Having recently commemorated the thirtieth anniversary of the departures from the band of Gary Marx then Craig Adams, it would be churlish (temptingly so) to fail to do the same for Wayne Hussey, one of the dozen or so guitarists who have been members of the band over the past thirty-five years.
In terms of longevity, Hussey would barely make it into the top ten TSOM guitarists, having survived a mere eighteen months in the band, but his absence still casts a shadow over the band today for many fans of that era, particularly those whose love affair with the band started with First and Last and Always.
Leaving aside (for now) the bitter circumstances of his departure, Hussey was always a polemical figure amongst Sisters fans. For those who had followed the band closely throughout 1982 and 1983 (the Ben Gunn years), the era of blistering love performances and the “golden run” of Merciful Release singles topping the independent charts, there were already suspicions of the band’s direction now that a major label deal had been signed, and the recruitment of Hussey hardly served to allay these fears. The guitarist’s recent past as a seemingly willing clothes horse in Dead Or Alive’s ever more desperate attempts to crack the charts certainly didn’t help to convince any doubters, but neither did the first release from the new TSOM line-up (the insipid Body & Soul) nor his growing presence in interviews and live shows. Whereas Marx and Gunn had been happy for Von to do the talking, and had shyly kept their distance from the media, Hussey relished the limelight and seemed to have a growing influence over events, with Eldritch’s health apparently beginning to decline.
The same was true at gigs, with Hussey happy to flirt with the audience and mingle freely with the fans before and after shows, never far from a bottle of wine, seemingly breaking down some of the mystery and mystique his leader had deliberately created and indeed increased during that era, with the introduction of hats, dry ice, more subtle lighting etc.
Worse was to follow, with some blatantly chart-friendly compositions (Walk Away, for example) a far cry from the Reptile House and Floorshow days. Tensions within the band inevitably came to a head, and it came as little surprise to many that Marx (his role and influence diminished) left the band, shortly followed by Hussey and Adams. Eldritch had always made it clear that TSOM was effectively his band (with Marx seemingly willing to play a secondary role), but Hussey’s increasing dominance and apparent megalomania meant that a parting of the ways could not be avoided.
In the war of words which followed, I found myself clearly in Von’s camp, and was delighted that he won the battle for the band’s name. As much because of Craig Adams as anything, I tried to like Hussey’s new band, but found the predictable melodies and vacuous lyrics not to my taste, although they quickly built up a sizeable following which they retain to this day. I found the live spectacle even less palatable, the turgid, bombastic music matched by the over-bearing self-congratulatory pact between singer and audience, as he eagerly lapped up the adulation he had always craved. On both occasions I saw them (Sheffield Uni, November 1986 and Birmingham Hummingbird, March 1988) it was the support band (Rose of Avalanche and Red Lorry Yellow Lorry respectively) that stole the show in my (admittedly minority) opinion, and I have not been back to see them since.
Over the years, my opinion of Wayne Hussey has mellowed significantly. He now seems to be a sorted, humorous guy who respects the fact that the fans have stood by him, and his song-writing and singing have both improved, to the extent that I enjoy watching clips on YouTube of recent solo tours. And I’ve even revised my view on his time in the Sisters. Although a major disappointment to me at the time, FALAA is still an excellent album by most standards, and in Marian he contributed significantly one of the band’s signature songs. Subsequent revelations about Von’s health and working practices in the mid-80s might also lead one to a more generous appraisal of some of Hussey’s decision-making at the time, and he himself probably had demons which were also an influence on his actions. TSOM's subsequent releases and media game playing (particularly in the Floodland era) also helped me to cast Hussey less in the role of pantomime villain.
All that being said, however, I can't imagine any circumstances in which I'd like to see him back in TSOM, and there's more chance of Mrs L convincing me to go and see Blood Brothers the musical than me going along with old goth pals to see The Mission.