03.16.2015 — “Show of Strength” (live video) by Echo and The Bunnymen

Echo and The Bunnymen

If you only listen to one song from the 1980s tonight, make it “Show of Strength” by Echo and The Bunnymen (1981, from the album Heaven Up Here).

Echo and The Bunnymen are a post-punk band from Liverpool They formed in 1980 and have released twelve proper albums. Half of those came between 1980 and 1990, and their first two records —Crocodiles (1980) and Heaven up Here (1981)– are considered to be among the most influential albums of the post-punk and UK new wave genres. The band is still active, but nowhere near as awesome as they once were.

Throughout the 35 years, there have only ever been a total of seven band members. When people talk about The Bunnymen, what they’re usually talking about is the “classic”, original lineup of Ian McCulloch (vocals, guitar), Will Sergeant (guitar), Les Pattinson (bass) and Pete de Freitas (drums). Technically, de Freitas wasn’t a “founding member” because they used a drum machine in the very beginning, but by the time they recorded the first record, he was fully on board. McCulloch left the band in 1988 and de Freitas was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1989. Some dude replaced McCulloch, and Damon Reece replaced de Freitas. After the band took a three-year hiatus between 1993 and 1996, they reformed as the trio of McCulloch, Sergeant, and Pattinson. Eventually, Pattinson would also leave. Today, the band is just McCulloch and Sergeant. When they perform, they have a full band, but it is and will always be those two.

A bit of trivia about the de Freitas replacement. Damon Reece was also in Spiritualized. At least until some infighting forced him out of that band. After Spiritualized, he started another band or two and did some work with Massive Attack. None of this is his claim to fame though. His claim to fame is that he’s been Liz Fraser’s partner for a long time. They met when he was a member of Massive Attack, and she contributed to the outstanding Mezzanine album. They have a daughter together who will be 17 this year.

Anyway, since about 1988, I’ve been a big fan of The Bunnymen, and in particular the first three albums. I’ve always been partial to Crocodiles, but this morning I wanted to do something different. I listened to Heaven Up Here from start to finish for the first time in a very long time. I remembered how much I love it. This sparked a conversation with a friend who said that “Promise” was the best song the band ever recorded. I think it’s maybe the third or fourth best song on the album, and maybe the sixth or seventh best song in their catalog. I think that the best song on Heaven Up Here is the album-opening “Show of Strength”.

Here they are playing the song in 1983 during a 90 minute concert performance on the long-running German TV show “Rockpalast”.

It’s a good performance of a great song. It’s worth pointing out that de Freitas isn’t set up behind the band. He’s up front and way over to stage right. To my knowledge, that’s the way they always played during the de Freitas years. It’s a very unusual setup, and while there might be other bands who put the drummer up front, I can’t remember ever seeing it in person.

What I really love about this song is how chunky and front-of-mix the bass is. It gives it a really dark and grimy feel. It’s almost goth. Of course, there’s a lot of brightness to Sergeant’s guitar to balance that out, but the beginning of the song and the end are super-dark. I’ll say, as I always say, that de Freitas was a criminally underrated drummer, and he’s very much on point in this performance.

Go dust off your copy of Heaven Up Here, and play it really loud. If you don’t own it, you should remedy that now.

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

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