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.



I’ve twice used this feature when I’m struggling for something meaningful to say or don’t have much spare time on my hands, but the last occasion was twelve months ago.  I’m clearly a total windbag with far too much to say for myself.

From wiki:-

“Suzanne” is a song written by Canadian poet and musician Leonard Cohen in the 1960s. First published as a poem in 1966, it was recorded as a song by Judy Collins in the same year, and Cohen performed it as his debut single, from his 1967 album Songs of Leonard Cohen.

It was inspired by Cohen’s platonic relationship with dancer Suzanne Verdal. Its lyrics describe the rituals that they enjoyed when they met: Suzanne would invite Cohen to visit her apartment by the harbour in Montreal, where she would serve him Constant Comment tea, and they would walk around Old Montreal past the church of Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours, where sailors were blessed before heading out to sea.

Verdal was interviewed by CBC News’s The National in 2006 about the song. Verdal says that she and Cohen never had a sexual relationship, contrary to what some interpretations of the song suggest. Cohen stated in a 1994 BBC interview that he only imagined having sex with her, as there was neither the opportunity nor inclination to actually go through with it. She says she has met Cohen twice since the song’s initial popularity: once after a concert Cohen performed in the 1970s and once in passing in the 1990s when she danced for him, but Cohen did not speak to her (and possibly did not recognise her).

mp3: Leonard Cohen – Suzanne

Ian McCulloch is one of many who have covered this song over the years. In 2002, he offered this up in a feature in a UK newspaper:-

For me, the perfect song is ‘Suzanne’, by Leonard Cohen. The perfect lyric with the perfect melody. I can’t see a fault in it. The first time I heard it, I thought, ‘Whoaa.’ I was about 14 or 15 and I’d seen the Bird on a Wire documentary about him at the pictures. He was so cool and it was my kind of music and I went straight out to get his albums. Then I went back to my mum’s house and waited for it to get dark before I played them. That song is just so instant. It goes through my soul; it’s like that bit in Poltergeist when the mother’s coming down the stairs and she feels this rush of this kid’s spirit going through her. It’s great when a song just comes at you like that.

mp3: Ian McCulloch – Suzanne

This was recorded for a CD given away with the November 2008 edition of Mojo, a monthly music magazine. I think it’s quite sublime and, thanks to Mac being a superior singer, it gets my vote as being the better of the two.

This verdict can, should you choose, be overturned on appeal via the comments section……



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



whattixecho-the-bunnymen-9-12-1981001A very late change of plans at Villain Towers.

Echorich picked out ten great tracks that would make a tremendous Pete Wylie compilation and given that postpunkmonk has said he wished that he had picked up on more of the material back in the day, well I think it’s worth posting something up.  For those of you who don’t perhaps read the comments, here’s what echorich had to say:-

Pete Wylie is my favorite Rock Star of ALL TIME…Probably because he’s the only one I’ve gotten drunk with until 7am in a New York Nightclub 4 nights on the trot, and definitely because he NEVER attained Rock Start status but was always prepared for it.

JC, you’ve picked the three songs which earned him the rank of a great artist. But I will add three that I just can’t live without, and one is among my 10 favorite songs of all time.

The first, and one which first blew my socks off and sucked me into WAH!’s aural vortex was Seven Minutes To Midnight. There might not be any more urgent Post Punk song ever written.

The second, and the one which if count as an all time favorite is Hope (I Wish You’d Believe Me). To this day, this song sends chills up my spine and makes me quite emotional every time I play it.

The third is If I Love You. Again, Wylie’s straining, pleading singing just grabs the listener and won’t let go.

And as for an Imaginary WAH!/Wylie Album, here’s mine:
1. Better Scream
2. Seven Minutes To Midnight
3. Remember
4. Story Of The Blues
5. Hope (I Wish You’d Believe Me)
1. Weekends
2. Come Back
3. Sinful
4. If I Love You
5. Heart As Big As Liverpool

All of the tracks selected by echorich can be found on this long-deleted compilation CD which, if you see any second-hand copies kicking around, I would recommend you splash out on it.

In the meantime:-

mp3 : Wah! Heat – Better Scream
mp3 : Wah! Heat – Seven Minutes To Midnight
mp3 : Shambeko Say Wah! – Remember
mp3 : J.F. Wah – Story Of The Blues
mp3 : Wah! – Hope (I Wish You’d Believe Me)
mp3 : The Mighty Wah! – Weekends
mp3 : The Mighty Wah! – Come Back
mp3 : Pete Wylie & The Oedipus Wrecks – Sinful
mp3 : Pete Wylie – If I Love You
mp3 : The Mighty Wah! – Heart As Big As Liverpool

Echorich also made some great observations on the solo career of Ian McCulloch:-

Candleland is the stand out, but there are some excellent moments on Mysterio – Pomegranate, Magical World, Dug For Love – which beats many of his contemporaries at the dance/rock emerging at the time and his gorgeous reading of Leonard Cohen’s Lover, Lover, Lover. In fact I’d say his version of the last song is as beautiful and seminal as Jeff Buckley’s career turn on Hallelujah. My favorite McCulloch song – it’s a b-side to Candleland’s Faith + Healing single – Rocket Ship. It’s an exuberant track with a heartfelt love song built-in.

I’m with him on Lover, Lover, Lover as being a tremendous cover version. Feels right that this week of nostalgically looking back at the class of Liverpool early 80s style should come to an end with these culled straight from the vinyl:-

mp3 : Ian McCulloch – Candleland (The Second Coming) (Extended Version)
mp3 : Ian McCulloch – Dig For Love (12″ version)
mp3 : Ian McCulloch – Lover, Lover, Lover (Indian Dawn Mix)
mp3 : Ian McCulloch – Lover, Lover, Lover
mp3 : Ian McCulloch – Faith & Healing (The Carpenter’s Son Mix)

while these are from CDs:-

mp3 : Ian McCulloch – Rocket Ship
mp3 : Ian McCulloch – Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye
mp3 : Ian McCulloch – Suzanne

The latter two are more great takes on Leonard Cohen originals – and incidentally, it was Mac’s love for the Canadian bard that turned me onto his songs many years after I had initially ignored them on the grounds of him being hippy-dippy and ultra depressing.




No….your ears do not deceive you.  But it is courtesy of a cover version:-

mp3 : Ian McCulloch – Lover Lover Lover

Bearing absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to the 1974 original, Mac the Mouth gives us something we can all shake our snake hips to.

Released back in 1992, it got as high as #47 in the singles chart and was the highest placed of the eight singles Mac released as a solo artist.  The cupboard contains the 12″ version which was produced by Henry Priestman (ex It’s Immaterial and The Christians) and mixed by Mark Stent (who went on to find huge fame and fortune working with Oasis) :-

mp3 : Ian McCulloch : Lover, Lover, Lover (Indian Dawn Remix)

I suppose,  for the sake of completeness, I should also shove up the b-sides:-

mp3 : Ian McCulloch : White Hotel (acoustic version)
mp3 : Ian McCulloch : Vibor Blue (acoustic version)
mp3 : Ian McCulloch : The Ground Below

The first of the acoustic numbers is a version of a song on his 1989 LP Candleland while the second is a version of one than can be found on Mysterio from 1992.