Ian McCulloch (singer)

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Ian McCulloch
McCulloch in Shibuya, Tokyo
McCulloch in Shibuya, Tokyo
Background information
Birth nameIan Stephen McCulloch
Born (1959-05-05) 5 May 1959 (age 65),
Liverpool, England
Occupation(s)Musician, singer-songwriter
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • bass guitar
  • keyboards
  • percussion
Years active1977–present
Member ofEcho & the Bunnymen
Formerly of

Ian Stephen McCulloch (born 5 May 1959) is an English singer-songwriter and musician, best known as the lead vocalist of the rock band Echo & the Bunnymen.[2]


McCulloch performing in Amsterdam, Netherlands, 2006
McCulloch with Echo & the Bunnymen at the Festival Internacional de Benicàssim 2016

McCulloch was a singer-songwriter with the Crucial Three, one of many local bands that sprang up amongst the regulars who patronised a Liverpool club called Eric's in the late 1970s. The other two members were Julian Cope and Pete Wylie who went on to form Wah!. The band existed between May and June 1977, and never got beyond rehearsals.[3] In July 1978, along with future members of the Teardrop Explodes – Cope, Mick Finkler and Paul Simpson – and drummer Dave Pickett, McCulloch formed A Shallow Madness.[3][4] Again the band did not perform or record, but an acoustic version of the band, under the name Uh, played live twice.[3] The band broke up in September 1978.[3]

In October 1978, McCulloch founded Echo & the Bunnymen with Will Sergeant ( lead guitar), Les Pattinson (bass), and a drum machine (allegedly named Echo), making their live debut at Eric's in November that year.[3] In October 1979, the Bunnymen exchanged the drum machine for Pete de Freitas on drums. With their line-up solidified, the Bunnymen played in the late 1970s and early 1980s, releasing their critically praised debut studio album, Crocodiles in 1980, and the heavier, bass-driven Heaven Up Here in 1981. They released their third studio album Porcupine in 1983 with the lead single "The Cutter" finishing in the top 10 of the UK Singles Chart. Ocean Rain followed in 1984. Shortly before the album was released, McCulloch described Ocean Rain as "the greatest album ever made."[5] McCulloch later said: "When I sing 'The Killing Moon' I know there isn't a band in the world who's got a song anywhere near that."[6]

In 1988, McCulloch left the group to pursue a solo career under the impression that the Bunnymen would be laid to rest, if only temporarily.[4] When the remaining Bunnymen continued using the name with new lead vocalist Noel Burke, the break-up became more permanent with McCulloch referring to the band as "Echo & the Bogusmen".[7]

In 1990, McCulloch released his debut solo studio album Candleland which reflected a more mature outlook on the world, owing to the recent deaths of McCulloch's father[8] and Pete de Freitas, and peaked at number 18 on the UK Albums Chart.[4] It yielded two Modern Rock Tracks hits, "Proud to Fall" (No. 1 for 4 weeks) and "Faith and Healing". McColloch's second solo album Mysterio was released in 1992 as the public's interest in the former Bunnyman was waning and sold less than its predecessor.[9] Shortly after, McCulloch left the public eye to devote more time to his family.

In 1993, McCulloch partnered with Johnny Marr of the Smiths, writing an album's worth of material. McCulloch has credited Marr with helping him regain his lost confidence and rejuvenating his desire to create music.[10] When it was suggested that Will Sergeant be brought in to work on the songs, the tapes were allegedly stolen from a courier van preventing Sergeant from offering any input.[11]

The rekindling of the relationship between McCulloch and Sergeant led to the formation of the alternative rock band Electrafixion in 1994.[12] They released their debut and sole studio album Burned which peaked at number 38 in the UK and included the top-30 hit "Sister Pain".[4] The band soon found themselves performing set lists composed of half Electrafixion songs and half Echo & the Bunnymen songs.

In 1997, Echo & the Bunnymen reformed and released their seventh studio album Evergreen to positive reviews and chart success. Evergreen made the top 10 of the UK Albums Chart and the single "Nothing Lasts Forever" reached No. 8 on the UK Singles Chart.[13] The reformed Bunnymen have since recorded several further albums, the most recent being The Stars, the Oceans & the Moon which was released in 2018.

At the height of the Bunnymen's popularity, McCulloch earned the nickname "Mac the Mouth" due to a penchant for witty, blunt criticism of artists he deemed inferior, while proclaiming the Bunnymen's superiority. Targets of his observations included Bono of U2 and Julian Cope. More recently, in 2011, McCulloch said of Bono: "Had he been in Liverpool, he would have been laughed out of the place. U2 have never been liked in Liverpool. We know a fake when we see one." McCulloch said that during the early 1980s, Bono told him the Bunnymen could break America but only if they toured there for three months. McCulloch said: "Three months? I can't spend three minutes in Birkenhead without going daft, let alone America."[14]

In 1998, McCulloch teamed up with Johnny Marr, the Spice Girls, Tommy Scott of Space, and Simon Fowler of Ocean Colour Scene as England United to record "(How Does It Feel to Be) On Top of the World", the official song for Team England in the 1998 FIFA World Cup. It was overshadowed however by "Three Lions 98" and "Vindaloo". He enjoyed more success working as a mentor for Coldplay during the recording of their second studio album A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002).[15]

In 2003, McCulloch released his third solo album Slideling and undertook a solo tour in support of the album.

McCulloch has been a lifetime supporter of Liverpool F.C. In 2006, he took part in recording the team's anthem with the Bootroom Allstars – a cover version of the Johnny Cash song "Ring of Fire", and was on the judging panel for the music competition Pringles Unsung.[16]

In 2010, McCulloch featured in a guest role on the song "Some Kind of Nothingness" by the Manic Street Preachers from their tenth album Postcards from a Young Man.[17]

In 2012, McCulloch released his fourth and most recent studio album, Pro Patria Mori, as well as a live album Holy Ghosts in 2013.[18][19]

In April 2017, following news of a possible armed conflict between the United States and North Korea, McCulloch canceled a concert in Tokyo, Japan moments before showtime by leaving Japan without notifying the concert promoter.[20]

In October 2017, McCulloch featured on the Norwegian band a-ha's acoustic live album MTV Unplugged: Summer Solstice, singing "Scoundrel Days" and "The Killing Moon". The performance was recorded at Giske island in Norway in June 2017.[21]

Musical influences[edit]

McCulloch has cited Lou Reed,[22] Iggy Pop,[22] the Doors,[23] Leonard Cohen[24] and particularly David Bowie as influences for his work. He has described Cohen's 1968 song "Suzanne" as "the perfect lyric with the perfect melody"[25] and Bowie as "so influential and the greatest solo artist of the 20th Century in any walk of art."[26]

Personal life[edit]

McCulloch was brought up in the Norris Green area of Liverpool.[22] The road on which he originally lived, Parthenon Drive, is the title of a song contained on Echo & the Bunnymen's tenth studio album, Siberia (2005). He attended Alsop Comprehensive School.[27]

As a child, McCulloch was diagnosed with obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD).[28]

In 1983, McCulloch married Lorraine Fox. They have two daughters, Candy and Mimi.[28] Candy appeared in the video for his solo single "Faith and Healing" when she was a young girl. The couple separated in late 2003.

McCulloch was in a relationship with singer-songwriter Zoe Devlin, formerly of Alabama 3. They had a daughter, Dusty May. McCulloch and Devlin separated in 2013.[29]

McCulloch was featured in a YouTube video appeal in October 2010 which campaigned for Tom Hicks and George Gillett to be removed from Liverpool F.C. In a 2013 interview, McCulloch said that he was no longer attending Liverpool matches.[30]


Studio albums

Live albums

  • Liverpool Cathedral Live (2012)
  • Holy Ghosts (2013)


  1. ^ "Ranking New Wave Vocalist Solo Debuts: Sting, Debbie Harry, David Byrne and More". Musictimes.com. 1 June 2015.
  2. ^ "Ian McCulloch > Overview". AllMusic. Retrieved 1 June 2010.
  3. ^ a b c d e Frame, Pete (1980) "Liverpool 1980: Eric's Progeny" (Rock Family Tree)
  4. ^ a b c d Strong, Martin C. (1999) The Great Alternative & Indie Discography, Canongate, ISBN 0-86241-913-1, p. 223-4
  5. ^ Hutchinson, Charles (23 September 2011). "Echo & The Bunnymen, Grand Opera House, York". Yorkpress.co.uk. Retrieved 5 January 2013.
  6. ^ Harrison, Andrew (12 April 2003). "This much I know: Ian McCulloch". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 5 January 2013.
  7. ^ Courtney, Kevin. "Bunnymen bounce back". The Irish Times. Retrieved 30 July 2020.
  8. ^ "Interview - Ian McCulloch". Atomicduster.com. Retrieved 23 January 2020.
  9. ^ "Paul Du Noyer interviews Echo & The Bunnymen". pauldunoyer.com. Archived from the original on 27 May 2015. Retrieved 28 April 2015.
  10. ^ "Bad Blood Is Only an Echo : With Electrafixion, Onetime Bunnymen Ian McCulloch and Will Sergeant Are Rockin' Again". Los Angeles Times. 4 November 1995.
  11. ^ Stout, Andrew (2 December 2008). "Seven Lost Albums That Should Never Be Found". Seattle Weekly.
  12. ^ "Electrafixion | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 23 January 2020.
  13. ^ Roberts, David, ed. (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). HiT Entertainment. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  14. ^ Power, Ed (23 September 2011). "Echo and the Bunnymen's Ian McCulloch lets rip". Irish Independent. Dublin. Retrieved 5 January 2013.
  15. ^ Dufour, Matt. "Members of Coldplay Join Ian McCulloch on New Solo Effort". The Fader. Archived from the original on 28 September 2013. Retrieved 7 April 2013.
  16. ^ "Talking Shop: Ian McCulloch". London: BBC News. 28 November 2006. Archived from the original on 11 January 2007. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  17. ^ "Exclusive video: Manic Street Preachers feat Ian McCulloch – Some Kind of Nothingness". The Guardian. 2 November 2010.
  18. ^ "Ian McCulloch, Holy Ghosts/Pro Patria Mori". The Independent. London. 13 April 2013. Retrieved 3 November 2013.
  19. ^ "Ian McCulloch's cultural highlights". The Guardian. London. 7 April 2013. Retrieved 3 November 2013.
  20. ^ "Musician Ian McCulloch flees Japan amid U.S.-N Korea tensions; show cancelled without notice". Japan Today. GPlusMedia. 17 April 2017. Retrieved 13 September 2023.
  21. ^ "MTV Unplugged - Summer Solstice (2017)". 6 February 2022.
  22. ^ a b c "Mouth Of The Mersey: Ian McCulloch's Favourite Albums". The Quietus.
  23. ^ "Features | Baker's Dozen | Mouth Of The Mersey: Ian McCulloch's Favourite Albums". The Quietus. Retrieved 2 January 2017.
  24. ^ "Music Etc.: Ian McCulloch—An Echo Returns". 28 June 2018.
  25. ^ McCulloch, Ian (3 February 2002). "The perfect song". The Observer. London. Retrieved 6 April 2012.
  26. ^ Nissim, Mayer (21 April 2011). "Ian McCulloch seeks David Bowie hook-up". Digital Spy. Retrieved 6 April 2012.
  27. ^ "Heaven back here". Liverpool Echo. 28 November 2003.
  28. ^ a b Duerden, Nick (16 May 2014). "An echo of greatness: Echo and the Bunneymen return". The Independent. Retrieved 23 January 2020.
  29. ^ "Ian McCulloch's ex-girlfriend opens up about split". 30 September 2013.
  30. ^ Simpson, Dave (11 April 2013). "Ian McCulloch: 'Car parks are a bigger threat than war'". The Guardian. London.

External links[edit]