There’s something Pavlovian about Julian Cope posts that makes me immediately want to feature Echo & The Bunnymen.

I recently dug out my copy of Songs To Sing and Learn, the compilation album that was released in the UK in November 1985. It must be one of the finest two sides of vinyl ever pressed. The running order of side one is Rescue, The Puppet, Do It Clean, A Promise, The Back of Love, and The Cutter. Side Two has Never Stop, The Killing Moon, Silver, Seven Seas, and Bring on The Dancing Horses. There was also a bonus 7″ single included with Pictures On My Wall on the a-side, and Read It In Books on the b-side.

In other words, the album was all eleven singles in the order in which they had been released on Korona, with the 7″ being a replica of the debut single on Zoo Records.

I’ve always felt that Bring On The Dancing Horses has been the poor relation on the album given that it was recorded with the intention of being the new track to make it a more attractive purchase to fans. The strange thing is that the album was in the shops some three days before the 45 appeared in the shops, the result of which had something on an adverse impact on its sales. It was also the first new Bunnymen song in some 18 months, with the previous release being the imperious Ocean Rain LP, three of whose songs immediately preceded Dancing Horses on the compilation.

It also suffers from the fact that while it is a very good single, it doesn’t deliver anything like the punch or have the impact of the Ocean Rain material. It’s quite different from previous material in that the vocals are very much to the fore, to the extent that the overdubbing means Mac is doing backing vocals for Mac the lead vocalist, while the melody is centred around synths and strings rather than the guitar, bass and drums of Messrs Sargeant, Pattinson and de Freitas.

It did make it to #21 in the UK singles chart, which was probably a disappointment to all concerned. What I hadn’t realised until doing a bit of research for this post is that it was the band’s breakthrough, of sorts, in America, appearing on the soundtrack album to Pretty In Pink.

I’ve pulled out the 12″ version for your enjoyment today, one which extends out to almost six minutes and is some 100 seconds or so longer than the 7″ and album version:-

mp3: Echo & The Bunnymen – Bring On The Dancing Horses (extended mix)

The self-produced b-side on the 7″ was an absolute belter of a song, one which harked back to the earlier, rawer sound of the band:-

mp3: Echo & The Bunnymen – Over Your Shoulder

The bonus track on the 12″ was even more of a great discovery:-

mp3: Echo & The Bunnymen – Bedbugs and Ballyhoo

One that wouldn’t have been out of place on Ocean Rain and more than worthy of being a single in its own right, as turned out to be the case two years later when a re-recorded (but inferior version), was included on their eponymous fifth studio album, with this being the third single lifted from it

mp3: Echo & The Bunnymen – Bedbugs and Ballyhoo (1987 version)

Nobody knew it at the time, but this would be the last original 45 released by the band’s classic line-up, with Pete de Freitas dying in a motorcycle accident two years later – Bedbugs was followed up later in the year with People Are Strange from the soundtrack to the movie, The Lost Boys.




  1. You’re right, JC, Songs To Sing and Learn was/is a stunning compilation and the first time I’d heard any of the singles prior to The Back Of The Love.

    I loved Bring On The Dancing Horses, but I was a little disappointed by the self-titled album that followed a couple of years later. The B-side/original version of Bedbugs And Ballyhoo is one of their best songs ever.

    Can we expect Pete Wylie in tomorrow’s post, to complete The Crucial Three line-up? 🙂

  2. Always loved dancing horses and I feel it has the same melancholy feel as ocean rain without the drama . I feel I’m as outlier as I love the 5 th lp and think it a bit of a lost classic – the lyrics to the Game are truly wonderful

  3. Songs to Learn and Sing is a stunning compilation. I can’t recall Bring on the Dancing Horses’s inclusion in/on Pretty in Pink but when reading it it makes perfect sense. It’s the last single by the band that I really enjoyed.

    I wonder if Dead or Alive will take its place at the feet of the Crucial Three?

  4. Heresy for some I know, but I didn’t love Ocean Rain, feeling these were songs written for an orchestra rather than a tight four-piece rock band, with too much overblown balladry and too little all-out guitar assault. Diminishing returns set in pretty quickly for me with Dancing Horses. This late 80s material has dated far more obviously than the searing brilliance of those first three albums.

  5. You’re right about Songs to Learn and Sing, it is a faultless compilation. I would question whether the re-recorded version of ‘Bedbugs’ was Pete’s last appearance on a single as he played on ‘People Are Strange’. This cover features Ray Manzerac from The Doors on keybards, as does ‘Bedbugs’ from the same sessions. This session was recorded apart from the rest of the album, although’Bedbugs’ is on the self-titled fifth which gets a worse press than ‘Dancing Horses’ if anything. Incidentally, the 25th Anniversary Expanded & RemasteredRe-Issue of that cd features ‘Jimmy Brown’ a much tougher, early version of ‘Dancing Horses’ which sounds closer to ‘Over Your Shoulder’. It also features ‘Soul Kitchen’, also by The Doors, although if Manzarec plays on it I’m not too sure.

  6. Cheers David.

    I was careful with this one and typed that Bedbugs was the last original 45 that Pete contributed to. I’ll need to track down ‘Jimmy Brown’ – sounds like it’ll be right up my alleyway.


  7. ‘Songs’ really was a great collection, and ‘Horses’ a nice tune if a bit pale compared to the rest of the LP. But this was the beginning of the end. Five albums into their recording career and the band can’t come up with a title for their next album? The Bunnymen were out of ideas and, as @Chaval said, never approached the the searing brilliance of their first three albums, despite their elder statesmen popularity.

  8. A wonderful track, regardless of whether or not it sounds like previous material. I never get tired of hearing it. Never.

    I would argue that the Bunnymen have made some extraordinarily good songs since, even if the consistency may not have been there. I nominate Nothing Lasts Forever and The Somnambulist as two shining examples.

  9. I love Dancing Horses, despite its flaws. Over Your Shoulder is a cracking B-side too, proper cranked up Bunnymen. The 5th album has its moments- the Game is great and Lips Like Sugar has the Bunnymen has the magic, one or two others that pass muster even though it feels flat and grey as an entire lp.

  10. Like Chaval, I can’t really find it in myself to love Ocean Rain. Following the first three albums, I found it a huge, overblown disappointment. I prefer “Bring on The Dancing Horses” to most of the preceding album. Someone recently (here?) posted/ mentioned how the Peel sessions prior to Ocean Rain showed the songs in a better light. Worth seeing out the recent CD collection. Thanks for the post JC. I went back and listened to the fifth, self-titled album. Still a little flat maybe.

  11. With hindsight, Seven Seas was the precursor both to Dancing Horses and what I’d describe as Bunnymen-lite (aka ripping off the Wild Swans)- the death knell for Bunny creativity. I mean, I like Dancing Horses, and the record holds fond memories because of the B-sides, but the weirdness was more or less gone and they’ve only occasionally done good versions of Bunnymen-lite since. (Other than Grey Album B-side, Rollercoaster). Great though it is, NLF certainly qualifies as Bunnymen-lite.

    Jimmy Brown certainly is heavier than Dancing Horses, but I think they made the right call with the song – for me JB lacks the focus of Over My Shoulder and frankly is a bit of a mess. (The deluxe Grey album has a staggering 15 bonus tracks BTW).

    One random memory – the ultimate title for the song must have been a late decision – I’m sure I read it was called Jimmy Brown when MM reported on STLS’s release date. Or maybe the article mentioned Dancing Horses AND Jimmy Brown. It’s probably still in my mum’s attic.

  12. Oh man this is tough. It is never easy to comment on The Bunnymen for me…

    JC – great choice to follow Copey with The Bunnymen. Even greater choice to after Songs To Learn And Sing. It is so much more than a Greatest Hits or Singles Compilation. It is a primer on the great and good from Echo And The Bunnymen.

    FORW – I give “The Gray (US, lol) Album” a lot of time. There is a lot in there, but it is covered in this slick sheen that producer Laurie Latham coated the tracks in. Coming off the work he did with The Stranglers, The Bunnymen are the at fault party for bringing in Latham. He just wasn’t the right match. The album should have been Gil Norton’s to oversee The Bunnymen produce themselves, but as JTFL states, the band were running out of ideas, and I’ll add, lacked focus as a unit at the time. There are some classic Bunnymen moves deep in many of the tracks, but they just didn’t find a way to produce them.

    As for Bring On The Dancing Horses, it probably is the best track Laurie Latham did produce. But it’s missing the band. Harps appear where a minor key chord belongs and Mac competes with his own backing vocals. @David Martin, you are right about Jimmy Brown, it’s tough and you hear the band trying to work out just what they have on their hands. @manicpopthrills is spot on, Jimmy Brown is a mess, but I hear a classic “Bunnymen do the Velvet Underground” in there. Sadly, it’s not where the song ended up.

    Finally, if you want to hear a completely different take on Bring On The Dancing Horses, check out Diane Birch’s version from her Velveteen Age album. I am a big fan of it.

  13. Of course “Bring On The Dancing Horses” is guaranteed a few plays every four years over montages of Olympic dressage.

  14. hi guys.

    could be here all day talking about echo and the bunnymen.

    suffice it to say, this was their prime era to me, and when i really
    got into the band. haven’t really encompassed all their early
    rougher works. but to this day, i still follow the bands releases,
    and singles, along with all the ian mcculloch solo albums and
    side projects.


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