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Music

The Echo and the Bunnymen song featuring Liam Gallagher's backing vocals

Liverpool post-punk group Echo and the Bunnymen were formed by frontman Ian McCulloch, guitarist Will Sergeant and bassist Les Pattinson in 1978. Mcculloch had previously begun his musical aspirations in 1977 alongside Julian Cope and Pete Wylie in the short-lived band Crucial Three. After just six weeks, Wylie left, and McCulloch joined forces with Cope to form A Shallow Madness, which would later become The Teardrop Explodes. 

McCulloch, however, was promptly dismissed from A Shallow Madness by Cope following creative tension. He subsequently decided to form his new group with Sergeant and Pattinson. Echo and the Bunnymen began proceedings with a cult following and played their first gig in November 1978, supporting The Teardrop Explodes at Eric’s Club in Liverpool. 

They achieved moderate success with their first two albums, 1980’s Crocodiles and 1981’s Heaven Up Here. From their early days, Echo and the Bunnymen were recognised for their unique brand of post-punk that drew inspiration from the lyrical genius of The Doors frontman Jim Morrison. In fact, the band even performed several live and studio covers of their beloved American psychedelic rock group.

Later, their mainstream success came in 1983 with the release of Porcupine, thanks to its top ten single ‘The Cutter’ and the top 20 single ‘The Back of Love’. Their career peak came in 1984 with the release of their masterpiece Ocean Rain which was home to hits like ‘The Killing Moon’, ‘Seven Seas’ and ‘My Kingdom’. 

After this peak, the group found it difficult to live up to the artistic standard of Ocean Rain. They released the commercially successful eponymous fifth album in 1987 to mixed reviews amid strain within the group. McCulloch left the band in 1988 and worked on a solo project following his father’s death. 

The remaining members of Echo and the Bunnymen attempted to replace McCulloch. They finally found a replacement in Noel Burke, but plans were halted when drummer Pete de Freitas was killed in a motorbike accident on his way back to Liverpool from London for the first rehearsal with Burke. After replacing de Freitas with Damon Reece, the Bunnymen released the unsuccessful Reverberation (1990) and a couple of stand-alone singles before breaking up in 1993. 

After three years had passed, McCulloch had felt satisfied with his short solo excursion and forgave the remaining Bunnymen for continuing behind his back despite his protests. In 1997, they returned to the studio to record their comeback album with McCulloch back in the driving seat. Evergreen was well received and reached number eight in the UK Albums Chart thanks to its hit single ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’.

In a 2014 interview with Uncut McCulloch said of the song: “I’d had that song since 1990 in various forms. The others were very negative – Will said, ‘It’s a bit pretty’ and I thought, ‘You fucking idiot, that’s like calling ‘The Killing Moon’ a bit beautiful.’”

He continued, confidently asserting the song’s importance. “To me, it’s the most important song I’ve ever written because it takes me back to being taken seriously, and it’s one of the best songs of all time.”

The song was given added vibrancy from a studio collaboration with Oasis’ Liam Gallagher. The iconic Britpop frontman provided handclaps (alongside Paul ‘Bonehead’ Arthurs) and backing vocals during the pre-chorus: “And I want more than I can get / Just trying to, trying to, trying to forget”. 

The collaboration came as a stroke of luck after McCulloch and co realised that Oasis were also at the Henley-on-Thames studio in early 1997 recording their third album. McCulloch recalled: “Oasis were in the studio next door doing Be Here Now. Liam came in and listened to ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’, and he had ideas for tambourine and a backing vocal and we thought, ‘Yeah, we’re having that.’ He was spot on, it really made that song great. With the lineage of frontmen through the years, having him on it made sense for me.”

Listen to the iconic Echo and the Bunnymen track, ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’, below.