Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Music Box: The Psychedelic Furs

In a lot of ways, the Psychedelic Furs are the Rodney Dangerfield of my music collection. I own and love all their albums, and have seen them in concert twice -- two of the best shows I've ever seen. Yet for some reason, I rarely cite them as one of my "favorite bands ever," a term I (admittedly) use rather loosely. (Hey, it's not my fault Blondie, Bananarama and the Go-Go's are still around!) It wasn't until my brother Bill posed a hitherto unseen video of of the Furs last week on his Facebook page -- "Run and Run" from their 1982 masterpiece, "Forever Now," which contains what is arguably the greatest single of the new wave era, "Love My Way" -- that I really had to look myself in the mirror (moves) and admit that the Psychedelic Furs really are my favorite band ever. (Did I mention that I also have both Love Spit Love albums and Richard Butler's solo disc from 2006?)

When I saw them the first time, as a 17-year-old at the Mesa Amphitheatre back in '84, they were riding high on the success of their more pop "Mirror Moves" album, which had two huge video hits on it, the lovely "Ghost in You" and the unusually upbeat "Heaven," plus the high-energy dance favorite, "Hearbeat." Along with "Forever Now," the band's darker early albums were also in heavy rotation on my trusty Yorx stereo in my West Kiva bedroom, with "Imitation of Christ" and "Into You Like a Train" my particular faves.

Although I was definitely a bonafide fan, at the time I was even more excited about the night's opening act -- the Bangles! I was a HUGE fan of their eponymous debut EP, and by the time their full-length LP, "All Over the Place," came out that summer, I was head over heels. (Oh, wait.) Songs like "Hero Takes a Fall," "Going Down to Liverpool," "James" and "Dover Beach" had firmly established the gals as one of my faves, so that sweltering night in Mesa was a memorable evening from beginning to end.

Jump ahead 20 years and the reformed Furs played a club gig not far from where we live in Manhattan. As it happens, Michael is also a HUGE fan, so we jumped at the chance to see them together. Although it wasn't quite the same as having the Bangles open, we were tickled to have the Alarm start off the show -- even if it probably was just Mike Peters and a bunch of guys who are younger than I am. (Peters definitely has a loyal following because while the Furs were warmly received throughout, the Alarm had some of the place in a complete tizzy as they ripped through an impressive catalog that included "The Stand," "Strength," "Rescue Me," "Spirit of '76," "Presence of Love" and, of course, the biggest hit, "Sixty-Eight Guns.")

But for me the night was all Richard Butler, who came on stage in dark shades and a cigarette in hand,still weighing 98 pounds and looking and sounding exactly as he did in his 1980s heyday. Covering ample ground from "India" and "Sister Europe" to "President Gas" and "Heartbreak Beat," there wasn't a moment that didn't make me happy to be lost in the '80s ...

And speaking of which, check out this unbelievably cool clip of the boys exiting the Gramercy Park Hotel (where Debbie Harry and Chris Stein once lived), signing album covers at Venus Records, playing in Battery Park -- right where Roberta was later so Desperately Seeking Susan -- and playing around on the streets of Manhattan circa 1982. The mock (pre-tabloid) Village Voice is the best! I'm not sure how I missed this video for "Run and Run" back in the day, but the fact that it was only added to YouTube on June 30 of this year makes me wonder if it's from a long-lost vault or something. Thanks to my brother for finding it, which is fitting since he was always finding the coolest new bands and bringing them home from college.

"Run and Run": Go on get Tarzan, go on get Jane ...

"Love My Way": There's an army on the dance floor, it's a fashion with a gun, my love ...

"The Ghost in You": I'm in a mood for you (or running away) ...

  • Read all Music Box columns here.
  • Coming soon: Tracie Young, Paul Weller's teenage protegee from his Respond Records label, who hit the U.K. Top 10 with "The House That Jack Built."

    nojarama said...

    LOVE The PFs too! Wish I coulda seen that show!

    Anonymous said...

    Your blog post about the Psych Furs brought back great memories. Yeah, they're one of my fave bands, natch. Love all the albums, altho my faves are probably Talk Talk Talk, Forever Now, and Mirror Moves ... since they came out when i was super-obsessed with them. I've seen them six times, and I recall
    their being great opening acts, so I went back to my concert list to check and see who they were. At the risk of boring you with my life trivia, here are the details ...

    1983 - warm up was The Divinyls
    1984 - warm up was Talk Talk
    again in 1984 - warm up was Lou Miami (a Boston based sort-of new wavey singer)
    1987 - warm up was The Call
    2001 - joint tour with Echo & The Bunnymen (my absolute fave of the
    post-punk early 80s guitar bands - I have seen them probably a dozen times, but I'll check on that when/if you do a blog post on them!)
    2007 - package tour with the Alarm and The Fixx

    Great videos posted. Really took me back.