Like most suburban ‘80s kids, I found out about The Cult via MTVs saturation-play of “She Sells Sanctuary,” which managed to break out of the alternawhatever programming blocks to find a place in regular daily rotation. I really did adore the absolute shit out of the album that spawned it, Love, and so I backtracked to their excellent prior album Dreamtime. But hearing concert recordings almost completely ruined even those great albums for me. Their live energy made the studio recordings seem so tepid and anemic by comparison, I nearly stopped listening to them.
Of course, they famously and drastically ramped up the energy with their next album, Electric, but while I enjoy that album a great deal now, I was disappointed when it was released. I saw them as Judases, pandering to bonehead wallets by copping arena buttrock tropes. Of course, I was just being an overly tribalistic kid. The reality was that this was a band finding itself in its desire to rock the fuck out, and didn’t see any point in hiding it since they were already trying to tap that sort of energy in their relatively fey gothic flowerchild era, and one could make the case that they foresaw the underground’s phasing-out of mall-goth trappings in favor of heavier sounds. A pair of 1986 performances gives a taste of that transition.
That was a TV appearance, with all songs culled from the Love LP, though bafflingly, the big puttin’-asses-in-seats single “She Sells Sanctuary” isn’t included. They’re still firmly in the gothy-pop realm, though the energy there noticeably bests the LP.
Now check this out. This is a concert from Finland, later that same year, when the band was working on their next album. It was to be titled Peace, but the original recordings were was entirely jettisoned. Def Jam’s Rick Rubin re-recorded the material, treating it like an AC/DC album, and it eventually saw release retitled Electric, with the band awkwardly beginning to affect an attempted badass persona. But pay attention to the version of “Love Removal Machine” that they play. It’s the rejected original, and it’s pretty well unrecognizable to fans who’ve only heard the LP/single version. Those original scrapped tracks have been released as the limited Manor Sessions EP, and on the Rare Cult box set, but both of those are now rare, out of print collectibles. That material was at last made available again last year, under the title Electric Peace, which as you’ve surely guessed is a 2XLP containing both versions of the album.
Previously on Dangerous Minds
Dreamtime: The Cult live at the Lyceum, 1984