All At Sea Again

Echo And The Bunnymen sounded like a band with something to prove at The Ritz on Thursday night. The set focused mainly on their early years and Ocean Rain, not once failing to do those songs justice. The opening section of songs like Going Up and All That Jazz is loud and punchy with just the right amount of punky aggression, Will Sergeant riffing at the forefront. A few songs in there is a one-two-three of Angels And Devils, Do It Clean and My Kingdom which if that had all I’d seen, I would have gone home happy. In their pomp the Bunnymen created a marriage of post punk and psychedelic rock and that’s what we get tonight, Will peeling off solos and riffs, one of the key post punk guitarists. During some of the instrumental breaks Ian McCulloch stands back gesturing towards his bandmate, fully appreciative of his playing. Mac’s voice has survived the years, a little deeper at times and there are some of the higher notes he steps back from, leaving the crowd to fill in, but he is still largely the singer he was thirty years ago, wrapping his tonsils around his Scouse poetry. There’s nothing run of the mill about this band tonight, They play like they mean it. The songs are done properly, a little raggedness adding to them and keeping them alive. They’re still doing that old Bunnymen trick of breaking into medleys- Do It Clean goes into Sex Machine, later on we get Roadhouse Blues, Walk On The Wild Side and Jean Genie- and then snapping straight back into the original tune. Villiers Terrace is immense, a scabrous tale of trippiness in post punk Liverpool (did I ever tell you I once spent an afternoon trying to find Villiers Terrace? It doesn’t exist). The poppier songs are joyous- Lips Like Sugar sounds as good as anything they ever did, Seven Seas shimmers and sways and Bring On The Dancing Horses is a big echo laden treat. Nothing Lasts Forever provides the terrace singalong moment. The Cutter is alive and kicking. Bedbugs And Ballyhoo is all beefed up, hair slicked back and all that jazz. The knack the Bunnymen mastered in the mid 80s was writing songs that were full of romance and drama, reaching a peak on The Killing Moon, introduced to us by Ian as ‘the greatest song ever written’. They then go on to do a good job of proving it. The last song of the encore is Ocean Rain, a masterpiece of quiet/loud dynamics, a transporting moment, Mac singing as if he depends on it, needs it. It’s 2016, a long time since their heyday. It’s true that this isn’t the original line up, they can’t match what they did with Bill Drummond at the helm, playing strange gigs in Buxton, the Crystal Days, St George’s Hall and so on- they were different times. But this is as vital and revitalised a Bunnymen as there has been for some time. If they’re playing anywhere near you in the near future, I’d go and see them if I were you.

Silver (Tidal Wave)

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All Hands On Deck At Dawn

Well, that’s that then. It’s September, summer is over, the school year starts again for me today. Back to it. On the plus side my brother got me a ticket to see Echo And The Bunnymen at The Ritz tonight (yes, it’s a school night but there you go, life is short, carpe diem etc).

Mac the Mouth said that Ocean Rain was the greatest album ever made. I don’t think that’s true but there are times when I think it’s the greatest Bunnymen album. This different version of the title track, which I have posted before I’m sure, lacks the strings of the final version but is just as good in its own way.

Ocean Rain (alternative version)

Good God You Said

‘Is that the only thing you care about?
Splitting up the money and share it out’

Written about Thatcher in 1983 and sadly just as pertinent today in 2016. The 12″ makes use of those extra inches with those great strings and heads for the dancefloor. As Mac said, ‘Lay down thy raincoat and groove’.

Never Stop (Discoteque)

Do you want to see the live version from the Royal Albert Hall? Thought you might…

Where The Hell Have You Been?

‘We’ve been waiting with our best suits on, hair slicked back and all that jazz’.

Echo And The Bunnymen benefitted massively from Bill Drummond’s management, his leftfield plans and sense of theatre. In between the first and second albums (Crocodiles and Heaven Up Here) they released a four track live e.p., Shine So Hard, a document of a gig at the Pavillion in Buxton deep in the Pennines, in January 1981. The palm house, the army surplus clothing, the bright white lights, Pete’s shaven head and the other three’s fringes and quiff- it’s never all about the music with a band, the visuals are such an important part and the Bunnymen and Drummond knew this. Echo And The Bunnymen, especially early on, had a really democratic sound, the drums, bass, guitar and vocals all seem to carry equal weight and have the same space, no one instrument dominating. All That Jazz is an early highlight, a stomping bassline, shards of guitar, military drums and Mac’s urgent singing.

Ceremony

On July 19th 1986 New Order headlined a show at GMEX (formerly Manchester’s Central railway station, for much of the 70s and early 80s a derelict carpark. We used to park there when shopping in town and my Mum and Dad got all of us kids back in the car on one occasion and drove off, leaving one of my brothers standing forlornly where the car had been, aged only three or four. Don’t worry- they realised before leaving the carpark). The show was the highlight of the Festival of the Tenth Summer,a Factory organised event celebrating ten years since punk and the show at the Lesser Free Trade Hall where the Sex Pistols set into motion everything that has happened to Manchester since. The Lesser Free Trade Hall, also the venue where Bob Dylan was accused of being Judas, is now a swish hotel. The Festival of the Tenth Summer had its own Factory catalogue number (FAC 151) and had nine other events including a fashion show, a book, a Peter Saville installation, an exhibition of Kevin Cummins photographs and so on. Very Factory. Support for New Order at the gig included The Smiths (billed as co-headliners), The Fall, A Certain Ratio, Cabaret Voltaire, OMD, John Cale, John Cooper Clarke and Buzzcocks. Not a bad line up really.

During their set New Order were joined on stage by Ian McCulloch who sang Ceremony with them. This clip shows that meeting, the only drawback being it’s less than a minute long.

There’s an audio only version of the whole song here. Ian sings in a register closer to Ian Curtis’ and certainly gives it his best shot. The bit where Hooky joins Mac at the mic is great.

Ceremony was Ian Curtis’ last song, intended for Joy Division but recorded and released as the first New Order record. The first two New Order records actually- it was released in March 1981 by the three piece New Order and produced by Martin Hannett. It was then re-released in September 1981 in a newer, slightly longer version with Gillian Gilbert on board and with a different Saville sleeve. If you want to get really trainspottery about it, the run out groove on the first version says ‘watching love grow forever’, while on the second version it has ‘this is why events unnerve me’.

New Order and Echo And The Bunnymen toured the USA together along with Public Image Ltd throughout 1987, billed as The Monsters Of Alternative Rock. The Melody Maker reported from it as the picture up top shows. According to Lydon’s autobiography ‘Bernard Sumner was having problems emotionally and looked a bit the worse for wear’ and describes him being tied to a trolley to sing at one gig as he was unable to stand. ‘Nice fella’ though says Lydon. Bernard’s favourite tipple was ‘a pint of headache’ (Pernod and blackcurrant).

Echoes And Bunnymen

I was skipping through Bill Drummond’s excellent book 45 the other night, due to turning 45. He was Echo And The Bunnymen’s manager all the way through their best years and writes very eloquently and passioantely about them. Then I went and found this- the Bunnymen live at Rockpalast in 1981 with an hour and half set spanning the first three albums, showing what a formidable back catalogue they were building up. But the most striking thing is how different their set up looks with them playing in a line across the front of the stage, not with the drum riser behind the singer- changes the whole look of a band playing live. Almost revolutionary. Actually, on second thoughts, the most striking thing is Ian doing sexy in his ripped t-shirt.

Over The Wall

It’s a funny feeling- to know you lived through and watched something genuinely historic happen (on TV admittedly) and for it then to be celebrated a quarter of a century later. I suppose there were/are millions of people born at any time between 1885 and one hundred years later who could say they lived through and watched genuinely historic events. The fall of the Berlin Wall was twenty five years ago today. Kind of. November 9th was the day that the East German authorities realised they couldn’t hold the tide back and that the Soviets weren’t going to send support. And the Wall came down.

There have been loads of interesting articles recently, about the events and processes that led up to it, about the myths of the fall of the Wall (Reagan, Bowie, Hasselhoff), some of those ace photomontages showing the same place then and now. 1989 is a key year for me- living away from home, 19 years old, new music and new influences, new clothes. I visited Berlin in July and just seeing those places was startling, seeing the few remaining sections of Wall.

If the end of the Berlin Wall shows anything I think it is that nothing is permanent, that change is always possible and often just around the corner, even with situations that look utterly deadlocked and set in stone. This too shall pass.

Over The Wall