Crocodiles is the debut album by the English post-punk band Echo & the Bunnymen. It was released on 18 July 1980 in the United Kingdom and on 17 December 1980 in the United States. The album reached number 17 on the UK Albums Chart. "Pictures on My Wall" and "Rescue" had previously been released as singles.

An album cover showing four men amongst some trees at night. In the top left-hand corner of the cover is the band's name and the album's name is in the top-right corner, both are in yellow text.
Studio album by
Released18 July 1980
Echo & the Bunnymen chronology
Heaven Up Here
Singles from Crocodiles
  1. "The Pictures on My Wall"
    Released: 5 May 1979
  2. "Rescue"
    Released: 5 May 1980

Recorded at Eden Studios in London and at Rockfield Studios near Monmouth, Crocodiles was produced by Bill Drummond and David Balfe, while Ian Broudie had already produced the single "Rescue". The album received favourable reviews from the music press, receiving four out of five stars by both Rolling Stone and Blender magazines.

Background and recording edit

Echo & the Bunnymen formed in 1978 and originally consisted of Ian McCulloch (vocals and rhythm guitar), Will Sergeant (lead guitar), Les Pattinson (bass) and a drum machine. They released their debut single, "The Pictures on My Wall", in May 1979 on the independent label Zoo Records. The band then signed with WEA subsidiary label Korova and were persuaded to employ a drummer.[4] Pete de Freitas subsequently joined the band, and in early 1980 they recorded their second single, "Rescue". The single was recorded at Eden Studios in London and produced by fellow Liverpudlian and ex-member of Big in Japan Ian Broudie.[5]

A British tour followed in June 1980 before the band went to Rockfield Studios to record their debut album. Despite talk of the American singer Del Shannon being asked to produce the album, it was produced by the band's manager Bill Drummond and his business partner and The Teardrop Explodes keyboard player David Balfe.[6] The recording of the album only took three weeks,[6] but Pattinson was surprised by the boring nature of the recording process: "There was a lot of hanging about. I didn't get all the 'drop-ins' and 'edits' bit."[7]

Music and lyrics edit

The music on Crocodiles is generally dark and moody: In 1980, the British music magazine NME described McCulloch's lyrics as "scattered with themes of sorrow, horror, and despair, themes that are reinforced by stormy animal/sexual imagery" and American music magazine Creem described Crocodiles as "a moody, mysterious, fascinating record."[8] In 1981, music journalist David Fricke, writing for Rolling Stone magazine, said, "Instead of dope, McCulloch trips out on his worst fears: isolation, death and emotional bankruptcy."[9]

In his 2005 book Rip It Up and Start Again: Post Punk 1978–1984, British music journalist Simon Reynolds describes the sound of the album as "pared and sparse."[10] He goes on to describe Pattinson's "granite basslines" carrying the melody; Sergeant's guitar playing as "jagged-quartz" and avoiding "anything resembling a solo, apart from the odd flinty peal of lead playing"; de Freitas' drumming as minimal and "surging urgency"; and McCulloch's vocals as having "precocious authority." Reynolds describes the songs as being rooted in "doubt, anguish, despair" while the "tightness and brightness of their sound transmits contradictory sensations of confidence, vigour and euphoria."[10] He also describes how the line "Stars are stars and they shine so hard" from the track "Stars Are Stars" showed how the band felt no embarrassment in their wish to be famous.[11] In 1989 McCulloch told Reynolds how, as a teenager, he felt there was "a big movie camera in the sky." McCulloch described the opening line of the track "Going Up" – "Ain't thou watching my film" – as a terrible line, and he went on to say "It was meant to be tongue in cheek, but that was what spurred me on."[11]

Cover edit

The cover photograph is one of a series taken by photographer Brian Griffin[5] in the woods near Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire at night. The photos show themes of introspection, despair and confusion.[12] Describing the cover photo, music journalist Chris Salewicz said, "[...] the Bunnymen are placed in poses of histrionic despair in a near-neurotically gothic woodland that evokes memories of elfin glades and fabled Arthurian legends."[13] Creem magazine said, "The cover art suggests four boys dazed and confused in a drugged dream, a surreal where-are-we landscape. The Bunnymen's images are of loneliness, disconnection, a world gone awry."[8]

Originally the band wanted the pictures to include burning stakes, but given the possible KKK connotations, they settled for moody lighting instead.[12] However, McCulloch was pleased with the cover, saying "the cover [...] is better to look at than the Mona Lisa."[14] Sergeant was less happy, saying that he "was pissed off that there was a solo picture of [McCulloch] on the back cover."[15]

In the book The KLF: Chaos, Magic and the Band Who Burned a Million Pounds by John Higgs, Bill Drummond says that he saw the face of "Echo", an imagined giant rabbit, in the cover design.[16]

Releases edit

The album was originally released as an LP in the United Kingdom on 18 July 1980 by Warner Bros. subsidiary label Korova. Two tracks, "Do It Clean" and "Read It in Books", were included on the cassette but were initially omitted from the LP version of the album because the managing director of Warner Bros., Rob Dickins, mistakenly thought that they contained obscenities.[6] After Dickins realised his error, the tracks were included on the American version of the album, which was released by Sire Records on 17 December 1980. The two tracks were included with the UK release as a limited-edition single. The album was first released on CD in May 1989 by WEA in the UK. It was released on CD in the US by Sire Records the following year. The track listings found on these versions were the same as those of the original LP releases for each country.

Along with Echo & the Bunnymen's first five albums, Crocodiles was remastered and reissued on CD in 2003, marketed as a 25th-anniversary edition ten bonus tracks on the UK version and eight on the American version. The UK version contained the missing tracks "Do It Clean" and "Read It in Books". The other bonus tracks included "Simple Stuff", which was the B-side to the single "Rescue"; early versions of "Villiers Terrace", "Pride" and "Simple Stuff" from the album's recording sessions; and the four tracks from the Shine So Hard EP, "Crocodiles", "Zimbo", "All That Jazz" and "Over the Wall". The reissued album was produced by music historian Andy Zax and producer Bill Inglot.[5]

Two singles were released before the album's release. "Pictures on My Wall" (as "The Pictures on My Wall"), the band's first single, was released on 5 May 1979. The single version was recorded before de Freitas had joined the band, but the song was re-recorded for the album with de Freitas on drums.[17] The band's second single, "Rescue", released on 5 May 1980, became the band's first song to chart when it reached number 62 on the UK Singles Chart.[18]

Scottish band Idlewild covered the track "Rescue" on their single "These Wooden Ideas" in June 2000.[19] In late 2001, American singer-songwriter Kelley Stoltz released the album Crockodials, a track-by-track cover version of the original Crocodiles album.[20]

Reception edit

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [21]
Blender     [22]
Entertainment WeeklyA−[23]
The Guardian     [24]
Record Mirror     [26]
Rolling Stone     [9]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [27]
Smash Hits9½/10[28]
The Village VoiceB[29]

Writing for NME in 1980, Chris Salewicz described the album as "being probably the best album this year by a British band."[13] In his review of the album for Smash Hits, Ian Cranna said that the album was "proof positive that there's just no substitute for a good song delivered with power and emotion." Cranna added, "[The band] deliver attractive melodies with dark and moody (but not obscure) personal lyrics, all turned into compulsive listening by a driving beat, ringing guitars and a hauntingly emotional voice."[28] Reviewing the album in 1981 for Rolling Stone magazine, David Fricke awarded it four out of five stars and described McCulloch's vocals: "[He] specializes in a sort of apocalyptic brooding, combining Jim Morrison-style psychosexual yells, a flair for David Bowie-like vocal inflections and the nihilistic bark of his punk peers into a disturbing portrait of the singer as a young neurotic."[9] Fricke went on to say, "Behind him, gripping music swells into Doors-style dirges ('Pictures on My Wall'), PiL-like guitar dynamics ('Monkeys'), spookily evocative pop ('Rescue') and Yardbirds-cum-Elevators ravers jacked up in the New Wave manner ('Do It Clean,' 'Crocodiles')." Reviewing the 2003 remastered version for American music magazine Blender's website, reviewer Andrew Harrison also gave the album four out of five stars and said, "[...] the Bunnymen were a pure nihilistic thrill, with Will Sergeant's desperate, mantra-like guitar summoning up a primal night of blinking hallucinations."[22]

Crocodiles reached number 17 on the UK Albums Chart in July 1980.[18] The album has since sold over 100,000 copies and the band were awarded a gold disc for the album on 5 December 1984 by the British Phonographic Industry.[30] In 1993, the NME listed Crocodiles at number 28 in its list of the 50 greatest albums of the 1980s.[31] In 2006, Uncut magazine listed the album at number 69 on its list of the 100 greatest debut albums.[32] The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[33] In 2020, Rolling Stone included Crocodiles in their "80 Greatest albums of 1980" list, praising "Will Sergeants’ ice-dagger guitar and Les Pattinson’s spelunking bass, making “Rescue” and “Pictures on My Wall” the perfect invitations to crawl down into Ian’s hot pit of despair."[34]

Track listing edit

All tracks written by Will Sergeant, Ian McCulloch, Les Pattinson and Pete de Freitas except where noted.

2003 bonus tracks edit

  1. "Do It Clean"[A] – 2:44
  2. "Read It in Books"[A] (McCulloch, Cope) – 2:31
  3. "Simple Stuff" – 2:38
  4. "Villiers Terrace" (early version) – 3:08
  5. "Pride" (early version) – 2:54
  6. "Simple Stuff" (early version) – 2:37
  7. "Crocodiles"[B] (live) – 5:09
  8. "Zimbo"[B] (live) – 3:36
  9. "All That Jazz"[B] (live) – 2:53
  10. "Over the Wall"[B] (live) – 5:28

Personnel edit

Echo & the Bunnymen

Notes edit

  • A. ^1 2 Originally included on the US release of Crocodiles.
  • B. ^1 2 3 4 From the Shine So Hard EP (Korona ECHO 1, 1981). Recorded live at the Pavilion Gardens, Buxton, UK, 17 January 1981.
  • C. ^1 2 Credited as The Chameleons.

References edit

  1. ^ Caramanzana, Ian (27 July 2017). "Tips like sugar: Things you should know about Echo & The Bunnymen". Las Vegas Weekly. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  2. ^ Terich, Jeff (2 July 2015). "10 Essential Neo-Psychedelia Albums". Treble. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  3. ^ de Visé, Daniel. "Thirteen New Wave Album Classics". AllMusic. Retrieved 7 May 2023.
  4. ^ Adams 2002, p. 34
  5. ^ a b c Crocodiles (CD booklet). Echo & the Bunnymen. Warner Strategic Marketing. 2003. 2564-61161-2.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  6. ^ a b c Adams 2002, p. 39
  7. ^ Bell 2003, pp. 6–7
  8. ^ a b Adams 2002, p. 41
  9. ^ a b c Fricke, David (16 April 1981). "Crocodiles". Rolling Stone. ISSN 0035-791X. Retrieved 19 March 2017.
  10. ^ a b Reynolds 2006, p. 440
  11. ^ a b Reynolds 2006, p. 443
  12. ^ a b Adams 2002, pp. 39–40
  13. ^ a b Salewicz, Chris (22 November 1980). "Echo & The Bunnymen: Welcome To The Bunnyhouse". NME. ISSN 0028-6362.
  14. ^ Adams 2002, p. 40
  15. ^ Bell 2003, p. 7
  16. ^ Higgs, John (2013). The KLF: Chaos, Magic and the Band Who Burned a Million Pounds. Phoenix. pp. 38–39. ISBN 9781780226552.
  17. ^ Wilson, MacKenzie. "The Pictures on My Wall – Echo & the Bunnymen". AllMusic. Retrieved 4 April 2004.
  18. ^ a b Roberts, David, ed. (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). HIT Entertainment. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  19. ^ "Those Wooden Ideas – Idlewild". AllMusic. Retrieved 3 June 2008.
  20. ^ "Kelley Stoltz – Music". Kelley Stoltz. Retrieved 7 April 2008.
  21. ^ Raggett, Ned. "Crocodiles – Echo & the Bunnymen". AllMusic. Retrieved 9 December 2022.
  22. ^ a b Harrison, Andrew (2004). "Echo & the Bunnymen: (various reissues)". Blender. ISSN 1534-0554. Archived from the original on 16 February 2009. Retrieved 5 May 2010.
  23. ^ Endelman, Michael (5 March 2004). "Crocodiles". Entertainment Weekly. No. 754. Retrieved 5 May 2010.
  24. ^ Sweeting, Adam (31 October 2003). "Echo and the Bunnymen: Various". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 October 2015.
  25. ^ Tangari, Joe (2 March 2004). "Echo and the Bunnymen: Crocodiles / Heaven Up Here / Porcupine / Ocean Rain / Echo & The Bunnymen". Pitchfork. Retrieved 5 May 2010.
  26. ^ Westwood, Chris (12 July 1980). "Echo & the Bunnymen: Crocodiles". Record Mirror. p. 20.
  27. ^ Gross, Joe (2004). "Echo and the Bunnymen". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. p. 271. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  28. ^ a b Cranna, Ian (24 July – 6 August 1980). "Echo & the Bunnymen: Crocodiles". Smash Hits. Vol. 2, no. 15. p. 29.
  29. ^ Christgau, Robert (30 March 1981). "Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved 21 January 2013.
  30. ^ "Certified Awards Search". British Phonographic Industry. Archived from the original on 24 September 2009. Retrieved 5 May 2010. Note: User needs to enter "echo & the bunnymen" in the "Search" field and then click "Go". The user then needs to click on "More Info >>" next to the entry for Crocodiles.
  31. ^ "The 50 Greatest Albums of The '80s". NME. 25 September 1993. p. 19. ISSN 0028-6362.
  32. ^ "100 Greatest Debut Albums". Uncut. No. 111. August 2006. ISSN 1368-0722.
  33. ^ Dimery, Robert, ed. (2006). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die (revised and updated ed.). Universe Publishing. ISBN 0-7893-1371-5.
  34. ^ "The 80 Greatest Albums of 1980 What came out of all this was, arguably, the greatest year for great albums ever". Rolling Stone. 11 November 2020. Retrieved 12 November 2020.