THE SLEEVE AND ITS CONTENTS ARE WORKS OF ART

I never bought this single. I have no idea why not as I’ve just about every other 12″ release by the band from this era. I reckon it was down to a combination being a bit skint in January 1984 and the fact that it had been bought by one of my flatmates. It certainly was a big failing on my part as the lack of purchase eliminated it from eligibility for the 45 45s at 45 series.

The thing is, I never thought about picking up a second-hand version either as I had already picked up the extended version and the live b-side when I bought the Crystal Days boxset a few years back while the album version was of course available via Ocean Rain.

Except…….I was looking at a copy on Discogs and noticed (in a rather sad anoraky sort of way) that Do It Clean on the 12″ vinyl of The Killing Moon was marginally shorter in length than that on CD4 of Crystal Days. My interest was piqued and so I looked closer – the vinyl version was from the Royal Albert Hall in London on 18 July 1983 while the CD version was on 19 July 1983.  And having now listened to both of them, there are a small number of differences in the recordings.

All of which brings me to offering up, even though they have been on the blog before, all of the three tracks on a very special record that came inside, as you can see from above, a fabulous sleeve:-

mp3 : Echo & The Bunnymen – The Killing Moon (All Night Version)
mp3 : Echo & The Bunnymen – The Killing Moon
mp3 : Echo & The Bunnymen – Do It Clean (live, Royal Albert Hall, 18 July 1983)

The live version incorporates vocal elements of a few other songs as the band demonstrate just what a tour de force they were in the live setting at that point in time.

JC

THE GREATEST GIG I EVER WENT TO?

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This piece was inspired by a recent lengthy article written by Bill Drummond, penned in the aftermath of the death of Pete Burns. I’ve never hidden my admiration for the author believing him to be a true genius whose contribution to arts, music and culture won’t really be appreciated until long after he’s no longer with us; this latest piece of writing (click here) is up there with his best.

It was the fact that he mentioned the one-off band in the photo accopanying the article were playing Paint It Black that jogged my memory and got me thinking back to a gig played by Echo & The Bunnymen at Glasgow Barrowlands in December 1985 for they ended what I’ve long considered to be as great a live performance as I’ve ever seen with a rendition of the Rolling Stones number.

More than 30 years on and I’ve often wondered what exactly it was that made that particular gig so special. I know that some of it would have been the fact that I was there on a date with a girl who I had long been besotted with and that she too was a big fan of the Bunnymen. We had a great time but we didn’t see each other again for a few weeks as the gig was just a couple of days before Xmas and we both had plans to spend time with our families in separate parts of Scotland and being an era well before the likes of mobile phones, the cost of longish distance phone calls was something we kept to a minimum. In the end, we went out just one more time in early 1986, both realising it would be better to stay friends than fuck things up completely.

So it’s not entirely the memory of a short-lived romance that makes this gig a highlight. I’ve always thought that it was down to the majestic nature of the set, combined with the fact the band were probably at their peak and that it was in the best music venue known to mankind anywhere on the planet. That and the fact that I was blown away by the fact they did such a storming final encore of Paint It Black before sending us all home.

There’s folk who now collate set lists from gigs of way back and put them on the internet. I’ve dug in and looked up that Barrowlands gig. It turns out to have been the final gig the band played that year and it was on Sunday 22 December and so they were obviously determined to go out in some style. The full set list is evidence:-

Going Up
With a Hip
Heads Will Roll
My Kingdom
Lips Like Sugar
Villiers Terrace
All That Jazz
The Back of Love
Ocean Rain
Seven Seas
The Killing Moon
Bedbugs and Ballyhoo
Angels and Devils
The Cutter
Never Stop
Rescue
Thorn of Crowns
Do It Clean
Over the Wall
Crocodiles
Paint It Black

It’s almost as if I’d been asked to come up with a set list of my own and the band played it there and then. I just know that it was a gig where I didn’t stop dancing from the first minute to the last, all the while trying to look cool and dignified for the goddess I was next to. And probably failing – after all, when Pete De Freitas was in the house, none of the rest of us stood a chance.

I know that on many an occasion over the past 31 years I have come away from a gig believing immediately afterwards that it is the best I’ve been to; but by the time the following morning comes around and I’ve replayed it in my head and compared it to that 1985 night in the Barrowlands it then just comes up marginally close but not quite good enough.

The one funny thing about the night is that over the years I’ve tended to be able to recall something about the support acts at the countless gigs I’ve been at but I’ve a total blank on that particular evening. It may well have been I didn’t get along in time but that’s unlikely as anyone who knows me will testify that I always insist on seeing the support act ‘just in case they are any good’. It is simply the fact that the Bunnymen that night blew everything else out of the water.

mp3 : Echo & The Bunnymen – Angels and Devils (live, 1985)
mp3 : Echo & The Bunnymen – Crocodiles (live, 1985)
mp3 : Echo & The Bunnymen – Paint It Black (live, 1985)

Sadly, not from the Glasgow gig, but lifted from the Crystal Days box set and a set played on 25 April in Gothenburg, Sweden where the band acted as their own support by playing a set of ten cover versions before coming back on and playing their own stuff.

Listen in particular to Crocodiles which comes in at a storming 6 mins plus which is more than twice the length of the studio version. It was, in those days, that way for Mac to ad-lib all sorts of lyrics and for the band to really go for it and get the crowd going crazy towards the end of sets.

Enjoy

BUNNYMEN PLAY AT HOME

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Seven Seas was the third single to be lifted from the LP Ocean Rain. It came out in July 1984 and reached #16 in the UK singles chart, giving Echo and The Bunnymen their fifth Top 20 hit, but what would be their last until the 1997 comeback 45 Nothing Lasts Forever.

I was initially nonplussed by Seven Seas. I always thought it an OK song if a little bit lightweight, albeit it fitted in well with the rest of the album. I remember getting annoyed at the time by the promo video and Top of the Pops appearance as the band goofed around in costumes and seemed to be trying just a bit to hard to deal with press criticism that they were a bit po-faced and nothing but gloom merchants.

Some 25 years later I had the good fortune to hear Seven Seas played at an indie-night over a very expensive sound system and that’s when it really hit home just how majestic the production is. The lyrics might be nonsensical but the playing and the arrangement is well worth repeated listens. Oh and that night also brought a sharp reminder that it’s a cracking tune to dance to.

mp3 : Echo and The Bunnymen – Seven Seas

I bought the 12″ version back in the day as it had four live acoustic tracks as recorded at Liverpool Cathedral for a very unique Channel 4 programme called Play At Home.  The songs capture a shambling, drugged-out but utterly brilliant band in action:-

mp3 : Echo and The Bunnymen – All You Need Is Love (live)
mp3 : Echo and The Bunnymen – The Killing Moon (live)
mp3 : Echo and The Bunnymen – Stars Are Stars (live)
mp3 : Echo and The Bunnymen – Villiers Terrace (live)

Play At Home was a series in which bands of the day were invited to make their own 48 minute films capturing them at work.  The Bunnymen, no doubt advised by the nutty genius of Bill Drummond instead decided to focus on a cafe which was near Eric’s Club in Liverpool, owned and run by an ex-boxer and his family, with band performances thrown in.

And as much as I hate google for what they did to the old blog, you tube is a godsend at times.  Here’s that TV stuff from 1984, in three parts:-

Enjoy.

 

NOT TOO SHABBY A COMEBACK NUMBER ??

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The idea of Echo & The Bunnymen reforming in the late 90s wasn’t entirely daft. It had been a full ten years since Ian McCulloch had left the band to with vocals duties taken on by Noel Burke – a move that no doubt stunned Bunnymac who thought he was irreplaceable. It certainly didn’t go down well with fans as the sales of the one LP and three singles with the new vocalist were negligible.

By 1994, Mac and Will Sergeant were working together again under the name of Electrafixion and in due course they asked Les Pattinson if he fancied joining the band. When he said yes, the trio decided to bring the Bunnymen back into being….

The move certainly caught the imagination, especially when Mac started telling everyone that the new songs were among the best they had written and recorded. There was certainly a hope and desire among the critics that this would be the case as the band were somewhat back in fashion at the time with an appreciation of just how good a band they had been at the height of their pomp and fame when Pete de Freitas (RIP) was on the drumstool.

It was June 1997 when the comeback single was released:-

mp3 : Echo and The Bunnymen – Nothing Lasts Forever

It’s an absolutely stunning piece of music, right up there with many of the tracks released when the band were at the height of their powers in the early to mid 80s.  It also crossed over extensively into the mainstream thanks to the rigorous promotional duties undertaken including a number of high-profile TV appearances in the UK and in due course it would ride high in the charts where it eventually reached #8 and equal their previous best ever position with The Cutter back in 1983. The parent album Evergreen was relleased the following month by which time the band were appearing on the bills of most of the summer festivals across Europe. It too went  Top 10.

The album did get a lot of positive reviews but I feel most of these were as much down to wanting the LP to be a triumphant return rather than purely on the quality of its contents. It’s not that it’s a bad record, more that after a few listens it got a bit repetitive sounding with the comeback single really standing head and shoulders above all else. It certainly doesn’t come close to matching the outstanding first four albums, all of which really have stood the test of time.

I bought the comeback single on its release. In fact I bought the 2xCDs and so can also offer up the four tracks that were put on the b-side, some of which proved to be better and more durable than much of the album:-

mp3 : Echo and The Bunnymen – Watchtower
mp3 : Echo and The Bunnymen – Polly
mp3 : Echo and The Bunnymen – Colour Me In
mp3 : Echo and The Bunnymen – Antelope

Enjoy.

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #41 : ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN

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This one was composed at a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet initially above the Atlantic Ocean and latterly over the north-east corner of Canada as the plane headed ever closer to the city of Toronto.  The headphones were plugged into the i-phone and as I went through the songs I typed the words into its ‘Notes’ function from which I later did a cut’n’paste and edit.

Echo and the Bunnymen are still going strong these days, thirty-seven years on from their original formation. Well half of them are at least…..

They’ve made a lot of great music in that time but they’ve also released a fair bit of stuff that hasn’t quite hit the mark which, to be fair, is a sentiment that can be applied to almost any act which has been going for that amount of time.  I don’t think it will come as too much of a surprise to find that what I consider to be the perfect compilation focuses entirely on the early 80s when they were at the peak of their powers and could do no wrong.

SIDE A

1. Show of Strength (from the LP Heaven Up Here, 1981)

Dark, brooding, intense yet ridiculously danceable….especially if you’re wearing your raincoat and the main shapes you’re throwing involving the shaking of shoulders. The opening track to what I consider their best album was always going to be the first song on this compilation.

2. Never Stop (Discotheque) (12″ single, 1982)

You’re on the dance floor and you’ve got those shoulders nice ‘n’ loose by now. Well let’s see those hips sway and while you’re at it get the arms swinging above your head. The band put the word Discotheque in brackets after this one. Years later Bono and his boys pinched both the title and the tune in an effort to prove they were a meaningful and relevant musical act.

3. The Killing Moon (single and track on the LP Ocean Rain, 1984)

The sound of three musicians and a vocalist at the very top of their game with a song that in 50 or 100 years time will still have the ability to make those hearing it for the first time stop in their tracks and go ‘wow’.

It’s little wonder that Mac the Mouth came out of the studio on the back of this and declared that Ocean Rain was the greatest album of all time. It isn’t….and indeed as I’ve already indicated it’s not even the greatest Bunnymen album but I think it’s fair to say that this is the greatest Bunnymen song. But how do you follow it????

4. Zimbo (b-side, 1983)

Released originally as All My Colours but re-named with the one-word chorus when this stunning live version was put on the b-side of the 12″ of The Cutter.  The recording is taken from was a show at one of the earliest WOMAD Festivals back in 1982 which explains why the Royal Drummers of Burundi happened to be in Bath at the same time. It’s an incredible arrangement for a one-off collaboration and is the perfect demonstration of the fantastic arranging and drumming talents of the late and great Pete de Freitas.

5. A Promise (single and track on the LP Heaven Up Here, 1981)

If Postcard could claim to be the Sound of Young Scotland then those who came to prominence through Zoo Records are entitled to claim the same crown for Young Liverpool. This particular single could easily have been written and recorded by Wylie, Cope or The Wild Swans and it would have been equally majestic. Will Sargeant teased a ridiculous amount of stunning sounds from his guitar over these damn near perfect four minutes.

SIDE B

1. Heads Will Roll (from the LP Porcupine, 1983)

Critics of the band feel they got a long way on the back of one tune and one groove. But the thing is, when the tune and the groove is this divine why quibble? Yes, you might initially think this is ridiculously close to bring just a speeded up version of the track which closed the other side of this imaginary album but wait till you hit the two minute mark and get blown away by the psychedelic instrumental break…it’s still incredible to think that much of this album was written and recorded at a time when the band weren’t really on speaking terms.  Much of the sound can of course be attributed to a guest musician mentioned a little later on…

2. Over The Wall (from the LP Heaven Up Here, 1981)

The fade in and slow build-up lulls you into a false sense of security that this is going to be a bit of a non-event. But then comes the catchiness of the simple chorus before Will’s attack on your aural senses and you realise that you’re listening to gothic atmospheric rock at its very finest.

3. All That Jazz (from the LP Crocodiles, 1980)

And now you’re listening to indie guitar pop at its very finest, all the while jumping back on that dance floor for a bop…..or two….

4. The Cutter (single and track on the LP Porcupine, 1983)

……for with this piece of glory blaring out over the speakers nobody will want to vacate their spot under the glitter ball.  In 1983 I was convinced the band really were going to conquer the world for the simple fact that they not only made great records but they delivered what were blisteringly hot live shows….literally when the majority of the audience refused to remove their overcoats.  The sweat pours out of you when you wear an overcoat to a gig.  It’s the contribution of the Indian musician Shankar that really sets this single apart as can be evidenced if you listen to the original version which was rejected by the record label as being too uncommercial.

5. Ocean Rain (LP track, 1984)

When this track first aired as part of a John Peel session in late 1983, it was a medium-paced but hugely enjoyable bit of indie-pop.  Somewhere over the ensuing months the band came to the conclusion that it would make for an epic ballad with which they should close their next LP.  It was a stroke of genius as it became the perfect ending to an album that had often taken you to very unexpected places with acoustic guitars, lush orchestrations and the frequent use of brushes on the drums, even on the fast and wonderfully explosive Thorn of Crowns, a track which just missed out on being part of today’s feature. And if Ocean Rain was the perfect end to that very album then I’d like to think it is equally the perfect end to the 40th Imaginary Compilation.

mp3 : Echo and The Bunnymen – Show of Strength
mp3 : Echo and The Bunnymen – Never Stop (Discotheque)
mp3 : Echo and The Bunnymen – The Killing Moon
mp3 : Echo and The Bunnymen – Zimbo
mp3 : Echo and The Bunnymen – A Promise
mp3 : Echo and The Bunnymen – Heads Will Roll
mp3 : Echo and The Bunnymen – Over The Wall
mp3 : Echo and The Bunnymen – All That Jazz
mp3 : Echo and The Bunnymen – The Cutter
mp3 : Echo and The Bunnymen – Ocean Rain

and just because I mentioned them earlier in passing:-

mp3 : Echo and The Bunnymen – The Original Cutter
mp3 : Echo and The Bunnymen – Ocean Rain (Peel Session)

Enjoy

A GRAND TOTAL OF 9 SINGLES….

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This is some of what Bill Drummond wrote in August 1990 when The Zoo – Uncaged 1978-1982 was released finally bringing together all the various singles and most of the b-sides:-

We had one room up some dark, dirty stairs. We paid six pounds a week rent. We had one phone and an answer machine which we played all our cassettes on. We believed albums were the downfall of GREAT POP MUSIC. Although The Beatles were the greatest group ever, “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was a disastrous wrong turn that pop music is yet to recover from.

Big In Japan were a group that I and David (Balfe) had been in. It split in August 1978 and we put out the band’s demos as our first release. We were seem to be ripping off other ex-members. From that point in we were deemed unethical, underhand and undeserved of the ‘premier Liverpool independent label’ reputattion that grew around us.

Other than Expelaires, which was the only other Zoo record not to sell, we made the descision to get involved with a group based on their choice of name alone. We had no idea what sort of nusic Echo & The Bunnymen played before we went in to make their first records.

We fought and quarrelled with the bands, memebers got sacked and others brought in. We drove around the country in David’s Dad’s car with boxes of records, sleeving them and selling them. There was no independent distribution network in 1979.

Due to a lack of finances we signed The Bunnymen and The Teardrops to major labels and took on the role of managers, something we had no idea about. Our plans for the future were to build giant pyramids out of ice, travel space and make movies. We believed The Teardrops and The Bunnymen were the new Beatles and Stones – We were wrong, nothing is ever the new anything.

We burnt out.

But the last single on the label was the greatest.

I thought it would be an idea to kick off 2015 with each of the nine singles in turn:-

Cage 001

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mp3 : Big In Japan – Nothing Special
mp3 : Big In Japan – Cindy and The Barbi Dolls
mp3 : Big In Japan – Suicide A Go Go
mp3 : Big In Japan – Taxi

Cage 002

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mp3 : Those Naughty Lumps – Iggy Pop’s Jacket
mp3 : Those Naughty Lumps – Pure and Innocent

Cage 003

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mp3 : The Teardrop Explodes – Sleeping Gas
mp3 : The Teardrop Explodes – Camera Camera
mp3 : The Teardrop Explodes – Kirkby Workers Dream Fades

Cage 004

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mp3 : Echo & The Bunnymen – The Pictures On My Wall
mp3 : Echo & The Bunnymen – Read It In Books

Cage 005

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mp3 : The Teardrop Explodes – Bouncing Babies
mp3 : The Teardrop Explodes – All I Am Is Loving You

Cage 006

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mp3 : Lori & The Chameleons – Touch
mp3 : Lori & The Chameleons – Love On The Ganges

Cage 007

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mp3 : Expelaires – To See You
mp3 : Expelaires – Frequency

Cage 008

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mp3 : The Teardrop Explodes – Treason (It’s Just A Story)
mp3 : The Teardrop Explodes – Read It In Books

Cage 009

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mp3 : The Wild Swans – Revolutionary Spirit
mp3 : The Wild Swans – God Forbid

The last of these singles was on 12″ vinyl while the rest were all 7″. And Bill D is of course spot-on in his assessment that Cage 009 was the greatest of the lot. (I know my dear friend Dirk from Sexy Loser thinks so…..)

Happy New Year Folks

PETE DE FREITAS : AN APPRECIATION

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I received a really nice e-mail the other day from Scott who asked if it would be possible to re-post something from the old blog.

It was a piece from 14 June 2009 and it’s title can be found in the first line……

—————————————————————

I cannot believe it was all of 20 years ago…..but it is.

14th June 1989 when the life of Peter Louis Vincent de Freitas ended as the result of a motorcycle accident.

He was 27 years of age. And he was the first dead pop star I ever shed a tear for.

Born in 1961 in Trinidad, Pete de Freitas was a bit of a posh boy, educated at a famous Roman Catholic public school near Bath, England, and while he was far from dim, he was never keen on pursing an academic career. So by the age of 19, he was living in London, sharing digs with another lad from his old school, and both of them dreaming of forming a band.

Pete’s flatmate had a big brother who was involved in the music industry, part of an ever-growing new scene on Liverpool. That big brother and his close mate started staying overnight at Pete’s place whenever any of the bands they were involved with played in London. Pete would sometimes go along to the gigs, which is what he did one August night in 1979.

Pete’s flatmate’s brother was David Balfe, and his mate was Bill Drummond. The band they took Pete to see at the YMCA on Tottenham Court Road was Echo & The Bunnymen – a three-piece act backed by a drum machine. The drum machine was in fact ‘Echo’, the humans were ‘The Bunnymen’ – Ian McCulloch (vocals), Les Pattinson (bass) and Will Sargeant (guitar)

The band were getting a lot of attention, but it was widely felt that they would sound a lot better with a real drummer. Within 12 months of seeing them for the first time, Pete had that gig, just in time for the recording of the band’s second single, but their first for a major label.

From 1980 – 1986, Echo & The Bunnymen were one of the most entertaining bands on the entire planet. All four band members contributed to the songwriting, which showed in the magnificently tight unit that was the guitarist, bassist and drummer, while up front they had a hugely charismatic singer who was not slow in offering his opinions on any subject under the sun. They attracted a huge following, many of whom dressed in identical clothes and wore their hair in the same way as their idols. They enjoyed Top 30 success with seven of their singles, but it was their LPs which found them at their best, all four of them going Top 10.

Live, they were truly electrifying, with shows that stretched out for well over two hours featuring not just the hits, but great and unusual versions of album tracks as well as a handful of covers from many of their own influences.

Many people associated with the band, not least their larger than life manager and the frontman had predicted massive things for the 1984 LP Ocean Rain. And while it sold in impressive numbers, it didn’t conquer the world….

The band began to drift apart in some ways. First of all, McCulloch recorded a solo single. The others started producing and appearing on records by other bands. And in 1986, Pete de Freitas left the band.

Along with two members of the Bunnymen road crew, he took himself off to the USA to form The Sex Gods. The idea was to take the money he had made from his time as a Bunnyman, head off to places like New York, New Orleans and Jamaica, filming themselves as they went along living a truly hedonistic life. It was a bender to end all benders.

There were drunken rows, drug busts, near fatal car crashes amidst the chaos. Later on Pete de Freitas would admit he was going insane. He was eventually brought back to the UK by Bill Drummond.

He was temporarily replaced as the drummer, but the rest of the band soon realised how much they needed him, and he was allowed to re-join.

Echo & The Bunnymen released an album in 1987 called The Game – this time with very little hyperbole, and although it went to #4 in the UK charts, critical reaction was lukewarm. This time it was singer Ian McCulloch who decided that enough was enough, and he quit in 1988, intent on the solo career.

The other three decided to keep going, on the basis that having failed to really crack America with Mac at the helm, they could maybe succeed with someone different, unlikely as it might seem. The new recruit was Noel Burke, ex-frontman of St Vitus Dance….and someone who sort of looked and sounded like Mac….

The new line up were in rehearsals in Liverpool in June 1989, and Pete de Freitas was on his way there when he crashed his motorcycle on a back road near Rugely in Staffordshire. As I mentioned earlier, he was just 27 years old.

Years later, Les Pattinson in an interview with a music magazine said that he still thought of Pete every day. At his funeral, the three remaining original Bunnymen cried their eyes out….albeit McCulloch could not bring himself to speak to Pattinson and Sergeant for what he considered a betrayal in replacing him as singer.

I remember reading about Pete’s death in a newspaper the next day. My eyes welled up and my throat tightened. The man who I thought was the coolest man on planet pop was no more.

Quite a few years earlier, not far from my school, I had seen a motorcycle accident when the unfortunate rider was hit by a bus whose driver couldn’t have seen him. It was an incident that I hadn’t thought about much since, but it was the vision that flashed before my eyes as I read the paper, and it was something that gave me some sleepless nights over the next few weeks. Even as I type this, I can see that accident from over 30 years ago….all triggered off by the premature and sad death of a pop star.

You’ll see from the photo above that Pete was a good-looking man. He was someone who just about everyone I ever went out with during my years at University would admit to fancying. When you heard about the way he lived his life, you just wanted to be him.

He was only two years older than me. And while I have had a great and memorable almost 46 years on this planet, there’s still a part of me that wishes that I had lived his life for just one day…as long as that day wasn’t June 14th 1989.

R.I.P. Pete de Freitas. I still think of you every time one of your songs comes on my i-pod….

mp3 : Echo & The Bunnymen – All My Colours
mp3 : Echo & The Bunnymen – Nocturnal Me
mp3 : The Wild Swans – Revolutionary Spirit
mp3 : The Colourfield – Take
mp3 : Echo & The Bunnymen – Do It Clean (live – 1983)

Footnote

There were a lot of really nice comments left behind after the piece appeared, many of them thanking me for such a heartfelt tribute.

A few months later I received the most wonderful e-mail from Pete’s daughter. Lucie-Marie de Freitas was a very young girl when her father died, of an age before she could develop any memories of him.

Her e-mail explained that the treasure trove of songs, articles and videos have helped her learn so much about her father and the incredible impact he had in his short time on earth. She thought it was remarkable and moving that so many people still remembered him after all those years and she thanked me for the tribute I had made.

Talk about leaving me speechless.