The Psychedelic Furs bring their post-punk rock to Cat’s Cradle

CorrespondentJuly 25, 2013 

Tim Butler of The Psychedelic Furs. The Psychedelic Furs play Cat's Cradle July 30, 2013.

COURTESY OF MAGGIE BUTLER

  • Details

    Who: The Psychedelic Furs with Spacehog

    When: 7 p.m. Tuesday

    Where: Cat’s Cradle, 300 E. Main St., Carrboro

    Cost: $28-$30

    Info: 919-967-9053 or catscradle.com

Richard and Tim Butler first saw The Sex Pistols play at London’s 100 Club on September 21, 1976, and while rock fans love to say a particular show was “life-changing,” this one truly fit the bill for the two brothers.

“It was just so amazing,” recalls Tim Butler, now 54, and still playing bass for The Psychedelic Furs, the band he would go on to form with singer/lyricist Richard.

The Psychedelic Furs play at Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro on Tuesday, and Tim Butler recently talked over the phone about his band, from a tour stop in Birmingham, Ala.

“(Richard and I) were in line outside the 100 Club, and (The Sex Pistols) got out of this taxi – stumbled out of this taxi – wearing those Day-Glo angora sweaters and stuff,” Butler recalls of that day in 1976. “They were drunk. And we were looking at the attitude and thinking, ‘Wow, this is new and fresh.’ ”

Right then and there, the Butler brothers decided to form a band. Butler says that never would have happened without the three-chord glory of punk.

“It would have seemed too daunting a task,” he says. “Before that, we’d listened to David Bowie and the Spiders from Mars and Roxy Music. And that music seemed really complicated.”

With newfound confidence, they got together with guitarist Roger Morris, saxophonist Duncan Kilburn and drummer Paul Wilson. The band’s intriguing name was sly pushback against punk culture’s sneering kneejerk hatred of “hippie music” from the ’60s and early ’70s.

The band comes together

By 1979, the Furs had added second guitarist John Ashton, and Vince Ely had replaced Wilson behind the drums. They were signed to Columbia Records, and the eponymous classic debut was released in 1980. It was a refreshing post-Pistols blast of clanging guitars, throbbing bass, bleating, rhythmic sax, pounding drums, all topped off by a sneering vocalist who sang the word “stupid” a lot.

“The way Richard puts lyrics together is heavily influenced by Bob Dylan,” Tim Butler says, recalling that their father was a huge Dylan fan up until “Nashville Skyline.” Tim rates his brother as “one of the best lyricists of the last 30 years.”

As for Tim Butler, he became one of punk’s great bass primitives, and his pulsating two-note intro to the debut album’s “India” is still a thrilling highlight.

The Furs got an even bigger reception for their brilliant second album “Talk Talk Talk” in 1981, but Morris and Kilburn left the following year (“The old ‘musical differences’ thing came along,” says Butler).

The band saw its greatest commercial success with a new recording of “Pretty in Pink” from the second album, for the soundtrack of a film by the same name in 1986.

“At the time, it was a plus and a minus,” Butler says. “It gained us a lot of fans. It lost us fans, figuring that we’d sold out.”

After the usual music industry stress caused the Furs to call it quits in 1992, Richard and Tim Butler performed together in Love Spit Love, which began as a Richard Butler solo project, and lasted for two albums.

Since re-forming in 2000, the Psychedelic Furs are mainly a worldwide touring unit, and the Butler brothers are currently the only original members.

There’s new material in the works, and Tim Butler says we may or may not see a new album by 2014. “There’s no pressure,” he says.

In the long run, he figures, it all worked out. A lot of the old fans came back, and the younger, newer ones seem interested in more than just “Pretty in Pink.”

“It’s great that you see fans that have stuck with you for 30 years now,” Butler says. “They bring their kids – their grandkids, even – and introduce them to their preferred music.”

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