Bunnymen bounce back

Bands come, bands go, and sometimes they come back again, making a less than welcome return when they really should have just…

Bands come, bands go, and sometimes they come back again, making a less than welcome return when they really should have just let it lie. Ian McCullough buried Echo & The Bunnymen in 1987 but last year the Liverpool band arose from the dead in what must be the most credible rock 'n' roll comeback in recent years. Forget Meat Loaf's overblown, refried epics, or Fleetwood Mac's political show of reunification for President Clinton - Echo & The Bunnymen have a damn good reason for re-forming and it can be heard on last year's Evergreen album, a record which stands head and shoulders alongside the best that today's Britpop bands can offer.

Back in the 1980s, Echo & The Bunnymen were Britpop and their dark, dreamy sound still casts a shadow over today's pop landscape; songs like The Cutter, Never Stop and Killing Moon were the paranoid anthems and bitter sweet symphonies of their time. It all ended when singer Ian McCullough went solo and drummer Pete De Frietas was killed in a motorcycle accident; though the remaining members of the band tried to carry on with a different singer, the music just didn't have the same reverberating resonance. "I always referred to them as Echo & the Bogusmen," says McCullough, speaking from his Liverpool home where he lives with his partner Lorraine and his three-year-old daughter Mimi. The 38-year-old singer is getting ready to drop Mimi off to the nursery before heading off to rehearse with the band's other two founder-members, Will Sergeant and Les Pattison. But first, let's hear that favourite children's tale, The Bunnymen Bounce Back.

"Me and Les and Will hadn't spoken to each other for four or five years," recalls McCullough. "They had carried on tarnishing the Bunnymen name, which luckily no one ever mentions. So we met up a few years ago and I think it was in the back of everybody's mind, apart from mine, that this was a Bunnymen re-formation. I was in the middle of stuff with Johnny Marr at the time but I thought, this was a great opportunity for me and Will to form another group."

McCullough and Sergeant formed Electrafixion, a short-lived project which spawned a rather good album, Sister Pain, but which failed to jolt the charts in a big way.


`I think it turned out to be a stepping stone to getting the Bunnymen back together but at the time it wasn't arranged like that. I'd had enough of being solo - I never wanted to be a solo artist, I just wanted to get out of the Bunnymen at the time. And the way it happened was all kind of chance and fate, or whatever, and here we are and everything's fantastic. My life's changed around and it's just great."

The first fruits of the reformed Echo & The Bunnymen was the Top 20 single, Nothing Lasts Forever, a tune which allayed any fears that this reunion would be short-lived.

"That was kind of the challenge to me. A lot of people, friends from old, were saying, `if you feel that you wanna do it then go for it and everything will be fine'. But I was aware of the real problems, that there was a chance that the journalists would say, `we don't want this, we've got no time for it, there's too many new groups out there'. But I think what was realised pretty early on, was that there were no new groups with what the Bunnymen had, or will ever have."

Were there old wounds which needed to be healed? "I'm always asked `do you speak to the others, are you on good terms?' And often I'll fly, especially in America 'cos I hate doing the overnight bus journey but the word will go out, `oh, he's flying separately from the rest of the band, things aren't good'. and it's just because I get depressed on the tour bus with 10 or 12 strapping blokes in there, and if I'm playing a town I like to sleep in that town, otherwise it feels like I wasn't really there. I've actually been in Las Vegas and slept there and played roulette but if you just jump in the bus and zoom off immediately to the next place, that kind of depresses me. The odd night it's okay, because there's a bit of camaraderie and you can get drunk with the boys and stuff but it's not me. After 19 years of it I feel I've earned a little bit of comfort."

McCullough is feeling rightly confident these days - Evergreen has proven that Echo & The Bunnymen can still be fresh and vibrant even after 10 barren years, and McCullough's songwriting is still as trenchant as ever.

But his crowning glory is about to come, because the Football Association in Britain has chosen a song written by McCullough and Johnny Marr to be this year's official England World Cup anthem. The tune is called, appropriately enough, (How Does It Feel To Be) On Top Of The World. Well, Ian, how does it feel? "I'm made up about it!" is the Liverpudlian's modest answer.

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is an Irish Times journalist