More information has emerged about the very early days of TSOM (i.e. pre “Alice”) in the last couple of years than in the previous thirty-five, allowing researchers such as Mark Andrews (author of this legendary Quietus piece last year) and others to piece together not only a chronology of events, but an insight into the lifestyle of the band and its entourage in those fledgling years.
Even Eldritch himself, well-known for his dislike of any discussion about his past (either in the band or his life before that) seems to have mellowed, allowing himself to reflect on his career with a little more pride and humility. In a 2015 Greek interview, the singer was asked about his best and worst touring experiences. “I’ve been in hospital quite a lot, that’s the bad experiences. About the best…..I think was the first time we did an encore, you see when you’re a junior band, you don’t expect to be asked for more. That was a good one.”
I assumed that this first encore was the famous double playing of “1969” at Leeds University in October 1982, my first ever Sisters gig (and the subject of the first post on this blog some six years ago), presumably because the band had already played the entireity of their “live” repertoire and had nothing else left to play! Then late last year, on the TSOM page on a ticket website, another Leeds alumnus confirmed this theory. “Jeremy” added a comment to the effect that, as Stage Manager at the Riley Smith Hall, he fondly recalled giving the band an encore, “much to the consternation of the headliner”.
I contacted Jeremy for more details, and he was only too happy to share his memories of Leeds in the early 80s. “What a vibrant time that was, I was so pleased to be part of it… Most of The Sisters lived in a typical Woodhouse Terrace [studentsville Victorian terraced house] dump with the windows covered up….I was good friends with Craig so I went by frequently. They just listened to The Stooges and The Birthday Party all night, smoking copious amounts. Even in the dark room Andrew never took off his leather jacket or his dark glasses, and never said a word. He was like a god to the collected masses! Someone would say, “I think Andrew wants to hear ‘Junkyard,’ and someone would dutifully put it on! Later, someone would say, “Andrew wants everyone to go away.” So everyone did! It was hysterically funny, the disciples really followed the piper...The brilliance of TSOM in 80-82 was that the band built up a culture with a few EPs and press, and there you all were smoking in a crappy house in Leeds. Genius, seriously.”
Fast forward to October 1982, and the night of the first encore which Eldritch recalls even today with a sense of achievement. “This was the Sisters’ first real tour,” Jeremy told me, “as support act to the Furs. They played the set and left the stage as normal. As stage manager I was in charge of the gig and told Craig, ‘Get back on and play an encore.’ He had to talk to Andrew, of course! There was some delay – I nearly had to push them on stage. They went back on stage and couldn’t find the drum machine track! I got into trouble with the Furs’ management, though – you don’t do that for a support band, haha!” A drum track was eventually selected, and the band duly played "1969" for the second time that evening, albeit with a somewhat different introduction.
However, as we discussed the early TSOM shows which we had both witnessed, Jeremy also told me about a gig which isn’t listed on any TSOM gigography. “We did a one-off gig at one of the halls of residence [at Leeds University].” Amazed, I suggested the names of a few of the main halls back in the early 80’s. “Yes, it was Bodington. We definitely did Bodington. I remember it well as a ‘surprise gig’.” Regular readers of this blog will not be surprised to learn that Bodington Hall has been bulldozed (some five years ago) and replaced with a housing development, but for some fifty years (from its 1960s inception) Bodington was the largest of the university’s halls, a sprawling mass of low-rise concrete clocks with over 600 study bedrooms and associated facilities including a large refectory. The complex had been built on green-belt land adjacent to the city’s then new northern relief road, some four miles north of the city centre, effectively condemning its residents to a daily commute into the university, where they were then “stranded” for the day, unlike students of campus residences who could return home in the many “free” slots on their timetable. “Bod” residents then had to return to the halls for their evening meal, before deciding whether to trek back to campus or town for a night out. Unsurprisingly therefore, Bodington developed a social scene of its own, so a ‘surprise gig’ by a local up-and-coming band would not have been a particularly unusual event. Sadly (if understandably), Jeremy cannot recall any further details of the gig, such as a likely date, but if anyone else has further information I would be delighted to hear from them! He did however confirm that it took place in the Refectory at Bodington, shown below in a photo taken shortly before its demolition at the start of this decade.
I am very grateful to Jeremy for taking the time and trouble to share his reminiscences with us, to Phil Verne of the unofficial TSOM 1980-1985 FB fan page, and (once again) to the venerable Ade M for creating the YouTube video which means that we can all experience again the “rite of passage” that was the band’s first ever encore.