100 Greatest Songs of the 80’s #13 The Cult – She Sells Sanctuary

Released : 1985

Language changes over time; when the term “Sell out” was applied in 1976 it referred to the idea of allowing the establishement to own you – but by the following decade it was also used by those shifting lots of tickets for shows. The Cult – formerly Southern Death Cult, formerly Death Cult, were heroes of the positive punk and it’s descendent goth scenes, but singer Ian Astbury and guitarist Billy Duffy were savvy enough to see what was going on around them as the likes of U2, Simple Minds and Big Country all successfully turned niche appeal into something more commercially acceptable.

With a thing for Native American ephemera and a voice like a banshee, Astbury and his partner in crime decided that their next album would use as inspiration seventies rock heavyweights Led Zeppelin. Wait. What? Exactly the same self indulgent hippies punk had sworn to destroy? Well, yes. But it was a market few others had the audacity to size up and as a result their album Love – stuffed with riffs, solos and bombast – duly broke them on both sides of the Atlantic.

She Sells Sanctuary was the lead off single, but as the group gathered in a South London studio to put it on tape, they found that rather than having producer-du-jour Steve Lillywhite at the controls, instead they had Steve Brown, better known for his work with Wham! Any apprehension soon vanished however: Sanctuary was a masterstroke, starting with a couple of bars of neo-psychedelic guitar, followed by a huge kick, then by an even bigger chorus, whilst Astbury made the words sound like the last he would utter on earth. He and The Cult had sold out. And as a result, they sold out.

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