Friday, April 25, 2008

The Psychedelic Furs

Tim Butler, Richard Butler, Howard Kaylan & John Ashton
'Forever Now' sessions, Mink Hollow, '82

Sometimes, I would flick through Time Out (London) and go and see a band who I thought had an interesting name. Rock writer Giovanni Dadomo had mentioned The Psychedelic Furs to me once, so both those reasons were good enough to check them out at West Kensington's Nashville Rooms, a pub run by Dai Davies and Derek Savage, managers of The Stranglers. I'd signed Eddie & The Hot Rods out of 'the Nashville' (much to their co-headliner, 101-er Joe Strummer's huge disappointment) and had seen The Sex Pistols, Elvis Costello, Dire Straights, Hector Lavoe, Country Gazette, Graham Parker, The Jam, AC/DC, The Damned, The Cramps and many others all play there. The place held roughly 200 people and served Fuller's beer. Richard Butler came out in 'whiteface' and halfway through the show a fight erupted in the audience whereby Duncan Kilburn, Tim Butler and another member of the band (maybe Roger 'Dog' Morris) jumped off the stage to help a friend who was involved. Once the problem had been 'sorted' they jumped back on stage and continued, as if nothing had happened. I liked elements of their set and saw them a few more times so I could get a better handle on their material which had, initially, sounded all over the place. Songs like 'Sister Europe' and 'Imitation Of Christ' sounded odd in a set that included 'Blacks/Chaos/Radio', 'Flowers' and 'Pulse', but over a few weeks, I grew to appreciate the band as a dynamic live act and Richard as a distinctive vocalist who wrote beautiful, melodic songs and wrapped them in a Velvets-y frame. John Peel had commissioned a session for his show at the BBC and word was beginning to spread, so it was now time to get the head of A&R, Muff Winwood, to see them at the Music Machine in Camden Town. Somewhere on the tape of the show I was recording on my portable cassette machine, Muff leans over to me and says "we should sign them". I put them into Basing Street studios with Ed Hollis producing, to demo some of their tracks (Sister Europe, Fall, Pulse & We Love You) and shortly afterwards, Muff and I were having our photos taken backstage at the Nag's Head, in High Wycombe with the band and Les Mills & Tracey Collier (management) celebrating their new recording contract. Next, I started soliciting producers for the first single, as the band didn't want to work with Ed anymore. They gave me a long list of contenders that included Eno and David Bowie but nobody wanted to do it so, in the end, I got the job. At this point (1979), despite having worked at Trident Studios for 3 years ('71 - '74), I'd only 'produced' one single - New Math's 'Die Trying' - so to cover for my inexperience, Ian Taylor was enlisted to do it with me. Ian was a recording engineer at Phonogram Studios, looking to break into production. We selected live favourites 'We Love You' for the A side and 'Pulse' for its flip. The band was well rehearsed, so they bashed through 'Flowers', too, just for the hell of it. The whole thing was done in two 12 hour sessions; tracking, overdubs, vocals, mixing. Richard insisted on having NO effects, whatsoever, on his vocal. The single came out on CBS's Epic label in the UK and managed to scrape its way up to #4 on Sounds magazine's 'Alternative Chart', a new chart they'd created so they could, uh, 'legitimize' some of the records by the newer bands they were writing about, none of which were hitting the 'official' charts (including this one). Still, the Furs started to get taken a little more seriously and Steve Lillywhite, who'd been sitting on the fence, agreed to produce the band and went on to do a terrific job on their first 2 albums, 'The Psychedelic Furs' and 'Talk Talk Talk'. Here's a Slideshow

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