(post-) punk gems, v. 43 — Riff Raff

echo84One of my fondest concert memories is from September 1984, when I saw Echo and the Bunnymen on the Ocean Rain tour at the Berkeley Community Theater. My dear friend Brian and I were in row 3, just close enough to be ordained by the sweat shaking off of guitarist Will Sergeant, who that year had some of the best hair in the business. (That’s him at 6 o’clock.)

As I noted in post-punk v. 38, Billy Bragg  made an unannounced appearance after the opening act (the fun-loving Fleshtones), who had made a bit of a stir in the UK already as part of Riff Raff. It was 34 years ago this week that Riff Raff released four singles, including “Little Girls Know,” on their own Geezer Records label.

I dig the simplicity of this track, of the resonance of young kids with guitars, making a go of it, DIY-style, in the post-punk genre of sub-folk.

So the book is out, and getting some modest attention at this point. If you’re interested in a preview of sorts, check out this interview I did last week with the fantastic folks who put together the New Books in Popular Music podcast.

post-punk gems — Echo and the Bunnymen (33 1/3 years ago!)

Happy Wednesday, all.  I’m still basking the audio glow of the mini-box set of The Clash, but thinking about a different band I got turned onto back in the day: Echo and the Bunnymen. Following a trip to the UK and Europe in 1982 with the Boy Scouts of America, I returned home with a mix tape with all sorts of bands I didn’t know, including The Clash and Echo and the Bunnymen.

Two years later, just a week shy of my 16th birthday, I somehow convinced my parents to drive my buddy Brian and I to Berkeley Community Theater (60+ miles–thanks mom & dad!) to see Echo and the Bunnymen on the Ocean Rain tour. (It proved to be the soundtrack of choice when The Fleshtones were the opening band, and they did just fine, touring in support of the brilliant Hexbreaker LP. The crowd was absolutely primed for the Bunnymen when–lo! a special guest appearance by Billy Bragg, who of course no one had heard of. (Does anyone know if this night, ~9 Sept 84, represented Billy Bragg’s US debut?) He played a solo electric guitar, sang a handful of fun tracks including “The Milkman of Human Kindness” and, alas, was booed off the stage. I thought he was brilliant, but my fellow concertgoers must have imagined that the longer he was onstage, the longer the delay of the Bunnymen, so he had to go.

Brian and I secured a space just a row shy of guitarist Will Sergeant, who regarded the lot of us with a bemused grin throughout the evening. Ian McCulloch clutched the mike stand and swayed fore and aft just a few feet away, and the whole evening was sublime. The crowd pressed across the rows of seats toward the stage, sang along to mystical lyrics we could scarcely make sense of, and thoroughly enjoyed Sargeant’s effort to reproduce the string section bits on his Rickenbacker guitar. The light show must have been awesome, but I mostly remember Sergeant’s smirk, and McCulloch’s voice, delivering a perfect balance of urgency, outrage, and bemusement for the sorting out of life during adolescence.

33 1/3 years ago this week, the Bunnymen made their initial Peel Sessions recordings, which you can find below.

Have a delightful week!