Sisters of Mercy were first formed in Leeds in 1980. Starting of as underground act, they gained more commercial success as the eighties went on before stopping making any more music in the early nineties in protest against their record company. To this day, they are purely a live touring act. It is safe to say that Sisters of Mercy have had a very unorthodox career. Despite being an influential group within the gothic rock scene, they have only three full length albums to their name, the last of which was released in 1990. Also, these three albums have all had completely different line-ups with only songwriter Andrew Eldritch and a drum machine being constant presences.
At this point in time, the band have no plans to release any new music, which will mean that this list leaves this writer a rather limited selection to choose from. However, they certainly have enough great cuts to make a top 10 list, so let’s see what they are…
# 10 – Black Planet
The first song on this list is the first song from the first album, 1985’s First and Last and Always. It is one of the archetypal goth songs, having all of the moodiness and atmosphere that is required to make it a genre classic. Aside from Eldritch, the personnel here were Craig Adams on bass, Wayne Hussey on guitar as well as Gary Marx and “Doktor Avalanche” the drum machine. Eldritch apparently did not consider the record to be goth, seeing it as a continuation of sixties classic rock.
# 9 – This Corrosion
Here we have a song that was the lead single from their second album Floodland released in 1987. It charted high in Ireland and the UK, reaching number six in the former and seven in the latter. As one of the band’s most well-known songs, it may come as a surprise to see it so low on this list. The album version of the song clocks in at eleven minutes long as opposed to the shorter single version which is only four minutes.
# 8 – Dominion
Here is another song from Floodland that was its second single. The album version features a coda piece titled “Mother Russia.” The song charted high in both Ireland at number seven and the Uk at number thirteen as well as entering the Billboard Dance Club Songs at number thirty. The song’s lyrics were topical at the time, dealing with the anti-American sentiment that had sprung up in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster.
# 7 – More
Here is a song that was the first single to be released from the band’s final album Vision Thing released in 1990. It got to number one on the Billboard Modern Rock Charts, where it remained for five weeks. The track somewhat takes the band away from their goth sound into a more dance-orientated rock territory. The song has been covered by several other artists, most surprisingly by Meat Loaf on his 2016 Braver Than We Are.
# 6 – Louie Louie
If your thinking that this track merely shares the title with the Richard Berry track, then you are mistaken because this in fact a cover of it, albeit a very distorted and barely recognizable one as you would probably expect. This track was often used as an encore at the band’s early shows and its chaotic sound makes it more adaptable for the live environment. As the track has only been featured on bootleg recordings it is hard to clarify exactly when it was first recorded/released.
# 5 – Alice
This song is the title track of the band’s debut ep released in 1982. This track was released as the third seven-inch single from it. It was then re-released in 1983 along with its B-side “Floorshow” and two additional tracks: a cover of the Stooges “1969” and a newly recorded track entitled “Phantom.” It was never released on CD by itself, but it was included on the 1992 compilation Some Girls Wander by Mistake.
# 4 – Vision Thing
Here we have the title track of the third and final studio album. After the release of the second album, Eldritch asked John Perry to be the guitarist on this record. After he turned the offer down, the group recruited Andrea Bruhn. Just before they were about to enter the studio bassist Patricia Morrison was replaced by Tony James. Eldritch has described the album retrospectively as a “fine album.”
# 3 – Jolene
The Sisters are known for their covers of classic songs that often seek to pay tribute to the original in a non-conventional way. As well as the aforementioned “Louie Louie” and their rendition of the Rolling Stones classic “Gimme Shelter” there is this version of the Dolly Parton hit. Like their others covers, it was a bootleg release, so it is not clear what the actual release date was, although they were known to play it live as early as 1983.
# 2 – Lucretia My Reflection
Just off the top spot we have what is possibly the band’s best well-known hit from Floodland which reached number twenty on the UK Singles Chart. A classic indie-goth dance floor filler, its lyrics deal with the considerably less celebratory concept of world destruction. It also charted in Ireland at number twenty-two and on the Billboard Dance Club songs at number thirty. It has been covered by everyone from Alkaline Trio to Kreator.
# 1 – Under the Gun
At the top spot is what ended up being the band’s final single that was featured on their 1993 greatest hits compilation A Slight Case of Overbombing: Greatest Hits Volume 1. It reached number 19 on the UK Singles Chart. Co-written by Eldritch with Billie Hughes, it is for the most part a reworking of a track called “Two Worlds Apart” that was featured on Hughes’s album titled Welcome to the Edge. The vocals are provided by Terry Nunn who is known for being the vocalist in American eighties synth-pop band Berlin.