Performing the complete Talk Talk Talk during the album’s 30th anniversary tour, the Psychedelic Furs are constantly reminded of what high-energy music it contains.
Talk Talk Talk, of course, features the song that inspired the movie, Pretty In Pink.
The second Psychedelic Furs album, 1981’s Talk Talk Talk appeared just a few years after the punk revolution that rocked the United Kingdom and the United States.
“It’s a very up, aggressive album, which we’d sort of forgotten,” original Furs bassist Tim Butler said from his home in Liberty, Ky. “We’ve played songs like ?Pretty In Pink’ and certain other numbers from the album through the years, but to do the whole thing back-to-back, it’s quite a workout.”
Despite Talk Talk Talk’s punk tendencies, the record also shows the Furs’ affection for earlier bands such as Roxy Music and the Velvet Underground, groups the diehard punks despised.
Nonetheless, Butler said, “we still had that sort of vitriol and ?We’ll take on the world’ attitude.”
And while the energy and democracy of punk appealed to the Furs, the movement’s signature negativity did not.
“We were never into the message of punk,” Butler said. “It’s very negative. But we were into not having to play like Carlos Santana. People realized they didn’t have to be a virtuoso to get a band together.”
Integrating melody and song craft into the Furs’ music, thereby stepping away from punk’s primitiveness, helped the band prosper in the decade after punk’s swift rise and fall. The dark yet not-so-strident “Pretty In Pink,” for instance, was plucked from Talk Talk Talk to be the title song for the 1986 John Hughes film of the same name.
Teen actress Molly Ringwald, the star of 1984’s 16 Candles and 1986’s The Breakfast Club, suggested that Hughes write a movie based on “Pretty In Pink.” The Hollywood interest in their 1981 song was a big surprise for the Psychedelic Furs.
“Originally, they were gonna get someone to re-record ?Pretty In Pink’ for the movie,” Butler said. “One of the guitars on the original recording is slightly out of tune. Of course, their critical ears couldn’t have that. We said, ?Hey, wait a minute. If you’re gonna re-record, we’ll do it.’ So we cleared up the guitar, but maybe it lost some of the energy along with that cleaned-up sound.”
The movie’s success and corresponding new popularity for the song were a mixed blessing for the Psychedelic Furs.
“We thank John Hughes for giving us that opportunity and bringing us into the public eye, but it was a blessing and curse,” Butler said. “I mean, we got lots of teenage girls coming down to the shows dressed in pink sweatshirts. We lost a lot of the original fans. We thought, ?This isn’t cool anymore.’ Simple Minds probably think the same thing about ?Don’t You (Forget About Me).’ “
“Pretty In Pink” occupies a large place in movie and music history, but it’s not the Furs’ biggest hit. That honor belongs to 1987’s “Heartbreak Beat,” which rose to No. 26 on the Billboard 100 singles chart, beating “Pretty In Pink’s” No. 41 peak.
Playing the famous “Pretty In Pink” during the 30th anniversary Talk Talk Talk tour amidst the other songs that originally appeared on the album is a way to put “Pink” in context.
“It lets people realize that that song came out years before the movie was released,” Butler said. “And then people listen to the album with fresh ears.”
The band’s anniversary show contains the complete album and a second set featuring the band’s hits and songs the group simply enjoys playing, including material from Butler’s favorite Furs album, 1982’s Forever Now.
“It’s a different sort of songwriting,” he said of the Todd Rundgren-produced Forever Now.
“It’s more ups and downs and more structure to it,” Butler added. “There’s anger and energy in Talk Talk Talk, but there’s much more melody in Forever Now. Particularly from my point of view, playing-wise, I prefer Forever Now.”
Coincidently, the Psychedelic Furs were on their Forever Now tour when they made a notorious appearance at a Baton Rouge club called Trinity’s in April 1983.
“We were halfway through, like, the second song, when John Ashton threw his guitar at the back of Richard’s (Tim Butler’s brother) head and stormed off stage,” Butler said. “We went off stage, and we couldn’t get back on. The audience rioted and there were six or seven police cars called.”
The April 15 edition of The Morning Advocate’s Fun section reported “the crowd was incensed and demanding its money back.”
“So, that’s my greatest memory of Baton Rouge,” Butler said.
Jumping to 2011, Ashton is no longer in the band and the Butler brothers are less quarrelsome.
“Back in the day, before we took our long hiatus, we drank and got into fights, but it was because of sibling rivalry and not really knowing each other’s place in the band. Now Richard and I realize that we’re both important and each of us has input. We’re happier playing.”