February 13 — “Do it Clean” by Echo and the Bunnymen

Echo and the Bunnymen

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Do it Clean” by Echo and the Bunnymen (1980, from the album Crocodiles). For the majority of their long career, the Liverpool band were a four-piece. In the early days, they were what we would now call “post-punk”. It was that era when there was a shift in English underground music from punk to new wave. Joy Division was caught right in the middle of that shift, and so were the Bunnymen.

When the band started, it was Ian McColloch, bassist Les Pattinson, guitar player Will Sergeant and a drum machine. There were rumors for many years that the genesis of the band name was that the drum machine was called “Echo” and the band was The Bunnymen. The band denies that, saying that it was just one of many ridiculous names that a friend had suggested. It doesn’t mean anything.

By the time they released their first album —Crocodiles— in 1980, Pete DeFreitas, who was very technically gifted and criminally underrated drummer replaced the machine with live drums. In June of 1989, he was killed in a motorcycle accident, and was replaced by Damon Reece of Spiritualized. By this time, Ian McColloch had quit the band to pursue a solo career. With McColloch and DeFreitas out of the picture, the right thing to do would have been for Pattinson and Sergeant to change the band name, but they carried on. Eventually, thankfully, the band was reunited when Pattinson joined the McColloch/Sergeant side project Elecrafixion. They thought it would be better to bring back the Bunnymen name instead of carrying on as Electrafixion.

Over the course of the years, the band has bounced back and fourth between an official name of “Echo and the Bunnymen”, spelling out the “and” and “Echo & the Bunnymen”, using an ampersand. I don’t know the reason for this, but it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the absence or presence of any of the members.

They were “and the” for Crocodiles (1980), Heaven Up Here (1981), Flowers (2001) and Siberia (2005).

They were “& the” for Porcupine (1983), Ocean Rain (1984), Echo & the Bunnymen (1987), Reverberation (1990), Evergreen (1997), What Are You Going to Do with Your Life? (1999), and the most recent record The Fountain (2009).

You probably didn’t know that they had that many albums. Not all of them are any good. The popular thought is that everything after the self-titled “grey” album is pretty much a waste of time. Especially Reverberation.

This isn’t meant to be a band bio or a study of their discography. This is meant to be a focus on one song. This is that song.

“Do It Clean” by Echo and the Bunnymen

There’s a bit of odd history behind the song. The original release of Crocodiles, which was released in the UK in the summer of 1980, didn’t contain “Do It Clean”. It, along with “Read It in Books”, was omitted from the LP. Both were included on the UK cassette release as bonus tracks. The story goes that some record exec thought that there were obscenities in those songs, so he had them removed. By the time the US version was released in the winter of 1980, the songs were deemed “clean” and were included. I guess the irony is that the exec was worried that the word “shit” might have been in that

itza bitza witza witza everywhere
I’ve been here and I’ve been there

line, when in fact it’s not obscenities he should have been worried about. The entire song is one big reference to doing a whole lot of pure cocaine. That guy might not have known or understood the cloaked reference. I know I didn’t until just now. He also probably didn’t know then what is common knowledge now. Ian McColloch was really big into cocaine. He was brilliant, but he had a bit of a coke problem.

That aside, it’s a great song. I like the meandering bass. I like the angular guitars. I love that there’s one guitar part that runs throughout the song only in the left channel. They’re just single bursts of power chord downstrokes. At the 0:02, 0:07, 0:37, 0:40, 1:15, 1:19, 2:20 and 2:23 marks. There are a couple of other more subtle things going on in the stereo field, but that’s the most discernible one in this song. The whole album has some fun stuff like this. On “Crocodiles”, for example, the right channel has lots of bass guitar and little electric guitar. The left channel has the opposite.

Although it wasn’t promoted as a single, “Do It Clean” became on of the most popular songs for the band. Maybe because of the history and the drug reference. Maybe because it’s just a great song.

In 2003, the first five Bunnymen records were reissued with the “luxe and redux” treatment. Today’s song is the remastered, clearer, brighter version.

There’s not much point in buying the original release of Crocodiles. If you live in the US and you’re going to get a physical copy of the re-issue, get it from Amazon UK. I always do that with imports and reissues because the price is crazily high on amazon.com. Use amazon.co.uk instead. Even with shipping, you’ll come out ahead, and the shipping takes the same amount of time. Here’s the direct link.

For extra credit, watch this clip of an episode of The Young Ones. If you don’t want to watch the whole segment, skip ahead to the 2:45 mark for the relevant part.

About dlee

North Carolina born and bred. I'm a restaurant guy who spends free time listening to music, watching hockey and playing Scrabble. I have a bachelor's degree in political science and I will most likely never put it to use. View all posts by dlee

2 responses to “February 13 — “Do it Clean” by Echo and the Bunnymen

  • WJPurdy

    From “What Are You Going To Do With Your Life,” I am a fan of “Satellite,” which could easily have found a home on that self-titled hit album. I also may be the only person alive who likes “Reverberation.” So there.

  • WJPurdy

    And, for the record, my favorite Echo song of all Echo songs is “A Promise.” So good, still.

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