The Sisters of mercy are indisputably one of the best early Goth / Post Punk bands of the early 80's . Their sound is distinguishable and stands apart from many of their predecessors . Many would like to compare them to the Smiths and Bauhaus , and others to The Mission . However fine and great all of the above mentioned bands are & have been , Sisters of Mercy truly do belong unto a league of their own . If you care to just listen to the track on the mp3 player here on the upper left of the page , you will at once fall victim to that nocturnal, deep mysterious voice of lead vocalist & founding band member Andrew Eldtrich.
The band was formed in Leeds, England in 1980 by F-club regulars Gary Marx and Andrew Eldritch to satisfy their desire to hear themselves on the radio; during that time band t-shirts were made and a single, "Damage Done/Watch/Home of the Hit-men", was recorded and released. The name was influenced by Robert Altman's film McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), which featured the Leonard Cohen song of the same name ("because The Captains of Industry wouldn't have been as funny").
On the single (claimed by the band to have been played twice by John Peel) Gary Marx played guitar through a practice amplifier and Andrew Eldritch was on drums. The partners each wrote and sang on a song.
The band regrouped with Craig Adams on bass, while Eldritch's drumming was replaced by a drum machine, leaving him to concentrate on vocals. The drum machine was christened Doktor Avalanche, and all of its numerous successors kept this name. Andrew Eldritch took over lyrics-writing, Doktor-programming, and record-producing duties, while sharing the music-writing with Marx and (occasionally) Adams.
This became what is generally recognised as the first real Sisters line-up. It began with the Doktor/Eldritch/Marx/Adams incarnation of the band playing a gig in the Riley Smith Hall of the University of Leeds [England]'s Union building in early 1981. Unsurprisingly, nobody can remember the exact date so, for historic purposes, the band and fans have often celebrated the anniversary of the February 16, 1981 concert, in Vanbrugh College, York, England - the band's second ever gig in the form. In 2001, it was the scene of the band's 20th anniversary concert, complete with iced cupcakes for the audience. Later in 1981, Ben Gunn established himself as the second guitarist after several others came and went. Eldritch's melancholic baritone, Craig Adams's pulsating bass, Doktor Avalanche's beat and Gary Marx's flowing guitar led the band to early underground success.
The band's singles were regularly featured in UK independent charts; some became single of the week in various UK indie magazines. John Ashton of The Psychedelic Furs produced the early classic "Alice". The Reptile House EP is another example of early Sisters work and marks the maturing songwriter Eldritch (who wrote, produced and [reportedly] played all instruments on it).
Their live performances featured many cover versions: among those, a medley consisting of "Sister Ray" (by Velvet Underground), "Ghostrider" (by Suicide) and "Louie Louie" (by Richard Berry) became a live staple. Only three of them, The Stooges' "1969", The Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter" and Hot Chocolate's "Emma" were eventually recorded and released on Sisters records (all as b-sides).
In late 1983, following the highly successful "Temple of Love" single, the band signed a contract with major record label WEA.
At the same time Ben Gunn left in an atmosphere of unanimous bitterness. Gunn stated that he did not agree with the direction Andrew Eldritch was taking the band - which, according to Gunn, started out as a joke on serious rock'n'roll outfits, but eventually became one. Gunn also mentioned personality conflicts with Andrew Eldritch as a reason for his departure.
Shortly after the last gig Eldritch relocated to Hamburg, while Hussey and Adams announced their decision to split off to form their own group, citing artistic and personal differences with Eldritch. During the highly publicised soap opera dubbed the Corporate Wars that followed, the new band started playing concerts under name of The Sisterhood, playing Hussey's songs originally written for the Sisters but vetoed by Eldritch. These include the songs "Dance on Glass" and "Garden of Delight", which had originally been recorded (but not released) by the Sisters with Eldritch on vocals, but which Hussey went on to record with his band.
Meanwhile, Eldritch protested their usage of Sisterhood name as too similar to The Sisters of Mercy and a name that had been applied to the fan community of The Sisters of Mercy, and in an attempt to stop the practice released the single "Giving Ground" by his own band, The Sisterhood. The single was later followed by the album Gift. The other band eventually christened themselves The Mission amidst suspicions that the whole affair had been a PR stunt to jumpstart The Mission's career.
According to some sources, with these releases Andrew Eldritch allegedly won over Hussey and Adams a race for £25,000 (a sum opening the song Jihad on the Gift album) advance offered by the publishers to the first member of The Sisters of Mercy to release any output. This would tie Eldritch to WEA and release Hussey and Adams from their contract with the same record company. According to Tony Perrin (Mission manager) the case never went to court and Hussey's new band was able to release their material through an independent outlet. However, Eldritch stated elsewhere that the "2" "5" "0" "0" "0" which opens "Jihad" on the Sisterhood LP represents the sum of money he won from the Mission in the civil courts. He states in an interview, recorded in Boston, that the English courts did not recognize either his or the other members' of the band's legal right to the name "The Sisterhood." He said the courts required a release for anybody to claim ownership of the band name, which was the motivation for the initial Sisterhood single. After that single had been released, Eldritch officially owned the name, and could sue, which he did. He won 25,000 pounds in his lawsuit, and opened the Sisterhood album with that number in order to show his gratitude to Wayne Hussey and The Mission for their generous financial contribution, and to indicate that the matter was closed with no hard feelings.
In October 2006, Side-Line Music Magazine announced that the band was in talks with the Universal sublabel W14 Music. Signed or not signed, three Sisters Of Mercy reissues were released on November 3, 2006 in Europe (and October 30 in the USA) via Wea International: "First And Last And Always" (1985), "Floodland" (1987) and "Vision Thing" (1990). All 3 albums contained bonus tracks.
In a recent interview with Side-Line Gary Marx also explains what happened to the 'lost' album he wrote for The Sisters Of Mercy in 1995.
The official Sisters of Mercy website has remained essentially the same since it went online. The Merciful Release and Reptile House links have been shown as Site Under Construction for several years. The Sisters of Mercy have not released new recorded material since 1993. Even lead-guitarist Ben Christo told Side-Line that he doesn't know if and when a new album would be released.
In Autumn 2008, the Sisters of Mercy toured North America. Concert dates were scheduled in Europe from February to April 2009, Lebanon and Israel in May 2009, and South America in June 2009.
The band cited Leonard Cohen, Hawkwind, Gary Glitter, The Velvet Underground, The Stooges, Motörhead, Suicide, The Birthday Party, and The Fall as among their influences. Cohen himself wrote and performed a song entitled "Sisters of Mercy" on his debut album, Songs of Leonard Cohen. The band shares influences with other bands in the first wave of what is termed "goth" music.
Whilst the band enjoys a considerable fan base with overlapping interests in so-called dark culture, The Sisters of Mercy consider themselves first and foremost a rock band. They have actively discouraged their association with "goth" via regular public statements in the press, not to mention stipulations in their standard contract riders. Nevertheless, this has not stopped them from regularly appearing at festivals where this music is featured, such as M'era Luna. In addition, The Sisters of Mercy were highly influential to the second wave of Gothic rock bands., and are considered one of the best Goth Post Punk Bands till this day .
Official Website of Sisters of Mercy