I can still remember the cold winter evening that I went to the Record Bar searching through all the titles and found a gem titled Talk Talk Talk. It was by a band called the Psychedelic Furs. I remember struggling to get open that impossibly tight shrink-wrap as I shivered in the winter cold in my old car. As soon as I slid the cassette into my stereo the ferocity “Pretty In Pink” blared through the speakers and I was sold. It was post-punk at its best (at least to my limited knowledge at best at the time) and Richard Butler’s gravel-voiced singing epitomized what a punk rock vocalist should sound like. In my humble opinion at the time he sounded exactly like his likeness on the tape cover. Before long I even heard it on the radio (ironically KZ-106). As was the case with cassettes – especially ones I owned got worn out. That was followed by, Forever Now and my personal favorite song of theirs, “Love My Way”. I remember watching it on MTV constantly and when the album came out (the single was released before the album) I ran to my favorite neighborhood Record Bar to buy it. I also remember seeing on MTV (when they were actually relevant) that the band decided shorten their name to “The Furs” so people wouldn’t confuse their punk rock style with a hippie band or something (I don’t quite remember how Alan Jackson put it). Before long everyone was listening to the Furs (that didn’t catch on and they kept the “Psychedelic” part).
Then the world was turned on to the Psychedelic Furs in 1986 thanks to the John Hughes’ movie Pretty In Pink where the song was the title track appropriately enough. And thanks to the popularity of the movie the band will forever be tied to John Hughes. Our favorite place to see a band at this time was Yesterday’s. Every week Denny Hennen would post in the entry to the club each band’s playlist. We would study it looking for Psychedelic Furs songs and usually found one. Other songs we would look for were “Blister In the Sun,” “I Want to be Sedated”, What I Like About You”, “Don’t Change” (which The Bucks killed – Eddie Pontiac for president! and anything by U2. By the late ‘80s and into the early ‘90s the Furs seemed to be more and more mainstream. So much so they took an abrupt hiatus. Butler formed Love Spit Love that sounded similar to the Furs but more alternative and less punk (with the exception of Butler’s vocals). During the ‘90s they had a decent response from college radio before the Psychedelic Furs decided to reform in 2000 and have been going strong since.
I’ve gotten to see the band a number of times since reforming including their stop in Chattanooga at the Walker Theatre. I never get tired of seeing them. Over 40 years in existence and the Furs remain a true post-punk classic. Pseudo political songs like “President Gas” reign as true as when they were first released in 1981. Unlike a lot of bands the band’s catalog remains relevant and fresh as the band played such classics (to me and their devoted fans like; “She Is Mine”, “Heartbreak Beat” and “Sister Europe”. Even the band and butler have aged well. I guess you could say he grew into his voice. Unlike other older bands Butler has gotten better looking as he’s aged and doesn’t look like a parody of himself like some bands on revival tours. A mature Richard Butler is even grittier and more punk than ever.
Sax player Mars Williams was featured heavily during the set as his playing added a jazzier feel to the post-punk classics. At times it was almost as is Williams was the centerpiece of the band but Butler took any notion of that away when he sang “Dumb Waiters” and “Pretty In Pink”. The band finished the night with the “Heaven” an eerily political song most confuse with its upbeat rhythm and title. After a brief pause the band came on stage for a two song encore. The Furs finished the night with their signature single, “Pretty In Pink” and finished the night with “India” off their self-titled debut album.
Before, during and after the show I saw not only a lot of familiar faces (one local prominent attorney) and a lot of young girls who were in the aisles dancing along. I’ve never seen anyone dance at a Psychedelic Furs concert – at least not like this, but anything goes these days. A good time was obviously had by all.
The Psychedelic Furs Setlist
The Ghost in You
Into You Like a Train
She Is Mine
Until She Comes
Love My Way
No Easy Street
Only You and I
Pretty in Pink
– Dave Weinthal