Not all music is driving music. And not all driving music is for all cars. In fact there is some music that is only driving music for very specific cars, perhaps even very specific model years. My case in point: The Psychedelic Furs.
Formed in England in 1977 by Richard Butler (vocals), and his brother Tim Butler (bass), together with saxophone player Duncan Kilburn, the band went through various line up changes until they found John Ashton (guitar) and Vince Ely (drummer). A well-received Peel session in 1979 led to a deal with CBS records. "Sister Europe," their first single for the label, was a funereal affair, a sluggish, mid-tempo bass and drum pulse against which Richard Butler, already fully in command of his rasping, world weary voice, mused idly about a sister who had returned home. If the saxophone reminded one of Roxy Music, the flanged guitars and air of profound resignation were pure Low-era Bowie, spliced with Joy Division (perhaps not surprisingly as Martin Hannett produced both bands). An audacious and compelling debut, perfectly suited for the time. But driving music? Not exactly.
The eponymous album that followed showed that the P Furs were, in fact, capable of rising above the merely morose, with some storming tracks like "Fall"and the comparatively jubilant "We Love You," but somehow the band never really got in my bones. They seemed too obvious. too derivative, or sometimes just trying too hard. Echo and the Bunnymen and PIL did this kind of thing so much better. That was until I plugged a tape with the first album and its follow up, Talk, Talk, Talk into the cassette deck of my 1972 Dodge Dart Swinger.
The car had been left to me by a reclusive uncle, a man who had lost his job building jet fighters following the Avro Arrow debacle of the 1950s, and seemed to have rarely left the house until his death in 1980. I visited him once. Wet towels hung from doorways as make-shift humidifiers, and stacks of newspapers in every corner of every room. I never quite knew why he wanted me to have the car. Perhaps I said something right that day. But man was I pleased to learn of my inheritance. The car was practically new. In fact, it looked like it had just come out of the show room; its slant six engine, reputed by some to be the finest achievement of the American auto industry, positively gleamed under the hood. And there was enough room in that trunk to fit the gear for an entire band.
Driving late at night, through the glittering, rain-soaked streets of Toronto, the street car wires humming over head and the cassette player cranked all the way up, The Psychedelic Furs suddenly made sense. Not just sense. They spoke a kind of truth. I was in love with the nuclear bomb. I was in love with Sophia Loren. With Brigitte Bardot. The people dead in cars. I saw them. It all made sense. But only here, in this car, listening to this tape. I got it at last. Got it in my bones.
Collected here are the various sessions that the P Furs did for various BBC Radio programs, between 1979 and 1990. Tracks 1-4 are from that first session for John Peel (7/25/79). Tracks 5-7 are from the band's second Peel session (2/18/80) and tracks 8-10 for their third (2/2/8). Tracks 11-12 were recorded 9/4/81 for Richard Skinner, and tracks 13-16 were recorded 2/7/90 in session for John Campbell.
And that tape that sounded so good in my 1972 Dodge Dart Swinger? Still got it--thanks Second Chameleon!
-- Crash The Driver
Psychedelic Furs - Radio One Sessions
01 Imitation Of Christ
03 Sister Europe
04 We Love You
05 Soap Commercial
06 Susan's Strange
07 Mac The Knife
08 Into You Like A Train
09 On And Again
10 All Of This And Nothing
11 She Is Mine
12 Dumb Waiters
13 Entertain Me
14 Book Of Days
16 Pretty In Pink
UK CD Strange Fruit [SFRSCD003] 1997