Tuesday, October 27, 2015
The Cult embraced the wind and hung up their blues in the big neon glitter of this gothic psychedelic sanctuary. The band evolved out of the punk scene where singer Ian Astbury and guitarist Billy Duffy were involved in different bands. Duffy reveals: "Very much in my DNA is growing up in the U.K. and punk rock. That’s in there, and that’s in the songwriting, and that’s never really gone away, a bit of that punk attitude. It wasn’t like anybody wanting to put a safety pin through their nose. It was more like taking that music… it kind of got accessible to people. That was why it was a life-changing thing for me. Because I went from a guy who aspired to be maybe a guitar roadie at best, to maybe I could actually be in a band, and people would come and see, and we could do shows. That’s why punk was so great. Sadly, like most movements it became tenth-generation copyists ... I mean, I was lucky to find Ian. I met him in ’81, I think, and we formed the band in ’83. We were lucky to find a songwriting partnership that has endured, and has some sort of, I guess, unique qualities that you have to find to make a band last for 30 years ... I was in another band, I was in a band called Theatre of Hate who never came to America. They were a great band. I was in that band, and Ian was the singer in a support band on a tour. He was in a band called The Southern Death Cult. That’s how we met, in a place called Stoke, which is actually where Slash was raised, interestingly or not interestingly enough. It was just a gig, and they were a support band on the tour. We met and became friends, and stayed in contact. When I was no longer in Theatre of Hate, and he was no longer in Southern Death Cult, we got together and started writing some songs. Before we knew it we’d formed a band, and we’d made a little EP. We were going to tour and we needed a name, and he thought of the name The Southern Death Cult, so we decided back that – and this was thirty years ago – well, we should probably keep part of the name, but we don’t want to call it The Southern Death Cult, because that’s a different band. How about we just call it Death Cult? And that’s what we started with. We did that for about nine months, and the band started getting popular. We felt we’d kind of outgrew the name. There was a real gothic movement going on, and people dressing in kind of cliche… It was like, it doesn’t really fit. We don’t fit our own name. So we ended up just changing it to The Cult. As a matter of fact, it was January the 14th, 1984 when we changed our name to The Cult."
Their debut album 'Dreamtime' was released on Beggar's Banquet in 1984 with the single "Spirit Walker" going to the top of the UK independent singles chart. 'Love' was recorded at Jacobs Studios at Farnham in Surrey, England and Olympic Studios in London with producer Steve Brown, who had helmed albums before with Elton John and Wham!. The sessions featured Ian Astbury on vocals; Billy Duffy on electric guitars, acoustic guitars, and backing vocals; Jamie Stewart on bass, keyboards, strings, and backing vocals; with Mark Brzezicki on drums on all tracks except "She Sells Sanctuary", "No. 13" and "The Snake"; Simon Kliney on Fairlight programming; Nigel Preston on drums for "She Sells Sanctuary", "No. 13" and "The Snake"; and The Soultanas (Mae McKenna, Lorenza Johnson, Jackie Challenor) adding backing vocals on "Rain" and "Revolution". The album went to number eighty-seven in the US, thirty-seven in New Zealand, twenty in the Netherlands, and four in the UK.
Astbury aserts: "There was a lot going on at that time and because we made it, it's hard to have any real perspective in a way. We didn't analyse it or check the process, but I do remember it being very intense and that we were just so engaged in it. We were in the studio all of the time, you know, rather than just going in every other day. We weren't distracted at all from what we were doing, no one was on the phone or just hanging out, we were working very long hours with no breaks at all and experimenting with so many ideas. I think that's why that record has a constant unity all the way through, it was probably the most honest album we did, in that we had no career at that time. We were young and making music because we wanted to and everything was still so fresh...The good thing about the songs on Love is that they deal with things that are no less relevant now than they were then; life, death, sex, materialism, spiritualism; all the human experiences...Sanctuary came together very easily in fact, I took the bass line from a song called Spiritwalker, which was one left over from our Southern Death Cult days. Billy came up with the melody, and we worked out a vaguely psychedelic guitar sound which seemed to fit it well - we were heavily into '60s psychedelic music like The Doors, Hendrix and early Zeppelin – Also the producer, Steve Brown, had had a lot of pop success, so he really knew how to structure a song. It's funny, you write a song like that were everything comes together far beyond what you could've expected and then you spend the rest of your life trying to write another one as good...Because of its earnestness, its honesty and depth. It's the album that made us, so why not claim our rightful place in the legacy of alternative rock music."
"She Sells Sanctuary"
became the band's breakthrough hit, going to number thirty-five in the Netherlands and number fifteen on the UK pop chart.
Astbury: “She Sells Sanctuary” was probably referring to the power of finding solitude in a woman’s arms and the matriarchal energy, whether it be an actual physical person or in a spiritual sense, the greatest matriarch, and thinking of the cosmos as a female energy rather than a male energy. These are archetypal things I was picking up from discovering things like Joseph Campbell and Buffy Sainte-Marie or even Jim Morrison. All these things were flying around, and the songs “Spiritwalker” and “She Sells Sanctuary” are quite similar, in a way. In fact, “Spiritwalker” was going to be a Southern Death Cult song, but they didn’t want to do it for whatever reason, so I said, “Fine, I’m leaving, and I’m taking my songs with me.” [Laughs.] That ended up being recorded by The Cult, and it really helped to define our sound ... It was the first real success we had anywhere. [Laughs.] It made it to No. 15 on the UK charts. It actually came out before the Love album was recorded. We’d written the song, it was released as a single, and it came out and did so well.
Duffy: “Sanctuary” was touch and go and was a game changer for the band. It got us an American record deal with Seymour Stein from Sire who came over and signed us, because we released it as a single right around the time Live Aid ... Somebody took a chance and played it on the BBC Radio 1 in England. I’ll be eternally grateful and so will my offspring to this producer who gave it a chance. It was very different from what was going on and to play it in a national radio breakfast show to tens of millions of people changed the game. It’s just about exposure. There’s never been anything wrong with the music we do, it’s just to get a wider audience, people need to be exposed to it and not have any kind of pre-prejudice for the name or what it should be or it should be an underground band or it should be this or that. If the music just gets out there without any kind of fear attached to it, we do great. That was kind of why “Sanctuary” was a game changer. I like the riff. I don’t even know where it came from. I have no clue ... That song has a whole life of its own. I’ve never tired of playing it."
All songs written by Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy.
"Nirvana" – 5:24
"Big Neon Glitter" – 4:45
"Love" – 5:35
"Brother Wolf, Sister Moon" – 6:49
"Rain" – 3:57
"The Phoenix" – 5:06
"Hollow Man" – 4:45
"Revolution" – 5:20
"She Sells Sanctuary" – 4:23
"Black Angel" – 5:22