Echo & the Bunnymen – Songs to Learn & Sing

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 4)

This was the first Echo & the Bunnymen album I ever bought. I was in Washington, D.C. the summer after my sophomore year of high school (so, 1988?). I was there for a two week program related to US politics; we were housed at American University. One day I traveled to Georgetown alone – I suppose I walked down Wisconsin Avenue, but that’s a long walk and I don’t remember it. Anyway, I know I stopped in at punk/alternative clothing store Commander Salamander (very intimidating to 15 year old me), bought a Smiths poster at a small shop under the Key Theatre, and I went to a record store, which I think was the Wiz (all of these establishments are sadly long gone). There, I purchased this CD. Later that night, the adults who ran the program interrogated us individually to determine who might have committed some vandalism (or something) in the dorm that day. My alibi was my complimentary Commander Salamander pin, and I offered to retrieve the receipt of my Echo & the Bunnymen purchase. I was released without further incident.

What I Think of This Album

I have no good reason to still own this. With four exceptions, I already have every song on here. This collection does give me “The Puppet,” a post-Crocodiles single from 1980; “A Promise” from Heaven Up Here; a live version of the “Never Stop” single; and “Bring On the Dancing Horses,” originally on the Pretty In Pink soundtrack. Also, props for setting the songs out in chronological order.

All these “new” songs are pretty good, and I’m glad I have them. There is a paranoid, angry energy to “The Puppet,” with a bunch of different guitars, a dark bass, and fine work from Pete deFreitas on the kit. McCulloch talks-sings his way through most of this, which only reinforces that this track is about the musical backing. 

That’s decidedly not the case with “A Promise,” on which McCulloch sounds absolutely anguished and betrayed. His soaring vocals and Sergeant’s multi-hued, subtle work on the chorus are fantastic. With this album, I own two alternate versions of “Never Stop” but not the actual single. Oh well. It’s a fun song no matter what form. “Bring On the Dancing Horses” is more pop-oriented than the usual Bunnymen fare, and so it sounds a little lightweight, but it’s a welcome bonus.

The Best Thing About This Album

It was my gateway to Echo & the Bunnymen.

Release Date

November, 1985

The Cover Art

An Anton Corbijn photograph. I like it but it’s not consistent with the art of the first four studio albums, which I think was a poor judgment call.

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