Echo & The Bunnymen

Echo & the Bunnymen are an English rock band that released five albums between 1980 and 1987 on Korova and Sire. They formed amid the post-punk explosion in Liverpool, where singer–guitarist Ian McCulloch, guitarist Will Sergeant, and bassist Les Pattinson performed as a trio with a drum machine dubbed “echo.” After one single, drummer Pete de Freitas joined for their debut album Crocodiles, a collection of piercing neo-psych further explored on the 1981 followup Heaven Up Here.

In 1982, Echo & the Bunnymen charted with “The Back of Love,” a frenzied rhythmic piece that foreshadowed their 1983 breakthrough Porcupine and its lead-off track “The Cutter,” featuring guest violinist Shankar. On the subsequent non-album single “Never Stop,” they embrace the chamber arrangements that characterize their 1984 fourth album Ocean Rain, which includes the hits “Silver,” “Seven Seas,” and their signature song “The Killing Moon.”

Echo & the Bunnymen made stateside inroads with their 1985 single “Bring On the Dancing Horses,” a new track on their best-of Songs to Learn and Sing. They reached peak profile with their 1987 self-titled fifth album and its singles “Lips Like Sugar” and “Bedbugs and Ballyhoo.”

Members: Will Sergeant (guitar), Ian McCulloch (vocals, guitar, 1978-88, 1997-present), Les Pattinson (bass, 1978-99), Pete de Freitas (drums, 1980-85, 1986-89)


Background

Echo & the Bunnymen were one of three bands germinated from a spring 1977 bedroom band called the Crucial Three, which featured guitarist/singer Ian McCulloch, guitarist/singer Peter Wylie, and singer/bassist Julian Cope. Personality clashes provoked Wylie’s departure after six weeks; he later surfaced in Wah! In early 1978, Cope and McCulloch formed A Shallow Madness with (future Wild Swans) organist Paul Simpson. After one gig, McCulloch split and A Shallow Madness morphed into Teardrop Explodes.

In the summer of 1978, McCulloch formed Echo & the Bunnymen with guitarist Will Sergeant and bassist Les Pattinson. Sergeant had just finished an instrumental solo album, Weird As Fish, but only seven copies were pressed. The band initially used a drum machine in lieu of a drummer. Their name was suggested by a friend who drew up a list of possibilities, including Glisserol and the Fan Extractors. That November, the Bunnymen played their first gig opening for Teardrop Explodes at Liverpool’s Eric’s Club. Their set consisted of a 20-minute piece, “I Bagsy Yours,” which they later paired down to “Monkeys” for their first album.


“The Pictures on My Wall”

On May 5, 1979, Echo & the Bunnymen debuted on the Liverpool indie label Zoo with “The Pictures on My Wall,” a moody group original backed with the Shallow Madness leftover “Read It in Books.” The picture sleeve depicts a silhouetted bunnyman.

A. “The Pictures On My Wall” (2:53)

B. “I’ve Read It In Books” (3:00) is a song credited to McCulloch and Julian Cope, who cut a version with Teardrop Explodes as the b-side to their March 1980 third single “Treason (It’s Just a Story).”

“The Pictures on My Wall” appeared as the fourth Zoo release (CAGE 004) between the first two Teardrop Explodes singles: “Sleeping Gas” (CAGE 003) and “Bouncing Babies” (CAGE 005). Artist–musician Bill Drummond established the label in late 1978 to release, From Y to Z and Never Again, the singular EP by his band Big In Japan, a Liverpool punk act with guitarist Ian Broudie, drummer (and eventual Banshee) Budgie, and singers Jayne Casey (subsequent Pink Military) and Holly Johnson (future Frankie Goes to Hollywood). Zoo also released singles by Those Naughty Lumps and Lori & The Chameleons, Drummond’s project with co-producer David Balfe, one of multiple bassists in Big in Japan’s brief history. The pair produced “The Pictures on My Wall” and Echo & the Bunnymen’s subsequent album.

On September 15, Echo & the Bunnymen played Eric’s Club, where they met Trinidad-born drummer Pete de Freitas, who found instant chemistry with the band. They debuted as a four-piece on October 12 at London’s Electric Ballroom as part of a triple-bill with ska merchants Madness and Bad Manners.


1980


Crocodiles

Echo & the Bunnymen released their debut album, Crocodiles, in July 1980 on Korova. The original UK release features ten songs, including a re-recorded “Pictures on My Wall” and their second a-side “Rescue,” plus the live favorites “Villiers Terrace” and “All That Jazz.”

Bill Drummond and David Balfe produced Crocodiles apart from two songs (“Pride,” “Rescue”) produced by their onetime Big In Japan bandmate Ian Broudie. All songs are group-credited to the four members: Ian McCulloch, Will Sergeant, Les Pattinson, and Pete de Freitas (apart from “Pictures on My Wall,” written before Freitas’ arrival).

1. “Going Up” (3:57)
2. “Stars Are Stars” (2:45)
3. “Pride” (2:41)
4. “Monkeys” (2:49)
5. “Crocodiles” (2:38)

6. “Rescue” (4:26)
7. “Villiers Terrace” (2:44)
8. “Pictures on My Wall” (2:52)
9. “All That Jazz” (2:43)
10. “Happy Death Men” (4:56)

Echo & the Bunnymen recorded “Rescue” in early 1980 at London’s Eden Studios. It appeared on May 5, 1980, as an advance single backed with “Simple Stuff,” a self-produced exclusive. The picture sleeve shows a fiery image of the silhouetted bunnyman.

B. “Simple Stuff” (2:38)

Echo & the Bunnymen did a UK tour in support of “Rescue” and completed the album in June at Rockfield Studios in Wales: the recording site of 1980 albums by Adam & The Ants (Kings of the Wild Frontier), The Damned (The Black Album), Sniff ‘n’ the Tears (The Game’s Up), and the Drummond–Balfe-produced Kilimanjaro by Teardrop Explodes. Veteran Rockfield soundman Hugh Jones engineered Crocodiles and Kilimanjaro.

Crocodiles is the first of four Echo & the Bunnymen albums with scenic photography by Brian Griffin, who captures the band at a yellow-lit woodland setting where McCulloch reclines at the foot of a tree (front) and gazes down on shrubbery (back). Griffin also photographed the monochrome imagery on the 1980 Ultravox release Vienna and 1978–79 albums by Joe Jackson (Look Sharp!), Lene Lovich (Flex), and Peter Hammill (The Future Now).

Crocodiles reached number 17 on the UK Albums Chart. It was the first album release on Korova (KODE 1), which also issued the 1980 debut by The Sound (Jeopardy, KODE 2) and singles by Greg Vandike (once of psychsters Champagne), Bette Bright (ex-Deaf School diva), and Guns for Hire (a mod–ska quartet).


“The Puppet”

On October 10, 1980, Echo & the Bunnymen released “The Puppet,” a sprightly number backed with “Do It Clean.”

A. “The Puppet” (3:05)

B. “Do It Clean” (2:43)

In December 1980, Sire Records issued Crocodiles in the US with a revised tracklist that adds “Do It Clean” to Side One and “Read It in Books” to Side Two.

Drummond and Balfe co-produced the single under their collective moniker The Chameleons. The picture sleeve is another woodlands image with the font of their prior single.

Echo & the Bunnymen dropped “The Puppet” amid a three-month autumn 1980 tour of the UK and Europe with Korova labelmates The Sound.


1981

On January 17, 1981, Echo & the Bunnymen performed an exclusive show before an invited audience of 500 fans at Buxton Pavilion Gardens. Attendees won free passes to the show with maps to its secret location through a raffle in the music press, which offered transport from select cities for an additional £5.

Drummond and Balfe arranged the event (dubbed “An Atlas Adventure”) for a concert film, which Echo lighting director Bull Butt produced with director John Smith, an avant garde filmmaker noted for his 1976 short The Girl Chewing Gum. Smith spent a week beforehand capturing candid moments of the band members for use in a pre-performance video montage.

Shine So Hard: An Atlas Adventure enjoyed a limited UK cinema run and appeared in 1982 on VHS. The 33-minute film starts with song snippets and field sounds matched to random scenery and mundane activities of the individual band members. Ten minutes in, the show commences at the Buxton Pavilion.

On April 10, 1981, Korova issued a 12″ EP titled Shine So Hard with four Buxton Pavilion numbers: “Crocodiles,” “All That Jazz,” the unrecorded “Zimbo,” and the new song “Over the Wall,” a preview of their upcoming album. 


Heaven Up Here

Echo & the Bunnymen released their second album, Heaven Up Here, in May 1981 on Korova (UK) and Sire (US). It contains eleven group-written numbers, including their fourth single “A Promise” and the opening trifecta “Show of Strength,” “With a Hip,” and “Over the Wall.”

1. “Show of Strength” (4:50)
2. “With a Hip” (3:16)
3. “Over the Wall” (5:59)
4. “It Was a Pleasure” (3:12)
5. “A Promise” (4:08)

6. “Heaven Up Here” (3:45)
7. “The Disease” (2:28)
8. “All My Colours” (4:06)
9. “No Dark Things” (4:27)
10. “Turquoise Days” (3:51)
11. “All I Want” (4:09)

Sessions took place in March 1981 at Rockfield, Wales, where Echo & the Bunnymen co-produced Heaven Up Here with Crocodiles engineer Hugh Jones. Select passages feature woodwind player Les Penning, a recurrent Mike Oldfield sideman. Jones worked on Heaven Up Here in succession with 1981 releases by Simple Minds (Sister Feelings Call / Sons and Fascination) and The Sound’s second album From the Lions Mouth.

For the cover, photographer Brian Griffin captured Echo & the Bunnymen walking out to the shoreline on the sands of Porthcawl, Wales. He used buckets of fish offal to lure the seagulls into the frame. The Heaven Up Here inner-sleeve features a shaded, blue-black monochrome group photo. Griffin’s visuals also appear on 1981 albums by Ali Thomson, Linx, Voyager, and the Mute release Speak & Spell, the debut album by Depeche Mode.

In mid-July, Korova lifted “A Promise” as a single backed with the non-album “Broke My Neck.”

B. “Broke My Neck” (4:36) is edited down from a long version (7:11) that appears on the 12″ of “A Promise.” Echo & the Bunnymen recorded the song on June 7 at Tistedal Studios in Norway with soundman and local guitar legend Claes Neeb.

Heaven Up Here reached number 10 on the UK Albums Chart. In late 1981, WEA lifted “Over the Wall” as an Australia-only single (b/w “Crocodiles”).


1982–1983

In 1982, Will Sergeant debuted as a solo artist with Themes For ‘Grind’, a set of eleven untitled ambient–experimental instrumentals. He recorded the album at his home studio and released it on self-press Ninety-Two Happy Customers with the rear-cover text note “Grind starts the generator, the wheel turns, the small screen flickers.”

Pete de Freitas (credited as Louis Vincent) produced and played on the March 1982 Zoo release “Revolutionary Spirit” (b/w “God Forbid”), the debut single by The Wild Swans, a Liverpool post-punk band formed by ex-Teardrop Explodes organist (and Freitas onetime flat-mate) Paul Simpson.

On January 27, Echo & the Bunnymen cut their fourth Peel session, which featured two unrecorded new songs: “An Equation” (renamed “Higher Hell”) and “Taking Advantage” (renamed “The Back of Love”). In April, they did a Scottish tour that featured first-time performances of “Clay” and “My White Devil.”


“The Back of Love”

On May 14, 1982, Echo & the Bunnymen released “The Back of Love,” a frenetic whirlwind number backed with “The Subject.” Korova issued a 12″ version with a second exclusive b-side “Fuel.”

B1. “The Subject” (5:06)

B2. “Fuel” (4:09)

Echo & the Bunnymen recorded the song in April at Trident Studios in London with Ian Broudie.

In “The Back of Love” video, Echo & the Bunnymen perform inside their rehearsal space dubbed ‘The Ministry,’ where Will Sergeant (red Gibson) and Les Pattinson (blue Fender bass) monitor their fretwork with otherwise motionless stances while a tense, shut-eyed Ian McCulloch clutches his mic stand and Pete de Freitas (off to the side) pummels his tom toms.

Echo & the Bunnymen mimed “The Back of Love” on the June 3, 1982, broadcast of the BBC music program Top of the Pops, which twice aired the segment amid current hits by ABC (“The Look of Love”), Adam Ant (“Goody Two Shoes”), Bow Wow Wow (“I Want Candy”), Duran Duran (“Hungry Like the Wolf”), Fun Boy Three (“The Telephone Always Rings”), Gary Numan (“We Take Mystery to Bed”), Queen (“Las Palabras de Amor”), Roxy Music (“Avalon”), Siouxsie & the Banshees (“Fireworks”), and Toyah Willcox (“Brave New World”).

“The Back of Love” reached No. 19 on the UK Singles Chart and No. 24 in Ireland.

On May 21, Echo & the Bunnymen played the first WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance), an international arts festival at Bath and West Showground in Somerset with performances by The Beat, The Chieftains, Don Cherry, Prince Nico Mbarga, Peter Hammill, Simple Minds, and Peter Gabriel, who co-organized the event.


Porcupine

Echo & the Bunnymen released their third album, Porcupine, in February 1983 on Korova–Sire. It contains ten group-written numbers, including the pre-released singles “The Back of Love” and “The Cutter,” their first two UK chart hits. Deep cuts include the fan favorites “Higher Hell,” “In Bluer Skies,” “Clay,” and “Heads Will Roll.”

Porcupine is the only Bunnymen album produced entirely by Ian Broudie, a soundman on early Echo singles (“Rescue,” “Pictures On My Wall”) who recently played in post-Deaf School outfits (Original Mirrors, Bette Bright’s Illuminations) and subsequently formed Care with Wild Swan Paul Simpson.

1. “The Cutter” (3:56)
2. “The Back of Love” (3:14)
3. “My White Devil” (4:41)
4. “Clay” (4:15)
5. “Porcupine” (6:01)

6. “Heads Will Roll” (3:33)
7. “Ripeness” (4:50)
8. “Higher Hell” (5:01)
9. “Gods Will Be Gods” (5:25)
10. “In Bluer Skies” (4:33)

Sessions took place in the latter half of 1982 at Rockfield and Liverpool’s Amazon Studios. WEA rejected the initial tapes, which Echo & the Bunnymen recorded under considerable duress. They re-recorded select parts and spruced the arrangements with violinist Shankar, who based “The Cutter” intro on the melody from “Matthew and Son,” a 1967 UK hit by Cat Stevens from his debut album of the same name.

Porcupine credits six engineers, including Dave Bascombe (Renaissance, Tony Banks, Level 42, Culture Club), Rockfield’s Paul Cobald (Hawkwind, Paul Carrack, Blanket of Secrecy), and veteran freelancer Colin Fairley, a onetime drummer (Beggars Opera, String Driven Thing) who co-engineered seventies classics by Split Enz (Dizrythmia), Japan (Quiet Life), and Judie Tzuke (Welcome to the Cruise) and recently worked on albums by Mick Karn (Titles) and Spandau Ballet (Diamond).

After the album’s completion in early November, Echo & the Bunnymen played a free show for 20,000 people at Liverpool’s Sefton Park. They flew to Iceland with cover photographer Brian Griffin and Shine So Hard producer Bill Butt, who respectively photographed and filmed the band in the canyon of the Hvítá river near the frozen Gullfoss waterfall outside Reykjavík. The Porcupine cover features graphic design by T&CP’s Martyn Atkins (A Certain Ratio, Minny Pops, Monochrome Set, Nash the Slash, Yello).

“The Cutter” first appeared in January as the second advance single, backed with the non-album “Way Out and Up We Go.” The 12″ contains a third track, “Zimbo,” recorded live at the 1982 WOMAD event with the Royal Drummers of Burundi.

B1. “Way Out and Up We Go” (3.59)
B2. “Zimbo” (4.52)

“The Cutter” reached No. 8 on the UK Singles Chart and No. 10 in Ireland. Echo & the Bunnymen mimed it on the January 20 broadcast of TotP, which aired amid winter hits by Joe Jackson (“Steppin’ Out”), Kajagoogoo (“Too Shy”), Laura Branigan (“Gloria”), Melba Moore (“Mind Up Tonight”), Men at Work (“Down Under”), Phil Collins (“You Can’t Hurry Love”), The Stranglers (“European Female”), Toto (“Africa”), U2 (“New Year’s Day”), and Patti Austin & James Ingram (“Baby Come to Me”).

Porcupine reached No. 2 on the UK Albums Chart and No. 24 in Sweden. It marked their debut on the Canadian RPM 100 Albums chart and the US Billboard 200.

Butt created six videos — “In Bluer Skies,” “The Cutter,” “My White Devil,” “Porcupine,” “Heads Will Roll,” and “The Back of Love — that intersperse Gullfoss footage, Ministry warehouse performances, and snippets of the 1929 Russian documentary The Man With the Movie Camera. Castle Hendring released the videos on the 1983 VHS tape Porcupine – An Atlas Adventure.


“Never Stop”

On June 27, 1983, Echo & the Bunnymen released “Never Stop,” a layered number backed with the Porcupine deep cut “Heads Will Roll.”

A. “Never Stop” (3:31) Pete de Freitas plays xylophone and conga in addition to drums.

Echo & the Bunnymen recorded “Never Stop” in June 1983 at London’s RAK Studios with Heaven Up Here producer Hugh Jones, who worked on concurrent titles by Monsoon, Modern English, Fiat Lux, and The Icicle Works.

The 12″ version contains an extended remix titled “Never Stop (Discotheque)” (4:46) and two b-sides: “Heads Will Roll (Summer Version)” (4:23) and “The Original Cutter – A Drop in the Ocean” (3:59), both produced by Ian Broudie under the pseudonym Kingbird.

“Never Stop” reached No. 8 in Ireland and No. 15 on the UK Singles Chart. Echo & the Bunnymen mimed it on the July 14 broadcast of TotP, which aired the song amid summer ’83 hits by Bananarama (“Cruel Summer”), Donna Summer (“She Works Hard For The Money”), Elvis Costello & The Attractions (“Everyday I Write The Book”), Heaven 17 (“Come Live With Me”), Malcolm McLaren (“Double Dutch”), Paul Young (“Wherever I Lay My Hat”), Rod Stewart (“Baby Jane”), and David Sylvian & Ryuichi Sakamoto (“Forbidden Colours”).


Late 1983 Appearances

Echo & the Bunnymen toured the Outer Hebrides island chain above Scotland and did a two-night stand (July 18–19) at London’s Royal Albert Hall. RPM Productions filmed them in a cafe for the Channel 4 documentary series Play at Home. In the episode titled “Life at Brian’s,” the Bunnymen perform acoustic versions of the Crocodiles cuts “Stars Are Stars” and “Villiers Terrace” and also preview two unrecorded numbers: “Silver” and the epic ballad “The Killing Moon.”

On September 6, the Bunnymen made their sixth appearance on John Peel’s show with four new songs: “Nocturnal Me”, “Ocean Rain”, “My Kingdom” and a track called “Watch Out Below” (later renamed “The Yo Yo Man”). On October 23, they premiered the ballad “Seven Seas” at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, where they played two sets as headliners of a two-week youth festival.

Echo & the Bunnymen closed 1983 with on the Channel 4 program The Tube with a special titled A Crystal Day, which featured live performances of “Nocturnal Me,” “Ocean Rain,” “The Killing Moon,” and a new song titled “Cucumber” (later renamed “Thorn of Crowns”).


1984

On January 20, Echo & the Bunnymen released their tenth single: “The Killing Moon,” a lavish ballad with chords based on David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” (played backward) and a hookline that came to Ian McCulloch in a dream:

Fate
up against your will
through the thick and thin
He will wait until
you give yourself to him

“The Killing Moon” reached No. 7 in Ireland, No. 12 in New Zealand, and No. 9 on the UK Singles Chart.

Echo & the Bunnymen mime it on the January 26 broadcast of TotP, which also featured winter ’84 hits by The Alarm (“Where Were You Hiding When The Storm Broke?”), Cyndi Lauper (“Girls Just Want To Have Fun”), Eurythmics (“Here Comes The Rain Again”), Madonna (“Holiday”), Rick Springfield (“Human Touch”), and The Smiths (“What Difference Does It Make?”). McCulloch sports an elaborate spiked bouffant in the Bunnymen segment, where Will Sergeant “plays” a crimson Vox Mark XII Teardrop 12-string and Les Pattinson strums a sunburst semi-hollow Gibson guitar.

“The Killing Moon” video opens with a lunar reflection in rippling water and cuts to a downed mast with torn, flowing sails. McCulloch’s sober, shadowy visage faces the camera as the Bunnymen circle a dark, windy card table. The subjects addressed in the lyrics appear as mysterious robed figures.

The b-side is a live rendition of “Do It Clean” from the Bunnymen’s July 1983 show at the Royal Albert Hall. The 12″ version contains an extended ‘all night’ version of “The Killing Moon” (9:11). 


Ocean Rain

Echo & the Bunnymen released their fourth album, Ocean Rain, in May 1984 on Korova–Sire. It features nine group-composed originals, including seven songs performed on their autumn 1983 TV appearances.

“The Killing Moon” and “Silver” appeared as singles before the album, which also contains a third hit (“Seven Sea”) and the popular deep cuts “Nocturnal Me,” “The Yo Yo Man,” and “My Kingdom.”

Ocean Rain features lush, acoustic arrangements with a 35-piece orchestra and musical color by the Bunnymen. Will Sergeant plays valve-distorted acoustic guitar on “My Kingdom.” Pete de Freitas plays mallets (xylophones, glockenspiels) in addition to standard percussion. 

1. “Silver” (3:22)
2. “Nocturnal Me” (4:57)
3. “Crystal Days” (2:24)
4. “The Yo Yo Man” (3:10)
5. “Thorn of Crowns” (4:52)

6. “The Killing Moon” (5:50)
7. “Seven Seas” (3:20)
8. “My Kingdom” (4:05)
9. “Ocean Rain” (5:12)

Sessions took place in the autumn–winter of 1983–84 at four studios. Echo & the Bunnymen co-produced “The Killing Moon” at Crescent Studios, a facility in Bath, Somerset, used for early eighties albums by Peter Gabriel (melt, Security), Peter Hammill (Sitting Targets), The Korgis, Graduate, and concurrent titles by the Europeans and XTC (The Big Express). Crescent soundman David Lord fused synth-strings on the track with the organ strings of guest cellist–pianist Adam Peters. McCulloch recorded his vocals at Liverpool’s Amazon Studio with China Crisis soundman Gil Norton.

Additional sessions took place in Paris at Studio Davout and Les Studios des Dames, where recorded with a 35-piece orchestra arranged co-arranged by Peters and Dames engineer Henri Loustau.

Porcupine cover designer Martyn Atkins returned for Ocean Rain, which features another scenic image by Brian Griffin, who photographed Echo & the Bunnymen in a boat on the lake inside the lowest of the three Carnglaze Caverns; a man-made slate quarry in the Loveny Valley in Liskeard, Cornwall.

“Silver” appeared on April 13 as the second advance single, backed with the non-album “Angels and Devils.” The 12″ version contains an elongated (5:09) version of the a-side titled “Silver (Tidal Wave).”

B. “Angels and Devils” (4:24) Features Will Sergeant on harpsichord.

“Silver” reached No. 14 in Ireland. Echo & the Bunnymen mimed it on the April 26 broadcast of TotP, which also aired spring hits by Duran Duran (“The Reflex”), Phil Collins (“Against All Odds”), and The Pointer Sisters (“Automatic”). In their segment, the Bunnymen appear in front of a tubular stage contraption with spinning light columns and flashing blue–pink neon. In Spain, they performed the song on the Angel Casas Show.

“Seven Seas” coincided with Ocean Rain as the third single, backed with an exclusive cover of the Beatles‘ “All You Need Is Love.”

The “Seven Seas” video opens with a vintage-film curtain draw to a stage where Ian (the star) mimes before an architectural backdrop and encounters the Bunnymen (fellow actors) as flashing maps pinpoint different plot locations (Liverpool, Leningrad, Amsterdam). Les appears as a penguin; Will as a fish. In ‘Hamburg,’ Ian and Pete stand outside the Star-Club. In ‘Rotterdam,’ Ian appears in a Lulu-style wig. In the final scene, they walk across hand-operated stage waves and follow a giant string-hung fish off the stage.

“Seven Seas” reached No. 10 in Ireland and No. 16 on the UK Singles Chart. Echo & the Bunnymen mimed it on the August 12 broadcast of TotP amid summer ’84 hits by Alison Moyet (“Love Resurrection”), The Bluebells (“Young At Heart”), Frankie Goes to Hollywood (“Two Tribes”), The Jacksons (“State Of Shock”), and Tina Turner (“What’s Love Got To Do With It?”). Pattinson doesn’t appear in the Bunnymen segment, which features Freitas in the penguin costume and Sergeant (crimson Gibson) in the fish mask. They mime under the string-dangled fish before hand-operated stage waves.

Ocean Rain reached No. 4 on the UK Albums Chart. Abroad, it reached No. 22 in Sweden and peaked at No. 41 in Canada. The album marked their debut on the upper-half of the Billboard 200 (No. 87). Echo & the Bunnymen toured Ocean Rain with a UK–European spring leg, followed by a North American summer leg and an Irish–UK autumn leg.

In November 1984, Ian McCulloch made his solo debut with “September Song,” a Kurt Weill song from the 1938 Broadway musical Knickerbocker Holiday; backed with the Irish anthem “Molly Malone.”


1985–1986


“Bring On the Dancing Horses”

In October 1985, Echo & the Bunnymen released “Bring on the Dancing Horses,” a misty number backed with the Porcupine deep cut “Over Your Shoulder.” An elongated (5:37) version of the a-side appears on the 12″, which marks the first appearance of “Bedbugs and Ballyhoo,” which reappeared on their next studio album.

In the “Bring on the Dancing Horses” video, Ian (silhouetted) leads a cow on a leash across a green-screen skyline as a cameraman trails the cow (labeled “horse” and “dog”). Meanwhile, a chain of suited men haul a horse-masked man, who hands Ian a black heart in exchange for his turn on the leash.

“Bring on the Dancing Horses” reached No. 15 in Ireland, No. 19 in Belgium, and No. 21 on the UK Singles Chart. In the US, the video received medium-rotation on MTV, which recently premiered The Cutting Edge, a specialty program (soon followed by 120 Minutes) for acts at Bunnymen-level cult status (Cocteau Twins, The Cure, Depeche Mode, Siouxsie & The Banshees).


Songs to Learn & Sing

“Bring on the Dancing Horses” appears as the new track on Songs to Learn & Sing, a compilation of popular Echo & the Bunnymen from the first five years. It features one song from Heaven Up Here (“A Promise”), two apeice from Porcupine (“The Back of Love,” “The Cutter”) and the US Crocodiles (“Rescue,” “Do It Clean”), and three from the recent Ocean Rain (“The Killing Moon,” “Silver,” “Seven Seas”), plus the earlier non-album a-sides “The Puppet” and “Never Stop.”

The Songs to Learn & Sing album cover is an image still from a scene in the “Dancing Horses” video (3:11–3:18) where the Bunnymen (silhouetted) cross the yellow evening sky. Released on November 11, 1985, the compilation reached No. 6 on the UK Albums Chart.

American filmmaker John Hughes (Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club) commissioned “Bring on the Dancing Horses” for his 1986 teen romantic comedy Pretty In Pink starring Molly Ringwald, Jon Cryer, and Annie Potts. The film takes its name from a 1981 Psychedelic Furs song re-recorded for the film. The soundtrack includes both songs as well as cuts by Belouis Some (“Round, Round”), INXS (“Do Wot You Do”), Jesse Johnson (“Get to Know Ya”), New Order (“Shellshock”), and a collaboration between Suzanne Vega and Joe Jackson (“Left of Center”). Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark submitted the ballad “If You Leave,” which reached No. 4 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and helped lift the soundtrack to No. 5 on the Billboard 200.


Echo & the Bunnymen

Echo & the Bunnymen released their self-titled fifth album in July 1987 on Sire. It contains a re-recorded version of the 1985 b-side “Bedbugs and Ballyhoo,” one of three songs (along with “All in Your Mind” and “Satellite”) written by the whole band, including drummer Pete de Freitas, who quit temporarily during the early stages of this album’s creation. The remaining Bunnymen — singer Ian McCulloch, guitarist Will Sergeant, and drummer Les Pattinson — wrote the album’s seven-song balance, including the singles “Lips Like Sugar” and “The Game.”

Echo & the Bunnymen consolidated the band’s UK popularity (No. 4) and recent North American breakthrough (No. 51 in the US and Canada). This is the final album by the original four-piece. After the ensuing tour, McCulloch left for a solo career and Freitas died in a roadside accident.

In June, WEA paired “The Game” and “Lost and Found” as the album’s advance single.

“Lips Like Sugar” followed in late July as the second single, backed with the non-album “Rollercoaster.”

In early 1988, Sire lifted “Bedbugs and Ballyhoo” as the album’s second US single and third overall a-side, backed with the Velvet Underground cover “Run, Run, Run.”


Discography:

  • Crocodiles (1980)
  • Heaven Up Here (1981)
  • Porcupine (1983)
  • Ocean Rain (1984)
  • Echo & the Bunnymen (1987)
  • Reverberation (1990)

Sources:

1 thought on “Echo & The Bunnymen

  1. Draft intro (2018): “Echo & the Bunnymen were an English post-punk/psych band that made five studio albums between 1979 and 1987. They formed as a trio of guitar, bass, and vocals with the aid of a beat box — the “echo” in their nameplate — amid a new wave of Merseyside acts at the close of the 1970s.
    Echo & the Bunnymen’s first four albums show an evolution from trebly, thinly-chorded eeriness to a whimsical, melodramatic, and lavish approach: traits embodied in their 1983–84 singles “The Back of Love,” “The Cutter,” and “The Killing Moon.”

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