Echo & The Bunnymen – doin’ it clean in Sefton Park

Echo & The Bunnymen's Ian McCulloch

Echo & The Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch in Sefton Park 1982

Echo & The Bunnymen return to Liverpool’s Sefton Park for LIMF in the summer, Getintothis’ Paul Fitzgerald reflects on their original 1982 performance from a very different time and place.

When Echo and The Bunnymen recently announced their forthcoming headline slot with the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra at this year’s LIMF Festival in Sefton Park, following on from Lightning Seed and former Bunnymen producer Ian Broudie’s set last year, the minds of those of a certain age were cast back to a very different time – and a very slightly different place.

Memories. Pressed between the pages of what’s left of their minds…

On a steaming hot August Liverpool night in 1982, the BBC came to Sefton Park, to film a fantastic set by this great band at the bandstand in the same park.

In true Field Of Dreams manner, they extended the stage, put in a PA, threw up some very basic lighting and the ubiquitous Bunnies’ camouflage netting, sat back, and hoped for the best.

Build it, and they will come. And they did. Thousands of them.

Somehow, in a world without social media, mobile comms and with only limited print media, the youth of Liverpool had heard, and now, they came to hear. And when we say the Beeb had hoped for the best, that’s exactly what they got.

Echo & The Bunnymen in Sefton Park 1982 with the crowd watching from the grassy banks and water's edge

Echo & The Bunnymen in Sefton Park 1982 with the crowd watching from the grassy banks and water’s edge

The Bunnymen, midway between Heaven Up Here and Porcupine, were at their very best in those days. With the original line up of Mac, Will Sergeant, Les Pattinson, and Pete De Frietas all on fire in terms of both writing and performance.

Just a few short years later, this very special dynamic would never be again, following the shocking and untimely death of De Freitas in a tragic motorcycle accident. Many people in the park that night lost a good friend, and the best band in the country also no longer had the best rhythm.

Thousands of hot sticky citizens stood on the hill in front of the stage that night. A good few of them later ended up in the ‘water’, arms raised in deference to their heroes, showing their appreciation by dancing in the stinking gunk which masqueraded as a stream in those days.

The offies of Lark Lane and Aigburth Road had clearly had their stock plundered hours before the band even left their home a few hundred yards away at the edge of the park, and as the night sky darkened, the cider and Skol were taking their toll.

There was no need for the distractions and aggravations of trivial nonsense like Health and Safety, no call for risk assessments, no point in bothering with portaloos, and not a burger van in sight. For an event organised by the biggest, richest TV organisation in the world, it was all a bit amateur.

But absolutely none of that mattered.

This was an impressive set of post-punk psychedelic wonderment to listen to, and an amazingly gifted gang of musicians ready to deliver it.

Songs such as The Back Of Love, Over The Wall, All My Colours (Zimbo), Rescue, A Promise, Heads Will Roll served to prove the inherent genius in this band’s writing.

As blisteringly wonderful then as they are referred to as classic now.

The exit from the park in the late summer darkness, was an event all of it’s own. At least this year, they’ll have stewards. But plainly, it just won’t be the same.

Setlist: Echo & The Bunnymen, “Pop Carnival” broadcast, Liverpool, 8/26/82

1. “Rescue”
2. “All My Colours (Zimbo)”
3. “The Back of Love”
4. “Heads Will Roll”
5. “Over The Wall”
6. “Do It Clean”