Echo & The Bunnymen and Billy Bragg cover The Velvet Underground


There is a great saying about the Velvet Underground. Few people bought their records in their heyday, but few ended up forming a band. People who listened to The Velvet Underground were people like David Bowie, Bryan Ferry and Iggy Pop, as well as Ian McCulloch and Billy Bragg. And in the mid-1980s, McCulloch and Bragg decided to sing a cover of The Velvet Underground live on television. But was it good?

In fact, it was, as lead guitarist Will Sergeant backed both vocalists with a collection of pumped-up riffs that centered their attention on the melody in question. No matter the nuance of the track, the melody flowed through the proceedings, matching the dynamism and immediacy of Lou Reed’s original.

Echo & The Bunnymen were seen as Britain’s answer to the Velvet Underground, particularly in light of the shimmering chords they used to put their work together. Bragg, on the other hand, invoked the polemical postures of Reed’s solo work, curating a set of songs designed to defend the changing geopolitical landscapes of the Common Market.

Between them, Echo & The Bunnymen and Bragg championed a new form of alternative rock, which diverted attention from the electronic material that formulated the backbone of the 1980s and instead offered a more rustic genre of music that was more hard and more irregular in its demonstration. . It was a return to the essence of rock, which the decade needed as it gradually became more processed and focused on changing technologies.

McCulloch was dense, dark and deeply quirky, never shy of a killer joke or cutting remark, but never at the expense of the music itself. “I’ve had melancholic depressants since I was a kid,” he said. “They wouldn’t hang around that long. I like to laugh and make people laugh. So usually it wasn’t something I had every day. On this occasion, it lasted a long time.

The darkness cemented the music, most notably on the thunderous “Rescue,” a choppy guitar number that demonstrated a desire and need to escape. Against this group was Bragg’s piercing ‘Between the Wars’, which begged listeners for the ultimate: How can we fight to be English if we have nothing left to defend?

Together, they were among the leading artists who founded indie rock, a genre that owes more to men than to the success it gave them. It was not riches that gave men status, but truthfulness and tight, taut deliveries, every note played was a note delivered with passion and enthusiasm.

The burgeoning rock movement happened to invoke the work of Arthur Lee and Love, so there was clearly an appetite for more rustic rock. Judging by their appearance on the live show, Bragg and McCulloch were acutely aware that they represented a new musical movement, also speaking on behalf of a generation that was preparing for a new musical guru to lead them to plains. more enlightened.

The band has a tight sound, but Bragg does just as well on guitar, banging along to “Run Run Run,” its crisp, choppy chords reminiscent of 1960s surfer style. tight but loose, ready to give way to a spontaneous flowering of instrumentation or vocal interpolation. And judging by the body language, Bragg and McCulloch seem happy to pass the mic to each other, believing the job is more important than the singer in question.

They’re respectful of the material, but they’re not slavishly so, as the five musicians put their own spin on the 1960s melody. One notable difference is McCulloch’s tendency to insert the melody with humor and goodwill. . There’s less snickering in Reed’s vocal delivery, as McCulloch opts for a more nihilistic form of darkness that pervades the song.

1985 is also the year The Jesus and Mary Chain released their first album, imbued from head to toe with The Velvet Underground DNA. The group went further with their second effort, dark lands, where the blunt humor and tumbling riffs began to tumble from the speakers and into the listener’s vicinity as if mimicking the middle of the live stage.

It was a surprising effort, but it’s impossible to imagine the Scottish band could have achieved this feat without the efforts of Billy Bragg and Echo & The Bunnymen in the early to mid-1980s. It was the surprising final chapter of a series of building blocks that paved the way for the most incendiary form of rock that is now commonly heard throughout England.

See the clip, below.


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