Forty years ago today – on 23rd October 1983 – Echo & The Bunnymen stole the show at the RSC. Music journalist Steve Sutherland looks back
Forty years ago today – on 23rd October 1983 – Echo & The Bunnymen stole the show at the RSC. Then a music journalist for Melody Maker and at the gig, Steve Sutherland takes a look back at the groovy goings-on.
We could be here all day debating the greatest Hamlet ever to grace Stratford’s RSC stage. David Warner in 1965? Kenneth Branagh in 1992? David Tennant in 2008? Or more recently, Paapa Essiedu? All different. All in their own way superb.
But what about the weirdest? No contest! Forty years ago, on Sunday, 23rd October 1983, Hugh Laurie - yes, (itals) that (itals) Hugh Laurie, he of A Bit Of Fry & Laurie, Jeeves & Wooster, Blackadder, House and all that - emerged from the wings dressed as the Prince of Denmark, Yorick’s skull nestled in his hand. Stranger still, instead of the usual “To be or not to be” or “O, that this too too sullied flesh would melt”, the lines he recited went a little like this: “I've been up to Villiers Terrace/ To see what's a-happening/ There's people rolling 'round on the carpet/ Mixing up the medicine...People rolling 'round on the carpet/ Biting wool and pulling string/ You said people rolled on carpet/ But I never thought they'd do those things…”
Mr Laurie, you see, was here as the special guest of Echo & The Bunnymen and, as the first encore, he declaimed, as if written by the Bard himself, the lyrics to Villiers Terrace, a song from the band’s first album, Crocodiles. Hang on! Echo & The What'sallthatnow? Lest you’re too young to remember or the Eighties just weren’t your bag, Echo & The Bunnymen are a psychedelic rock quartet from Liverpool who were inspired by David Bowie and, along with The Cure, The Cult, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Bauhaus and Joy Division, were members of the premier league of goth bands known for their gloomy outlook, drab long raincoats and extravagant hairstyles. They were named and originally managed by a Scotsman called Bill Drummond who ran the Merseyside independent label Zoo and went on to form the KLF, an art project that became an unlikely hit-making monster and culminated in the outfit burning £1 million on a bonfire as some kind of statement/stunt. Drummond had mystical designs for the Bunnymen - lots of talk of leylines and Norse gods and such - a concept readily adopted by the band’s gorgeously coiffeured singer Ian Mcculloch who was equally famous for his rampant ego, dry scouse humour, having sumptuous lips and for claiming that the band’s second, LP, Heaven Up Here, was the greatest ever made.