Tuesday, 15 November 2016

TSOM with a different singer! - Munster Odeon, 1st September 1983

After the major cities of Berlin and Hamburg, the venue for the Sisters’ third German date on their inaugural European tour in Autumn 1983 was the less well known “stadt” of Munster, perhaps an appropriate choice for a goth band given the American “spoof vampire gothic horror” 60s TV series of the same name. Twin town of the city of York, where TSOM had played their first ever gig, Munster was also the home in the 1980s of the largest British Army base outside the UK, the huge Osnabruck garrison.

Not surprisingly, there was generally an anglo-centric slant to the nightlife on offer in Munster, and so it was that The Sisters were booked in to play at the Odeon venue in the town on 1st September 1983. Until researching this gig I had always imagined that this concert hall was the equivalent of the vast Hammersmith Odeon, which at the time was the UK’s largest regular gig venue, but nothing could be further from the truth, as can be seen in this wonderful archive video from 1986 posted on YouTube last year. The video takes us on a guided tour of the premises starting outside on Frauenstrasse, before coming inside and finally (around two minutes in) arriving in the somewhat cramped gig venue, which will be instantly recognisable to anyone who has seen still photos from the TSOM concert thanks to the garish and distinctly ungothic mural in front of which the band had to play, a backdrop perhaps more suited to one of Mr Tumble’s CBeebies TV shows for the under 5s. On a Husker Du website, a Munster native (“Kirsty”) said "[Odeon] was one of M√ľnster's most famous venues for smaller concerts, with a capacity of only 500 people. Many bands played there during the 80s and 90s who later became famous. Unfortunately the Odeon was closed in 2002 and the building demolished. After they built a new building, a restaurant called Monegro was located there," whilst “James” added “It was also reasonably popular with a small group of UK servicemen in the 80s. We had a small crew that used it regularly” reinforcing the impression one gets from listening to a recording of the gig that there were more Brits present at this show than at the other dates on the Trans Europe Excess jaunt.

For many years, many collectors believed that they had a copy of this gig, which in fact merely turned out to be a different recording of the Hamburg show of the night before. The Munster gig was indeed taped by a member of the audience, and has become one of the most talked about bootleg recordings of Gunn era Sisters, partly because it was only ever available as part of a limited edition box set of only twenty copies (uniquely containing both vinyl and cassette), but largely because of the encore, the usual choice on that tour of the Sister Ray medley backbeat. What is different on this occasion, however, is that Eldritch has clearly remained in the dressing room for reasons unknown, and the first half of the track is therefore instrumental only, before a unique occurrence in TSOM history … a different vocalist completes the song! Over the years there have been many theories as to whom this may have been – Ben Gunn, Danny from Salvation and even Wayne Hussey have been suggested by some of the more outlandish conspiracy theorists (you know who you are!).

However, in the absence of a definitive and authoritative account of what actually happened that night, from what we can gather it would appear that a fan, who can be heard noisily on the audio recording earlier in the show, grew tired of waiting for Eldritch to return to the stage and three minutes into the recording of the encore kindly shared by Phil Verne  (allowing us all to judge for ourselves) began shouting out the relevant section of Ghostrider over a quieter section of the familiar medley. The mystery would-be vocalist then seems to be told to "come up here",  and to cheers from his friends in the audience he grabbed the mic himself and entered Sisters folklore by belting out a full verse of the Suicide classic, just after the band had ad-libbed a section of Louie Louie. With Craig seemingly moving on to the bass part of Sister Ray, the fan (?) falls quiet before suddenly announcing "Good night", to which one of the band seems to forlornly request that he "sing more", before the song grinds to a sudden halt to raucous applause from the crowd.  

There was, of course, a near repetition at the Royal Albert Hall two years later, but the late Lemmy allegedly persuaded an under-the-weather Eldritch to take to the stage for the much-delayed encore on that occasion. The rest of the Munster show, which was one song shorter than in Hamburg the previous night (no “Lights”), also had its unusual moments, such as the unique version of Floorshow (which has a unique Doktor Avalanche backing track featuring a highly original opening, and a messed up final solo from Mr Marx, who was having a somewhat erratic evening) and the famous Eldritch retort “only if somebody gives me a drink” when audience members shout for "Body Electric" and “Jolene” after “Kiss The Carpet”. For the record, “Jolene” was not played that night (or indeed at all anymore by this stage). It was also one of the gigs where Gary Marx ad-libbed a section from “Ghostriders In The Sky” between songs, as can be heard in this version of Emma kindly uploaded on to YouTube by Phil Verne (of TSOM 8085 FB group fame) which also features a wonderful photo of Ben in one of his final European TSOM gigs. Clearly visible is the mural which is in front of what was clearly a much lower stage in 1983 than was the case in 1986 when the “guided tour” video was filmed. The “Ghostriders” crowd response, plus the chanting ("Ha'way the lads", "Sisters!" etc) before the encore, reveals that this crowd was clearly livelier and more raucous in Munster than on the other German tour dates (the Spex magazine reviewer complained that at the Aratta in Moers the following and final night, the crowd were so static that they didn’t even cheer for an encore), with Eldritch trying to reason with them : “Listen, don’t do that! There’s someone from Wolverhampton down there and he’s not going to take kindly to that, is he?” (the mind boggles as to what was going on at this point).

The Odeon continued as a bar and music venue for many years, and was revisited a year later by TSOM, but was closed and gutted in the early years of this millennium as can be seen in the photo reproduced here (from adamriese.info ). But of the many hundreds of venues The Sisters have played over the past thirty five years, the Munster Odeon has kept the distinction of being the only one to have experienced (albeit for just one song) the band with a vocalist other than Andrew Eldritch.

As always, my grateful thanks are extended to all those who helped with this post, particularly my usual partners-in-crime LG and Phil Verne, and to those who have helped to archive what was clearly a much-loved venue locally.