The English band The Cult had been around for years in many incarnations before I was introduced to them in 1987, most likely by my then-new and young friend Travis. Three bands come to mind when I think of Travis – The Police, INXS and The Cult. He was (still is?) a HUGE fan of all three. I believe he still owns just about everything The Cult ever released, including some earlier stuff like Southern Death Cult.
My first introduction to (the 1985 version of) The Cult – the charismatic Ian Astbury on vocals, guitarist extraordinaire Billy Duffy and gifted bassist Jamie Stewart – was 1985’s “She Sells Sanctuary” (from the excellent album, LOVE).
“She Sells Sanctuary,” released in May 1985, was the first single released from LOVE, and once I learned about it, I absolutely had to have that record. The 12” extended mix (or “Long Version,” as it’s labeled) is one of my all-time favorite remixes. You ever need a Red Bull or that poopy crap 5-Hour Energy to get an energy fix? Not me. Put on the 12” mix of “She Sells Sanctuary” (or even the 4-minute album mix), and the driving alt-rock force and energy from that song will find YOU.
There is something about this song that has always resonated with me, I can’t exactly put my finger on it. But, if you are a DJ in a club, and you put this on, I promise you I will effing dance to it, no questions asked. And it’s been (sadly) years since I’ve danced in a club. It’s that kind of song; it literally moves me. Not all songs – even if I love them to death – can get me out on the dance floor. But this one will, every time.
This song never made any radio waves here in the U.S., though its parent album, LOVE, was a Gold album here. In their U.K. homeland, The Cult hit No. 15 on the U.K. singles chart with “Sanctuary,” No. 12 in Canada and the Top 40 in Holland. Their biggest American single was 1989’s “Fire Woman” (shake, shake, shake, shake it yeah!), from the album, SONIC TEMPLE. It reached No. 46 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100.
I was never a huge fan of The Cult, but do love many of their songs, including “Love Removal Machine,” “Fire Woman,” “Wild Flower,” “The Witch” (another cool song from SONGS FROM THE COOL WORLD), 2007’s “Dirty Little Rockstar” and even their WAY out of place remix of 1994’s “Coming Down (Drug Tongue),” to name a few.
Earlier this month (February 2016 for those keeping track), The Cult released their guitar-heavy tenth studio album, HIDDEN CITY, produced by longtime collaborator Bob Rock, and so far it has charted in 12 countries, including America. It’s the last part of a trilogy of albums that started with 2007’s BORN INTO THIS, and hits upon moments from their music past.
As for The Cult’s music past, the one moment that will always hit upon ME is that no holds barred, 7-minute, kick-ass 12” extended remix of “She Sells Sanctuary.” One time years ago, during my STUCK IN THE 80s radio show on WMPG-FM and WMPG.org, I had that mix cranked up so loud in the studio, the clock fell off the wall. In 20 years, it’s the ONLY time that’s happened…
“I’m sure in her you’ll find / The sanctuary…” If the “her” mentioned in that lyric is about the song itself, then that’s damn right. I find it every time…