November 1985: Echo & the Bunnymen Share "Songs to Learn & Sing"

British post-punk group Echo & the Bunnymen (Will Sergeant, Pete de Freitas, Ian McCulloch, Les Pattinson), Italy, circa 1985. (Photo by Luciano Viti/Getty Images)
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(Luciano Viti/Getty Images)

In America, UK post-punk band Echo & the Bunnymen were already a cult sensation in 1985. The group's most recent album at the time, Ocean Rain, had even cracked the Billboard 200, reaching as high as #87 on the strength of singles like "The Killing Moon" and "Seven Seas."

While mainstream success in the States proved elusive, their underground status was huge, with the band playing packed theaters full of trench coat wearing fans eager to soak up the majestic melancholia and singer Ian McCulloch's moody vocal styling.

On November 11, 1985, Echo & the Bunnymen capitalized on that growing fame with Songs to Learn & Sing, a collection of the group's singles from their four previous studio LPs.

The singles collection arrived with a new song: "Bring on the Dancing Horses." Elegantly produced, the track smoothed over some of Echo & the Bunnymen's more abrasive edges with swelling strings and layers of synths. The tune would prove to be something of  Trojan Horse, as it was slated for the soundtrack to John Hughes' instantly classic teen movie, Pretty in Pink. The placement would help the album crack the Top 200, peaking at #158.

The song would also generate a slew of new fans for the band, many of whom snapped up Songs to Learn & Sing as larger crowds clamored to see the band perform live.

"It's about the way people would sooner look at statues than themselves. We revere things that tell us about ourselves," McCulloch told Songfacts about the track. "It's that thing of how we think art is very important. A life without art, who knows what that would be like? We think the Mona Lisa is this thing that's valuable, when something else isn't."

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