I didn’t realise my copy of Echo & The Bunnymen’s debut single, The Pictures On My Wall, was one of a limited edition of 4,000. I bought it in May 1979 and a few months later I went to see them for the first time at the Electric Ballroom in Camden.
Inexplicably, they were supporting Madness and Bad Manners; more explicably, they were booed off fairly rapidly. Even they would have to admit they were not a good fit with the bouncy ska bands and their skinhead followers.
At the time they had no drummer – Pete DeFreitas came along soon afterwards – and performed with a drum machine behind Les Pattinson (bass) and Will Sergeant (guitar) and Ian McCulloch, the loudmouth singer with the big hair, big overcoat and even bigger ego.
I loved them, even though a song driven by an acoustic guitar was a rarity in those post-punk days of discovery. They were like an updated take on The Doors, with Dave Balfe’s swirling psychedelic keyboards surrounding Mac’s voluptuous baritone.
I particularly love the sound of the percussive ping – a woodblock, perhaps? – that punctuates the gap between the acoustic guitar and bass.
It’s really quite different from the re-recorded version that appeared on their debut album Crocodiles, and one of the greatest debut singles ever, along with the ones by their mates from the Teardrops and Wah!
The B-side, Read It In Books, is another great song that was also recorded by the Teardrops, appearing in radically different versions on both bands’ debut albums – Crocodiles and Kilimanjaro – and the B-side of the Teardrops’ single Treason; and was allegedly co-written by Cope and McCulloch (who disputes having had help).