The Psychedelic Furs – Heartbreak Beat

“There’s a heartbreak beat playing all night long
…down on my street.
And it feels like love, got the radio on
…and it’s all that we need.”

The Post Punk movement in Britain was a reaction to the initial effect of groups such as the Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Damned. The second wave, in both America and the UK, was a more melodically based art form arranged around lyrics that spoke less to the political consciousness and more to the matters of the heart. Joy Division and The Talking Heads were some of the most critically and commercially successful groups of the period. One of the more stylized bands was the Psychedelic Furs. They emerged in the late seventies, led by brothers Richard and Tim Butler. While their seven album run on American label Columbia Records established them commercially, it is their lasting impression on future acts, such as Green Day and No Doubt, that has created their lasting legacy.

Their debut album was released in 1980 and was an instant hit with European audiences. Produced by Steve Lillywhite (U2, Dave Matthews Band), the album had a distinctly British flavor that owed more to a classic punk sound than anything currently charting on US rock radio at the time. A sophomore effort, “Talk Talk Talk”, increased the bands fan base with more emphasis on the melodic sounds of New Wave on singles ‘Pretty in Pink’ and ‘Dumb Waiters’. This allied the band to the burgeoning college radio movement that embraced other Post Punk bands neglected by the mainstream. Veteran Todd Rundgren produced “Forever Now” in Woodstock, NY, giving the band their first US charting single ‘Love My Way’. The Furs shift in direction owed much to their permanent move to New York City, giving the Butler brothers a wider palette from which to draw their songs from. The songwriting continued to shift more towards traditional pop arrangements while retaining their underground pathos.

John Hughes adopted their song ‘Pretty in Pink’ for the title of his 1986 film, which was a box office smash. The group re recorded the song for the soundtrack, giving the band their biggest selling single to date. The follow up album, 1987’s “Mirror Moves”, was similar in style to the 1986 ‘Pretty in Pink’ single. The production was dense and laden with processed guitar riffs and saxophone infused melody lines. Some groups would drown in this musical environment, but the Psychedelic Furs background in the sparse world of punk aided them in creating some strong singles during this period. ‘Heartbreak Beat’ was the charting single from “Mirror Moves” and stands as one of the group’s strongest statements from their later albums. It perfectly melds the world of pop, classic rock and punk in a stylized way that recalls some of New Order’s best work. The Psychedelic Furs released only two more albums before ending their run in 1992. Reunion tours continue to bring their music to the masses, one of the lone groups from the British punk era still performing in the 21st century.

(This video is the original studio version, set to someone’s snapshots!)

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2 responses to “The Psychedelic Furs – Heartbreak Beat

  1. kingbiscuitpants

    love that band so much, very underrated

  2. “heartbreak beat” was on Midnight to Midnight, not Mirror Moves. There is a song called “heartbeat” on Mirror Moves…

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