The Mission UK’s “Tower of Strength”: An industrial landscape filled with medieval monsters

By on May 24, 2018

“In 1986, guitarist Wayne Hussey left the Sisters of Mercy to front the Mission UK” says Night Flight’s Pat Prescott in her introduction to the band’s psychedelicized video, seen here in Night Flight’s “Take Off to Gothic Rock,” now streaming on on Night Flight Plus.

“With bandmates Craig Adams, Simon Hinkler and Mick Brown, Hussey built a ‘Tower of Strength,’ in an industrial landscape filled with medieval monsters.”

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“Rising from the ashes of late ’70s punk,” Ms. Prescott had already said in her preface to this half-hour 1990 survey, which had previously aired in the ’80s as one of our “Twenty Years of Rock ‘n’ Roll Style” segments, Goth Rock mixed the batwing style of Bram Stoker’s Dracula with bizarre sentiments, black humor and a big beat.”

Despite their reputation as a gloomy goth band, “Tower of Strength” is actually a paean to the power of positive-thinking, a way of showing appreciation and being thankful for someone in your life who gives you hope:

“You rescue me, you are my faith, my hope, my liberty,
And when there is darkness all around you shine bright for me
You are the guiding light to me…”

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There’s no mystery why The Mission UK’s “Tower of Strength” positively thrums along with a sweeping epic majesty reminiscent of “Kashmir,” one of Led Zeppelin’s most definitive songs, from their 1975 double-LP Physical Graffiti.

That’s because “Tower” and the rest of their second album, the mandolin-and-metal rock sounding Children, was produced by Zeppelin’s bassist, John Paul Jones (the Mission were the first band he’d worked with since Zeppelin’s demise twelve years earlier).

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In a 2013 Songfacts interview with guitarist/lead vocalist Wayne Hussey, he proclaimed “Tower of Strength” his favorite song by the Mission UK, saying:

“I think it’s a celebration of our relationship with our audience. It’s big. It’s pompous. It’s grandiose. It’s melodramatic. It’s everything the band were at the time and it’s a song, even now when we play it live, there’s still a great communal to and fro between us and the audience. So it has that about it. I still get a kick out of performing it.”

Read more about the Mission UK below.

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The Mission (photo by Kerstin Stelter)

In 1985, Hussey and bassist Craig Adams departed from the Sisters of Mercy, due to ongoing conflicts they’d been having with Andrew Eldritch.

The eventually added guitarist/keyboardist Simon Hinkler (ex-Pulp/Artery) and drummer Mick Brown (ex-Red Lorry Yellow Lorry), and at first played Sisters songs that Eldritch had rejected, along with covers of tunes by the Stooges, the Doors and Neil Young, among many others.

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They’d originally decided to call their new name band the Sisterhood, but then Eldrtich protested quite loudly that it sounded too much like his band’s name (and it was also what his bands fans called themselves), and he threatened them with legal action.

When Eldritch rush-released his a new album out under the Sisterhood banner, Hussey and company were quickly forced to change their moniker, choosing to call themselves the Mission.

The new name, according to Hussey in The Mission: Names Are for Tombstones, Baby, referred to his Mormon upbringing and his parents’ desire for him to become a missionary.

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The rivalry between Eldritch and Hussey continued when, after signing a seven-album deal with Phonogram Records in July 1986, the Mission had the first of their many UK chart successes when their debut album God’s Own Medicine hit #14.

Then, in 1987, they were surpassed by the Sisters Of Mercy’s Floodland, which had reached #9.

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In early 1986, the Mission embarked on their first European tour, supporting the Cult, before heading out for their first tour dates in America, 1987’s so-called “World Crusade Tour.”

Then, they discovered there was already a Philadelphia-based R&B outfit calling themselves the Mission, and so the appellation “UK” had to be added to their name.

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The tour turned out to be a disaster, due in no small part to their excessive drinking and drugging.

Adams suffered a mental meltdown in L.A., breaking a tour bus window with his hand before he was knocked flat by a police van in front of the band’s hotel. He flew back to England to recuperate, and their sound man Pete Turner filled in briefly.

Then they were also forced to enlist Chris Bocast to play bass for the remainder of the tour when an inebriated Hinkler was deported.

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The Mission (photo by Kerstin Stelter)

The experience led Hussey to write about the band’s experiences (“Madmen running loose”) in the stunning six-minute plus “Hymn (For America),” the final track on Children, released on February 1, 1988.

Children renewed the rivalry between the Mission and the Sisters of Mercy as well when, on March 12th, it shot all the way to #2 on the UK album charts, leading to a subsequent world tour which saw their status elevated to arena level.

By then, their profile had been raised considerably by joining U2‘s Joshua Tree Tour, opening for them in Leeds (their hometown) and Edinburgh.

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“Tower of Strength” also made it to #12 on the UK Singles Chart.

The Mission UK would soon embark on a world tour, and also play six consecutive nights in March ’88 at the Astoria Theatre in London, featuring John Paul Jones on keyboards for their encore of “Shelter From the Storm.”

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Watch Night Flight’s “Take Off to Gothic Rock” — which also features videos by Bauhaus, Peter Murphy, Love & Rockets, the Damned, the Sisters of Mercy, and Fields of the Nephilim — on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.