Formed in Bradford, England in 1982 as Southern Death Cult with Ian Astbury (then calling himself Ian Lindsay) performing vocal duties.
Having spent time in Canada as a kid, Astbury was heavily influenced by native American Indian culture and problems soon arose when the singer felt his pseudo-hippie/Red Indian philosophy was being compromised by the band set-up.
The group split the following year with Astbury keeping the name but shortening it to Death Cult. Relocating to London, he recruited a new band from the post-punk circuit and released a self-titled 4 track 12″ single. The band released a further solitary single, God’s Zoo, before trimming the name further to simply The Cult.
While the music still betrayed slight Goth tendencies, the band were eager to lose the Gothic tag. Dreamtime (1984) sounded confused and directionless, and it wasn’t until their second album, Love, the following year, that the band fashioned some kind of distinct identity.
Love was the sleek black mother ship that launched Rain and the epoch-defining She Sells Sanctuary. Catching the band half-way through their leather-trousered squelch from grotty peace punks to arena Goths, the LP was bold, cynical, brilliant and clueless all at once.
While Ian Astbury channelled Jim Morrison and explored his Native American fixation, guitarist Billy Duffy reintroduced the thudding force of the big riff into 1980s indie currency. Offering rock with a capital COCK, Love remains their crowning glory.
With metal guru Rick Rubin at the production helm, Duffy’s guitar was pushed way up into the mix and the sound tightened considerably. The result was, that any fans clinging to Gothic pretensions were aghast, while Kerrang! readers loved it.
Astbury’s flowing locks were something of an anomaly for an ‘alternative’ band in those dark 80s days, and the band were derided by some sections of the music press. The Cult’s response was to throw caution to the wind and do what they’d probably always secretly dreamed of doing – writing massive anthemic heavy rock songs.
Sonic Temple (1989) was another heavy rock effort, if a bit more grandiose in its reach, featuring their tribute to doomed 60’s child, Edie Sedgewick, Edie (Ciao Baby). This album saw The Cult finally achieve major success in the USA.
Line-up changes had plagued the band from the very start, and by 1991, Astbury and Duffy were the only remaining members of the original line-up. That year’s album, Ceremony, sounded somewhat listless although it was a relative success.
1993 saw a #1 compilation album, Pure Cult, selling like hotcakes, although people weren’t quite so eager to shell out for 1994’s The Cult album. Their glory days were clearly over. In 1996, Astbury was in full flight again fronting a new rock outfit called Holy Barbarians.
Ray ‘Mondo’ Smith
Nawaz ‘Aky’ Quereshi