“Lips Like Sugar (12” Mix)” Echo & the Bunnymen Just Say Yes 1987
Surprisingly, Echo & the Bunnymen’s “Lips Like Sugar” is the only Bunnymen song on the playlist, but like Xymox’s “Blind Hearts”, it was originally found on both the Thursday’s and Bowling Green mix CDs. This track definitely earned its spot on both collections, though. Echo & the Bunnymen was a staple among my Akron friends Jen and Nancy and me on those Northeast Ohio nights spent driving around, as well as out on the dance floor at Thursday’s.
As for my Bowling Green associations with the song, well, that’s a somewhat longer story…
I’m pretty sure Labor Day weekend was the first time my college friend Jen took me home with her. During that period, my relationship with my parents was still pretty rocky, so instead of trying to find a ride back to Northeast Ohio or asking my parents to come pick me up, I accepted Jen’s offer to come home with her for the long weekend. She had a beat-up Datsun 210 dubbed “Bob” that she kept at school and drove us down to her mom’s house in Columbus in it.
I can still see the interior of her mom’s old house, and I remember Jen walking me through it and how it just sort of spiraled upwards as we made our way from the ground floor up to her attic room. We passed an ironing board in the room at the bottom of the attic stairs (that I’m fairly certain was wood paneled) that had one of those old 12x12, heavy stock record cover art posters used in record store displays. I’m not certain, but I think it was either Prince’s Lovesexy or a Depeche Mode album cover.
On the drive from her mom’s house to the Short North for the monthly gallery hop that end-of-summer Saturday night, we cranked Echo’s “Lips Like Sugar” and sang along at the top of our lungs. That night at the gallery hop, we met up and hung out with many of Jen’s local friends from Columbus’ alternative scene, but here’s where details get hazy… I know we ran into one particular girl Jen had gone to high school with, and, for whatever reason, Jen and I both broke into “Lips Like Sugar” after we parted ways with the friend. I think it was something goofy and (embarrassingly now) maybe slightly derogatory or mean-spirited on our part, but I’m not certain all these years later. I just know that it cracked us up for the rest of the weekend, and carried over with us back to campus when we returned to BG.
This version of “Lips Like Sugar” was originally available on the US 12” release in August of 1987, but I found it on Just Say Yes: Sire’s Winter CD Music Sampler released a few months later. (Sire’s music samplers produced seven volumes between 1987’s Just Say Yes and 1994’s Just Say Roe. By and large, they were treasure-troves of alternative music rarities, where you could find everything from remixes to non-album tracks.)
The song itself comes from the Bunnymen’s self-titled album from the same year. Arguably, their most commercially successful album, it’s a collection of songs that captures the jangly neo-psychedelic, synthpop of the Liverpool post-punk scene that also spawned Big in Japan, The Teardrop Explodes (including extensive cross-pollination and acrimony with Julian Cope), Dalek I Love You, and Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark. Echo & the Bunnymen contains the playful “Bedbugs & Ballyhoo” and the shimmering “All My Life”. The latter – a sort of spiritual successor to The Beatles “In My Life” – was a song I played extensively that year at BG, letting it inspire me and my writing with its beauty.
Taking the notion of the unattainable girl to swirling pop heights, it’s clear why “Lips Like Sugar” was the biggest hit from the album. Ian McCulloch’s vocals are melty, and when combined with Will Sergeant’s luminous guitar work the result is a near-perfect song of unrequited love.