Echo and The Bunnymen – Live at Manly Vale Hotel, Sydney – November 11, 1981 – Triple J Radio –
Echo and the Bunnymen in concert as we forge ahead to the end of the week. A concert recorded in Sydney, Australia and the Many Vale Hotel on November 11, 1981 and broadcast by Triple J Radio.
Ian McCulloch began his career in 1977, as one third of the Crucial Three, a bedroom band which also featured Julian Cope and Pete Wylie. When Wylie left, McCulloch and Cope formed the short-lived A Shallow Madness with drummer Dave Pickett and organist Paul Simpson, during which time such songs as “Read It in Books”, “Robert Mitchum”, “You Think It’s Love” and “Spacehopper” were written by the pair. When Cope sacked McCulloch from the band, A Shallow Madness changed their name to The Teardrop Explodes, and McCulloch joined forces with guitarist Will Sergeant and bass player Les Pattinson to form Echo & the Bunnymen.
In November 1978, Echo & the Bunnymen made their debut at Liverpool’s Eric’s Club, appearing as the opening act for The Teardrop Explodes. The band played one song, a 20-minute version of “Monkeys” which was entitled “I Bagsy Yours” at the time.
Echo & the Bunnymen’s debut single “The Pictures on My Wall” was released on Bill Drummond & David Balfe’s Zoo Records in May 1979, the B-side being the McCulloch/Cope collaboration “Read It in Books” (also recorded by The Teardrop Explodes approximately six months later as the B-side of their final Zoo Records single “Treason”). McCulloch has subsequently denied, on more than one occasion, that Cope had any involvement with the writing of this song.
With the group now gaining wider attention, they were invited to record a four-song set for the BBC’S John Peel Show on August 22, at which time they were still using a drum machine. This was the first of six live sets they would cut for the Peel show between 1979 and 1983.
By the time of their debut album, 1980’s Crocodiles (July 1980), the drum machine had been replaced by a real drummer, Trinidad-born Pete de Freitas. Unlike the other band members, who were from working class Liverpool families, de Freitas was considered “posh” – he came from an affluent background, grew up in the south of England, and attended an elite private school, but his affable and outgoing manner was a welcome addition for his famously fractious bandmates, whose conflicts soon became the stuff of legend.
De Freitas met the trio at their September 15, 1979 gig at Eric’s in Liverpool and immediately joined the band, although his October 12 live debut with them at London’s Electric Ballroom was less than auspicious — supporting hugely popular ska bands Madness and Bad Manners, the Bunnymen proved an uncomfortable fit, and they were booed off after just two songs.
The lead single from the album, “Rescue” (produced by Ian Broudie) only reached No. 62 on the UK singles chart but the album (co-produced by manager Bill Drummond and his business partner David Balfe (The Teardrop Explodes) broke into the Top 20, reaching No. 17, and garnering wide critical acclaim.
Eschewing the traditional “pin-up” cover shot, Crocodiles featured an atmospheric cover image, which showed the band posed in a mysterious woodland setting, lit by hidden coloured lights. Designed by Martyn Atkins and photographed by Brian Griffin, it became the first in a coordinated series of elemental-themed album covers by Atkins and Griffin, which spanned their first four LPs, each depicting the band posed at some distance from the camera, in a visually striking natural setting — a forest (Crocodiles), a beach at sunset (Heaven Up Here), a frozen waterfall in Iceland (Porcupine), and a subterranean river (Ocean Rain). It would not be until their fifth, self-titled album that the band employed a traditional group portrait.
For a reminder of their early, formative days – here is a gig from 1981 to crank up and dive into.