1977 in London, England
Core Group Members:
- Richard Butler (born Richard Lofthouse Butler on June 5, 1956 in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, England) - Lead vocals, primary songwriter
- Tim Butler (born Timothy George Butler on December 7, 1958 in Teddington, Middlesex, England) - Bass guitar, songwriter
- John Ashton (born December 30, 1967 in Forest Gate, East London, England) - Guitar, songwriter
As one of the first post-punk bands to emerge in England, the Psychedelic Furs almost immediately transformed the first-wave punk rock sound into something modern, angular and imbued with layered complexities. Initially going by RKO, Radio, and then the Europeans before settling on its slightly misleading yet stylish moniker, the group avoided the outsider status that plagued most punk rock artists, quickly becoming a radio favorite in the U.K. The presence of a saxophone player from the start and a peak at six members by 1979 likewise set the band up for a path much different than that of the typical punk rock act.
With the 1979 addition of Ashton on guitar, the Butler brothers cemented the band's core trio for years to come. In 1980 the group - a sextet at the time - released its self-titled debut album, immediately making a mark on the U.K. charts with a Top 20 showing. Despite a minimal impact stateside, the album provided an early example of the post-punk sound that would soon become wildly popular in England. 1981's follow-up, Talk Talk Talk, emerged as a solid hit on both sides of the Atlantic, featuring the original version of the band's most signature tune, "Pretty in Pink."
Psychedelic Furs - Foundational Period:
Most successful bands take their shot with a big-time producer when they get a chance, and the Pychedelic Furs made such a move by shifting their base to New York City and hooking up with highly sought-after producer Todd Rundgren for 1982's Forever Now. "Love My Way" became the Furs' first charting U.S. single, if a modest one, and helped keep the group's mainstream pop and underground rock momentum equally strong. By 1984's Mirror Moves, the group's appeal and artistic merit peaked rather simultaneously, with optimum exposure in college rock and post-punk circles as well as considerable MTV airplay.
Pretty, Pink and Double-Edged:
John Hughes' 1986 film Pretty in Pink introduced a whole new audience to the Psychedelic Furs, which turned out to be something of a mixed blessing for the band's fortunes. While a re-recorded version of the song of the same name became a sizable U.S. hit, it also served to increase pressure on the group to produce material ever more commercially viable. This led perhaps to an overly polished effort in 1987's Midnight to Midnight, which spawned the band's biggest hit to date in "Heartbreak Beat" but also seemed to usher in a period of decline as the decade came to a close.
Psychedelic Furs Break-Up, Hiatus, Then Long-Term Reformation:
Aside from stand-alone 1988 single "All That Money Wants," the Furs grew quieter up to and following their final '80s release, Book of Days. After one more album, the group disbanded and seemed ready to fade into retro rock history. However, the Butlers kept busy with another alternative rock outfit, Love Spit Love, through most of the '90s before the brothers reunited with Ashton and relaunched Psychedelic Furs for a new millennium in 2000. Unlike most reunions, this one has stuck, and a revamped sextet has toured consistently up to the present, keeping the original post-punk spirit alive.