Songs to learn and sing
Echo & The Bunnymen: Songs to Learn and Sing
Vinyl available here
Echo & The Bunnymen have finally released their first four classic albums on vinyl and to follow that up they are releasing the singles album Songs To Learn & Sing which is a great introduction to any newcomer or music addict who has been living in a cave ever since. the 80s and surprisingly surpassed the excellence of probably one of the greatest bands to ever emerge from Liverpool.
There is and always will be a dispute over who is the best group in Liverpool. The Beatles are obviously prime targets due to their undoubted influence on the music scene in general, but people seem to ignore what happened after when the scene flourished around iconic clubs like Eric’s, with all the post punk/new wave scene. different genres and creating a dark new sound that resonated with the kids of that era. I’m not from Liverpool so please be kind to me if I’m wrong as I was still exploring music but from the stories I’ve heard and read about it it was an exciting time with the groups The Teardrop Explodes and characters like Pete Burns, Bill Drummond (KLF) and Dave Balfe (who later ran Blur) were busy. It felt like a creative, bubbling pot of like-minded stoners, all cooking up an amazing new brand of music that was and still is a huge influence on our bands today. The Bunnymen were one of those bands that really caught my eye when I was young and they put out some of the best albums you’ll ever need to add to your vinyl collection. For you children, here is some information to train you in this world…
ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN were formed in Liverpool in 1978 with Ian McCulloch on vocals and rhythm guitar, Will Sergeant on lead guitar and Les Pattinson on bass. They were soon joined by Pete De Freitas on drums and the rest, as they say, is history. When SONGS TO LEARN & SING originally came out, the band were already a force to be reckoned with.
avec, pioneered the new wave scene with four highly acclaimed studio albums. It started with their classic debut Crocodiles in 1980, released amidst the growing wave of post-punk. Crocodiles cemented the band’s reputation as one of the best around, with the NME describing it as “probably the best album of that year by a British band”. The album went on to end up in many lists of the most critical debut albums of all time.
The band followed up the album with the release of the EP Shine So Hard in 1981, recorded live at Pavilion Gardens in Buxton, before releasing their second studio album Heaven Up Here the same year. It became the band’s first UK Top 10 album, winning the NME Award for Best Album in 1981. Considered a darker album, Heaven Up Here was produced by Hugh Jones and was well received by critics and fans alike, with tracks such as A Promise, Over the Wall and Show of Strength. The band’s cult status was transformed into mainstream success in 1983 with the release of their third album Porcupine, produced by Ian Broudie, delivering their best chart performances, with The Cutter reaching No. 8 on the singles charts and Porcupine finishing at #2 on the album charts. and be certified Gold.
1984 released the fourth studio album Ocean Rain, considered by many to be the band’s classic opus. Recorded in Liverpool and Paris, the band used a 35-piece orchestra with award-winning composer Adam Peters scoring the strings. The iconic and atmospheric cover artwork was taken in the stunning Carnglaze Caverns in Cornwall by photographer Brian Griffin, who also photographed their three previous album covers. Ocean Rain continued the band’s use of strings, creating a dark and ethereal aura. Three classic singles were released from the album – Silver, Seven Seas and the massive anthem The Killing Moon, which reached No. 9 on the UK Singles Chart and continues to transcend generations to this day.
What a great jumping off point to embark on these classic first four albums that still stand the test of time and show a band maturing with each release. The surprise on this collection is just one song from the first Crocodiles – Rescue. It’s catchy and to the point with a great bass line from Pattinson, remarkable drumming from De Freitas and some deft early guitar work from the ever-evolving McCulloch-backed iconic Will Sergeant. The beginning of a classic band born from the ashes of pre-Teardrop Explodes and the early years of Julian Cope. Then The Puppet came out after Crocodile with the B-side Do It Clean which failed to chart but still looks majestic today and was produced by Drummond and Balfe as The Chameleons. Weird…
A Promise still sounds glorious and was again the only song taken from Heaven Up Here which is layered over Sergeant’s signature guitar sound and has always been a critically acclaimed album reviewed by our own Gordon Rutherford here as the album where the Bunnymen were ready for the big time with the next release. In Gordon’s words “For forty years Heaven Up Here has been a constant companion. It’s an album that lifted me up and rested me, so many times.
This was followed by two tracks from the excellent Porcupine which propelled them into the mainstream with their debut hit Back Of Love which reached number 19. An anthemic number which has appeared on numerous film soundtracks and has a haunting power which sees McCulloch pour out his emotions. with passion. That guitar breath and that bass still sound great now. The Cutter was the one who lifted the band to greater heights, reaching number 8 with a more radio-friendly sound and great drumming from De Freitas and a more uplifting sound from some of Porcupine’s dark and dark moments.
Never Stop was another single released right after Porcupine and reached number 15 with its funky undertones and characteristic engine room sound of Sergeant, McCulloch, Pattinson and De Freitas. An upbeat track with the same sinister vibes of their unique sound and production once again from Broudie who has always had a massive presence in their sound.
The next three songs, I could listen to them on repeat for an eternity. All taken from what for me is THE best Bunnymen album created (Evergreen is a close second). I was at the anniversary concert at Manchester Academy in 2011 and it was mind blowing. The entire album was played back to back and then they launched into a set of great hits that lasted a good two and a half hours for everyone to enjoy, or pain if you had sore knees and a low tolerance to stand up! The Killing Moon is just an aural paradise, a masterpiece of a melody that always reminds me of Donnie Darko’s opening scene that is etched in my mind forever. A beautiful song that has hints of The Doors and sounds massive. Captivating and breathtaking. Silver, Ocean Rain’s opening track is just infused with incredible orchestral sound and an incredible chorus that uplifts your soul and drives the whole experience forward as dark Nocturnal Me enters dark gothic territory.
Seven Seas is such a good song. The sergeants guitar work is exemplary and the chorus is a mass celebratory anthem that still sends shivers down my spine. One of McCulloch’s greatest moments. The last track Bring On The Dancing Horses was a song recorded for the John Hughes film, Pretty In Pink, which boasts one of the most iconic soundtracks in movie history. A majestic song full of synths and a wide range of melodies backed by McCulloch’s distinctive vocals and Sergeant’s shimmering guitar attack that has a hint of How Soon Is Now flowing throughout.
If you need an album introduction that lifts the veil on these classic first four albums, look no further. There’s plenty of dark and light to pass through and this set of classic singles will take you through that kaleidoscope window into a world of sonic magic by one of the greatest bands on the planet.
Crocodile, Heaven Up Here, Porcupine and Ocean Rain available on vinyl on Sister Ray Records
Words from Wayne Carey, editor of Louder Than War. His author profile is here