MUSIC

Mercy For Imbeciles

Butch Dante of UK post-punk band the Imbeciles told us about his Sisters of Mercy experience

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Butch Dante: The year is 1985. The city is Hull, on the desolate and arctic North East Coast of England. The venue, hilariously, is Tiffany’s nightclub. The tickets are £3.50. The band is the Sisters of Mercy.

This is the age of peak Sisters, as they tour in support of the release of First and Last and AlwaysAlice and Floodland are already established club bangers; their goth cred has yet to be dented by the irrelevant Vision Thing; and no one yet knows that Andrew Eldritch is actually kind of an arsehole.

A cry has gone out from “the kids” in London—“Goths Assemble!”—with the promise that attending the show will deliver a superior goth rawk experience. So here we are, the three amigos: Butch Dante, Colin “Col” Overland, and Del Boy. We’re young, we’re thin—Colin still has hair. We’ve smuggled in a £2 bouteille of nasty whisky from the corner store (it was called ‘the paki’ in those days—shame on us, population of 1980’s England!) which we mix with club-purchased Coca-Cola beverages under the table while waiting for the fun to start.

The first song (First and Last and Always) kicks in, and the bass beat is like being punched hard in the chest by a big blobby fist made out of pillows; there’s a drum machine, not drummer, and it makes the sound … different. Copious dry-ice fog completely envelopes the band and the front of the pit. At one point a precipitation disaster strikes and the fog machine stops working leaving Eldritch and his Sisters marooned, exposed for all to see. They shuffle sadly like penguins out of water until someone kicks it back into life and they can disappear back into their fogbank.

It’s LOUD. Like, 115 decibels loud. Really. Fucking. Loud.  

We sally forth into the pit, where frenzied-but-friendly moshing is in full swing. Del is very tall, completely uncoordinated, and quite drunk. He keeps falling over, amusingly. Kindly goths pick him up the first few times until I tell them not to bother and he’s left to flop around on the floor like a floppy thing.  There are tons of fit goth birds (where did thecome from?!? Leeds, not Hull, is the consensus) which adds to the general frisson.

And something weird happens. There’s a shared awareness amongst the crowd that this is something different, something special. We’re like the convict inmates of the leadworks in the third Aliens movie: alone at the edge of the universe/North Sea, sharing a quasi-religious infatuation, bonded together by a sound that has never been heard before.  Strangers smile at each other, nods are exchanged. It’s all very un-goth. We know we’re in on a joke on the rest of the saddos listening to their Dire Straits and A-ha! 

In fact, it’s basically perfect, and a show that lives vibrantly in my memory 37 years later.

Highlights