Last year not only brought concerts to a stop, the uncertainty of the year ahead caused various media to be delayed, shifted, or even canceled. It was easy to miss new releases and one of our favorite ‘80s bands may have been overlooked in the confusion. The Psychedelic Furs are back with their first new album in nearly three decades, “Made of Rain.”
After rising up from the ever popular British post-punk scene, The Psychedelic Furs landed on the charts in the US and would go on to make the required appearance on a John Hughes movie soundtrack. Siblings Richard and Tim Butler created the band with Richard on vocals and Tim on bass. The brothers were joined by Duncan Kilburn (sax), Paul Wilson (drums), Roger Morris (guitar), but later included Vince Ely (replacing Wilson on drums) and John Ashton (guitar).
Richard’s distinctive raspy vocals and the production skills of the legendary Steve Lillywhite got them decent success out of the gate. Their 1980 debut album (also “The Psychedelic Furs”) and follow up (“Talk Talk Talk”) were well received in their own country and ours, especially due to songs “India,” “We Love You,” “Dumb Waiters” and the original version of “Pretty in Pink.”
Making a name for themselves was not without drama. In 1982, Morris and Kilburn abruptly left the band and the remaining members moved across the pond to the US. Their third album, “Forever Now,” was home to “Danger” and “Run and Run,” plus their first Billboard charting single, “Love My Way.”
Since the song’s release, I thought it opened with the xylophone, but as of today, I can tell you it was a marimba. With Todd Rundgren producing the disc – and playing the marimba – the band was doing well and “Love My Way” left a legacy: Gen X should remember it in “The Wedding Singer,” but these darn kids today know it from “Call Me By Your Name.”
With their TV rotation and radio airplay, their next album contained some of their quintessential songs. “Mirror Moves,” was home to “The Ghost in You,” “Heartbeat,” “Here Come Cowboys,” and “Heaven.”
Now successful worldwide, the ultimate moment was here: “Pretty in Pink” the movie, supported by a new version of “Pretty in Pink” the song. Landing a song on the soundtrack of an ‘80s film icon – aka anything John Hughes – cemented the band’s place in pop culture history.
Last year, Richard Butler told USA Today that Hughes’s use of the song was not quite right in his eyes. “John Hughes, God bless him, he got the message completely wrong – or maybe misinformed people about the message of ‘Pretty in Pink,’ and made it seem somewhat triter than the actual song was,” Butler explained. When pressed on what he didn’t like about it, he continued, “It was very literal. It wasn’t about wearing a pink dress – I mean, pink was my metaphor for somebody naked. The message was very different. The message (of the song) was from a very sad girl in a very sad situation.” I apologize if that breaks any Gen X hearts. Regardless of the meaning, the song became one of their biggest hits and led to pressure on their next record.
“You have to strike while the iron is hot” is a popular phrase and definitely applies in the music world. If your band is getting a lot of attention, you have to do something to keep it going. This rush to continue the fire of attention had the band create a more “commercial” album with “Midnight to Midnight.” Unfortunately, it was not what the band wanted to make and Richard Butler later said, “Basically we didn’t like the record.” He also stated, “It wasn’t us, didn’t feel like us or sound very much like something we would be happy with. But there it was and there was very little we could do about getting it back.’” However, what would be called their most successful single, “Heartbreak Beat,” came from the record.
The Psychedelic Furs decided to go back to their “old” sound when they reconvened for the 1989’s “Book of Days” and 1991’s “World Outside.” The two albums fared well and put out decent singles “Should God Forget,” “House,” and the more popular track, “Until She Comes.”
“World Outside” ended up being their final studio album for more than two decades. Richard Butler told NPR, “We kind of lost direction I suppose, in the late ‘80s.” He further explained, “I didn’t want to go in the studio with the same bunch of guys and make the same-sounding record. I felt like I knew what it was going to be like and I knew what the work process was going to be like, and I felt like I even knew what it was going to sound like. And I didn’t want that. I wanted a break from that.” (Apparently he wasn’t sick of ALL the members because the Butler brothers created the band Love Spit Love.)
The Psychedelic Furs gathered together again in 2000 to do a tour and live album, “Beautiful Chaos: Greatest Hits Live.” They continued to tour over the years (plus solo projects and the like), but what about a new album? They decided to go for it. Richard said, “The band was sounding really fantastic live. We really were a very cohesive unit. We didn’t say we wanted to sound like this part of the Psychedelic Furs or that part of the Psychedelic Furs or we wanted to sound like the Psychedelic Furs from 1982 or whatever. It just felt like ‘Why don’t we write a record? This band is as good as it ever sounded.’”
His brother Tim explained to USA Today, “After we got back together in 2000, we were always planning on doing an album. But we were very nervous of it not being on par with our past work.” He went on to say, “So we’d write songs, send them to each other, and be like, ‘That’s OK,’ and then push back the idea of going into a studio. But then in the six months leading up to when we recorded ‘Made of Rain,’ we felt we finally had enough great songs to go on an album. It was like, ‘It’s now or never,’ and we recorded it really quickly. Now the plan is to do another album, but a lot quicker than 30 years.”
With fresh interest in the band courtesy of “Call Me By Your Name” and “Stranger Things,” the “now or never” became true and the band released “Made of Rain” last year. The gents are thrilled with the album with Richard saying, “It’s exciting. I feel it’s a great record and I’m very proud of it. It feels like I spent 25 years saying ‘Why make an album?’ and then the last four years thinking ‘Why not make an album?’” Their first studio album since 1991 gives us “Don’t Believe,” “You’ll Be Mine,” “No One,” and “Wrong Train.”
The Butlers are joined by some “new” faces on the album (even though they’ve been playing together for years): saxophonist Mars Williams, drummer Paul Garisto, keyboardist Amanda Kramer, and guitarist Rich Good. The band intended to hit the road to promote “Made of Rain,” but obviously that was put on hold. They have rescheduled and right now, the plan is to play in the UK in September. The virus also ruined the 40th anniversary celebrations of their first album, but hopefully things will continue to progress as they are and we will hear the classics live soon.