At a casual glance of their discography, you might think that Echo & The Bunnymen‘s cover of Television’s “Friction” was a live staple for the band in the ’80s – it certainly seems to appear on a lot of releases, both official and unofficial. But as it turns out, there seems to be only the one recorded performance of the song, and it just keeps cropping up again and again – and why not? It’s a scorcher.
The original performance came from a live radio broadcast of their show at the Karen club in Goteborg, Sweden on April 25, 1985 while touring Ocean Rain. And because it was professionally recorded and broadcast, it was widely bootlegged. There are two versions on record in Discogs, both coming out that same year – the longer cassette boot Echo And The Bunnymen, Karen, Goteborg 25·4·85 and the more snazzily-packaged LP On Strike Or Songs The Lord Taught Us. The image above is from another bootleg. There are lots.
The recording was released in official form in 1988 as a b-side for both some 7″ and 12″ versions of “Bedbugs and Ballyhoo”, the final single from the band’s 1987 self-titled album, and “People Are Strange”, the band’s contribution to The Lost Boys soundtrack. For good measure, the recording also made it onto the 2001 box set Crystal Days and most recently, the 2017 live compilation It’s All Live Now.
As for the late Tom Verlaine’s thoughts on the Bunnymen, he actually had some. In a 1982 interview with Trouser Press, he offered:
I’m not real familiar with all these new groups that come pouring out of England. I heard Echo and the Bunnymen; there was a lot of Television stuff in there, and I was real surprised.Tom Verlaine
Trouser Press, January 1982 via The Wonder
So that’s something.