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I Sold Sanctuary: How The Cult Kept My Love Affair With English Football Intact

In the six years that I’ve published EPL Talk, I’ve shared a lot of details about my life, mostly from a soccer perspective. But one thing that I haven’t mentioned before, because it wasn’t really relevant, was another six year chapter in my life that I spent from 1989 to 1995. I don’t think any of you know this, not even my closest friends, but during those six years I founded, wrote and published a music fanzine named Sanctuary. It was an independent print fanzine written about the music band The Cult, best known for their two biggest singles, “She Sells Sanctuary” and “Fire Woman.”

In hindsight, there were a lot of similarities about publishing EPL Talk and Sanctuary. Both were on niche topics. Both were a labor of love, pouring countless hours into researching, writing and handling all of the behind-the-scenes stuff that most people don’t realize that happens. But the biggest difference was that Sanctuary was quarterly. There wasn’t that daily pressure to write that hangs over my head with EPL Talk (and thankfully I have a team of brilliant writers who help manage the load on soccer-related topics).

In the pre-Internet days of the late ’80s and early-to-mid ’90s, publishing Sanctuary (which had subscribers from around the world) was an experience that opened doors, helped connect me with people around the world and gave me opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. That included drinking beers with lead singer Ian Astbury, and interviewing him on a back patio after a concert, or going backstage after a show to hang out with the band. Or lead guitarist Billy Duffy literally giving me his shirt off his back and signing it. It was a purple Manchester City jersey from the early ’90s.

When I spoke to Astbury and Duffy throughout their career, we talked about music, life and family, but the one topic that was a common thread was football. Astbury was, and still is, a devoted Everton supporter, while Duffy supports Manchester City. Both musicians are very different in personality. Astbury is the spiritual and the in-the-clouds one, while Duffy is the pragmatist. But they both have a common love for music and football — both playing it, and following it.

Back in those late ’80s and early-to-mid ’90s, it wasn’t easy being a soccer fan in the United States, especially when you followed British clubs. The access to live games was practically non-existent, so the football conversations you had about with anyone were treasured. It was a rare chance to pontificate about the sport, the players and your team. So when I had a chance to speak to Astbury or Duffy about music and life, soccer often entered into our conversations. It was a connection we had, and sometimes a pleasant break for them to talk about a topic that didn’t often enter the discussions they had with the press on grueling world tours.

Since then, The Cult has had its ups and downs as have Everton and Manchester City. The band, who will be celebrating three decades together next year, is preparing for the launch of their new album (Choice of Weapon) and North American tour, both of which kick off in late May. That tour will take them until late June before they had overseas for a European tour through September.

Even though the band will be on tour throughout the summer, I’m sure they’ll be keeping a close eye on football-related activities such as Euro 2012 and the Premier League. Still, to this day, whenever I see Everton and Manchester City play on television, I always think of Astbury and Duffy. My connection to them and to the clubs they support is joined at the hip.

Editor’s note: Here’s a link to The Cult’s greatest hits album which you may enjoy.

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  1. Clampdown

    April 17, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    Love is still one of my favorite all-time records, and She Sells Sanctuary is still one of my favorite songs. Great stuff.

    The record for me, though, is inextricably linked to a tragic event. I remember being in my parents’ living room listening to WNHU radio out of New Haven. They were playing The Phoenix, and during that intense extended guitar lead they cut into the song to announce the Challenger space shuttle had blown up. To this day that song, for me, is associated with that event.

    • The Gaffer

      April 20, 2012 at 3:09 pm

      Clampdown, sorry to hear that it had to be that song. Especially a brilliant one like The Phoenix. Kind of fitting in a very sad and unfortunate way.

      My memories of the space shuttle explosion was hearing about it in our high school classroom in Florida. I remember all of us walking outside and looking up into the blue skies and seeing the trails of white smoke falling in different directions.

      The Gaffer

  2. Alex Wolcott

    April 17, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    I fondly recall working security at a show where the Cult opened for (pre-sellout) Metallica and being blown away by those guys. Cult was kind of trying to position itself awkwardly into the heavy metal genre back in those days and most of the crowd did not really “get” them.

    I did, though, and have been a fan ever since that night. Even better to now know that Billy Duffy supports City. A club I was introduced to a few years later by a genuine Mancunian. Introduced to in time, I might add, to commiserate backstage with Noel Gallagher about their early EPL form when I was working one of Oasis’ very first US shows.

    (And I will always remember him going on a rant about how the then-Champion United squad was supported only by “coonts” and “twats.” The more things change…..)


    • The Gaffer

      April 17, 2012 at 1:12 pm

      Glad you had a chance to see them Alex. They’re a honest, hard-working English rock band. After the Electric album and during Sonic Temple, they were lumped together with a lot of heavy metal bands. And the Metallica tour wasn’t a good fit. Nothing against Metallica fans, but it’s hard to imagine Metallica fans being open to seeing/hearing any opening band. They’re just there to see Metallica and that’s it. So The Cult had some rough times opening for Metallica with bottles of piss and batteries thrown at them, etc.

      Just as Ian and Billy are true rock-n-rollers, they’re also honest football fans too.

      The Gaffer

  3. Steve

    April 17, 2012 at 10:05 am

    Love the Cult. Duffy can still play. Saw him a few years back playing with Cantrell in Cardboard Vampyres.

  4. Greg

    April 17, 2012 at 8:35 am

    The shirt wasnt purple it was aubergine. Astbury hates QPR and Duffys love affair with CITY is legendary in Manchester. I only hope someday THE CULT will play live with Duffy wearing the CITY Jersey with the GOLD epl patches on the sleeves…..symbolizing we WON the EPL. City Til I die Mate ! Cheers !! CFFC !!!!

  5. Jay

    April 17, 2012 at 12:11 am

    I thought so!

    I hope all is well with you, looking forward to all the activity in the coming months!

    Take care,

  6. Jay

    April 16, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    Chris, is that you?

    Well done, Sanctuary was my link to The Cult pre internet.

    You sent me my first bootleg and lotsa stuff beyond, I still have the interview you did w/IA with Nancy there.

    Hope all is well!

    • The Gaffer

      April 16, 2012 at 11:38 pm

      Hey Jay,

      Great to hear from you after all these years. Yep, it’s me!

      Looking forward to the new album and tour.

      The Gaffer (aka Chris)

  7. trickybrkn

    April 16, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    I would have gone with Hot Sticky Scenes as the fanzine name personally.
    The girls that followed the cult where always that long legged black lipstick wearing vamps …
    I saw the Cult live in like 4 or 5 times in the late 80’s and the last time at the now gone Coney Island High in NYC in the mid 90’s and I have an EP where they are the Southern Death Cult

    • The Gaffer

      April 16, 2012 at 9:13 pm

      Glad to know there’s another soccer fan who enjoyed The Cult. ‘Hot Sticky Scenes’ is a good name, but some people may have thought it was a porno mag instead of one of the songs from the Love album 😉

      Moya and Fatman are definitely two of my favorite Southern Death Cult tracks.

      The Gaffer

      • trickybrkn

        April 16, 2012 at 11:15 pm

        those of us of a certain age…

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