Echo & the Bunnymen
Echo & the Bunnymen
|Years active||1978–1993, 1996–present|
|Labels||Korova, Zoo, Sire, Warner Bros., Euphoric, London, Cooking Vinyl, Ocean Rain|
Echo & the Bunnymen are an English rock band formed in Liverpool in 1978. The original line-up consisted of vocalist Ian McCulloch, guitarist Will Sergeant and bassist Les Pattinson. By 1980, Pete de Freitas joined as the band's drummer.
Their 1980 debut album, Crocodiles, went into the top 20 of the UK Albums Chart. After releasing their second album, Heaven Up Here in 1981, the band's cult status was followed by mainstream success in the UK in 1983, when they scored a UK Top 10 hit with "The Cutter", and the album which the song came from, Porcupine, hit number 2 in the UK. Ocean Rain (1984), continued the band's UK chart success with its lead single "The Killing Moon" entering into the top ten.
After releasing a self-titled album in 1987, McCulloch left the band and was replaced by former St. Vitus Dance singer Noel Burke. In 1989, de Freitas was killed in a motorcycle accident. After working together as Electrafixion, McCulloch and Sergeant regrouped with Pattinson in 1997 and returned as Echo & the Bunnymen, before Pattinson's departure in 1998. The band has done some touring and released several albums since the late 1990s, to varying degrees of success.
Ian McCulloch began his career in 1977, as one third of the Crucial Three, a bedroom band which also featured Julian Cope and Pete Wylie. When Wylie left, McCulloch and Cope formed the short-lived A Shallow Madness with drummer Dave Pickett and organist Paul Simpson, during which time such songs as "Read It in Books", "Robert Mitchum", "You Think It's Love" and "Spacehopper" were written by the pair. When Cope sacked McCulloch from the band, A Shallow Madness changed their name to The Teardrop Explodes, and McCulloch joined forces with guitarist Will Sergeant and bass player Les Pattinson to form Echo & the Bunnymen. This early incarnation of the band featured a drum machine, assumed by many to be "Echo", though this has been denied by the band. In the 1982 book Liverpool Explodes!, Will Sergeant explained the origin of the band's name:
We had this mate who kept suggesting all these names like The Daz Men or Glisserol and the Fan Extractors. Echo and the Bunnymen was one of them. I thought it was just as stupid as the rest.
In November 1978, Echo & the Bunnymen made their debut at Liverpool's Eric's Club, appearing as the opening act for The Teardrop Explodes. The band played one song, a 20-minute version of "Monkeys" which was entitled "I Bagsy Yours" at the time.
Echo & the Bunnymen's debut single "The Pictures on My Wall" was released on Bill Drummond & David Balfe's Zoo Records in May 1979, the B-side being the McCulloch/Cope collaboration "Read It in Books" (also recorded by The Teardrop Explodes approximately six months later as the B-side of their final Zoo Records single "Treason"). McCulloch has subsequently denied, on more than one occasion, that Cope had any involvement with the writing of this song.
By the time of their debut album, 1980's Crocodiles, the drum machine had been replaced by Trinidad-born Pete de Freitas. The lead single, "Rescue", climbed to UK No.62 and the album broke into the Top 20 at No. 17, following critical acclaim. Their next album, Heaven Up Here (1981), was an even bigger critical and commercial success, reaching the UK Top Ten (No. 10), although a single lifted from the album, "A Promise", could only reach UK No. 49.
In June 1982, the Bunnymen achieved their first significant UK hit single with "The Back of Love" (No. 19). In July 1982, they performed at the first WOMAD festival. This was followed in early 1983 with their first Top 10, the more radio-friendly "The Cutter", which climbed to No. 8. The parent album, Porcupine, hit No. 2 in the album chart. Now firmly established as a chart act, further hits followed with a one-off single, "Never Stop" (No. 15), and "The Killing Moon", a preview from the new album featuring a dramatic McCulloch vocal, which became the band's second UK Top 10 single at No. 9.
Following a PR campaign which proclaimed it "the greatest album ever made" according to McCulloch, 1984's Ocean Rain reached No. 4, and today is widely regarded as the band's landmark album. Single extracts "Silver" (UK No. 30) and "Seven Seas" (UK No. 16) consolidated the album's continued commercial success. In the same year, McCulloch had a minor solo hit with his cover version of "September Song".
Echo & the Bunnymen toured Scandinavia in April 1985, performing cover versions of songs from Television, the Rolling Stones, Talking Heads and The Doors. Recordings from the tour emerged as the semi-bootleg On Strike. Unfortunately for the band, Ocean Rain proved to be a difficult album to follow up, and they could only re-emerge in 1985 with a single, "Bring on the Dancing Horses" (UK No. 21), and a compilation album, Songs to Learn & Sing, which made No. 6 in the UK album chart. However, all was not well in the Bunnymen camp, and Pete de Freitas left the band. Their next album, the self-titled Echo & the Bunnymen (1987), was initially recorded with ex–ABC drummer David Palmer, but when de Freitas returned in 1986, it was largely re-recorded. Eventually released in mid-1987, the record sold well (UK No. 4), and was a small American hit, their only LP to have significant sales there.
In the United States, the band's best-known songs were "The Killing Moon" and "Lips Like Sugar". "Bring on the Dancing Horses" is well known as one of the songs on the soundtrack to the John Hughes film Pretty in Pink. The band also contributed a cover version of The Doors song "People Are Strange" to The Lost Boys soundtrack. "Never Stop" was also used in the Alan Bennett film History Boys.
Departure of McCulloch, death of de Freitas, and disbandment
McCulloch quit the band in 1988, leading to the uncertainty of the band's future, which was exacerbated when de Freitas was killed in a motorcycle accident in mid-1989. After former Colenso Parade singer Oscar turned down an offer to take over from McCulloch, Pattinson and Sergeant recruited ex-St. Vitus Dance vocalist Noel Burke and drummer Damon Reece. Keyboardist Jake Brockman (a touring member of the band for several years previously, and a contributor to the 1987 album) was promoted to full member, and the five-piece recorded Reverberation in 1990. This did not generate much interest among fans or critics. In a 2003 interview, McCulloch said of his replacement with Burke:
I think it's pretty obvious what I think. Noel Burke... the name says it all really doesn't it? No, that's not fair. It wasn't his fault, it was Will and Pete who were the berks really. But no, I thought it was disgraceful and after that I suppose it was quite surprising that I continued working with Will after that. I'm glad I did though. Johnny Marr called them Echo and the Bogusmen when that happened.
Meanwhile, McCulloch released his debut solo album, Candleland in September 1989, shortly after de Freitas' death; the album reflected a new maturity influenced by the death of his late bandmate. His follow-up solo album was Mysterio in 1992.
The group disbanded in 1993.
In 1994, McCulloch and Sergeant began working together again under the name Electrafixion; in 1997 Pattinson rejoined the duo, meaning the three surviving members of the original Bunnymen line-up were now working together again. Rather than continue as Electrafixion, the trio resurrected the Echo & the Bunnymen name and released the album Evergreen (1997), which reached the UK Top 10.
Immediately prior to the release of the band's next album, What Are You Going to Do with Your Life? (1999), Les Pattinson quit to take care of his mother. McCulloch and Sergeant have continued to tour and record as Echo & the Bunnymen, touring repeatedly and releasing the albums Flowers (2001), Siberia (2005), The Fountain (2009) and Meteorites (2014). The Siberia band line up was Ian McCulloch, Will Sergeant, Paul Fleming (keyboards), Simon Finley (drums) and Pete Wilkinson (bass), Hugh Jones produced Siberia after previously engineering early Bunnymen albums. Since August 2009 the group's touring incarnation has comprised McCulloch and Sergeant along with Stephen Brannan (bass), Gordy Goudie (guitar), Nicholas Kilroe (drums) and Jez Wing (keyboards).
In 2002, the group received the Q Inspiration award. The award is for inspiring "new generations of musicians, songs and music lovers in general." The band were said to be worthy winners as they have done much to promote the Mersey music scene. In a later interview for Magnet magazine, McCulloch said "It validates everything that we've tried to achieve—cool, great timeless music. It's not like an inspiration award affecting the past, it's affecting the current music."
On 11 September 2006, Echo & the Bunnymen released an updated version of their 1985 Songs to Learn and Sing compilation. Now re-titled More Songs to Learn and Sing, this new compilation was issued in two versions, a 17-track single CD and a 20-track version with a DVD featuring eight videos from their career.
In March 2007, the Bunnymen announced that they had re-signed to their original record label, Warner, and were also working on a new album. The band were also said to be planning a live DVD, entitled "Dancing Horses", which also contained interviews with the band. This was released in May 2007, on Snapper/SPV. The live line up was Ian McCulloch, Will Sergeant, Simon Finley (drums), Paul Fleming (keyboards), Gordy Goudie (guitar) and Steve Brannan (bass).
On 11 January 2008, McCulloch was interviewed on BBC Breakfast at the start of Liverpool 08. He was asked about new Bunnymen material and he revealed that a new album would coincide with their gig at the Royal Albert Hall in September. He went on to say that the album was, "The best one we've made, apart from Ocean Rain."
In a 20 April 2008 interview with the Sunday Mail, Ian McCulloch announced The Fountain as the title of the new Echo & the Bunnymen album with producers John McLaughlin and Simon Perry, which was originally due to be released in 2008 but was finally released on 12 October 2009. The first single from the album, "Think I Need It Too", was released on 28 September 2009.
On 1 September 2009, former keyboard player Jake Brockman died on the Isle of Man, when his motorbike collided with a converted ambulance. Brockman had played keyboards for the band during the 1980s.
In December 2010, Echo & the Bunnymen went on tour playing their first two albums Crocodiles and Heaven Up Here in their entirety.
Echo & the Bunnymen's most recent album of new material, entitled Meteorites, was released on 26 May 2014 in the UK, and on 3 June 2014 in the US via 429 Records. The album was also released on the pledgemusic.com website. The album was produced and mixed by Youth, who also co-wrote three of the tracks and played "additional bass" on it. It was the band's first UK Top 40 album entry since 1999.
In 2018, Echo & the Bunnymen announced and released an album of reworked orchestral versions of older material and two new songs, entitled The Stars, The Oceans & The Moon, to mixed reception.
- Ian McCulloch – vocals, guitar (1978–1988, 1996–present)
- Will Sergeant – guitars, programming (1978–1993, 1996–present)
- Les Pattinson – bass (1978–1993, 1996–1998)
- Pete de Freitas – drums (1978–1989; died 1989)
- Noel Burke – vocals (1988–1993)
- Damon Reece – drums (1989–1993)
- Jake Brockman – keyboards (1989–1993; died 2009)
Touring band members
- Jez Wing – keyboards (2009–present)
- Kelley Stoltz – guitar (2016–present)
- Stephen Brannan – bass (2005–present)
- Nicholas Kilroe – drums (2007–2017)
Former touring members
- Jeremy Stacey – drums (1999–2001)
- Vinny Jamieson - drums (2001-2003)
- Guy Pratt – bass (1998–2000)
- Alex Germains – bass (2000–2003)
- Michael Lee – drums (1996–2001; died 2008)
- Vinny Jameson – drums (2001–2003)
- Pete Wilkinson – bass (2003–2005)
- Simon Finley – drums (2003–2005)
- Paul Fleming – keyboards (2003–2009)
- Ged Malley – guitar (2003)
- Gordy Goudie – guitar (2004–2017)
- Nicholas Kilroe – drums (2007–2017)
- Gillian Grant - violin (2018)
- Kirsty Main - violin (2018)
- Annemarie McGahon - viola (2018)
- Heather Lynn - cello (2018)
- Pete Reilly - guitar (2018)
- Alan Watts – guitar (2019–2020)
- Crocodiles (1980)
- Heaven Up Here (1981)
- Porcupine (1983)
- Ocean Rain (1984)
- Echo & the Bunnymen (1987)
- Reverberation (1990)
- Evergreen (1997)
- What Are You Going to Do with Your Life? (1999)
- Flowers (2001)
- Siberia (2005)
- The Fountain (2009)
- Meteorites (2014)
- The Stars, The Oceans & The Moon (2018)
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