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Baker's Dozen

I Don't Belong Here: Cathi Unsworth's Weirdo In 13 Albums
The Quietus , July 25th, 2012 07:17

Author and journalist Cathi Unsworth talks us through the albums that inspired her new novel Weirdo. This feature will bring dark joy to the hearts of those whose clothes are black, whose lips are purple and whose witches are red


Sisters of Mercy Some Girls Wander By Mistake

This compilation of all the classic Sisters singles and EPs from 1980-83 represents the first band I fell madly in love with. I have transferred my fixation to the character of Debbie in Weirdo, who is constantly listening to ‘Alice’ and paints the Merciful Release logo on the back of her jacket. ‘Alice’ remains my favourite song of this pitch (black) perfect assembly, it paints such a vivid picture of a late night party in a rackety student house, full of people with black hair and the smell of patchouli and red leb, where Alice, beautiful and doomed, stumbles around in her party dress, unraveling. I love the line: "Cast the crystals, spread the tarot, in illusion comfort lies…" All Andrew Eldritch’s lyrics have not just stood the test of time, but seem even more perceptive to me now.

The whole mystery of the Sisters live show was the best thing I had ever seen at that point in my life – the dry ice, the cowboy hat, the arms of the God Squad weaving strange patterns in the air. I was lucky enough to see the last ever gig with Gary Marx in Brighton, the last ever gig of the Hussey-Adams-Eldritch line-up at the Albert Hall, and, best of all, the York Rock Festival of 1984, where they played with The Bunnymen, Spear of Destiny, The Chameleons and The Redskins. It took me years to get over the fact I would never see them like that again. It wasn’t really the same with Tony James in the band, although I did like the fact that Eldritch said: “I’d like to thank everyone who’s been keeping my seat warm in my absence,” at Wembley Arena in 1990, knowing The Mission and Fields of the Nephilim were in the audience. I filched the typically brilliant title of this for one of Weirdo’s section headings as sums up what’s going on with the girls in the book.