‘Bunnyman - A Memoir’ by Will Sergeant
Peak ‘Echo and the Bunnymen’ was a bit before my time. Although I was familiar with a lot of their bigger songs (e.g., Lips Like Sugar, The Killing Moon), it was really only due to lockdowns that I began to explore their catalogue more fully. Ignoring my usual desire to discover the new, in this time I found solace by exploring the past – ultimately driven there by the algorithms of digital music platforms. Given this, the release of a memoir by Echo and the Bunnymen guitarist Will Sergeant came at exactly the right time. And I am glad of it, because once I started, this is one of those autobiographies I was sad I had to finish.
The book starts right from Sergeant’s very beginnings, and spends a lot of time covering his difficult family life and the dangers of growing up in 1960s/early 1970s industrial Liverpool. Early on we meet some of the important characters who, through fate, become important again later in life. As you might expect, his developing musical experiences and journey of explorations is presented.
The book is halfway done before Sergeant discovers “Eric’s”, the legendary Liverpool club. Fortuitously, Sergeant stumbles across an advertisement for an XTC gig – a band he had heard of, but knew nothing much about. By chance he becomes reacquainted that night with a couple of old school friends, one of whom was Les Patterson, who went on to become bass player for the Bunnymen. Though not particularly impressed by XTC, this visit to Eric’s begins a habit, which sees him experiencing the early days of many bands that would later become widely known. It is here also that he befriends Julian Cope, who in turn introduces him to ‘Macul’ – a.k.a. Ian McCulloch. A guitar and drum machine are bought, which then leads on to the Bunnymen story proper. Overall, less than a quarter of the book is taken up with Echo and the Bunnymen, and this only covers their first year of existence. But what a year this was. With Sergeant and Patterson having barely learned their instruments, through gigs featuring their fair share of mishaps, anyone in a band will be jealous of how much luck the Bunnymen seemingly experience in these formative days; highlights include an invitation to record a Peel session, the release of their debut single and being signed to a record company. It seems incomprehensible that a band could rise so quickly now… except, of course, with an equal dollop of luck and the algorithm gods smiling upon them.
Overall, this is a fascinating story, and well told. The book comes to an abrupt end, early in the career of the Bunnymen - still a couple of years before they first tour to New Zealand - and the main positive I can take from this is that it leaves me hope that this isn’t the last autobiography we see from Will Sergeant. Highly recommended.
- Ian Duggan