On May 5, 1959, Ian Stephen McCulloch was born in Liverpool, England, with his parents little realizing that he’d one day be guilty of associating with a bunch of Bunnymen and a drum machine called Echo.
That’s right: this is the very same Ian McCulloch who - after flirting briefly with a well-named group called The Crucial Three, the other two members of which were Julian Cope, future frontman of The Teardrop Explodes, and Pete Wylie, later to found the group Wah! - subsequently teamed up with guitarist Will Sergeant, bassist Les Pattinson, and (after the aforementioned Echo got the boot) drummer Pete de Freitas to become Echo and The Bunnymen.
To commemorate the occasion of McCulloch’s birth, an event which we’re quite sure he would agree is worthy of commemoration, we’ve picked 10 tracks from the major-label years of Ian’s career, i.e. The Bunnymen material featuring the foursome mentioned above, McCulloch’s first two solo albums, and the one-off collaboration that he and Sergeant put together before setting it aside permanently in favor of reviving the Bunnymen name.
Echo and The Bunnymen, “Rescue” (Crocodiles, 1980): The band’s second single - which followed 1979’s “The Pictures on My Wall,” just in case you wanted to know what their first single was - gave them their first chart appearance, hitting No. 62 on the U.K. Singles chart. No, they weren’t exactly shifting platinum units straight out of the gate, but everybody’s got to start somewhere.
Echo and The Bunnymen, “Over the Wall” (Heaven Up Here, 1981): Though it was only released as a single in Australia, where it failed to chart, this remains one of the best known tracks from the band’s sophomore studio album.
Echo and The Bunnymen, “The Cutter” (Porcupine, 1983): After scoring their first Top 20 hit with the first single from Porcupine, “The Back of Love,” The Bunnymen promptly followed it up by scoring their first Top 10 single, taking this track to No. 8.
Ian McCulloch, “September Song” (1984): When Jools Holland asked McCulloch why he chose to record this Kurt Weill composition, he said, “Somebody left a horse head in me bed one night, and I had to do it.” “So it was sort of a Mafia decision, then, really,” rationalized Holland. “Yeah,” said McCulloch. “Friendly mafia. Friends.” Riiiiiiight. We still don’t really know why he recorded it, let alone why he released it as a solo single, but nor are we complaining.
Echo and The Bunnymen, “The Killing Moon” (Ocean Rain, 1984): What really needs to be said about this song, other than that it’s perhaps the most gorgeous track in the entire Bunnymen discography?
Echo and The Bunnymen, “Bring on the Dancing Horses” (Songs to Learn and Sing, 1985): Some know this tune from its inclusion on the soundtrack to Pretty in Pink, others recognize it as the obligatory new track on the group’s best-of collection, but either way it’s an ‘80s classic and one of the band’s better known songs.
Echo and The Bunnymen, “Bedbugs and Ballyhoo” (Echo and The Bunnymen, 1987): Yes, we know, you thought we were going to go with “Lips Like Sugar,” but since McCulloch himself spent a fair while dismissing that tune as being too commercial, we opted for the Doors-like track that became a college-rock fave in its own right.
Ian McCulloch, “Proud to Fall” (Candleland, 1989): When McCulloch left The Bunnymen behind, they soldiered on for precisely one album before wrapping things up, but our man Ian carved himself a nice little solo career, starting with this single, which helped people remember just how much his voice meant to The Bunnymen’s sound. (You’d think that’d be common sense, but apparently people needed a reminder.)
Ian McCulloch, “Honey Drip” (Mysterio, 1992): Granted, McCulloch’s second solo album wasn’t quite the great shakes that its predecessor was, but it definitely had several strong moments, this single being one of them.
Electrafixion, “Lowdown” (Burned, 1995): Arguably one of the most underrated albums of the 1990s, this McCulloch/Sergeant reunion was far harder edged than The Bunynmen’s stuff, which is probably why it didn’t set the charts on fire, but if you’ve never given it a listen, remedy that situation right now and hear what you’ve been missing.