With our top 10 list of Echo & The Bunnymen Songs songs, we are looking at the best of one of the most crucial bands of the British post-punk movement who sadly are also one of the most underrated. Despite having much success in the 80s with a string of successful albums and singles, Echo & The Bunnymen have always had a largely cult status, having never quite reached the worldwide success of their peers such as U2 and The Cure. The band was formed in Liverpool in 1978, in an area that included bands such as Teardrop Explodes, Flock of Seagulls and Dead Alive during the same late 1970s period.
The band’s success came very early on with their debut Crocodiles instantly charting in the British top 20. However, it was with their third and fourth albums, 1983’s Porcupine and 84’s Ocean Rain where their success really started to pick up, with both albums spawning high charting singles, “The Cutter” from the former and “The Killing Moon” from the latter.
The band’s most prosperous commercial period effectively came to an end when vocalist Ian McCulloch left the band in 1987 and was replaced by Noel Burke who formally sang in the band St Vitus Dance. After splitting up in 1993, they reformed in 1997 and have been touring and recording ever since with only McCulloch and guitarist Will Sergeant remaining from the original line-up.
# 10 – The Game
First on this list is the lead single and opening track from the band’s self-titled album released in 1987. This album was the last with McCulloch before his departure and their first album in three years since Ocean Rain was released in 1984. The song reached number 28 on the UK singles chart. It was released as both a 7-inch and 12-inch single with the b side being “Lost and Found.” The 12-inch also added the track “Ship of Fools.”
# 9 – Nothing Lasts Forever
“Nothing Lasts Forever” is the first single to be released from their comeback album Evergreen released in 1997. The album saw McCulloch return to the fold after he reformed the band with Sergeant and bassist Les Pattinson. It reached number 8 in the UK singles chart. This album saw the Bunnymen enter a new era which at the time was dominated by the Britpop movement. This ballad fitted in well with the then-contemporary sound, being rather reminiscent of The Verve.
# 8 – The Cutter
At the controversially low position of Number eight on our is one of the band’s most famous songs released in 1983 from the album Porcupine. This was where the band really started to take off, with this track reaching number 8 in the UK charts. With this album, the band introduced a new bigger sound as opposed to the darker sound of the first two albums. Sargent’s trademark eastern-influenced guitar sound is used to maximum effect here, while McCulloch pours his heart and soul into a very operatic vocal performance.
# 7 – Ocean Rain
Up next is the title track of the band’s fourth album released in 1984. The song about a crew aboard a ship was recorded with a 35-piece orchestra, a daring move for a band in the post-punk scene. It is a brilliantly atmospheric song with lyrics that paint a very vivid picture in the listener’s head. All the band members put in an incredible performance, McCulloch really proves himself here as a vocalist who can go beyond the realms of the standard post-punk singer, showing that unlike many of his ranting contemporaries, he could genuinely sing. It was not released as a single so did not chart.
# 6 – All My Colours
At number six is one of the band’s more obscure tracks from the band’s second album Heaven up Here released in 1981. It is a very haunting track and really shows that even this early into their career that the Bunnymen had big ideas regarding where they wanted to take their sound. It was covered in 1993 by Novelle Vague on their album 3 which featured guest vocals from McCulloch. This was also a very good version that arguably outdid the original in terms of sheer emotional beauty.
# 5 – Rescue
Up next is an early track from the band’s debut Crocodiles released in 1980. It was their second-ever single and their first to chart, reaching number 62. The track has a very early feel to it in the sense that the band at this point was new to the scene and had not developed their identity. The track does not have the epic feel of a lot of their more celebrated work. It is also rather reminiscent of other bands who would be considered their peers such as The Cure and the Teardrop Explodes.
# 4 – Bring on the Dancing Horses
This single was from the band’s 1985 compilation album Songs to Learn and Sing and was recorded for the movie Pretty in Pink. It charted in the UK at number 21. As a result of its association with the film, it is commonly regarded as a new wave classic. It was released as both a 7-inch and 12-inch single with the latter version being slightly longer. The album that it is from was a singles collection that charted high in the UK at number 6 and even entered the US Billboard 200 at 158.
# 3 – Seven Seas
“Seven Seas” was the third single from Ocean Rain which reached number 16 in the UK charts. Another track from the album with a sea-themed title, the lyrics here a more surreal. Like all songs on the album, the atmosphere carries the track along and the band now sound mature and confident, having left behind the eeriness of the early records. It was released as both a 7 and 12 inch with the 12-inch B-side being a cover of The Beatles’ “All You Need is Love.”
# 2 – All That Jazz
At the surprising number 2 spot is a track from Crocodiles which is not among their more well known. The band actually started out using a drum machine. However, this soon came to end after the band’s debut gig when it malfunctioned and thus resulted in the band’s first live performance being a bit of a disaster. So, they enlisted Pete de Freitas on drums who puts in a particularly energetic performance on this track.
# 1 – The Killing Moon
At the top spot is the lead single from Ocean Rain. “The Killing Moon” is widely considered to be the band’s signature track and is their second most successful single behind “The Cutter”, reaching number nine on the UK charts. It is a beautifully haunting track where McCulloch sounds very soulful and deep with his vocal performance. The song has been covered by many other artists over the years and has been featured in many films and television programs, the most notable of which being in the opening sequence of the film Donnie Darko.
Updated May 26, 2023
Top 10 Echo & The Bunnymen Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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