Ocean Rain, the fourth studio album by Echo and The Bunnymen, was released in May 1984. It reached #4 in the UK charts, while three of its nine tracks were released and became hit singles (The Killing Moon – #9, Silver – #30, and Seven Seas – #16).
The band’s profile was as high as it had ever been, but instead of building on any momentum there was something of a fall-out, with lead singer Ian McCulloch announcing he had plans to embark on a solo career.
I have to admit that I was quite excited by the prospect, not because I was sick and tired of the Bunnymen (far from it in actual fact), but as I really wanted to see what sort of music Mac was intending to make.
If memory serves me correctly, the Channel 4 music programme The Tube trailed that he would be on the show one Friday night and that the video for his debut solo single would receive its world premiere. I sat down to watch, inserting the VHS tape to capture his interview and the promo.
As Half Man Half Biscuit would say many year later in respect of the seaside resort of Westward Ho!……what a letdown. The song was a dirge. It was a cover version of a tune I knew nothing of, although Mac in his interview was very much talking up how much he was a fan of Kurt Weill, whose compositions between the 1920s and his death in 1950 were all the rage.
Being a fan, I still went out and bought it:-
mp3: Ian McCulloch – September Song
It still didn’t make sense to me. I couldn’t make head nor tale of the tune or the lyrics. Maybe Mac thought every Bunnymen fan would rush out to help it race into the charts, but he was wrong, as it stalled outside the Top 50.
It just didn’t appeal one iota to the 21-year old me, and the thing is, almost forty years on, I still have no time for it, but I am wondering if anyone out there had a different take on things.
Oh, and the reason for the title of this posting is really down to the b-side. I saw what it was called and thought, before I gave it a spin, that Mac surely hadn’t turned his attention to a ditty based on an Irish folk song, much beloved among music hall aficionados.
But he was……
mp3: Ian McCulloch – Cockles and Mussels
The muted reaction to the single clearly irked Mac as it would be another five years before he released his next solo material, by which time he had made a very public announcement that his days with the Bunnymen had come to an end.
8 thoughts on “THINKING BACK, HE WAS TAKING THE PISS, WASN’T HE?”
Great post, JC
I was even more of a mug, because I bought the 3-track 12″ single as a Christmas present for my brother. Added was the “Long Version” of September Song, which stretched the intro by 30-odd seconds and reintroduced the opening line “When I was a young man courting the girls” and, er, that was about it. My brother’s reaction to said gift has thankfully been lost in the mists of time.
All I will say is that Mac’s rendition was worse than Midge Ure’s version of No Regrets and better than Lou Reed’s cover of September Song that came out the following year. However, I love The Young Gods’ take on the song.
As for Cockles And Mussels, as a 13 year old in 1984, yes I thought he was taking the piss. I still do.
I guess this was his an attempt at reinvention as a crooner, of sorts? It was a time of Carmel, Swansway etc. (I enjoyed both) – was it an attempt at cash-in? Who knows? He redeemed himself with Candleland – and not just because of the appearance of Liz Fraser – although that’s why I initially bought the LP.
@Khayem – I’m a fan of Midge’s No Regrets. Shirley Bassey does a great version too (Cargegie Hall). I would play both versions alternatively back in the day and just loose myself. Ahhhh…..
*scrub* Cargegie – that’s Piaf.
Still, Bassey’s ‘Walker’version is still damn good.
@Flimflamfan, I liked Midge Ire’s version of No Regrets too (might not have been clear in my comment above) but I haven’t heard Dame Shirley’s version, which I must check out.
I liked Carmel, Swans Way, Weekend, etc., but much preferred Mac’s subsequent solo outing to this, if I’m honest.
“Midge Ire”?!!! Oh, he will be angry!
@ khayem… Fat finger moment, again.
Think he genuinely thought he could move into the crooning arena on September Song. Jim Morrison was into Kurt Weill wasn’t he, and Mac was big into Jim. B-side always felt like a joke. I have the 12″ too- don’t mind September Song tbh but it doesn’t get anywhere near the Bunnymen.
Also a fan of Midge Ure’s No Regrets . I remember also being bitterly disappointed with September Song . His cover of Leonard Cohen’s Lover Lover. Lover is rather glorious as a balance