A GUEST POSTING by DAVE GLICKMAN
When this new series was first introduced, T(n)VV readers shared a plethora of excellent suggestions. Yet, the first band that came to mind for me was nowhere to be found. Such a definitive example that I began to wonder why others didn’t share my view. I began to run through possible hypotheses:
1. Was the band too obscure?
Hard to believe. Their first five albums were all in the top 30 in the UK and they have been featured at least once on this very site, admittedly with lukewarm praise, at best, from our resident blogger.
2. Did no one remember the period when they “had it”?
I suppose this is possible for some, but I know for sure that, recreational drug use notwithstanding, there are plenty of us 50+ old sods for whom 1980 was smack in the middle of our formative musical listening years.
3. Did readers think that this band never “lost it”?
No, can’t be…
4. Was it actually possible that no one thought they ever “had it”?
Well, I guess that is the case I need to make.
A bit of background cobbled together from the wiki:
The Psychedelic Furs are an English rock band founded in London in February 1977. The band initially consisted of Richard Butler (vocals), Tim Butler (bass guitar), Duncan Kilburn (saxophone), Paul Wilson (drums) and Roger Morris (guitars). By 1979, this line-up had expanded to a sextet with Vince Ely replacing Wilson on drums and John Ashton being added on guitar.
The Psychedelic Furs’ debut, a self-titled album from 1980, was produced by Steve Lillywhite. The LP quickly established the band on radio in Europe and was a No. 18 hit in the UK Albums Chart. The album also found success in Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Australia. The US version of the album was re-sequenced, but failed to have a strong commercial impact. The Furs did find success in the US with their next release, 1981’s Talk Talk Talk, which saw the band making its debut on the US Billboard 200 chart. In the UK, the album spun off two charting singles, “Dumb Waiters” and the original version of “Pretty in Pink”.
In 1982, the band was reduced to a four-piece with the departures of Morris and Kilburn…
…and subsequently went completely to shit.
Ah, but for two glorious years at the beginning of the 1980’s, at least among my circle of friends at University, the Furs were discussed in the same breath as Joy Division, Gang of Four, and The Cure as seminal bands in the post-punk movement.
You could certainly have waited years for a crooner from Manchester to tell you about the drawbacks of societal conventions like marriage or you could have listened to this:
Marry me and be my wife
You can have me all your life
Our love will never end
Parties for our stupid friends….
We will be a part of structure
You will have a face of structure
We will make ourselves a scene
We will live our stupid dream
I am you and you are me
Tie me down I will be free
Our love will have no end
And while the commonsense view is that the early Furs sound was driven by Richard Butler’s gravely, atonal vocals, I am of the opinion that Duncan Kilburn was often the key. That’s right, the saxophone player! Now I know that many of you are not big fans of the sax in rock music, but this is not your father’s saxophone. For lack of a better term, I contend that the Furs represented the pinnacle (if not the only) example of Post-Punk Sax.
It was just a fleeting moment for sure, but for me, The Psychedelic Furs absolutely “had it” before, in pursuit of greater fame and fortune, they threw it all away. Have I convinced you?