Bill Drummond, Echo and the Bunnymen: The Crystal Day in 1984

Echo and the Bunnymen

Echo and the Bunnymen

As Liverpool draws breath after three days of KLF madness Getintothis’ Mike Hill looks at the last time the duo’s Bill Drummond took over the city’s streets for a bizarre series of music related happenings.

As manager of Echo and the The Bunnymen during the 1980s Bill Drummond forged a reputation for doing things a bit differently.

Like plotting a tour along ley lines stretching from Iceland to the Hebrides to Mathew Street.

But one of his best loved Bunnymen events started with a small advert in the music press, featured a food fight on the Mersey Ferry and a group cycle ride around the streets of Liverpool.

May 1984 saw Echo and the Bunnymen release arguably their greatest album in the form of Ocean Rain.

To mark the occasion the band played a gig which has gone down in city folklore as one of the best of their long career. Never one to take the traditional album launch route Drummond drew up plans for a day long magical mystery tour of events on May 12 billed ‘A Day’s Worth of Happenings in Liverpool‘ to be capped by a concert at St George’s Hall.

As befitted a band who loved to evolve a myth, it was claimed they would be the first to play the grand old Liverpool landmark since The Beatles in 1961. Tickets were initially only available via a small ad in the NME with the first 1,500 applicants given a special programme outlining plans for the occasion and a map of key locations for the day ahead drawn by Drummond.

Getintothis’ coverage of the KLF

A Crystal Day started with a bugle call and then breakfast at former boxer Brian McCaffrey’s diner on Stanley Street, a favourite haunt of the band which would later be immortalised in the television documentary about the four piece Life at Brian’s.

The idea was gig goers would have to get their tickets stamped by Brian to verify they’d eaten at his diner and so ensure admission.

This scheme was soon abandoned as queues formed along Stanley Street with fans waiting up to two hours to be served by the proprietor who once claimed to have the fastest punch in boxing.

Legend has it the boost in takings kept Brian’s afloat with 1,000 meals dished up on the day although the café itself has long gone.

The band’s hairdresser Victors Salon was also on the itinerary but no record exists of how many fans walked out with a Will Sergeant or Mac on the day.

The afternoon saw bemused staff welcoming hundreds of fans using a free Mersey ferry ticket to set sail from the Pier Head to Seacombe and back. For some reason best known only to Drummond fans were handed bananas which sparked a bizarre mid-river food fight.

While Ian McCulloch joined the cross river shenanigans, Sergeant and Les Pattinson lead a party of cyclists around the city centre on a route mapped to mirror the shape of the band’s famous Bunny God logo. The journey lead right across the Anglican Cathedral where followers were treated to an organ and choir recital.

Outside, dozens of yellow and blue balloons were released at the precise moment, by great coincidence, Mac’s beloved Liverpool Football Club were sealing the league title 100 miles away in Nottingham. The Last Post was sounded then it was time for the music.

After all of the preamble, the gig itself fully lived up to expectations with 3,500 fans packing into the hall for a date with Bunnymen history – the other 2,000 tickets having been snapped up locally after the vast majority of NME advertised tickets ended up out of town.

Kicking off with Read It Books the band played three sets ending an all conquering three hours, and two encores, later with Ocean Rain.

Although the rumoured appearance by Sir Ken Dodd failed to materialise the band were accompanied by The Dancers of the Pagoda of 100 Harmonies from the city’s Chinatown performing athletic excerpts from the classic Chinese mythological tale The Monkey King Subdues The White Bone Demon.

The performance was captured by Channel Four’s The Tube who made a documentary about the whole day which, despite the edited down footage of the show, still captures the magic of one of the Bunnymen’s finest hours.

It also features McCulloch extolling the virtues of a mid-80s Yates Wine Lodge ahead of the “pastel coloured trouser bars” of eighties Liverpool.