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The first incarnation of The Cult was formed in 1981 by vocalist and songwriter Ian Astbury. He called the band Southern Death Cult, and they performed their first gig in their hometown of Bradford in October. They were at the forefront of a new style of music called post-punk, with elements of gothic rock, and they received positive reviews from the press and fans alike at Southern Death Cult concerts. However, after signing to an independent label and touring England, the band called it a day.
1983 saw Ian team up with the guitarist Billy Duffy to form the band Death Cult. Billy had been in The Nosebleeds alongside Morrissey, as well as a few other bands. Two more members, Jamie Stewart (bass) and Raymond Taylor Smith (drums) were recruited, and they toured Europe before changing their name to simply The Cult.
Their singles Spiritwalker and Go West (Crazy Spinning Circles) were released in 1984 and preceded their debut album Dreamtime. The album went to number 21 in the UK chart. Around the album’s release, The Cult tickets were being sold for their European tour.
Their fourth single She Sells Sanctuary was released in May 1985 and peaked at number 15. Their second album, Love, saw a departure from their punk roots as they steered towards a more 60s psychedelia sound. This proved a good move commercially, as the album went to number four in the UK and gained them more fans who wanted The Cult tickets for their subsequent world tour.
For their next album, Electric, they enlisted the help of producer Rick Rubin. The album eventually outsold Love, and spawned the singles Love Removal Machine and Wild Flower. The Cult tour in support of the album featured support from the then-unknown Guns N’ Roses.
Their next album, Sonic Temple, reached the top 10 in both the UK and the US, and contained the singles Fire Woman, Edie (Ciao Baby) and Sun King. The Cult tickets for their tour with Aerosmith sold well, as did their tour supporting Metallica.
After more Cult tours, the band decided to split in 1995. They reformed in 1999, took a second hiatus in 2002, before reforming again in 2005. The band have embarked on various The Cult tours and are currently continuing their Love Live tour.
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