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HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ANDREW ELDRITCH
By Cardinal Cox


Write Dope on Pnuk part 70

Andrew Eldritch was born in Ely in May 1959 and went on to become an influential post-punk musician. First he went to Oxford to study French and German, then to Leeds to study Mandarin Chinese but never completed either course. In 1980, with Gary Marx on guitar and Andrew on drums they released a three-track single as The Sisters of Mercy, the band’s name coming from a Leonard Cohen song. Now, it is not my intention to pass comments upon why members of the band subsequently split, you can look elsewhere for such information and I would not like to be thought of as ‘taking sides’ in such things.

Andrew now bought the first Doktor Avalanche drum machine, they gained bass player Craig Adams and together they wrote and rehearsed towards the band’s first gigs in early 1981. Later that year Ben Gunn joined them on second guitar. In 1982 they released two more singles and in 1983 another four (Much of the material up to this time was collected on the first compilation album Some Girls Wander by Mistake 1992). Andrew’s writing is marked by references to literature (including Shakespeare and T.S. Eliot), certain eroticism plus allusions to drugs. These, combined with the style of the music (influenced by The Birthday Party, The Velvet Underground and The Fall amongst others) and Andrew’s baritone singing lead them to be identified with the growing Gothic scene. While Andrew has claimed that that was a phase, “frankly, something we did for one week” (quote from an interview in Classic Rock magazine), it misses the point that Goths had very broad tastes.

All the records were being released on their own record label, Merciful Release, though this became absorbed by WEA, about which time Ben left to be replaced by Wayne Hussey.

Over the 1984-’85 period this line up released three singles and the album First and Last and Always. The band now split up; Gary Marx formed Ghost Dance with the singer (Anne Marie Hurst) from Skeletal Family. Hussey and Adams also formed their own band as The Sisterhood. Now Andrew formed a band of the same name with Patricia Morrison (ex-of The Gun Club) on bass and Alan Vega (from Suicide) on synthesiser. This band released a single and a five track short album in 1986 and the Hussey/Adams band became The Mission.

Andrew, Patricia and Doktor Avalanche now formed a new Sisters of Mercy, releasing three singles and the album Floodland (in 1987). This included the song 1959 that starts with the lines “Living as angel in the Place that I was born…” I wonder how much more of the album was inspired by the fens Andrew knew as a child, fens that easily become a flood land. This incarnation did not play live and Patricia left to join The Damned.

Andrew now put together a Sisters of Mercy that included Tony James on bass (ex of punks Generation X and techno-punks Sigue Sigue Sputnik) and Tim Bricheno on guitar (ex of All About Eve). These released three singles and an album Vision Thing (in 1990) and Andrew’s writing now included attacks on the American Republican Party (and especially the Bush dynasty), Christian Fundamentalism and the military-industrial complex. In interviews he has said that politically he is an old-style Labour supporter. To promote this album a tour of North America was arranged co-headed with rap-act Public Enemy, with many cities banning the gigs out of fear of racial violence. Two more singles were released to tie-in with a second compilation album (A Slight Case of Overbombing 1993) and Andrew then dissolved the band, going on strike against his record company.

In 1996 Andrew put together a new Sisters of Mercy line up to support the Sex Pistols on tour. Allegedly Andrew gave the record company an ambient/techno album as SSV in 1997 to get out of the contract, but this has never been officially released. Without a recording contract Andrew, the Doktor and other musicians continue to tour (as The Sisters of Mercy) and attract both new fans and loyal long-term followers.

 

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