9) The Mission, Brixton Academy 28/03/1987
Goths. There, I’ve said it.
The Mission were goth drop outs – taking the subculture’s hippy undercurrent to its logical conclusion after being booted out of The Sisters of Mercy. In fact, listening to their stuff again, it seems to me that they had more in common with Marillion than Siouxsie and the Banshees or Bauhaus. But they and their fans still clung to the black trousers, black leather jacket thing. And that dance where everyone threw both their arms up in the air at a musical climax.
Having illegally downloaded their first album and a couple of early singles I am hard pressed to defend The Mission musically, let alone lyrically:
Let me come inside your ivory tower
Let me come inside your hallowed walls
God, it’s heaven in here
Fix me with your hand of praise
Fix me with your touch of precious thrills
Your fingers dance across my skin
Reaching out for the pride of man
It’s all “dancing on glass” and “there’s a crystal view from my window” and (wtf?) “The treasured first fleeting touch of a gracious stranger”. And boshing drums and jangly guitars.
The album commences with singer Wayne Hussey declaiming “I still believe in god, but god no longer believes in me” in what I guess are supposed to be gravely serious tones. It made my Dad piss himself laughing when he heard it, which is obviously not a good thing when you are 17.
I think I first saw The Mission on an early incarnation of Channel 4’s “The Chart Show” – a video for their debut single “Serpents Kiss” with them gadding about in goth hats and silk scarves and tight jeans. Like twats of medieval proportions.
The Chart Show would overlay the video with cyberpunky bits of text and graphics. I seem to recall that the “Charts” they would show were on rotation, so you’d only get the full “indie” run down every few weeks. But it was worth waiting for – Fuzzbox, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, even Psychic TV doing “Godstar”. This is possibly a false memory but I seem to recall the early evening Friday TV line up being something like: A Munsters re-run -> The Chart Show -> The Tube. Top stuff.
A few of us at school backtracked from The Mission to The Sisters of Mercy and immediately recognised that we’d missed the good stuff. The Sisters, for all their faults, managed to combine an artiness, bleak atmospherics (see especially “The Reptile House EP”) and some mystique. Oh, and a sense of camp – “Temple of Love” is disco goth, and their selection of cover versions at gigs was outstanding – arch renditions of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” and Hot Chocolate’s “Emma”.
The Mission were originally going to cash in on their former band’s fame by naming themselves The Sisterhood. But their erstwhile frontman Andrew Eldritch wasn’t having any of it, rushing out a mini-album under that name with Suicide’s Alan Vega and Patricia Morrison from The Gun Club. This brief sidesweep was much much more interesting than The Mission – doomy electronics with someone reading an armaments catalogue out loud, deadpan. Much more compelling than sixth form poetics. The first track on the LP featured Patricia Morrison intoning “2, 5, 0, 0, 0” repeatedly – rumoured to be the amount that Eldritch had won in an out of court settlement with his former bandmates.
The Sisterhood were a bit of a sideshow at the time, an odd curio that not many people had heard of. The Mission stole the limelight by giving up their mystique and becoming available – touring, releasing singles, doing interviews. Their rubbish logo started cropping up on the back of many a leather jacket and they developed a large contingent of hardcore fans who would hitch around the country to see them – some of whom were called “The Eskimos”.
In fact that is one of the big undocumented stories from the eighties – the sheer amount of people with army surplus kit bags going up and down the motorways, thumbing lifts to see as many dates of a tour as they could manage. I only did this infrequently but was fascinated by the sheer devotion some people seemed to have for the lifestyle. You’d be waiting on the hard shoulder outside of Wolverhampton or somewhere and on the back of the sign for the motorway there’d be little graffiti notes – “we got stuck here for 3 hours, no lifts” or tags. Or, more often than not, “Eskimos”. In the early 90s some of us blagged floorspace with a crew of inveterate hitchers – their place was as close to the motorway as they could find…
Anyway, I was never a huge fan of The Mission, is the point I’m trying to make. In mid eighties suburban Hertfordshire, goth was pretty good lowest common denominator “alternative” fodder. Black clothes were de rigeur anyway and we tended to huddle together with the other weirdos to avoid violence from people who took exception to our appearance.
Plus, let’s be completely honest, hanging around in a pub for some underage drinking with some impossibly foxy goth girls was a lot more interesting than sitting alone in your bedroom again listening to Foetus and reading William Burroughs.
I had a black leather jacket, some black jeans and even some of those pointy leather boots with all the buckles for a while. I got the jacket from Carnaby Street on a trip to London with my parents. My Dad picked up one of those “Village People” peaked leather caps with a chain round the front, and paraded around the shop in it. Which only heightened my embarrassment at being there with my parents, but on reflection was pretty fucking funny.
So, anyway, I suspect the posse for the Brixton Academy was much bigger than the usual two or three of us. I’d probably not been to Brixton before either. I can’t recall much about the gig apart from a huge pile of kit bags being guarded by some bloke on the upper floor of the Academy, and Wayne Hussey climbing up the speaker stacks. I suspect folk-goth rockers All About Eve supported and possibly X-Mal Deutschland also.
In fact, looking back over The Mish’s discography, I remember distinctly not liking the singles which came out around this gig – “Severina” and “Tower of Strength”. And those were the last things by the group I ever knowingly heard. The Sisters on the other hand, well the awesome camp of “This Corrosion” in its epic 9 minute Jim Steinman glory, that was another matter. I even liked the Floodland album in places – Eldritch seemed better at weathering the storm. Wayne Hussey wasn’t even a poor relation.
After this gig I proceeded to get my head down and revise for my ‘A’ levels. Or rather, pretended to.
We then had a massive long summer holiday in front of us: full of dossing about, reading books, listening to records and in my case manual labour…