STORY WRITTEN BY ROB NAGY
For 21st Century Media
Emanating from the late 70’s post-punk era of the British music scene, “The Psychedelic Furs” evolved into one of the 80’s most unique and significant bands.
Anchored by founding members/brothers Richard Butler on vocals and Tim Butler on bass, the Psychedelic Furs, which included Duncan Kilburn (saxophone), Paul Wilson (drums) and Roger Morris (guitars), successfully merged punk, rock and new wave with a raw edge accentuated by Richard’s entrancing vocals.
Recording a handful of highly regarded and commercially successful albums, the Furs are known for their classic songs “Pretty in Pink,” “Heartbreak Beat,” “The Ghost In You,” “Forever Now,” “Heaven” and “Love My Way.”
“We came together not knowing what we were doing and learned together,” said Tim Butler from his Kentucky home. “It just happened that, in that learning process, we wrote some great songs.”
“Standing the test of time is all you can hope for,” added Butler. “When we were writing those albums, we weren’t swayed by the record company telling us to do things or what was hip or trendy at the time. We just played how we wanted to play.”
The Psychedelic Furs released their self-titled debut album in 1980. While the record didn’t fare well in the U.S., it did resonate with fans on their home turf in the U.K., where it reached the Top 20. Success throughout Europe soon followed.
Their follow-up record, “Talk Talk Talk” (1981), which spawned the original version of the single “Pretty in Pink,” was the band’s U.S. Billboard 200 chart debut.
With each new album release, the momentum toward international prominence intensified for the band. “Forever Now” (1982) featured the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 single “Love My Way.” “Mirror Moves” (1984) yielded the Billboard Hot 100 singles “The Ghost in You” and “Heaven,” which was the band’s highest charting UK hit at the time, peaking at No. 29.
By the mid-80s, the Psychedelic Furs had a steady musical presence on both college and mainstream rock radio stations. Their re-recording of “Pretty in Pink,” which was prominently included in the John Hughes film by the same name, became their biggest hit in the U.S. and abroad and catapulted the soundtrack to platinum honors.
The Psychedelic Furs’ success peaked with the release of their highest charting album, ”Midnight to Midnight” (1987), containing the Top 40 single “Heartbreak Beat.” Three number one hits on the newly established U.S. Modern Rock chart followed with “All That Money Wants” (1988), “House” (1990) and “Until She Comes” (1991).
In spite of their success, the band went on a lengthy hiatus throughout much of the 90’s.
“It always has been an enjoyable business to be in,” says Butler. “But, back in the 80’s and early 90’s, when there was pressure from the record company to write and record, you had to have two or three singles. That sort of pressure, that sort of intensity – we were tired of it and needed a break.”
It wasn’t until 2001 that the urge to revisit the concert stage returned.
“We were asked to do a tour with the B-52’s and the Go Go’s,” recalls Butler. “We went on first. We only did 35 or 40 minutes. We were like, ‘Yeah, we’ll give it a go. We’ll test out the waters.’ There was such a great reaction that, immediately after that, we did a nine-week tour, and we were selling out in some cases multiple shows. We thought, ‘Wow, people haven’t forgotten!’”
The current touring line-up, in addition to Richard and Tim Butler, features Paul Garisto (drums), Mars Williams (saxophone), Amanda Kramer (keyboards) and Rich Good (guitar). The Psychedelic Furs remain in demand and are selling out clubs and theaters throughout the U.S. and abroad.
“We just enjoy playing with no turmoil or in-fighting in the band,” says Butler. “It’s just enjoyable. There’s no pressure from record companies or anything. We’ll do three or four weeks, takes some months off, and then we’ll do another 3 or 4 weeks.”
“The most you can do is put on an entertaining show and hope that some of what the lyrics are saying can make people think about things, relationships or politics. The main thing is to be entertained, have fun and enjoy yourself.”
Having gone full circle by returning to the simplicity of the creative process on their own terms, the Psychedelic Furs are recording new material for what they anticipate will be their first release since 1991’s “World Outside” album.
“Our music still says something,” says Butler. “Richard’s one of the best rock lyricists of all-time. He also has one of the most distinctive voices.”
“We are actually working on a new album, but we’re doing it on our own time frame,” says Butler. “If we start pressuring ourselves too much, we might get back into the same feeling of not liking the band. We hope to have it out early next year.”
At a time when music has become homogenized and it’s a challenge to decipher one band from another, the Psychedelic Furs’ signature sound thrives.
“We still have a large audience, which seems to be getting larger,” said Butler. “We have songs that stand the test of time. They’re not dated. They haven’t got the 80’s stamp on them. They’re songs that can last and have lasted and seem to be gaining new fans and keeping old ones. It’s fun to go out there and see people radiate from 16 to 60, singing along to something you wrote — some of the songs 30 years ago or more. Thank you to the fans for sticking with us.”
NOTE: The Psychedelic Furs will perform at the Ardmore Music Hall, 23 E. Lancaster Ave., Ardmore, on Friday Jan. 9, The concert is sold out, according to information at www.ardmoremusic.com/calendar. To stay up to date with the Psychedelic Furs, visit www.thepsychedelicfurs.com.