, the unfamiliars go crazy for it!

  4. Susan Bonge:
    March 3rd, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    I saw Gargoyle Sox in Queesns, NY at a club called “The Subway” during a hurricane. The club was actually underground in the subway. Any new info about them?

  5. Charlie:
    February 9th, 2014 at 11:55 pm

    John Koester has moved on to several other projects, but he occasionally updates some old Gargoyle Sox material; there are relatively recent recordings of “Evil Exhibition” on, if you search for “the trapdoor spiders”; the more recent version is even more sinister-sounding than the original, and has a little heavier sound.

    His current projects and both Gargoyle Sox albums can be found at his current website:

    Some of the Gravetown and Trapdoor Spiders material is certainly very worthy of the best Gargoyle Sox had to offer.

    To Susan — Apparently, there was either a bootleg or semi-authorized recording made of some of the material from the show at “The Subway.” The sound quality isn’t great. I had copy once, but I fear it is long gone.

    — Charlie

  6. Mike:
    March 19th, 2014 at 10:53 am

    I loved this story! I discovered Gargoyle Sox in the same way – someone on KZSU Stanford used to play them and I would tape the songs. The first songs I heard were “Serpent Circle” and “Brain Sell,” and neither of them were identified – I didn’t even know they were the same band! I think on my tape, “Brain Sell” came right next to Pink Floyd’s “One of These Days” – kind of a funny juxtaposition now, but the songs are actually similar. Somehow I did find out who they were, though, and bought both the records in the late 80s.

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