Yesterday’s monthly nostalgia-fest mentioned that there were 23 new entries into the Top 75 singles chart in the first week of May 1990….a quite remarkable stat and I think you would be hard pushed to find any other week where almost one-third of the hits were new.

I deliberately left off the 23rd and last of them – the one that appeared at #75 and dropped out the following week.

Ian McCulloch had great hopes for his solo career when he flounced out of Echo & The Bunnymen in something of a hissy fit. His debut album, Candleland, released in September 1989 caught a few folk out as it was, in many places, far removed from the sound of the band with which he had made his name. There was even a song that was the biggest New Order rip-off since Robert Smith and his buddies had written and recorded Inbetween Days:-

mp3: Ian McCulloch – Faith and Healing

Have a particularly close listen at the 2:40 mark….

The album was reasonably well received by the critics and sold enough copies to reach the Top 20 here in the UK, but it was one of those that came and went quickly, largely as a result of not really having any obvious singles. Most folk seemed to think that the title track, featuring a guest backing vocal from one-third of the Cocteau Twins, together with a guitar contribution which found Mac trying (unsuccessfully) to channel his inner Johnny Marr, was the best song on the album; but it wasn’t an obvious 45:-

mp3: Ian McCulloch (featuring Elizabeth Fraser) – Candleland

Someone came up with the genius idea of inviting Gil Norton to sprinkle some fairy dust on the song. Strings were added and Liz’s vocal becomes more prominent, making it almost like a duet in many places. The result was quite splendid:-

mp3: Ian McCulloch (featuring Elizabeth Fraser) – Candleland (The Second Coming)

The mistake was to release it in an already very crowded market and no matter how hard the pluggers would have worked and pushed it, it was going to struggle to get airplay. It really deserved a much better fate.

The interesting thing, from a fan’s perspective, is that three new songs were included on the 12″ single, all of them produced by Gil Norton. The results are mixed but there’s occasionally a hint of the Bunnymen sound and tempo. The first of them has a feel that would be reproduced on the Evergreen comeback album, while the opening notes of the second song reminds me of Noctural Me from the Ocean Rain album.

mp3: Ian McCulloch – Big Days
mp3: Ian McCulloch – The World Is Flat

The final track is, IMHO, a bit of a letdown but here it is for completeness sake:-

mp3: Ian McCulloch – Wassailing In The Night

Mac was, and still is, a huge football fan and he must have looked on with a bit of envy to see New Order hitting the heights with the England World Cup squad. Eight years later, he got his chance when he was asked to write and record the official song for the team in advance of France 1998. He roped in Johnny Marr to help with the tune and members of Ocean Colour Scene, Space and the Spice Girls to join in the vocal.

It’s simply appalling and everything you fear with a release of this type. Especially the promo:-

It reached #9 in the charts


11 thoughts on “THE 23rd NEW ENTRY BACK IN MAY 1990

  1. That week with 23 new entries… was that the last week before they were restricted to 4 formats? I remember the record labels rushing to get their eleven-format singles out before the cut-off date and it resulting in a huge number of new entries one week, but I don’t remember exactly when it was.

  2. Back then, when I heard New Order got to do England’s theme for the World Cup I had hopes that for once, just once, a football song wouldn’t be awful. I was wrong, football songs are by default appalling, and New Order didn’t change that fact.

  3. I think Candleland is a very good LP. I always found Echo and the Bunnymen LPs to be quite hit and miss. Candleland, the single, I have a lot of time for given the guest vocalist. A favourite track of mine is In Bloom which appeared on many a compilation for a few years thereafter.

    Ian McCulloch spawned the haircut for a generation, in my neck of the alternative woods, until that quiff appeared. When viewing the ToTPs appearance below I retain the urge to cut away the stilts from the utterly annoying chump. The song still gives me goose bumps.

  4. Was it Candleland that had B-sides recorded with the live band? Saw him at the Barras on the Candleland tour and it’s surprising how few Bunnytracks he played – only one more than the number of New Order songs (final encore was Ceremony). Candleland the LP was ok but no better than the Mac-less Reverberation. Passed on Mysterio.

  5. Candleland has a certain magic to it. There is a naivety that Liz Frazer’s contribution brings into beautiful bloom. The track is like an otherworldly travelogue through lands locked inside a covetous mind that has thrown away the key. Gil Norton celebrates that naive approach on the 12″.

    Most of my favorite McCulloch songs have been B-Sides. This can also be said for Echo And The Bunnymen as I feel among the best of songs of their canon are B-Sides like Angels And Devils and Over Your Shoulder.

    Big Day is among my all time favorite McCulloch tracks. It belongs on Candleland proper. There’s a certain perfection in the combination of Mac’s soft, weary baritone and the quietly dense swirl of instrument competing for prominence that the song is built on. I can’t help but smile through the song, start to finish.

    The World Is Flat is absolutely a Gil Norton production. Norton has a way of teasing out a single instrument in the mix to intensify the song’s tension or propel the melody forward. His production is what makes The Bunnymen’s later album Siberia such a successful endeavor.

    Finally I’m going to go out on a limb and say Wassailing The Night feels like it may go back as far as Ocean Rain or “The Grey Album.” There are SO many Bowie references in the track…I even think he was going for a Mike Garson-esque feel with the piano on this track. I kinda love it.

  6. @manicpopthrills…you are right on both counts. I planned my, then annual, London trip to coincide with the Candleland Tour show at The National Kilburn and it was truly a celebration of the album…we got Rescue and The Killing Moon, but I remember being completely satisfied. That show’s highlight was the fact Mac performed my favorite solo track – also a B-Side – Rocketship.

  7. The Reverberation LP is defo ripe for some re-evaluation. It’s got some corking song on it.

  8. @echorich Think it said a lot that the Candleland live show featured so many of the B-sides as opposed to Bunnymaterial. It was the B-sides of Faith & Healing that were recorded with the Prodigal Sons (the live band) although I thought I had a 4 track 12″ single with 3 B-sides. Which doesn’t seem to exist according to Discogs! Need to check. But yeah the B-sides were as strong as the records (if not more so).

    So not live tracks, JC, but studio recordings with the live band – sorry if that wasn’t clear.

  9. @manicpopthrills – you are correct again…Fear of the Known is even credited to Ian McCulloch and the Prodigal Sons, but I believe it’s the same line up on Big Days and The World Is Flat. It’s tough to decipher as the credits are really lacking on the releases.

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