Dreamtime is the debut studio album by The Cult. Released on 10 September 1984, it reached #21 in the UK and was later certified silver by the BPI after having sold 60,000 copies. The first single, "Spiritwalker", reached #1 on the UK Indie Chart. Dreamtime has subsequently been reissued (or in some cases bootlegged) in roughly 30 countries worldwide.
Lyrics to the song "Horse Nation" are taken almost verbatim from the book Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. "Spiritwalker" is a reference to shamanism, while "Dreamtime" is inspired by the Australian Aborigines and 'Butterflies' is a reference to the Hopi ceremonial butterfly dance. "A Flower in the Desert" is a reworking of the Southern Death Cult's song "Flowers in the Forest".
The record was originally being produced by Joe Julian, but after recording the drums, the band decided to replace him, and Beggars Banquet suggested John Brand. The record was ultimately produced by Brand, but guitarist Billy Duffy has said that the drum tracks used on the record were those produced by Julian, as band drummer Nigel Preston had become too unreliable by that time.
There is a slightly longer version of "Spiritwalker", with a running time of 3:54.
The record was largely recorded at Rockfield Studios, in Monmouth, Wales, in late March and early April 1984. Mixed at Eel Pie, Twickenham, 16–24 April 1984. Mastered on 27 April 1984. This record was originally intended to be released on Situation Two, with a catalogue number SITU 57 (or 12). This pressing was to include the original version of "Go West (Crazy Spinning Circles)" which uses a psychedelic phasing on the end choruses. Only a small handful of white label test pressings were made of this record before the band decided they didn't like that version. They subsequently recorded a new version of the song after being signed on to Beggars Banquet Records, and that second, more "finalised" version of the song was released. The re-recording of "Go West (Crazy Spinning Circles)" was done at Livingstone Studios on 22 June 1984. The original test pressing of "Dreamtime" stands as one of the more rare and collectable studio Cult vinyl pressings.
"Bone Bag" (sometimes listed as "Bonebag") was the original b side on the "Spiritwalker" single. "Sea and Sky" was the original B-side of "Go West (Crazy Spinning Circles)" and "Ressurection Joe" (not spelled in the correct form "Resurrection Joe" but intentionally misspelled) was a new single recorded in November 1984 and released on 14 December 1984. They are included as bonus tracks on the original CD pressings in all countries except the original CD pressing in the Netherlands, where only the 10 original songs are present. The first CD version in the Netherlands also uses different artwork for the back cover. In Germany, the CD version incorrectly lists 13 songs on the back cover, but only includes the 10 original songs as were on vinyl. Released originally with a nine-song live album titled Dreamtime Live at the Lyceum, recorded at the Lyceum Theatre in London on 20 May 1984, and also released in the UK with different artwork, and on 23 November 1984 also as a picture disc LP. There were only 30.000 copies of the live record originally manufactured. This double album version was released in a thicker cardboard sleeve.
The full album was later released in France, packaged with the live album Dreamtime live at the Lyceum.
The Japanese LP features a photo of the band on the front cover, instead of the original artwork. When remastered and reissued on CD in 1996, only the 10 original songs were included.
On the original Canadian vinyl pressing, the track listing is re-arranged for unknown reasons:
The record was released in Malaysia for the first time in July 1990, with the second version of the artwork used for the cover. In Czechoslovakia in January 1991, two versions of this record were released by Globus International: one is on black vinyl, and the other is on blue vinyl. The blue vinyl version is apparently quite rare. Both Czechoslovakian pressings use the artwork from the second British pressing. In 2003, the album was remastered and reissued on CD in the Russian Federation, Belarus and Lithuania with the three bonus tracks and different artwork. In October 2004 the record was also remastered and reissued on CD with different artwork in Japan.
There is also a misprinted British CD, which uses correct artwork, but includes reggae music on the disc itself, instead of anything by The Cult.