With Echo and The Bunnymen announcing two key dates in their hometown in 2015, Getintothis’ Del Pike re-assesses their back catalogue and picks out ten highlights.
Ah The Bunnymen. It feels like they have always been there doesn’t it? The Godfathers of the Liverpool Indie scene. The band that could have been The North West’s answer to U2 but thankfully never cracked it. They still feel like our second best kept secret (The crown going to Michael Head), as despite their world renowned 80s classics from The Killing Moon to The Cutter, there is still a mine of releases that remain uncelebrated.
Ian McCulloch, the leader of the pack has always been a fearless spokesperson for the band and his arrogance and self –assured cool has been a constant over the 35 years since Crocodiles emerged (July 18 anniversary lovers!). Rarely seen without his trademark shades, his adoration for his own band has never been anything other than unashamed, declaring the aforementioned Killing Moon as “The best song ever”, perhaps having the edge on 1D’s similar claim.
The presence of guitarist, Will Sergeant should never be underestimated. Whilst often stood in the shadows of the enigmatic McCulloch, he remains the only constant member of the band, ploughing on with a Mac-less line-up for 1990’s Reverberation. The third almost constant member, bassist Les Pattinson has been absent since the end of the nineties but The Bunnymen have soldiered on with a string of excellent albums that despite being comparatively overlooked next to their landmark 80s output, are excellent and showcase some of McCulloch and Sergeant’s most masterful song-writing. 1997’s Nothing last Forever and Think I need it too from 2009 are as anthemic and hair-raising as any Bunnymen songs from their “golden” era.
The Bunnymen have their followers and in Liverpool in particular they still retain God-like status. When original drummer Pete de Freitas (The real original drummer being “Echo” the drum machine), sadly lost his life in 1989 in a motorcycle accident, the Anglican Cathedral was packed to the rafters with fans and fellow musos and was one of the most emotional experiences we have ever been a part of. Bedbugs and Ballyhoo will forever take us back to that day, filling the air as the congregation walked out into the night. The recent collaboration of McCulloch, Ian Broudie, Terry Hall and the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra at the Phil in April 2014 proved a highly emotive evening for all concerned, further proving the enduring love that is felt for the man.
We are spoilt this year with The Bunnymen appearing twice in the City. August 31 sees them take to the stage at Sefton Park as part of LIMF, some of us at Getintothis will feel nostalgic with memories of their performance at Larks in The Park in 1982, while others will not have been born. They will also be appearing at the O2 Academy at Christmas for a more intimate festive get together. Both are on our to do list with a very thick Sharpie.
With a double return to their hometown, we thought it was about time they got the Top 10 treatment, it might go some way in explaining why The Bunnymen remain the most enigmatic and loved Post-Beatle Scouse band.
10. Bed Bugs And Ballyhoo from Echo and The Bunnymen (1987).
Not a typical Bunnymen tune at all. A bouncing melody and Shaun Ryderesque lyrical wordplay set against Pete de Freitas’ mesmeric drum patterns make for a truly hypnotic cut from their eponymously titled fifth album. Bedbugs was also released as a single at the end of ’87 but failed to gain the status of their other great singles of the decade, it was however name-checked as the title of their excellent Best of Compilation Ballyhoo ten years later. The single’s B side contained live covers of The Velvet’s Run Run Run, The Stones’ Paint it Black and Television’s Friction. The Bunnymen could be a mean covers band and their ace version of the Fab’s All you Need is Love (Ocean Rain – special edition) is a joy to behold.
9. Think I Need It Too from The Fountain (2009).
The aforementioned single taken from the excellent The Fountain is a true return to form for those fans who love the 80s anthemic side of The Bunnymen. The heartfelt delivery of the chorus is an emotional call to arms from McCulloch who proves he can still tug on the heartstrings when it comes to writing a lovesong. Anyone who gave up on the band once the hit singles stopped should re-consider and try this as a re-entry into the magical world of The Bunnymen. The song also popped up on the soundtrack to the hit TV series The Vampire Diaries.
8. People Are Strange from The Lost Boys Soundtrack (1989)
Carrying on the theme of The Bunnymen providing tracks for Vampire related media and their propensity for delivering incredible covers, this take on The Doors single from 1967 suggests that McCulloch could easily have stood in for Jim Morrison on the band’s 2002 reformation, a part filled by The Cult’s Ian Astbury. This cover gained the band further cult status by association with movie fans and remains a classic late 80s cut. Revel in the fuzzy VHS quality of the MTV clip.
7. Thorn of Crowns from Ocean Rain (1984)
Thorn of Crowns is another pretender to the Jim Morrison throne with McCulloch at his spaced out psychedelic best. Had The Killing Moon not been on their album, then Thorn of Crowns could have taken McCulloch’s pompous claim as “best song ever“. Completely devastating when listened to properly, this is a lyrical adventure as much as sonic experience. “Wait for me on the blue horizon, blue horizon for anyone” is pure Doors, where the more playfully surreal, “You think you’re a vegetable – never come out of the fridge” followed by stuttering examples of refrigerated food “C-c-cucumber, C-c-cabbage” is Edward Lear hanging out with Lennon the poet.
6. All My Colours from Heaven Up Here (1981) & Nouvelle Vague 3 (1993)
“All my colours to turn to clouds” croons McCulloch before lapsing into “Zimbo Zimbo Zimbo”. Making the impossible make sense is a key component of The Bunnymen’s delivery and this impossibly beautiful early track is testament to this sublime quality of performance. Covered by the wonderful Nouvelle Vague on their 1993 album 3, with breathy guest vocals from Mac himself, this version somehow brings out the beauty even more than the original. Both versions are here for your delectation.
5. The Cutter from Porcupine (1983)
To call The Cutter the soundtrack to a generation would be no understatement, particularly if you were the generation to be hanging around the indie clubs of Liverpool in the mid-80s. A quiet night at The State, Macs or The Harrington would be a thing of the past once the opening quasi – Oriental intro to The Cutter scythed through the air. The smell of powdery Insette would fill the nostrils as a hundred kung fu slippers would head for the floor. “Spare us the cutter” – lifted from the script of A Clockwork Orange as a tramp is about to be beaten to a pulp, is in fact a joyous event, best enjoyed in a sweaty club. It stands the test of time and is still a defining Bunnymen track. Irresistible. Has Mac ever looked so fresh faced as in this wonderful video?
4. I Want To Be There (When You Come) from Evergreen (1997)
Evergreen is as wonderful an album as Ocean Rain, honestly its true. Their most complete work since various break ups and re-shuffles, this is the last time the classic line –up of Mac, Sergeant and Pattinson would record an album together. I want to be there is pure Bunnymen – no question, but also signals the style of song that would re-emerge through the great sequence of 90s and noughties albums that would include Flowers (2001), Siberia (2005) and The Fountain (2009). The lyrics, “I want to be like you, I want to fly, fly, fly. Want you to take me to all of your sky” are a wholesale throwback to the innocent lovelorn pleas of early Bunnymen but with the raw delivery of a Mac who has lived the life.
3. Lips Like Sugar from Echo and the Bunnymen (1987)
In a similar vein to The Cutter, Lips Like Sugar is another one of those typical floor fillers from the 80s. Lyrically simplistic, a poetic lovesong that likens the girl in question to a swan graceful on the water in the moonlight – no work of lyrical genius, but completely reflects the mood of The Bunnymen and the 80s indie scene at that time. This single is one of the last iconic releases from this period and would give way to more mature work before long, so should be celebrated as that almost last vestige of innocent jangly C86 treasures. The band have rarely looked so cool as they do here.
2. The Killing Moon from Ocean Rain (1984)
The song that The Bunnymen will always be remembered for. The older fans amongst us will remember the first time we heard it back in the day, but the next generation of angsty teens will connect with its presence in the opening scene of Richard Kelly’s era defining 2002 Indie flick Donnie Darko, a film that has its own iconic Bunnyman in the shape of the nightmarish Frank. Is it worth the accolade? Well yes, the opening chords are worth the 89p download alone kids. A mini opera with heart-stopping moments of sheer drama, heavenly pianos and yearning lyrics to melt the heart of anyone who has a heart. Just for starters… “In starlit nights I saw you, so cruelly you kissed me, your lips a magic world, your sky all hung with jewels”. Robert Smith must have shit himself when he heard those words.
1. Nothing Lasts Forever from Evergreen (1997)
Look up in the dictionary “Perfect love song to make even the most hard hearted bastard weep like a child” and you will find Nothing Lasts Forever by Echo and The Bunnymen. Without copping out, this is a song that simply speaks for itself, all we can say this this is the definitive comeback single of any band and possibly the best Bunnymen song ever.
Echo and the Bunnymen will be appearing at LIMF, Sefton Park Aug 31 and 02 Academy December 12.