In December 1984, Andrew Eldritch travelled to Germany to attempt to remix The Sisters Of Mercy’s forthcoming album, First And Last And Always, with seasoned producer Reinhold Mack at Giorgio Moroder’s Musicland Studios in Munich. Alas, Eldritch wasn’t pleased with the results so the job was called off but that didn’t stop a number of Mack’s mixes from circulating at WEA on in-house cassettes, one of Mack’s mixes even made it on to the album’s American LP promo. An unmarked copy of the 11 January 1985 in-house cassette – containing a selection of Mack and Eldritch’s remixes – made its way to the Phantom Twins, who were engaged in releasing “interesting and quality recordings by The Sisters Of Mercy which are unavailable through Merciful Release” on their Palazzograssi label. Four of the tape’s tracks were chosen to comprise their fourth release, The Last Magician Of Rational Thought. It contains three Mack mixes (“No Time To Cry”, “First And Last And Always”, and “A Rock And A Hard Place”) and one Eldritch mix (“Walk Away”), none of which feature on the finished album. With the help of Sisters collector Bruno Bossier, I was able to reach one of the label’s founders who kindly answered some questions about the record:
Is the source for the vinyl the “WEA in-house” cassette dated 11/1/85?
Not sure. The tape came to us as TDK with handwritten red writing, it was a copy of something. The in-house tape pics appeared years later (i.e. the ones as shown in the wiki) so I have no idea if they are fake or real.
If so, what made you pick these four tracks in particular?
We liked them and they were the most interesting to us at least. I can’t be sure if this was pre or post the Japanese [album release] with different mixes, but they were interesting so we used them. This was around the time people were trying to create ‘demos’ or ‘alternate mixes’ by rehashing the released studio tracks.
Why did you include the Eldritch mix of “Walk Away”, instead of using all four Mack mixes?
Was nothing more complex than which tracks sounded the most interesting (i.e. different) to us at the time. Not compared the Mack mix to Eldritch mix for “Walk Away” for so many years, but one must have been more interesting than the other.
What form did the master take that was sent to the pressing facility, and where was the bootleg pressed?
TDK cassette transferred via a Sony cassette deck (a good one) to REVOX B77 MkII 2 track 15 ips. Pressed in Italy. Sleeve designed and printed in the UK. They learned how to make sleeves after the first wave of Victims Of Circumstance.
Did you have any other First And Last And Always related bootlegs in the pipeline that never saw release?
Only the 50 copies that would have been Reverberation.
I tracked down a copy of this important Sisters artefact to needledrop as the other transfers I’ve heard have been fairly poor sounding. My copy is in VG+ condition, and the transfer is very listenable, providing a good insight into these alternate mixes. I cleaned the record on my Okki Nokki RCM, and the transfer signal path was: Technics SL-1210 Mk2 > AT440MLa micro-line cartridge > Rega Elex-R amplifier > Creative X-Fi HD > FLAC 24/96. I applied some light ClickRepair and pitch corrected the tracks against a digital reference. For the sake of completeness, I have included Mack’s mix of “Walk Away” (absent from the Palazzograssi record), which I transferred from the American LP promo (1985, ST-E-60405-1). Artwork scans @ 600 DPI.
THE SISTERS OF MERCY : The Last Magician Of Rational Thought
Label: Palazzograssi Records – PG 04
Format: White vinyl, 7″, 33 ⅓ RPM
- No Time To Cry [Mack Mix]
- First And Last And Always [Mack Mix]
- A Rock And A Hard Place [Mack Mix]
- Walk Away [Eldritch Mix]
- Walk Away [Mack Mix] [Bonus]
ALL I KNOW FOR SURE: A comprehensive overview of the First And Last And Always recording sessions, featuring: exclusive interviews, new information, and a look at the recording diaries and original master tapes.