1959 and all that
Home
What's new?
Chronological Index
Alphabetical Index
Links
About the interpretations
References and Contributors
Disclaimer

The Sisterhood

And I'll live on, he said to himself. That's my gift to you, and remember: in German, Gift means poison.

Philip K. Dick The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch


Gift - album

The background of the Sisterhood album deserves some elucidation, as the songs on the album all seem to refer to the episodes surrounding the collapse of the Left on Mission and Revenge incarnation of the band (i.e. Andrew, Wayne and Craig, who had been preparing to record the next Sisters album under this title). Note that despite the fact that we stress the importance of these events, the chronology laid out below is a hodge-podge of rumour, speculation and outright guesswork, with the occasional egg-white of fact chucked in so as to stiffen the mixture up. Reliable accounts of the period would be welcomed.

After the split (initially an amicable separation, by subsequent accounts), Hussey and Adams formed a new band. Unable to secure a record deal, they started using the name 'The Sisters Of Mercy'. Eldritch's lawyers were able to prevent this, but were not able to stop them using the name 'The Sisterhood', which had originally been adopted by a contigent of fans who attended every gig; under this appellation they started to play gigs (supporting some version or other of The Cult?) Aggrieved by what he saw as an attempt to gain a title that was undeserved, Andrew decided to release a spoiler record, on the grounds that the first outfit to publish recordings under the name - rather than simply playing gigs - would successfully stake a claim to the name. The result was the single Giving Ground. Around the same time it transpired that an advance would be made available to the first of the two splinter groups - Andrew's Sisterhood, and Wayne & Craig's band (were they still using the Sisterhood name at the time that the deal came about?) - to record an album. Whilst Wayne and Craig were still involved in gigs and reacting to Andrew's trump card of the single, the album Gift was recorded "impossibly fast" - rumour has it in 11 days.

Ironically for an album which now appears - for all the flaws and papered over cracks - ahead of its time and rather prescient of much of the pop-industrial music that would appear years later, it was greeted with such confusion at the time that it got Andrew dumped from a publishing deal with RCA...

The album bears the following messages in the run-out grooves:

A gift from the rasberry reich...

As explained in the PKD quote above, 'gift' - both the name of the album and, presumably, in this graffito - is a bilingual pun.

Verteidigungskrieg

"Defensive warfare" - again, this somewhat oxymoronic concept reflects the nature of the album.

..und jetzt können wir vielleicht schlafen, oder?

This roughly translates to "and now, perhaps, we can sleep, can't we?", which would seem to be an offer (despite what goes on in the album) of burying the hatchet.

Jihad

Jihad

As explained in the introduction, the album was recorded during a period of acrimony that was becoming steadily more entrenched. Jihad is an Islamic term describing a holy war against a despised enemy. There are two forms of Jihad - the lesser Jihad against infidels, and the greater Jihad against personal temptation. Since the Mecca Declaration of 1981, it has been seen as the duty of Moslems to carry out a Jihad against Israel, although the declaration does not make it clear whether this is symbolic or actual war. However the term has come to be seen as redolent of the fundamentalist terrorism in which the more visible elements of the Jihad are made manifest.

two-five-zero-zero-zero

...the advance for the album was £25,000. Thus in a song about a religious war, the lyricist taunts his enemy with the fact that he's already won. The taunt would appear to be directed at both his former colleagues, and at the record company who had shelled out a large advance for an amateurish album.

Colors

Giving Ground

Finland Red, Eygpt White

The text, read by Lucas Fox of Motörhead fame, comes from the instructon manual for an AK-47. A design classic, the AK-47 has remained popular and successful (at killing people, or as the manual nebulously has it, destroying personnel) ever since it was designed by Mikhail Kalashnikov in the 1940s. Standard issue throughout most of the Eastern Bloc, it is also one of most well known staples of terrorists across the globe.

Rain From Heaven

Rain from Heaven

The title and refrain presumably refer to Portia's well known deliberation in The Merchant of Venice (Act 4, Scene 1):

The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

The Merchant of Venice deals with themes that are central to Gift - mercy, justice, retribution and so on. However, interpretation of the narrator's intentions are tricky, because Merchant of Venice is an ambiguous play which can be read in widely differing ways. For a good discussion of alternative views of the play see:

Before anybody gets hot under the collar, it's probably worth stressing that we see no relationship between the Sisters and anti-Semitism: the band's anti-Nazi credentials are well established. However, the ambiguity of the play still makes it difficult to assess it's role as metaphor. Make your own minds up.


[ Home | Chronological Index | Alphabetical Index ]