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ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN DETROIT, MI SHOW:  The Killing Moon – 1984

 

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - I was reading about this local Detroit journalist scribbled up on the English post-punk band, Echo and the Bunnymen. This guy was making a big deal out of, “The Killing Moon” and pontificating about how wonderful it was like it was a brand new song or something. He was getting deep about it and coming from a place of knowing and claiming it to be a modern day classic. That would have been totally amazing except for the fact that, “The Killing Moon” came out thirty freaking years ago.

Obviously this guy is a little late to the plate, (by 30 years). But that song in particular gets a lot of attention from rock critics and journalists. Honestly, it’s the easy way out. When a press release hits the journalists desk and it reads, “ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN” I imagine he stares at it numbly… like a monkey looking at a thesaurus and then writes the first thing that comes to his head and that is …. Class?  “The Killing Moon”… yes yes.

I am sick of the song personally. Over the years its lost its meaning on me. You see I was around when this song got the attention it deserved. On the 1987 – 1988 tour, Echo and the Bunnymen played Pine Knob along with New Order. They were promoting an album called, “Echo and the Bunnymen” of all things and the band was getting attention to a wider audience. Before that release the  band was known for two other releases, “Ocean Rain”, (which originally contained The Killing Moon) and a compilation album called, ”Songs To Learn And Sing”. There really was no alternative radio at the time to promote any music of this kind in 1987 so it was sort of an underground thing. The band released, “Ocean Rain” on Korova records where it got mixed reviews by the critics. The radio stations wouldn’t even go near it at the time. That wouldn’t happen until around 1987 and even then the radio stations put, “Lips Like Sugar” on rotation and not, “The Killing Moon”.

 
 
 

 

Echo and the Bunnymen went over to Sire Records for their self titled album in 1987 and there was more money for things like props. The stage set up for the Echo concert I went to in 1988 had been planned out.  There were large fishing nets hoisted up over the stage along with giant tree branches, dry ice fog machines and strobe lights. This was during the Beatlemania stage of the band so there was a lot of mania kicked up with the press and the singles that were circulating around the time including, “Bedbugs and Ballyhoo”. 

When the, “Killing Moon” was performed it was an eerie track compared to the others that were available at the time. There was really nothing else quite like it but it doesn’t mean it was the best off of, “Ocean Rain” by any means. The stark and minimalistic, “Thorn of Crowns” was even more odd and off base as well as the melodic, “My Kingdom”. But getting back to the, “Killing Moon” performance the band turned out the stage lights during the musical interlude in the middle of the song. Then the twinkling lights on a curtain shimmered over the length of the stage giving a mystical dream like quality. The audience went nuts over that. I was there for that. And it was in that moment where the song was cemented in the memories of the fans.

But you would have to be there to experience it. Or at least pretend that you are interested in the band… even a little to get to the real reason of why that song is importance. The truth is always more satisfying to read don’t you think?

If any journalist can grab someone else’s opinion and get paid a salary for it then maybe anyone can be a journalism. And if you guys are reading this out there then get it straight. “The Killing Moon” WAS NOT Echo and the Bunnymen’s greatest achievement, “Ocean Rain” as an entire album may be their shining moment. The whole thing is incredible with tracks like, “Silver”, “Crystal Days”, “Yo Yo Man”, “Ocean Rain”, “Seven Seas” and so on. All are distinctive and amazing and the album may actually be Echo and the Bunnymen’s, “Sgt. Pepper”.

Ian McCulloch had a strong pop manic sensibility at the time and its carried over throughout the years. I personally feel that he is a better front man than Robert Smith of the Cure.  EATB was hot in 1988 and the public mood was swaying to all things alternative and even the radio stations were starting to change their programming formats. There were a lot of screaming girls at the 1988 show which was held in Ann Arbor and Ian was playing up to them amidst flashing cameras. I had never seen anything like it.

That band…. That sound was powerful and that is not to take anything away from the current line up. The 1988 line up was all the original members and bassist Les Pattinson would later leave and drummer Pete DeFreitas would later be killed in a horrible motorcycle accident. Those two in particular played like machines and they had incredible drive. If you are lucky to get any of the earlier performances, ( you will have to dig on the web for those and special order them) you will see how tight they were as a band. That didn’t really continue on that level on their later reunion albums.

We never got another, Ocean Rain – although sometimes we get kinda close to some of the sounds. – but it is not continuous all the way through the album. The songs were quirky, haunting, manic and plain weird at times – especially the lyrics.

So back to the journalists – I imagine they went on the web and took about five minutes to poke around and came up with something like this, “Echo and the Bunnymen is coming to town… known best for The Killing Moon etc.” From there they scribbled some gibberish about how that song has rocked the nation for a solid three decades and then they throw in a blurb about the venue location and then signed their name to it and called it a day.

Echo and the Bunnymen did some phenomenal work on some albums since like, “Evergreen”, “What Are You Going To Do With Your Life?”, “Live In Liverpool” and a great side project called, “Electrafixion”. The new work is worth a look too with, “Poltergeist” but these news journalists never seem to take the time to give you a solid picture of what the band is all about. It’s because they don’t know.

But I do.

 

 
 
 

 

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“A VISUAL ASSAULT: REM Dissected Scene By Scene

The bottom video was shot in 1989 and is the closest thing I could find to what the original show opener was like in 1987. This was a departure for REM as much as it was for the audience. Just when you thought you knew the band they changed on you in a new and exciting way. It would take some time to recognize them once again. In the case of, “Document” the album had to grow on me. I noticed this sort of thing happening with the Smiths too.

There was one sequence in the video, not shown in this edition, when the words – “Want” and “Need” come on screen. The words flipped interchangeably and morphed into a strobe that said, “Need Weed” and I remember the crowd going a bit wild over that. This was Ann Arbor after all. There is some talk about the set list being accurate. I do not believe, “Orange Crush” or “Pop Song 89” was performed in 1987. Those songs were released after REM went to Warner Brothers. “Document” was the last album created under the I.R.S. Records label.

There is another version of, “The One I Love” done on the live tour. Stipe starts out with a slow intro and for a minute I thought the whole song would be done slow. It then kicks into the tempo we all know. The stage was also bathed in an eerie red light. How this song got perceived as a love song I’ll never know. It was about a sick love obsession.

Over the years I hear the young kids go, “Oh who cares about that stuff, REM was long before my time.” Trust me, you wish you were there. This show was nothing but historic.

 
 
 
 
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