The Sisters of Mercy - Medleys - Sister Ray


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Distance Over Time

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Sister Ray | Other medleys | Sources | Sister Ray story
Sister Ray

 Reuterstadt Stavenhagen
o. d. Tauber
1999/10/21  México City

Silver Machine


Sister Ray


From UTR's biography of The Sisters of Mercy (now presented in the official site):

The band makes its live debut on February 16th ... The first-ever set kicks off with a twisted cover of Cohen's 'Teachers' and ends with a juggernaut howl which might have been 'Silver Machine' but was in fact 'Sister Ray'. The audience gets the point.

Thus Sister Ray, a cover of Velvet Underground song, started it existence in Sisters universe (pre-Sisters part of the soup opera is nicely told by Patrick Lindel in his Sister Ray story here in Tours site). The song grew into a medley by 1983, when Louie Louie and Ghostrider were added.

The idea of the medley was always the same: Doktor Avalanche was providing a uniform beat over which the rest of the band played one or the other song until everybody got satisfied and Doktor was told to shut up. Nearly all possible combinations of the three songs were tried, sometimes featuring all three, sometimes two, and sometimes only one song; many Sister Ray medleys didn't have Sister Ray at all.

Sometimes the medley included songs other than these three. I'm aware of at least two cases: 1984/10/13 Manchester playlist featured the widely bootlegged Knockin' on Heaven's Door/Hey Joe/Purple Haze/Stairway to Heaven/Ghostrider/Louie Louie (23 minutes in total; it's debatable whether it is really a medley or two medleys mislabeled as one). Also, 50 or so people attending the 1985/04/21 Blackburn show were treated to Stairway to Heaven as introduction to regular Sister Ray madness; in contrast to Manchester Eldritch cared to sing at least few verses before deciding that he doesn't really know the lyrics and abandoning the attempt. This version is also available on numerous bootlegs.

The Sister Ray medley was the last song performed by the Eldritch/Hussey/Adams lineup in 1985/06/16 London gig in Royal Albert Hall; the performance isn't featured on Wake video because of reasons outlined in the official TSOM site FAQ. This performance didn't feature Sister Ray itself -- the song was last included in medley in (apparently) 1985/04/13 Gent gig.

This site currently doesn't feature any early Sister Ray transcriptions -- mostly because they are not as diverse as 1990s versions. If you think this is serious drawback, you're free to transcribe it on your own and send your work to me.


The only time Sisters ever performed Sister Ray in this period was the 1992/08/29 Hasselt gig where they headlined the Pukkelpop festival. This was the last show of the 1992 minitour and consequently the last performance of Tim Bricheno with the girls. In all other 1992 gigs Andrew tested audience patience with an a-capella of Stop Dragging My Heart Around; for this one Sister Ray was resurrected after much of the audience were sure the gig ended and had left.

This rendition can be considered transitional phase between 80s and late 90s: the tempo was still up, although claustrophobia of early versions gave way for some kind of melodiousness. Guitarists duties changed from having to play some song to playing whatever they wanted to, giving Andrew the freedom to sing whatever he wants to and whenever he wants to (although nowadays some kind of uniformity is reached during Killed by Death). Choice of songs in Hasselt wasn't limited to Ghostrider and Louie Louie (Stop Dragging My Heart Around was among those which made it into the set). Motörhead's greatest hits weren't in the menu -- yet.

1997- onwards

Distance Over Time (1997)

At the end of the 1997/07/20 Rendsburg gig The Sisters of Mercy treated their loyal audience which refused to go home after the main set with two unplanned encores -- Confide in Me/Alice and Jolene/Sister Ray. Doktor's work on the song was extremely slow, thus making this version sharply different from all other incarnations.

This Sister Ray was introduced as written by Carsten Pröpper off Eldritch's favourite FC St.Pauli (Germany's second league); as of end-1999, Pröpper was in RW Oberhausen (also second league).

The medley featured nearly all bits and pieces found in later renditions -- namely, Lucretia My Reflection, Walking the Dog, Motörhead's catalogue, with Capricorn as a standout, and Louie Louie (Ghostrider was not present in this gig). These songs were already performed in soundchecks, but, with exception of Lucretia which was played in 1990/91, never presented to concert audience.

The reason of playing more than 17 minutes of improvisation -- apparently, the longest one so far -- was explained by Adam in early 1998 as an act of drunkness; even so, the take-no-prisoners jam with Andrew screaming his lugs out and the guitarists showing off the best they can remains one of the most memorable moments of the tour.

Event Horizon (1998)

Obviously, the band received many praises of their Rendsburg experiment during the next Event Horizon tour (1998): the one-off Sister Ray mid-tour in 1998/01/26 Brussels was introduced with threatening "You're gonna wish you'd never asked this". The performance of the song in the free Belgium gig was not as good as in Rendsburg, which might explain why it was not played again during that tour. The complimentary encore at the final gig in London consisted only of Jolene and Vision Thing.

Summer (1998)

Half gigs in the six-day Summer tour (1998) featured Sister Rays -- either to flavor the mini tour with the monster thus extending the gigs with minimum rehearsals needed, or to finish the (reportedly) excellent performances with the improvisation. The three gigs were 1998/07/04 Reuterstadt Stavenhagen at Bands für Bands festival, 1998/07/25 Rothenburg ob der Tauber at Taubertal festival and 1998/08/08 Neerpelt at Eurorock festival.

To the Planet Edge (1999)

The medley was played in shows of the To the Planet Edge (1999) USA tour: in Philadelphia and in México City.

1999/09/25 Philadelphia's monster was called upon by audience after hearing Adam jam several lines of Sweet Home Alabama while leaving the stage as the show finished; the band faithfully played the classic (as much as they could remember, that is) before going through the usual ingredients of the 90s Sister Ray. Full story is in the Philly show's entry.

The 1999/10/21 México City Sister Ray was (apparently) added as a thank-you to storming audience of the top gig, thus ending the 17-dates tour.

Credits and all that

These transcriptions are mostly all incomplete (I've made my best to mark places I'm not sure of) -- transcribing is not really that easy when you (1) use source which sounds like being recorded with a crappy walkman at the far side of the venue surrounded by drunk Germans doing their best to deafen everybody within 10 kilometer radius with their "hey now hey now now" (2) don't know which song is being played (3) have mother tongue other than English; Andrew's tendency to muffle words is another topic altogether.

That said, all corrections/additions/transcriptions are welcomed via If you can help me me get in touch with other Sister Rays (I miss Rothenburg ob der Tauber from 1998 and Philadelphia and Mexico City from 1999) or other interesting medleys, drop me a line.

Big kudos to Anders Rehnsberg who generously provided me with several Sister Rays specifically for transcription. Parts of this section use information provided by Jochen Upheber and Jan Piatkowski.

Pictures are from these gigs (top to bottom):

  • 1999/10/08 Los Angeles, taken by Yanic Vida, bigger version is in gig gallery.
  • 1998/02/13 London, taken by Amanda Stevens, bigger version is in Fourth Floor site.
  • 1998/06/27 Roskilde, taken by Darius Krasauskas, bigger version is in gig gallery.
  • 1998/02/13 London, taken by Anthony Chefles, bigger version is in gig gallery.
    All pictures have one common feature, and it's not Andrew Eldritch.

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