There have been a few Echo And The Bunnymen posts in the corner of the internet I frequent in recent days and it's also forty years since the release of their debut album Crocodiles, both of which seemed like good enough reasons to add some more Bunnymen to the ether. There's a recent Bill Drummond interview where he recalled the early days of the group, when they could barely make the change from a D chord to an A chord in time together but when they did, it was magic. The addition of Pete de Freitas on drums, replacing the Echo drum machine, was the final piece of the jigsaw, a truly great drummer who brought genuine musicianship and also originality to the playing. Once de Freitas was in place they found their sound. Using the Velvet Underground as a model, they knew that you only really need two chords if you've got the right guitar tone, a singer who can make silly stuff sound important and a rhythm section who marry power with groove. If the group look good- clothes, hair, cheekbones etc- you've got everything you need. In July 1980 a year after their debut single, The Pictures On My Wall, and two months after their second 7" Rescue (a song full of hooks pulled to the fore and arranged by Ian Broudie), they released their debut album, ten songs long and mystifyingly, brilliantly missing two early Bunnymen classics, Do It Clean and Read It In Books.
Crocodiles doesn't contain the best songs the band would write, they'd outdo themselves a year later on Heaven Up Here, but it is full of Bunnymen drama and neuroticism, Mac singing of rusty chalk- dust walkers, of being rescued, of stars shining so hard, of the mythical Villiers Terrace and all that jazz, his voice already confident and memorable, while Will, Les and Pete bash away, post punk urgency, spiky guitar parts, some 60s garage rock, some nods to the Doors and a rich, solid bottom end. Will Sergeant, Drummond says, was the heart and soul of the band, a man who thought 'changing chord was selling out' the one who would draw a line and say no- if someone tried to add keyboards or trumpet he'd cut it dead by saying 'it sounds a bit like The Police'.
Crocodiles finishes with Happy Death Men, clanging, strident 1980 post punk, Sergeant spraying dense guitar parts all over the studio, as the song reaches it freak out finale.
In 1985 while touring Scandinavia the Bunnymen were still moving fast, four albums in and umpteen singles and B-sides. In Gothenburg hey still found room in the setlist for the debut album's title track, extending it out so Mac could drop in lines from his favourite songs.