*UK promo poster
"She Sells Sanctuary" was released as a single on 17 May 1985, peaking at number 15 on the UK Singles Chart. It was the last song to be recorded with drummer Nigel Preston, who was fired from the band shortly after its release.
The band has released various versions of the song. Aside from the original 7" single, three other versions had been released around the same time on 12" formats: "The Long Version", "The Howling Mix" and "Assault on Sanctuary".
* UK promo poster
Ian Astbury: "What's the song about? Sex. Plain and simple, it's about sex. I've had sex and I'm very proud of that fact."
Billy Duffy talks about how his quasi-psychedelic guitar intro came about: "I found a violin bow, and I started to play the guitar with the bow like Jimmy Page. I did it to amuse Astbury, who was in the control room, and in order to make it sound weirder, I just hit every pedal I had on the pedal board. Then once I stopped banging the strings and doing all that, I played the middle section of the song, which was kind of a pick thing with all the BOSS pedals on, and that sound just leaped out. The producer went, 'Hold it, hold it, that's great!' And we decided to start the song with that mystical sound. If I hadn't found that violin bow laying around, we wouldn't have gone there." (from Roland's website)
* Canadian promo poster
In 2009, two more previously unreleased versions, a demo and the "Olympic Rough Mix" were included in a 4-disc box set of the Omnibus Edition of Love.
She Sells Sanctuary, 7", CAN, SOV 2361, poster bag and blue cover
She Sells Sanctuary, 7", CAN, SOV 2361, silver picture sleeve
She Sells Sanctuary, 7", CAN, SOV 2361, w/ Polygram Inc. Sleeve
She Sells Sanctuary, 7", GER, 107968 100, w/ promo info sheet
She Sells Sanctuary, 7", PHIL, VS 8048, promo w/ plain sleeve
She Sells Sanctuary, 7", UK, BEG135, purple label
She Sells Sanctuary, 7", UK ,BEG135, white label promo
She Sells Sanctuary, 7", UK ,BEG135, BB label
She Sells Sanctuary, 7", UK ,BEG135, black 'face' label, distributed by WEA, w/ press release sheet
She Sells Sanctuary, 7", USA, 7-28820-A, promo double A-side, blank paper sleeve
She Sells Sanctuary, 7", USA, 7-28820, b-side Little Face, blank paper sleeve
She Sells Sanctuary, 12", BRA, 100 8067
She Sells Sanctuary, 12", BRA, 100 8067, promo, stamped label 'especial para promocao invendavel …..'
She Sells Sanctuary, 12", CAN, DJV 171, double A-side
She Sells Sanctuary, 12", CAN, DJV 172, Howling Mix/Edit Version
She Sells Sanctuary, 12", CAN, SOVX 2361, Howling Mix
She Sells Sanctuary, 12", CAN, SOVXD 2361, double pack
She Sells Sanctuary, 12", GER, 602 073, Long Version
She Sells Sanctuary, 12", JAP, K15P572, Long Version, with obi + lyric insert + poster
She Sells Sanctuary, 12", JAP, K15P572, white label promo with obi + lyric insert
She Sells Sanctuary, 12", UK, BEG 135T, Long Version, purple label
She Sells Sanctuary, 12", UK, BEG 135T, Long Version, white label test pressing
She Sells Sanctuary, 12", UK, BEG 135T, Long Version, BB 'black face' label
She Sells Sanctuary, 12", UK, BEG 135T, Long Version, BB label, repress
She Sells Sanctuary, 12", UK, BEG 135TP, Howling Mix
She Sells Sanctuary, 12", UK, BEG 135TP, Howling Mix, white label promo
She Sells Sanctuary, 12", USA, PRO A 2394, promo
She Sells Sanctuary, 12", USA, 2040 7, Howling Mix
* UK promo poster
The Sanctuary Cassette Single, TAPE, UK, BEG135C, 4 track cassingle
AVC: It’s remembered as one of the band’s definitive songs, but “She Sells Sanctuary” was also the first time you earned any real success in the States.
IA: Well, it was the first real success we had anywhere. [Laughs.] It made it to No. 15 on the UK charts. It actually came out before the Love album was recorded. We’d written the song, it was released as a single, and it came out and did so well. It came out right in the middle of Live Aid, in 1985. I remember going to Live Aid, which was the first time I really remember being recognized as a performer. And what a place to be recognized! We eventually got to go backstage, and we met people like Bono and Roger Daltrey and Freddie Mercury. There were so many people that knew who I was because this song was in the charts. So here we are in a room with people like [David] Bowie, people I’d loved and admired, and they knew who we were! I thought it was quite overwhelming. And then I ended up going back to Brixton on the tube, thinking, “What just happened?” That was my first taste of celebrity, whatever that is, but it was a very powerful coming-of-age moment. Live Aid was a real beginning. Certainly, it was a turning point for U2 when Bono pulled that girl out of the crowd, which he probably did at every show from then on out because it worked so well for him. [Laughs.] But it was a good trick.
This was a coming together, where people weren’t thinking about their economic situations and the negative situations in their own lives. All of a sudden, we were asked to consider other human beings and their plight. That particular day was such an incredibly powerful moment, and we were right in the epicenter of it. We were coming of age right in the epicenter of that energy, and that affected me deeply because the potentiality of human beings when we get together to do something positive can be magnificent. We seemed to write an optimistic song at the right moment that encapsulated that kind of spirit.
“She Sells Sanctuary” was probably referring to the power of finding solitude in a woman’s arms and the matriarchal energy, whether it be an actual physical person or in a spiritual sense, the greatest matriarch, and thinking of the cosmos as a female energy rather than a male energy. These are archetypal things I was picking up from discovering things like Joseph Campbell and Buffy Sainte-Marie or even Jim Morrison. All these things were flying around, and the songs “Spiritwalker” and “She Sells Sanctuary” are quite similar, in a way. In fact, “Spiritwalker” was going to be a Southern Death Cult song, but they didn’t want to do it for whatever reason, so I said, “Fine, I’m leaving, and I’m taking my songs with me.” [Laughs.] That ended up being recorded by The Cult, and it really helped to define our sound.
(from The AV Club interview w/ Ian Astbury - jun 7, 2012)