the ninth gig I can remember going to

Click here for a complete list of entries in the series  “the first 23 gigs I can remember going to”.


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 Sisterhood - Gift

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…


  1. Do you remember when Wayne Hussey went on James Whale, completely bladdered, and started waving his shoe around?

  2. No and I’d completely forgotten about James Whale as well until now, but that doesn’t surprise me! He interviewed some fascists as well at some point, I seem to recall.

  3. Wasn’t the Chart Show on saturday morning? Either way, yes, I remember hoping every week that they’d do the indie chart run-down. And I think I may have taped Red Lorry Yellow Lorry off it too ..

    You’re right about that whole travelling thing being wholly undocumented. I did it a bit and it was a lot of fun, but only if you managed to weasel your way onto the guesty. That wasn’t so much of an issue with Crass but it really was with Sonic Youth. Killing Joke used to have a big travelling crowd, as did Southern Death Cult and then New Model Army .. they played in Scunthorpe once and their travelling fans were really unpleasant. So much so, I actually wrote about it in my zine. That really showed ’em.

    Sterling stuff as ever Mr E

  4. Yes, the New Model Army fans were especially bad news – I remember getting a fair bit of aggro for having the temerity to stand near them at one gig.

    I think the Chart Show hopped about a bit – it was on Channel 4 and then ITV. So yes, we are probably both right (and have similarly deteriorated memories… :-))

  5. John,

    Love the honesty about teenage dress code anxt. I was old enough to drive by the time I wore silly stuff so I was deprived of the experience of buying punky clothing with my parents. The only thing I remember about The Mission was it was music that girls who couldnt bring themselves to go goth liked. Usually they were underage and probably wouldnt make it all the way into the teen rebel state. At least thats how things were in Texas.

  6. always detested the Mission, even though one of my friends at school was related to Wayne. I did like a bit of Eldritch on the quiet tho. Sing this corrosion to me!!

  7. LOL! Patricia was alright tho, I reckon.

    Had a weird dream last night. Dreamt you turned up at my house, John, and I started freaking a bit ‘cos I didn’t have enough ’80’s Reggae/Dancehall that I could play you – it was all 70’s stuff, really obvious Dub records, etc. But you were v. cool about it.

    Jeez: an anxiety/approval-seeking dream about another blogger; that’s sooo terminally sad.

  8. Wayne Hussey vs James Whale is on youtube – I think I did see this at the time – it was a woeful show, wasn’t it?

    Dave – I will check “like a child again” but am obviously somewhat sceptical!

    down/p – yeah there is much less driving around as a teenager over here (in urban areas at least). “underage texan girls who can’t quite bring themselves to be goths” would be a great name for a band or album. But yeah I think it made being a bit flowery and flouncy OK without having to get into black leather.

    Kek – it’s OK, there is still time to stock up on 80s obscurities. Anyway I am disappointed to hear that you live in a house as I had pictured you living in some kind of cross between the space age pads of the Jetsons and a spooky castle from Scooby Doo. You sound like a most generous host, however!

  9. James Whale show was fucking indescribably bad, in that horrible too-young-to-go-out-clubbing/too-old-to-go-to-bed late Friday night interzone. I remember him doing some pointless expose’ of heavy metal fans being Satanists, where he interviewed some ‘evil’ group called Nocturnus (it was a bunch of students from Cockfosters, who couldn’t stop giggling, IIRC) and literally spent the entire show repeating “But you believe in human sacrifice” or making homophobic quips about their long hair. He always used to end the show on some telephone switchboard, picking up calls from viewers and then just being flippant and slamming the phone down.

    Whale was completely cantankerous, absolutely charmless, terminally unfunny – yeah, they were bad days, bad days…still, I do remember laughing when he did an ‘exclusive interview’ with sports minister Colin Moynihan, and it just cut to an action man doll sitting on the edge of a toilet, before being pushed in by a microphone.


  11. You got a ping back on this from me and on my blog I basically deal with the fact that you are so way after my time that I have to go back ten years to deal with the same sorta thing in my life. It’s great being young, enjoy! But also wanted to add that people following bands around the UK was happening when I was a boy too…. I only ever did it for Adam and the Ants Zerox tour in 1979, made the guest list too, but it was definitely going on in the 1970s, and probably well before that too. That said, when bands became a bit bigger I’d go and see them in some suburban town outta London to get a smaller venue, but usually only one date on the tour. I had a friend whose aunt lived in Chelmsford and would let us stay their the night!


  13. heh, i remember reading an nme article in about 93, regarding the leveller fans version of the army kit bag hitching toury types. it was an epiphany. i was about 15 and now i knew what i wanted to do with my life.

    jesus wept.


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