It was back in 1981 that The Psychedelic Furs released their fifth single in the UK, and the third lifted from their sophomore album Talk Talk Talk:-
mp3: The Psychedelic Furs – Pretty In Pink
It’s a gem of a 45, one that was tailor-made for radio and had smash hit written all over it. But despite the best efforts of all concerned at the record-label, including the gimmick of a free t-shirt included in the initial copies of the 12″ version, it stalled at #43, ensuring that the band, for now, wouldn’t get much beyond cult status and their tours would continue to be at the lower end of the scale, capacity-wise.
There was a very unusual choice of cover song for the b-side:-
mp3: The Psychedelic Furs – Mack the Knife
Written by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Bertolt Brecht for their 1928 music drama The Threepenny Opera, it is one of those songs that had been much recorded by pop/jazz singers since it had been translated, in 1954, by Marc Blitzstein for an off-Broadway staging of the show. Louis Armstrong is credited with the initial popularity while Bobby Darin took it the top of the charts on both sides of the Atlantic in 1959.
To be fair to the Furs, their gothic interpretation is quite distant from the chirpy version that had been such a massive hit, with their take being more aligned to the fact that it’s a lyric about a serial killer.
Here’s the third song that was made available on the 12″, together with the free t-shirt:-
mp3: The Psychedelic Furs – Soap Commercial
It is no wonder, listening to this track, which was lifted from the band’s debut album that had been released in 1980, that so many critics lumped The Furs in with the likes of The Cure, The Banshees and Bauhaus.
Fast forward five years and the Hollywood director John Hughes decides to make a movie entitled Pretty In Pink, for which he asked the band to record a new version of the song that had helped inspire the story:-
mp3: The Psychedelic Furs – Pretty In Pink (remix)
This one went all the way to #18 in the UK charts and remains the band’s best performance in that regard. It’s a hit that has long proved to have caused a bit of angst in the Furs camp, as this recent press interview with lead singer Richard Butler reveals:-
“He (John Hughes) made it to be literally about a girl that was wearing a pink dress and it wasn’t about that at all. It was about a rather unfortunate girl.
“Me saying pretty in pink meant somebody who is naked. It was a metaphor and he got the wrong end of the stick.
“Given that, the movie did us a lot of good. It was a double-edged sword because it increased our audience but a lot of people that were the darker set of our fans thought: ‘It’s a ‘Brat Pack’ movie scene now and we are not really into that.’”
I think it’s a bit disingenuous, however, not to reflect that Butler & co. were party to an abomination of a remix that had more to do with alienating the long-term fans than the fact it was now linked to a hit movie.