First and Last and Forever: The Sisters’ debut album, thirty five years on

Tim FALAA 2009

Tim Sinister, 2009

I should lead with a confession. The first Sisters album I listened to was 1987’s Floodland, and it made a more significant impact than their debut ever did.

How could it not? Eldritch was in top form, flush from victory over his treacherous minions and armed with the pulchritudinous Patricia Morrison and devoted Doktor Avalanche to produce his ultimate vision of The Sisters of Mercy. The techno-experimentation of the ‘Sisterhood’ era gave way to a polished collection of icy synths and sneering superiority led by three of the finest singles the band has ever produced. Less than a week ago I saw The Sisters of Mercy live and they ended on the triumph that is This Corrosion – still a potent weapon in the band’s live arsenal.

And yet, for all Floodland is a finely honed, bombastic blast of Sisters creativity, it is to First and Last and Always we must look for what I believe to be the ‘truest’ sound of this most definitive band. To many fans, the cowboy-hat wearing smoke-wreathed silhouettes are the golden-age lineup – Gary Marx, Andrew Eldritch, Wayne Hussey and Craig Adams, clawing their way up the indie charts and into WEA’s signing book, before breaking into America in debauched and doom-laden style.


They’re also tasked with creating an album. The demon bastard overlord himself, riding high on control-freakery and amphetamine abuse, tinkers endlessly with EQs and lyrics to the frustration of his more prolific bandmates – the bones of early Ghost Dance and Mission songs can be found in the graveyard leavings of the studio floor at this time…!
Plagued by his many demons, Eldritch is hospitalised and the album pushed back – although he’s back on his feet sufficiently for the Black October tour in support of an album that doesn’t exist!

The singles instead come out – Walk Away in October ’84, and No Time To Cry in March ’85 – and neither bother the Top 40 too closely. The album itself came out soon after – thirty five years ago today in fact. It should have been the opening salvo of the triumphant rise of The Sisters of Mercy – instead, it was the merciful kill of the last bullet. The relationship between founders Gary Marx and Andrew Eldritch had been disintegrating for quite some time, and on the 1st April Gary performed his final gig. He elected not to turn up for the fabled Royal Albert Hall gig on 18th June 1985, the fabled filmed finale of the First and Last and Always foursome, now a tired triad.

When Eldritch clashes with Adams and Hussey over the tracks for the next album, the friction spills over. Adams is out on a tirade, with Eldritch literally washing his hands of the pugnacious bassist. Hussey, the newest recruit, agonises over his actions before being galvanised by Adams into splitting off into ‘The Sisterhood’… ah, but that’s a story for another day.

Yet amidst the collapse, we must recognise that it is these fractured and frustrating few years leading up to March 1985 that produces this pillar of goth-rock sound (despite Von’s strident denials)!
All of this vicious infighting and chemical abuse was a catalyst in the recording of the debut. Compare it to its descendants – the cynical AOR and American nightmare of Vision Thing, or the crystal-cold nuclear Armageddon and cruel sex of Floodland are both overblown creations meticulously planned by the unrestrained architect Eldritch. Only First and Last and Always is a true combination of an entire band’s songwriting strength and the raw nature of Andy ‘Spiggy’ Taylor, confronting – for me – his true feelings about love and death and all that good lyrical source material.


Very little compares to it today. Look at the current line-up’s willingness to play Vision Thing in it’s entirety, versus the fact that Nine While Nine hasn’t been played live since the Eighties. 1959 is a beautifully understated number on Floodland, but for stripped-down saddening horror, I’ll take Blood Money or On The Wire any chance I get – and those only existed as bootlegs for decades, too!

If you want to see Eldritch’s songwriting at its most significant, set to the Sister’s musical style at it’s most dramatic, you’ll pick First and Last and Always every day – forever.


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General Dejection 2019: Black and Blue UK

The Tory Party has claimed an additional 66 seats in the UK General Election, giving them a sizable majority and a seeming indictment of the British desire to “get on with Brexit”. Key Labour strongholds in the North succumbed to a blue tide that saw the opposition party suffer its worst election performance in decades.

In a parallel universe however, there was a rare display of Goth unity and the black clad put their vote in the red box en masse. Even the other left-wing, anti-Brexit parties like the Liberal Democrats and Greens lost supporters in droves to Labour.

UK Goth Election 2019: Results

Interestingly, the Conservative vote remained stable since 2017, hovering just below 4%. It seems the biggest shifts of voting intentions amongst goths were redistributed around the left – confirming suspicions that the subculture holds broadly liberal views.

Equally telling was The Brexit Party receiving not a single vote. The single-issue fringe party, whose leader receives bizarrely prominent coverage in the British media, was equally devastated in the General Election.

UK Goth Election 2017: Results

Turnout for yesterday’s election was down a modest 1.5%, whilst the goths – given admittedly less voting time on this occasion! – turned out 23% less than in 2017.

Despite this the voting bloc coordinated in an unprecedented manner, supporting a party that has struggled with a divisive leader, poisonous accounts of antisemitism and a wavering position on the trigger topic of Brexit.

It feels more like a rejection of a government that routinely makes headlines for its ruthless economic cuts that their manifesto will only partially repair. Added to this are the perceptions of the Prime Minister as elitist, discriminatory and deceptive with several disastrous interviews and leaks over just the past few months.

Finally, despite his claims of wanting to lead a “United Britain”, there is no evidence of healing the massive divide that is exiting the EU. For a group of people with a tendency towards following bands and visiting European festivals, this new uncertainty over travel is a major source of concern. Not to mention the hostile atmosphere towards friends, colleagues and everyday people from across the EU who contribute to the nation but now feel abandoned and under threat.

These concerns however have been swept aside in a stunning victory for the Tories, leaving the goths’ choice Labour – and every other opposition party – in disarray.

Speaking personally, but probably echoing many others, UK goths are feeling alienated from the mainstream British population – even more so now than ever.

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General Dejection 2019: The Velvet Vote

As the United Kingdom hobbles towards another General Election – our third in four years – I received some quiet inquiries about if I’d be asking readers how they’ll be voting.


I covered the 2015 Election, which ushered in a notable majority for the still-reigning Tory Party even though the goths voted overwhelmingly Green!
Then in 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May gambled on securing more authority in Parliament to push through legislation for Brexit, that ended up tumbling her party’s now slender grip. The vampire vote of British goths reflected the burgeoning prospects of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, tempting the “largely” leftish alternative group, as the party gained nearly thirty new seats.

Once again we return to the polling booths in an attempt to shore up Boris Johnson’s Tory government, and give him the pipe dream that is a mandate for Brexit over a hostile parliament. There’s other issues as well, like the NHS and the climate emergency, but the UK’s proposed departure from the EU leads the way in key issues for voters.

So now I turn to my readers and ask them to pass judgment in advance, by casting their votes on our poll. It’s far from foolproof – I ask my international audience to forbear and let the experiment run unhindered. We’ll keep the polls open until midnight on Thursday, and announce the results on the auspicious date of Friday 13th December!


Finally, I reserve the right to walk softly and wield a big ban-hammer. Personal crusades, unnecessary venom, and the spouting of willful bullshit propaganda – from any angle – will be cracked down on.

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Salad Daze – the autobiography of Wayne Hussey

“After years and years of living with repression and religious guilt, I had finally shaken off those shackles to become the clichéd licentious, degenerate, promiscuous rock star – everything my mother had feared I’d become.”

I’ve met Wayne a couple of times now. Once all the way to Dublin to see them rehearse before touring in support of their last album, Another Fall from Grace. Wayne was a sedate, convivial host with a wicked sense of humour and a quiet core of confident self reliance.

To square that with the hell-raising front man of stadium touring goth rockers The Mission was a challenge. To imagine him at the right hand of Eldritch, crafting the rich riffs that define First and Last and Always, arguably the most iconic period of The Sisters Of Mercy, was nigh-on impossible.

salad daze

So I was delighted to be sent a review copy of Wayne’s autobiography Salad Daze – many thanks to publishers Omnibus Press!

Very early on Wayne addresses the contradiction he presents, describing his first adventures onto stage and deciding that “the most interesting rock stars are the wall flowers”. The ones who were quiet and sensitive as children and have grown up with a burning urge to prove themselves to the world.

This level of self-reflection, even introspection runs through Wayne’s writing and paints a deeper picture of what we perceive as a character – a caricature – of the Goth scene. A very self-aware caricature as well, quite without illusion or delusion.

He quickly identifies the seeds of rock and roll being sown, including watching T-Rex supported by The Damnned in 1977 with the charisma of Marc Bolan having a major impact on the young Hussey. Sadly though, there is no record of what he thought of Dave Vanian!

There’s also many painful acknowledgements of his Mormon upbringing which clearly caused him such conflict. The mandatory account of losing his virginity is tarnished by the horrendous guilt that sends him fleeing the scene immediately afterwards – clearly rooted in his subconscious, bathed in religion. Hussey is candid about his realisation of his own mental demons, and he ensures he apologises to the wounded other party, and is humble to note she still thought fondly of him long after!

Like many contemporary musicians Hussey goes from band to band, often following the classified adverts in Melody Maker. In 1981 he is aligned with Pauline Murray and The Invisible Girls. His trip to the North East to record the single Searching For Heaven is his first (and last) encounter with the legendary producer Martin Hannett. He’d made a fearsome reputation creating the iconic sound that defined Joy Division – and now he was going to create an iconic rock and roll rebel by passing a bank note and a few lines of cocaine to Wayne Hussey.

“Within ten minutes I was asking for more lines to be chopped out. I was easily seduced and readily corruptible. I surrendered unhesitatingly to taking the first steps on the road to ruin; that dark, alluring, mythical place where caricature and rock’n’roll cliché exist.”

Dissolute excess notwithstanding, the band commit to recording the single. One night Hussey is recording a guitar part and Hannett obliges the atmosphere by lowering the lights. After four or five takes, our hero thinks he’s nailed it – but the track keeps rewinding and he starts again obligingly. By a herculean ninth or tenth take he finally pokes his head into the darkened control room. Martin Hannett is comfortably asleep under the automated mixing desk! Hussey rallies bravely and the resultant single appears at a modest 83 in the charts, his first – but far from last – appearence.

Well known to his fans but perhaps overlooked by others, Wayne next turned his talents to Dead or Alive in Liverpool, helmed by the outrageous Pete Burns. When Pete passed in 2016, Hussey freely admits he cried for his old singer. His reflections on his time with the band are a recollection of superb playing and writing, and above all else the withering sense of humour and prodigious talent of Pete Burns. He also reminds us that pre Dead or Alive, the band were visibly Gothic Rock before the term had even been created!


Dead Or Alive, 1985 (sans Hussey)

This chimes with the memories of John Keenan, the formidable Leeds promoter who ran the successful Futurama festivals of the 1980s amongst many other alternative events. At a panel he recalled the dark splendour of Pete Burns and company and mused on the influence that could have had on a younger Andy Taylor…

Let’s follow that thread shall we? Eldritch himself picked up the phone to recruit Hussey after his unpleasant departure from Dead Or Alive. So will begin one of the most formative periods of Hussey’s career, and a collision course with arguably the most revered and reviled character in goth rock.

Hussey’s entrance exam in particular consists of a trip to Village Place in Leeds 4, the dark heart of the Merciful Release empire. After chats, tea and lines of speed, the guitarist is dispatched back to Liverpool with an armful of Sisters records he must scrutinize before deciding if he can join… as well as pending approval by Eldritch himself. Of course he gets the job, recalling

“I had passed the audition without playing a note, though I suspect my skill with a blade and powder may well have had something to do with my appointment.”

What follows is a raucous account of his first trip to the USA, producing the first album, and touring in support of it. I don’t want to spoil any of it, and firmly encourage you to enjoy it yourself. Many anecdotes fly by, such as the awful reason he bought his first broad-brimmed black hat, where exactly he left a wardrobe from a hotel room, and quite what he got up to in the back garden of Gary Numan’s house so long ago!

The Sisters of Mercy

The Sisters of Mercy, 1985 (avec Hussey)

Sadly these anecdotes are summed up in just a few lines, probably a casualty of the celebrated excess he and bassist Craig Adams – dubbed the Evil Children of the Sisters – indulged in during those heady days. It’s a shame really as I could have enjoyed far more detail on each and every sordid encounter… but I understand the price paid for even these hazy memories!

Of even more interest to the goth scholar, or gossip merchant, or more likely a combination of the two, is his perspective on Andy “Spiggy” Taylor, aka Andrew von Eldritch, svengali of The Sisters of Mercy, reluctant architect of goth rock imagery and sound, and arch-denier of the cause. It’s fascinating to note when – with unbridled honesty – Hussey admits how he and Adams earn the ire of their bandmates through debauched shenanigans. He does not evade responsibility and whilst not an outright apologist, certainly seems to regret some of the chancier choices he made!


Equally, the guitarist is unrestrained in recording the complexities of working with the universally acknowledged control freak that is Eldritch. Appearing more and more as a detached, morally ambivalent overlord the accounts of recording First and Last and Always are fascinating and infuriating in equal measures.
The meticulous-to-a-ridiculous-degree mixing of the first album seems to jar with the difficulty reported in producing and recording the lyrics, and Eldritch’s illnesses during ’85 are well known – exacerbated, Hussey recalls, by his intake of chemicals along with his twilight exile inside studios and rehearsal rooms (although never at the same time as his bandmates!)

Yet despite his comments to meet about having no regrets over reopening old wounds, and his willingness to stick it to the “bigoted, sour bunch” of the Sisters audience who still see Hussey as the villain, there’s some heartfelt reflection in there about recording one of the most distinctive tradgoth albums ever.

“As my health and sanity suffered with recording Mission albums so did Andrew’s with FALAA. I’ve been left spiritually and emotionally bereft after recording albums as I’m sure Andrew was with FALAA. Rightly or wrongly FALAA is perhaps a work that has been held up to scrutiny much more than anything else I have done before or since.

Everything I have done since has been judged against it. It’s a long, long time, more than 30 years since its release, to live with the nagging notion that maybe, just maybe, FALAA has been my life’s best work.”

At moments like this I absolutely treasured Wayne’s personal, open, ‘to a mate, over a pint’ style of writing which I can report is very similar to his actual manner of conversation. He brings the reader in close and speaks earnestly and truthfully – and it resounds in your mind brilliantly.

From this point out, his memoirs are tinged with melancholy and resentment. The band loses founding member Gary Marx, with the task of informing the guitarist falling to unluckly ‘new boy’ Hussey, who attempts to carry out Eldritch’s orders with grace and dignity – and is met with relief by Gary, who had been estranged from the lead singer since prior to Hussey ever joining.
There’s the Royal Albert Hall gig of ‘Wake’ fame, which is preceded by the casual rock’n’roll tale of Hussey headed out to see Killing Joke with Ian Astbury and Lemmy, and meeting a wrecked Jimmy Page along the way. There’s the filming of the videos, including the infamous Black Planet video that all but heralded the end that was screaming towards The Sisters of Mercy.

The final clash takes up the final page and a half. Craig Adams, soon to be the bassist in The Mission, explodes after attempting to play along with the demos produced by Eldritch for the next album. After a four-word tirade, he storms out, and later in the pub confides in Hussey that he’d rather play the music Hussey had written.
The very next day, Wayne Hussey – soon to be the guitarist and lead singer in The Mission – informs Andrew Eldritch that he is leaving The Sisters of Mercy.

“As I pondered the future, I couldn’t help feeling that the last two years had been merely a diversion, not a destination.”

Roll on the Memoirs of The Mission!

You can also read my interview with Wayne ahead of his tour of SALAD DAZE over here!

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Whitby Festival Season – Winter 2019


Greetings to everyone attending Whitby Goth Weekend right now, and hello to everyone travelling down next weekend for Tomorrow’s Ghost Festival. Yes, we’re in the final throes of the great Whitby division, where the two competing events are occurring at separate times.
Next year, they’ll run side-by-side but from now until next Monday, goths will be heading to and leaving from the small seaside town that has become a major nexus of the UK scene.

TGF Winter 2019


We’ve covered the split of the Whitby crowd in interminable blog posts before. Suffice to say, the line-up at Tomorrow’s Ghosts continues to be the biggest draw for me, as well as similar expression of interest amongst my friends. Whitby is what you make it, and a good soundtrack and mates about you is a strong foundation of that.

At the main event in Whitby Pavilion, I’m especially excited to take in She Past Away, who have been catapulted to the forefront of the modern goth sound with songs like the darkly beautiful Kasvetli Kutlama. Although the track is now ten years old, it’s still a breath of fresh air (albeit from a mouldering crypt) in a scene far too hung up on venerating the musical pioneers of the early Eighties.
Innovation is the lifeblood of even a necrotic scene like goth and more bands need to be stepping up the line-up to become firm fan favourites. A commendable booking choice.

On the heels of that statement however, I’m obviously dying to see Clan Of Xymox – the Dutch dark wave / synth rockers who have been a goth mainstay since ’81. They’ve played Whitby before and are a flawless act that deliver hypnotic live sets.

Equally intriguing is the chief raconteur of the trad-goth scene, Wayne Hussey himself, who will be headlining Saturday. Rather than travelling solo as we last saw him, or armed with Eighties heavyweights The Mission,  he has assembled a hitherto un-encountered group entity known as THE DIVINE:

I will be joined on stage for the evening by a group of musicians that I have never before performed live with: a piano player; violin, cello, and double bass players; and a female backing vocalist, collectively christened by me as The Divine.

Quite what this will mean in terms of music style, I’m not sure – the music of The Mission lends itself most strongly to being performed by a full rock outfit, I feel. But I’d be contradicting myself by challenging this innovation, so let’s see what happens Saturday night! Ensure you’re following the blog and social media for regular updates…

TGF Mission - PendantFor the most loyal of Eskimos, this weekend will have an opportunity to snap up the rarest and most valuable piece of band memorabilia. Designed and manufactured by expert jewelers W Hamond of Whitby, this one-of-a-kind pendant has been sculpted into the form of The Mission’s debut album, “God’s Own Medicine”.

Formed of sterling silver and iconic Whitby jet, the necklace is on Ebay now and will be auctioned off to the winner by the end of Sunday 3rd November. It’ll be on display throughout the festival, so I’ll be sure to drop by for a gawk…!

Added to that, I’m delighted to say I’ll be attending the newest match between local stalwarts Stokoemotive Football Club, and maruading newcomers F.C. Gothenheim. Ensure you’re following me on The Blogging Goth’s Facebook page as I’ll attempt a live video-stream from the commentary box with long-standing football ‘observer’, Wesley “Death Lynam” Mallin. Expect a booze-fuelled rant of epic proportions that will bear little to no relation to the exploits of near-football taking place before us.

In the intervening time I’ll be floating around the pubs, ambling through markets, making a regular visit to the iconic Abbey, and generally making a nuisance of myself. I’ll also be collecting footage for my YouTube channel which I hope to get off the ground sooner rather than later.

Visiting Whitby is a highlight of my calendar. I’ve been very lucky with access to events, thanks in the most part to The Blogging Goth – so, really, thanks to you the reader for visiting and supporting my work. Keep following me for ever more updates!


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