Thursday, 29 July 2010

The Psychedelic Furs

Charity shop shopping in Bovey Tracey (gateway to the Moors) earlier this week and I found a copy of The Psychedelic Furs VHS compilation "All Of This And Nothing" on CMV Enterprises label for twenty pence. What can you buy for twenty pence these days? A Psychedelic Furs video obviously...
A couple of years ago I got a copy of the excellent Dave Thompson book "Beautiful Chaos" which documents the birth, rise, fall and re-birth of The Psychedelic Furs. It is a great read of how a band can, through miss-management (bad advice) and drug abuse lose the plot completely.
From hearing their first single "We Love You" back in 1979 I loved and devoted myself to The Furs up until 1982 and the atrocious throwaway single "Danger" where they were treading dangerously in to New Romantic waters. The sound of the Psychedelic Furs was was one of a wall of noise held together by a thumping beat and surreal lyrics - lyrics that back in their day I could identify with and appreciate. "Susan Strange", "Wedding Song", "I Just Want To Sleep With You" etc.
I saw them live on a few occasions too.
What is interesting about the book is the way that they went over to America and just lost the plot. Members left, the songs dried up as drugs took over then when they came back to Europe music had changed. By the mid 1980's (85/86) there were three bands trying to attain world domination. Stadium Rock God status. U2, The Psychedelic Furs and Simple Minds...and U2 won out. It is interesting, in the book, when they had reached the burn out stage and the "band" was all but a name and apart from Richard Butler singing the whole recordings were either session musicians or the producers computer. Billy Idol's producer no less.
In a way the Video documents this as well. It begins with the excellent "Sister Europe" - kind of miming live on some London stage, then there's "Pretty In Pink", which is a great "pop" song. It works in the concept/context of the LP from which it is from "Talk Talk Talk", but now it is known as a "Hollywood" theme it loses its' impact. Next is "Dumb Waiters". Powerful, excellent and another miming on the live stage promo. The next couple of videos are from 1982 and it becomes obvious of the power of MTV and/or the "music video promo market". "Love My Way" is wallpaper and "Sleep Comes Down" ( a new Furs song on me) could be Chris De Burgh or Styx.
In the first 5 videos there is always a member (or members) of the band wearing shades. Shades, indoors. As Steve Underwood once told me (after I had breakfast at a table opposite Chris + Cosey) "there are only two kinds of people who wear sunglasses indoors, blind people and twats". The saying has always stuck with me. 1984's "Heaven" follows - not a bad song. Catchy in fact but the video has the three remaining members miming on a stage whilst being rained on. No shades. 1987's "Heartbreak Beats" is a testament to how cocaine and Vidal Sasoon's Studio Line can really fuck you up, and about 30 minutes in to the video it ends on the apologetic 1988 track (shot in black & white) "All That Money Wants".
If only they'd packed it all in and gone off in to diverse projects in 1981 eh? Still, I was entertained for 35 minutes and at 20p one of the cheapest 35 minutes this year.

My Psychedelic Furs story: Back in 1981 I saw them live in Lincoln, supported by Sinking Ships. My friend Mark Collins got chatting with John Ashton (guitar) after the show and said "see you in Doncaster tomorrow", he put Mark +1 on the Donny guest list. We went along with Tim Bayes (designated driver) and Bernie Hoggart. After the gig (no support) we chatted with the band at the bar and two girls came up with "Talk Talk Talk" LP sleeves to be autographed. I was stood next to "Big" Dunc. the sax player who scribbled away and passed the pen and sleeve to me, so I signed it. Somewhere on this planet, could be in a collection, could be in a secondhand store, could be in a landfill site in China, but somewhere there is a Psychedelic Furs LP sleeve signed by the band....and me!

1: "All Of This And Nothing" Video Sleeve.
2: "Beautiful Chaos" book cover.

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