There’s a line in a Bunnymen song where Ian McCulloch, the lanky singer with the anarcho-adroitly teased barnet drops into smoulderingly deep and meaningful mode.
What he actually sings is “Come on and hold me tight / I can’t sleep at night”– so it’s not the single most original dollop of poetic insight in the history of popular music. It is, however both memorable and in a defiantly heart-on-sleeve kindofaway affecting. (Footnote/Falsenote; I used that word to describe Amy Winehouse in a blog some time ago, suggesting I am slightly unmoved by her voice. This just isn’t the same.)
It’s ludicrous to compare the two and I don’t; I do or did however feel the infectious charge of the Bunnymen carrying me off to a place where sustenance itself is pared down – or inflated? – only to a kind of crystalline belief. McCulloch tossed that mane of his with a quietly scouse (if that’s not a contradiction in terms) luminosity, lassooing in the process some hazy profundities.
All of which sounds like a recipe for fakery and pomp that might surely have brought derision or a phlegm-soaked drowning in the late seventies. But when the guitars chimed and the coke was snorted, an electrically relevant and contemporary world was projected to the far wall – one that we recognised, one that lifted us.
I loved McCulloch for his utter sureness, his inviolable belief that it was okay, ‘natural’ – cool even – to express himself as a man in dour straits in search of poetry. I still feel his colours as a necessary and transformative energy; an antidote to cynicism, to meanness. When depressing realities threaten to intrude – hey, let’s be honest, look around! – this is how I fight them. Is it mad to confess that the more sport, the more political debate I see consumed by conservatism or bullishness, the more I revert to the defiant colours of this song?
It felt great to be an Echo and the Bunnymen fan. If I never did the hair thing, being too punky, the amorphous Oxfam overcoat plus badge – entirely workable for a Gang of Four/Joy Division Overlap Scenario – spoke volumes re the necessary anti-fashion non-statement department. Oh the joy of being so obviously outwardly joyless whilst singing with lungbursting force inside. Together we were preciously aware of our individual power.
Where’s the sense in stealing / Without the grace to be it?