Echo & The Bunnymen: Ocean Rain Page 2

Ian Broudie, who had produced some of Crocodiles, told McCulloch that the band now badly needed to write some 'killer tunes'. Another Peel session in June 1983 showcased a trio of new songs, 'The Killing Moon', 'Silver' and 'Seven Seas'. The first two, especially, fell into this category.

Out Of The Gate
The first anyone heard of the material that was recorded for Ocean Rain was when 'The Killing Moon' was released as a single in January 1984. This grand romantic statement included McCulloch's most affecting vocal performance to date, and Adam Peters playing cello with synth strings added by producer David Lord. The follow-up single 'Silver' went even further, including an orchestral arrangement by Peters. These songs had a grandeur and colour, light and shade that Porcupine lacked, which boded well for the new album.


Press shot issued by Sonic PR: (l-r)Will Sergeant, Ian McCulloch and Les Pattinson

There was also a change of direction in de Freitas's drumming. He was now moving away from the heavy 'tribal' tom-tom style that he had helped initiate, and had also not used the crunching, gated snare sound that was beginning to dominate 1980s production. Now he was playing a rock style with brushes, which gave rise to sprightly, buoyant rhythms.

Ocean Rain was released in May 1984. Alongside the orchestrated songs were imaginatively arranged band numbers such as 'Crystal Days' and 'My Kingdom'. The latter starts with a handful of cheap, cheesy organ chords and Sergeant's acoustic and electric guitar figures. He plays a simple but brilliantly effective guitar solo that cuts right across the track, which he admitted was deliberately meant to evoke John Echols' searing break on Love's 'A House Is Not A Motel' from their 1967 album Forever Changes.


Live on stage in Utrecht in November 2018 – Ian McCulloch

As a youth, McCulloch had out-of-body experiences and what sounds like an unusual form of synaesthesia. Talking to MOJO's Pat Gilbert he described the effects of listening to a cassette of Bowie's Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars when he was aged 13. 'I'd listen to it while looking at the tree outside our living room window,' said the singer. 'At night, the leaves would bend in time with the music, as if they were nodding their approval. I was always looking for the beautiful things in my surroundings.'


Korova Records promo shot of the group from the early '80s (l-r): Sergeant, de Freitas, McCulloch and Pattinson

Bleeding Heart
McCulloch went on to explain that this sort of elemental imagery fed into his lyrics, but on Ocean Rain his words became particularly eccentric. An advert for the album included these contrived conceits from 'My Kingdom': 'If my heart is a war, its soldiers are bleeding/If my heart is a war, its soldiers are dead'.

'Thorn of Crowns' is even stranger. McCulloch sings, 'You set my teeth on edge/You think you're a vegetable, never come out of the fridge', over Eastern-sounding guitar lines and a Bo-Diddley beat played with brushes, with a chorus boosted by Pattinson's melodic bass hook.


Ian McCulloch on stage in 2018

The maritime metaphors on the title track creak like a ship's timbers but it's one of the band's most successful creations, an orchestrated ballad akin to early Scott Walker and sung tenderly and with drama by McCulloch, with Adam Peters' sombre string arrangement billowing out at the close.

Not the greatest album ever made, then, but one of Echo & The Bunnymen's best efforts. It garnered good reviews and charted at No 4 in the UK and No 87 in the US, but when they seemed on the cusp of greatness, the band then fell into disarray, with a personal rift developing between the rock star McCulloch and his more down-to-earth campadres Sergeant and Pattinson.


The current lineup of the band is playing Ocean Rain in its entirety on tour in 2023

Even worse, Pete de Freitas left the band, decamped to New Orleans and dived headlong into drugs and drink, which exacerbated underlying psychological problems. He formed the group The Sex Gods, who were little more than a name, but rejoined for Echo & The Bunnymen's self-titled album in 1987, which turned out to be the swansong of the original band lineup – de Freitas died in a motorbike accident in 1989.

'I thought Ocean Rain was the foundation of something that would be even better', Pattinson told Pat Gilbert. 'But it didn't turn out that way. We were never the same afterwards.' The music, however, has endured and a version of the band is still playing the album in its entirety while on tour in 2023.