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Tuesday 25 September 2018

Watch Out Below

Back in 1983 Echo And The Bunnymen were stung by some of the reviews of their third album Porcupine. In response they started writing again and used a Peel Session to try out some new songs, broadcasting Nocturnal Me, Ocean Rain, My Kingdom and Watch Out Below. Not a bad night's work I think.

Watch Out Below (Peel Session)

Watch Out Below shimmers and glowers, acoustic guitars to the fore. Over time it would gain new words and a new title- The Yo Yo Man. This version with the refrain Watch Out Below fits in with the maritime theme Ocean Rain was developing and the line Mac wails from the title track of 'The Greatest Album Ever Made', 'screaming from beneath the waves'.

Porcupine, for what it's worth, is a funny album and the criticism of it is partly justified. Out of the first four 'classic' lps they made, it comes fourth for me. Despite opening with two of their very best songs (and singles) The Back Of Love and The Cutter it fades after that, too similar in tone, too dour, not enough drama and variation. It's not a bad album but the one before it (Heaven Up Here) and the one after it (Ocean Rain) are better.


Anonymous said...

I remember hearing the peel session, but then when Ocean Rain came out being very disappointed by the overblown production. Peel seemed to bring out the best in bands. I guess they were time limited and often seemed more urgent in their performances. The mighty Joy Division also I think produced definitive versions of '24 Hours' and 'Colony' for Peel.

Echorich said...

SA - that Peel session is magical. Watch Out Below is a Bunnymen shanty song with a much more subtle, almost sad energy that was replaced by a good deal of icy bravado on The Yo-Yo Man. I've always held Watch Out Below as complete enough of a song, that it stands on its own. Having said that, the level of perfection achieved on Ocean Rain makes The Yo-Yo Man integral to its success.
In fact, and stick with me here because the prideful fan is going to come out here, one of the most fascinating things about Ocean Rain is the Side One programming. I have always imagined it as a short cycle of songs that sets the landscape for dark, night grandeur that is Side Two. It's what makes listening to the entire album integral to understanding what The Bunnymen set out to achieve.
The opening shot of a gleaming arrow towards the setting sun with Silver.
The night beasts waking with Nocturnal Me.
The shimmer of a night fog rolling in from sea with Crystal Days.
The cold, building winds of The Yo-Yo Man..and...
The full moon rising that transforms day to night of Thorn of Crowns.
Was Mac right with his infamous pronouncement? I won't argue with him...

Swiss Adam said...

What Rich said.

Unknown said...

The Bunnymen's 19th September 1983 session is my favourite Peel Session by any group ever. It was often requested for Peel to replay so other listeners at the time were evidently big fans: Perhaps preferring the acoustic-sounding arrangements to the album versions, or the control and intimacy of Mac's vocals here. Finally they've allowed it an official release in 2019 and thankfully I think it holds up. Until that session came along, their live ep 'Shine So Hard' was a favourite and I thought they'd never better it. Porcupine has its moments: 'Ripeness' and 'In Bluer Skies' highlight a very good second side. Much as I'm a fan, bought the first 4 albums on release and saw them live a few times in the 80s, I'm critical of all their albums - none achieve the greatness of their live sets but agree Ocean Rain comes closest. Shame they never released a live session or an acoustic album as intimate as the Peel 19/9/83 recordings. That might have really been something.

tony said...