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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Top 102 Albums⁺ No 31 Crocodiles


Top 102 Albums⁺ No 31 
Crocodiles - Echo and the Bunnymen

It's difficult to explain the depth of the relationship between a fourteen year old music obsessive and his favourite band. It is as if you have to carry the flag for some battalion in a Kafkaesque war without weapons other than sarcastic smirks. Who could possibly think that (insert band name here) were the equals of the Bunnymen? And then there is the hunger for every scrap of information. And it gets confused with your actual identity. Mac said something somewhere about not smiling, so I gave up smiling for a few years. Mac said he loved Leonard Cohen. Time to raid the parents cassette collection. Thank God he didn't have a fetish for Country 'n' Irish music.
The Bunnymen are playing in Dublin. Time to wrap a chain around my belt and after much practice whipping it free and whirling it without injuring myself I was ready to face the unknown and vaguely threatening demi-monde that was the Dublin gig scene.

My most abiding memory of a Bunnymen gig is missing the last train home because of the encores and staying on the living room floor of some acquaintance of a friend. It was mid-winter. There was a hole in the glass of the window. It was cold, It was limb threateningly cold. We got up as soon as there was any light and set off for the city centre to catch the first train possible and hoping that movement would reverse the progress of our frostbite. Just before we left we noticed, sitting only feet from where we had been sleeping, a two-bar electric fire. Aagh. But you need to suffer for your convictions and freezing to death in a ratty student flat would have been a very Bunnymen way to go.

"I've been up to Villiers Terrace
To see what's a-happening
There's people rolling 'round on the carpet
Mixing up the medicine"

Of course, at the heart of it all was the desperate hope that this identity would be the passport into a totally threatening demi-monde where the cool boys and girls lived a life of impossible sophistication. "I don't know what I want anymore / First I want a kiss and then I want it all." Of course all this has some clarity looking back but at the time everything fused and this music seemed the most important thing in the world.

I threatened in some comment somewhere to merely post a picture of my teenage self instead of writing about Echo and the Bunnymen. Pictures say more than words, they say, and write. (In fact I've rarely come across this in pictorial form. What does that say about it) Unfortunately, due to my teenage years happening before the advent of the iPhone and at a time when you needed a credit line from the bank to process film I have very few pictures of myself in full bunnydress but here is an attempt to look the part on my student card with assiduously backcombed hair, smile free face and moody middle distance stare.

(When looking for this picture I even found a bookmark that I had in school on which I had doodled the band name, album titles and some quotes. I was going to scan it in but thought that to reveal its existence would show what a sad, pathetic person I am was. So I have decided to keep it a secret.)

My desire to be a guitarist foundered on an astonishing lack of natural ability but I did manage to work out one small piece, the opening bars of Stars are Stars. I still give in to the temptation of playing it whenever I pick up a guitar. One day I may have to buy a Telecaster in order to deliver all four seconds with greater sonic felicity.

I still listen to this album regularly, more so than any of the next three albums, although I like all four. There is something more urgent, spare and metallic about the sound of this album that I like. The confusion and despair never overwhelm the energy of the songs.

It is pointless for me to try to excavate any lyrical or sonic themes from this album. All are overwhelmed by the drifting detritus of my teenage years. Above all my regret at not going to the Crystal Day, a full day with the band culminating in a concert which they organised in Liverpool for the day after my seventeenth birthday. Instead I chose a bicycle. I could have stolen a bicycle.




The influence of The Bunnymen on The Knocking Shop is probably most clear on this track.

7 comments:

  1. Excellent. I love the idea of giving up smiling for a few years. There does seem a glimmer of a grin on your younger (impressively mulleted) self.
    I was similarly smitten by the band, used to wear a Mac mac all the time. I never was good at memorizing lyrics but I do remember that I used to sing 'spare us the cutter' whenever I shaved. Just that line...
    And a 'bicycle thief'? Now there's a title...

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    1. My hair was short at the back ∴ not a mullet!
      Please tell me that's true!

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  2. I am visionary.
    I see through neck.
    I see mullet...

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  3. Seamus,my wife's first gig was the Bunnymen in the National Stadium. Were you at that one, if that's not a foolish question?
    Brendan

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    1. I saw them three or four times in the 80's but remember them all as being in the SFX. Not that my memory is totally reliable. Looking online I think I went to the SFX in 83, 84 and 85 (twice), all in the SFX. They played McGonagles before I was allowed to go to gigs. That would have been special. Could it have been the SFX she was at?
      I remember the first night in 1985 as being really special. covers of She Cracked, Friction, It's all over Now, Baby Blue and Paint it Black, all superb.
      They really were great live and I remember being hugely dissappointed when I went to see them in the Olympia in the 90's. Almost a parody of themselves.
      De Freitas was a great drummer and was always up at front (our) left of the stage at those gigs. He held together the long improvs around Do It Clean which tended to be the centrepieces of the gigs.

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    2. Laura has just shown me the ticket- National Stadium - Wednesday 20 January postponed from Saturday 17 October. Gig ticket does not say what year but I'm told it was January 1988. An inveterate gigoer ever since. My first gig was John Martyn also in the stadium in 1982. Online I found this great link which brings the Dublin scene all back:
      http://comeheretome.com/2010/05/26/dublin-punk-new-wave-venues-1976-84/

      Brendan




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    3. Hi Brendan - had totally forgotten that one. Was thinking earlier rather than later. First Dublin gig was U2 in the Phoenix Park. First gig Auto da Fe or The Blades in O'Sheas Hotel in Bray. Also memorable was Billy Bragg in the TV Club, and The Bunnymen of course.

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