The Sisters Of Mercy
Effective period / Period of releases: 1980 - 2019
Members: Dan Donovan, Andrew Eldritch, Chris Catalyst, Wayne Hussey, Tim Bricheno, Andreas Bruhn, Tony James, Craig Adams, Gary Marx, Dave Creffield, Ben Gunn, Doktor Avalanche, Chris Sheehan, Adam Pearson, Srđan Miodragović, Andy Taylor (10), Dylan Smith, Ben Christo, Patricia RainoneA rock band formed in Leeds, UK, in 1980, by singer Andrew Eldritch and guitarist Gary Marx. Eldritch is the only surviving member of the original line-up. The band was notoriously different on each of their three studio albums, from media dubbed 'goth' to 'keyboards' to 'American rock'. The band is known for being one of the leaders of the '80s goth music scene, however they deny any association with goth, and consider themselves first and foremost a rock band. Their influences include Leonard Cohen, The Stooges, Suicide and Motörhead.
The bands first single, 'The Damage Done', was released in 1980 on the bands label - Merciful Release. It marked the only time where Eldritch played drums. He additionally contributed vocals, while Marx played guitars and also contributed vocals.
By 1981, Eldritch's drumming was replaced so he could focus on his vocal work. His replacement was a progression of drum machines all known as Doktor Avalanche. 1981 also saw the addition of Craig Adams on bass and by the end of the year, Ben Gunn as a second guitarist.
Through 1982-1984, the group released a series of singles, but saw the departure of guitarist Gunn by 1983. Gunn stated it was personal conflicts with Eldritch which caused him to leave. He later went on to form Flame On Records which he would sign Anabas (later named Annabas) too. Since then, he has disappeared from the music industry. He was replaced by previous Dead or Alive guitarist Wayne Hussey in 1984.
The Black October UK tour (October–November 1984) confirmed the underground cult status of the band. However, the growing alienation between Eldritch and the rest of the group was getting out of hand during the recording of the 1985 debut album, 'First And Last And Always'. Eldritch's deteriorating health and psychological problems worsened the situation. Following the release of First and Last and Always, produced by David M. Allen (producer of albums such as The Cure's Disintegration), Marx split from the band in the middle of a supporting tour, citing inability to continue working with Eldritch. The Sisters of Mercy completed the tour as a three-piece act, ending with the Royal Albert Hall concert, 'Wake (In Concert At The Royal Albert Hall)', on 18th June 1985.
Marx would go on to form Ghost Dance with Skeletal Family singer Anne-Marie Hurst and later start a small solo career.
Eldritch fell out with Adams and Hussey when they began working on a follow-up album and the band split. In 1986, Adams and Hussey started touring as 'The Sisterhood.' To stop them using the name, as it was too similar to The Sisters of Mercy, Eldritch recorded 'Gift' as 'The Sisterhood' with the help of collaborators Alan Vega (Suicide), Lucas Fox, Patricia Morrison (The Gun Club), James Ray (James Rays Gangwar) and Doktor Avalanche. This stopped Adams and Hussey from using the name and so they became The Mission instead.
1987 saw the return of The Sisters with the second album, 'Floodland'. It marked a shift away from guitars-based rock towards keyboard-oriented explorations as pioneered in Gift.The album was produced by Eldritch and Larry Alexander, with contributions from Jim Steinman on two songs. Bass player, Patricia Morrison subsequently became a member of the band for the release of the album, although it is claimed by Eldritch she didn't contribute to the album whatsoever. She was effectively a poster girl for the band. This era of the band did not perform live, but did do a number of playback performances and interviews on music TV shows. It also saw an increase of the groups popularity. Morrison claims she did contribute to the recordings of the album and with many disputes, it ended with her leaving the band shortly after unknown German guitarist Andreas Bruhn joined in 1989.
Eldritch assembled a new group to record their third and, so far, final album, 'Vision Thing', released in 1990 – first recruiting Bruhn on guitars in '89, and then Tony James (formerly of Sigue Sigue Sputnik and Generation X) on bass in '89, and lastly Tim Bricheno (All About Eve) on guitars in '90. The album made a return to guitars-based rock but with a heavier sound and a media dubbed 'American rock sound'. Jim Steinman made a return and co-produced 'More' with Eldritch. The album also featured session guitarist John Perry and backing vocals by Maggie Reilly. The album was designed as an assault on USA policies. "The vision thing" - George H. W. Bush, being an example.
The band launched a 1990-1991 world-tour to promote the album. This would be the first time the band performed live since 1985. In 1991 they organised a controversial double-headlining tour of North America with Public Enemy, and Gang of Four, Warrior Soul and Young Black Teenagers as support. It was possibly envisioned as an alternative to Lollapalooza, as that was the first year it began. The tour was booked into large suburban venues away from American inner-city neighbourhoods and was under-advertised, mainly because of promoters' fears of clashes between Sisters fans and Public Enemy fans. It is claimed many cities would not allow them to perform because of Public Enemy's notorious reputation. The poor promotion and distant venues resulted in disappointing ticket sales, and the tour was cancelled halfway through. EastWest, The Sisters' label at the time gave virtually no support. A sold-out arena tour of America could have catapulted The Sisters to the top ranks of American music sales; the cancellation thus resulted in the common perception that The Sisters' relative obscurity in the American marketplace after Vision Thing was at least partly due to the inherent racism of concert promoters. The end of 1991 saw the departure of Tony James so he could work on his solo career; bass duties were then transferred to Doktor Avalanche.
The USA tour fiasco did not help the already strained relationship between Eldritch and the Sisters' new record company EastWest, a WEA subsidiary. The conflicts with WEA led to a termination of the band's USA record distribution, so the following records of the group would be available in the USA as imports only. However, under the insistence of the record company the band re-recorded their early single 'Temple Of Love (1992)' (with Ofra Haza on additional vocals) to promote the compilation album of their early independently released singles, entitled 'Some Girls Wander By Mistake' (1992). Tim Bricheno left at the end of 1992 and started working on his new project XC-NN.
Bricheno's replacement was guitarist Adam Pearson, who joined in 1993. Pearson was the only guitarist on the 'Under The Gun' single, which also featured Terri Nunn of Berlin on backing vocals. Although Bruhn was in the band during the recording and release of the single, he did not appear on it. He would leave at the end of the year to launch his solo career. The 'Under The Gun' single was recorded to promote the greatest hits compilation, 'Greatest Hits Volume One (A Slight Case Of Overbombing)' (1993).
1993 was the last year the band released anything on an official record label; there is more to tell.
Following the last concerts in December 1993, The Sisters of Mercy went into what Andrew Eldritch called a "strike against EastWest". He refused to release any more new material.
While issues with EastWest were going on and a solution pending, Andrew Eldritch remixed two songs for the German group Die Krupps in 1995 and appeared on the Sarah Brightman single 'How Can Heaven Love Me' and 'A Question Of Honour'. Behind the scenes, Eldritch and Gary Marx were in contact again, and Marx started working on some new Sisters songs. He sent these tracks to Eldritch, but after Eldritch backed out, Marx released the songs himself as his second solo album, 'Nineteen Ninety Five And Nowhere' - the title alluding to where these songs went nowhere with Eldritch in 1995.
The Sisters of Mercy played several festival gigs together with the Sex Pistols in the summer of 1996. This was the first time the band performed since 1993. Guitarist Chris Sheehan, also known as Chris Starling, had joined the band for the tour.
The contract with EastWest was terminated in 1997 after the company agreed to accept material recorded under the name SSV, instead of the two albums for which the Sisters of Mercy had contractual obligations. EastWest agreed to accept the material (techno-like droning featuring mumbling vocals by Andrew Eldritch, without drums) without listening to it first. The recordings were never officially released and are circulated only through pirate MP3s. The album was intended to irritate and bore, according to Eldritch. The band failed to secure a new contract with any label, likely due to their history with EastWest, and refuse to release new material independently on Merciful Release. According to rumours, Eldritch's starting negotiating position is $3 million USD for 3 albums. 1997 saw the addition of guitarist Mike Varjak.
Mike Varjak left the group in 1999 and was replaced by now full time member Chris Sheehan in 2000. He also departed, leaving in 2003. Sheehan was replaced by current guitarist, Chris Catalyst (Eureka Machines, Ugly Kid Joe) at the start of 2005. By the end of 2005, Adam Pearson, a longtime band member since 1993, left and joined MC5. Catalyst would take over the role of lead guitar. 2006 saw the start of the longest and most stable line-up yet, with the addition of guitarist Ben Christo (Night By Night, Diamond Black).
There are a total of 12 'new' songs, written between 1993 and 2009 which are unreleased, however Far Parade has never been performed live. These were written by Eldritch, Pearson, Sheehan, Varjak and Catalyst.
Crash And Burn
I Have Slept With All The Girls In Berlin
Top Nite Out
War On Drugs
We Are The Same, Susanne
Will I Dream?
In 2019, four new compositions were debuted live along with a slightly updated lineup, Dylan Smith replacing Chris Catalyst on guitar duties:
Show Me On The Doll (Christo/Eldritch/Smith)
Better Reptile (Christo/Eldritch/Smith)
Today, the band still perform live shows around the world, usually in Europe, and perform new songs, re-worked classics, and covers.