Thursday, October 08, 2009

Echo In A Shabby Bay

Way back in the dying, dog days of the late 80s I was a summer out of college and had failed to get a job to keep me in London. I had returned, sad and defeated, to my parents' in Torbay. Applying for jobs in the local paper, I'd wound up in the customer accounts department of British Gas.

It was the run-up to the 'Tell Sid' privatisation and they'd taken on extra people to cope with what they imagined would be an increase in calls from members of the public wanting info about shares. No such calls, of course, came (there was a well-publicised hotline the gullible phoned instead) and I just got absorbed into the department, taking final meter readings over the phone from people moving house, clearing up account queries, helping old ladies understand why their bills had been 'estimated' even though 'I'm always in my dear, they only have to knock', making appointments for meter readers, referring hardship cases to the DHSS. It was, for the most part, inestimably grim.

I spent rainy lunchtimes (and in my memory of those days it is always raining) in the library, or in the not especially well-stocked Torquay branch of HMV or with a sympathetic colleague in the town's one proper coffee shop. I was living an extended hangover from a terrific time at college where the world had been my oyster, now fearing - like the old Jam lyric had said - that my future was a clam. And the sympathetic colleague turned out to be a sort of Mrs Robinson figure, which, calm yourself, didn't really help, to be honest.

One impossibly dark and drizzly lunchtime I went and bought this; how odd to think now that this 'late' there were still new Echo & The Bunnymen albums out. Its sweep and its tug and its singing-through-grey seemed all I needed, and I played it to bits.

The summer came and went and like Billy Liar I knew I had to get out; unlike poor Billy, I did. 'Do you think you've made the right decision this time?'. Yes. I packed a bag for London and I never went back.

I've been playing these songs again lately, not because it is grim here, or I am sad, or nostalgic for the past, or any of that obvious stuff, but because they stand up as songs, seem right for the season* and because the LP is, I think, underrated, and I like it a lot.

Echo & The Bunnymen - 'The Game' (1987)
Echo & The Bunnymen - 'The Game' (acoustic demo) (1987)
Echo & The Bunnymen - 'All My Life' (1987)

[*I see the album came out in July. Bah! It'll always be autumn for me]


  1. That's kind. This one sort of wrote itself - it must've been brewing for a while...

  2. I got this lp when in 6th form. Loved it then, and still like it now. Good post.

  3. Three posts in 4 days, no real work to do Mr H?

    I second what Simon says.

  4. Yes Shadrack - truly lovely writing.

    I really liked the song 'Nothing Lasts Forever' from the 'very late' stuff around '97. A track that seems to sum up my 'is that all there is' mood of late.

    Good ol British Gas. I may 'estimate' how much I'm gonna pay them next time a bill lands.

  5. "this late"? "very late stuff"?

    There is a new one coming out (just Mac and Will of course) and I look forward to it.

    First time I write but having been reading your blog for ages.

    Thanks for all the great posts.

  6. You spun that story so well, I felt I could see every moment of it.

  7. I confess I haven't kept up with much of the post-Pete De Freitas Bunnymen's stuff, though whenever I have heard tracks, I have liked them.

    Well done on de-lurking Rob: meet the guys!

  8. PS: Dickie - The Meter Man Knows Where You Live.


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