|Tour overview | Setlists overview | Interviews overview||
"Vision thing is a gift from GOD and His Angels. If you miss them now you might have to wait another 5 years for the funny sound in your head." -- from a postcard to Reptile House members sent just before the tour.
Period between 1993 and 1996 was unusually quiet: The Sisters of Mercy didn't tour, The Sisters of Mercy didn't release anything, The Sisters of Mercy didn't even record or compose anything: for worse or better, those years were spent striking against and demanding freedom from contract with the "most useless" record company, EastWest UK.
This stalemate eased in 1996. Although EastWest was still the Enemy Number One and release output from Sisters camp was limited to flame-ish anti-EastWest press releases, the ban on live performances was lifted, to wide praise of fans. The Sisters of Mercy agreed to play three German shows in June/July, supporting the freshly reformed Sex Pistols in the ill-fated Helter Skelter festival circuit.
According to initially planned schedule, the three-date tour was supposed to be a part of the four-date Helter Skelter festival in Germany (Sisters weren't invited for festival date in Berlin), plus a half-baked secret gig. In reality this "festival" was no so much as a festival as the German tour of freshly reformed Sex Pistols with several supporting bands included to make it more attractive (The Sisters of Mercy were headliners #2). Other acts on dates with Sisters were H-Blockx, Cypress Hill, Dog Eat Dog, Shelter, Sun CPS, Sugar Ray and Phantoms of Future.
As it turned out, Sisters co-headlined only two festival dates. Due to very poor organization of the festivals they weren't selling out. In effort to save money promoters decided to drop the headliners (Sisters and Sex Pistols) from the Hamburg date and not pay them any fee. An argument followed, and in the end organizers were left with a choice of either paying the cancelled bands their fee anyway, or adding one more show with them. Thus the Offenbach gig was quickly (and adequately poorly) organized outside the framework of the festival.
Name of the tour
As (at least initially) all "proper" dates of the tour were to be played in the Helter Skelter festivals, this tour can easily be called "Helter Skelter". However, the t-shirts had another name written on them which was adopted by most fans.
The name in question is on the left of this text. For Western audience this associates with "rOADKILL" written in an arty way, with "r" oversized and "A" without the horizontal stroke; however, there's more to it than that. In Greek alphabet (and, for that matter, in Cyrillic, used in Russia and some other Slavic countries) the big "r" is equivalent to Roman alphabet's "G", and "A-without-stoke" is "L". Replace the foreign letters, and voila, GOLDKILL shows up before your surprised eyes.
Apparently, the way of writing the name on the t-shirts implies that both Roadkill and Goldkill are names of the tour, written in that unpronounceable way reminiscent of Artist Formerly Known As Prince's new name. As at the time The Sisters of Mercy was more or less inactive institution, revamped and sent on the road for some easy money -- or gold (Andrew went as far as calling it "the Saturday job, playing to 60,000 people" in Mojo interview), this ingenious combination pretty much sums it all up.
On any account, the name of the tour probably has nothing to do with an obscure Canadian film titled "Roadkill" about a woman who goes on the road in search of a band who had disappeared completely.
Goldkill/Roadkill tour marked the final separation of Andreas Bruhn from the band: although by 1993 he was out of the band spiritually and apparently didn't play on Under the Gun single, he was still playing with them live. In this tour, however, his place on stage was taken by ex-Babylon Zoo guitarist Chris Sheehan, playing alongside Andrew Eldritch and Adam Pearson (who replaced Tim Bricheno in 1993).
The good old Doktor Avalanche was still in place, and this time had a nurse to control his character. The babysitter was called Ravey Davey; the only thing known about this person is that he was involved with Cassandra Complex, the Andrew's buddy Rodney Orpheus's project. The willingness of Andrew to mention the "nurse" as a member of the band was still present in 1997 (as seen in the Virgin.Net interview), but in 1999's To the Planet Edge the position was already lowered to "crew" category (where it belonged in the first place: nurse's work at gig time amounts to watching over the computer, as opposed to playing). This must have had something to do with willingness to de-emphasize the fact that touring band had shrunken from 5 in 1990-1993 to just 3 in 1996.
Both Chris Sheehan and Ravey Davey disappeared from Sisters line-up before next tour. Chris Sheehan apparently preferred his collaboration with The Mutton Birds and his own solo career as Chris Starling to devoting his energy to Sisters, and Ravey Davey's role was taken over by Simon Denbigh (Ravey Davey didn't get a USA visa needed to follow the band around in Distance Over Time (1997); it's not clear if he participated in at least some gigs of that tour). Ravey resurfaced in To the Planet Edge tour (1999) as (apparently) guitar technician.
No other musicians were present: the days of backing singers/keyboardists were over. Backing vocals entered Adam Pearson's duties list and the keyboards were taken up by workaholic Doktor (who previously took over drums in 1981 and bass in 1993; who said Andrew is doing most for the band?;-), thus saving cash not paid to hired musicians.
Pete Turner, the sound engineer from very early days of the Sisters (he's even mentioned in Some Girls Wander By Mistake inner sleeve), was at the mixing desk. As of end-1999, it was his last collaboration with the band.
Act one: it's scary and it's free
The first show of the Goldkill/Roadkill tour was totally unexpected: the band did a free and secret warm-up in their hometown, Leeds, on June 19. Outside-Leeds promotion of the gig consisted of a letter sent to Dominion mailing list few hours before the gig (I don't know anything about the inside-Leeds promoting, but reckon it was nothing but a poster on Fenton's wall). The Fenton pub was packed as hell, but still contained no more than 100 people. This gig premiered Chris Sheehan with his guitar and Ravey Davey with his prime time robot nursing act; two more members demonstrated their new duties publicly for the first time: Doktor Avalanche feverishly played keyboards, and the (ahem) longtimer Adam Pearson started singing backing lines.
One more new feature of the band was premiered at the gig: Andrew Eldritch's hair was shining in all its natural blondness, thereby shocking all goth fans (and continuing to do so in years to come). Dark glasses were still in place. Adam also sported hairdressing novelties: instead of the usual longhaired attire his head vegetation was shortly cut.
Act two: it's German and it's punk-ish
Three days after the Leeds gig Andrew's new hair color was introduced to German public in the first Helter Skelter gig in München. The gig was organized in that rules-loving German way, with a prime-view gate for "special people" -- those who were first to come to the festival, which turned out to be mostly bored locals willing to listen to daytime acts. The crowd was reportedly very mild and unenthusiastic about Andrew's venture.
Neither Sisters nor Sex Pistols were allowed to play in Eldritch's residence town Hamburg in an attempt to cut costs and minimize losses imposed by less-than-flattering ticket sales. The cancellation announcement was also poorly organized and pretty late (some sources even stated the whole gig is cancelled). Read the Hamburg entry for more details.
The tour resumed two weeks later in Ochtrup, the last stop of Helter Skelter. Sisters performance started unusually early due to Cypress Hill absence from the set (move most likely connected to troubles with the festival promoters), and ended with Kiss the Carpet (absent in the first two gigs) as a bow to extremely active crowd. Dominion members meeting was organized just before the gig.
The next concert ended this short tour. Reportedly, on the day of the Offenbach gig Eldritch wasn't even sure he will perform there; the gig was marketed as a show of the Sex Pistols and their anonymous "special guests". Not surprisingly, the crowd wasn't huge in numbers when the Sisters presented the widely bootlegged masterpiece to mixed bunch of die-hard fans and "who the f*** is TSOM?" types. It's highly unlikely promoters profited from this venture; Sisters fans surely did.
This was the low-note end of it. Nothing but few rumors indicated any
future concert activities, nobody knew when and if there will be next
studio release. The last issue of
Underneath the Rock
-- the Fifteenth -- followed
shortly with review and pictures from this tour.
Eldritch continued the low key existence of the
band with some more summers gig rounds, two American tours, finally
acquired freedom from
EastWest, new songs and continued
hope to get that new album before the fourth millennium arrives. At the
end of the day, this Goldkill/Roadkill comeback was for good.
Huge thanks go to three people who made this 1996 tour entry possible: Christian Wojtysiak, editor of the German language Sisters fanzine Head and Star, who was kind enough to snail-mail me paper copies of Robin Colman's reviews (German translations of them were published in the fanzine), Robin Colman, who enthusiastically let me use his writings, participated in editing process, provided details I was missing and politely bore with huge delays of putting this entry online and Chris Sampson off the Glasperlenspiel fanzine, who forwarded me his archive of 1996 reviews from Dominion list.
This overview uses information provided by Robin Colman, Anders Rehnsberg, Chris Sampson, Bernard Corfe and Sarah Froggatt -- thank you all.
The pictures in this page come from 1996/07/13 Ochtrup gig and were taken by :
David Hlavacek (email@example.com) -- Reptile House "internal memo" and Helter Skelter poster.
This webzine copyright © 1997-2005 Andrius Sytas
Credited material copyrighted by stated authors