35 Years Ago: The Psychedelic Furs Get a Foothold in the U.S. With ‘Talk Talk Talk’
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Following the explosion of punk on both sides of the Atlantic, the doors were open to new possibilities and countless young bands opted not to trade in punk cliches, but rather to dig out and explore other possibilities. The term “post-punk” became a catch-all for the era, and many incredible acts came out of the scene; one in particular was the Psychedelic Furs.
The Furs combined elements of David Bowie, Roxy Music and the Velvet Underground as well as more recent influences like the Sex Pistols and the Fall to make up a sound that was very much their own. Their debut album was released in early 1980 and, though ignored by the mainstream, it was picked up by college radio, which was just starting to make waves in the industry. Later that year, they began recording the follow-up, which would break thing open for them in America when it was released in June 1981.
Produced, as was their debut, by Steve Lillywhite, Talk Talk Talk fine-tuned the style of their debut to create what many still regard as their finest album. From the opening surge of “Dumb Waiters,” the band is on fire. Though the distinctive vocals of Richard Butler and shimmering guitars of John Ashton may have been the band’s calling cards, Duncan Kilburn on sax was the band’s not-so-secret weapon. His gritty and haunting use of the instrument added palettes of color to the mix.
The Furs’ best-loved, and most well-known song, “Pretty In Pink,” is here and it still shines. It’s Lou Reed via David Bowie, with a grand chorus and brilliant lyrics that made this one hard to resist and became the band’s first hit, although that’s a relative term. It was all over college radio and MTV, but failed in the big leagues. A re-recorded version to coincide with the film of the same name was released in 1986, but pales severely to the original found here. One other note, “Pretty In Pink” was the lead track on the U.S. version of the album, while “Dumb Waiters” opened the original British LP.
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Songs like “Mr. Jones” and “Into You Like a Train” harness a punk energy while displaying the band’s unique vision. The Furs were capable of great beauty as well as ragged glory, as the album’s last two numbers, “All of This and Nothing” and “She Is Mine” strongly prove.
Talk Talk Talk did manage to crack the Billboard Top 100, hitting No. 89, but it’s significance on the college radio chart was what helped propel them forward. The following year, rhythm guitarist Roger Morris and saxophonist Kilburn both left the band, while the rest moved on with producer Todd Rundgren at the helm for Forever Now. Though a fine album, the Psychedelic Furs would never again capture the spirit and vibrancy of their first two offerings. Talk Talk Talk remains their pinnacle.
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