The Psychedelic Furs, post-Ringwald.

The Psychedelic Furs, post-Ringwald.

It is both a blessing and a curse that English rock band

It is both a blessing and a curse that English rock band the Psychedelic Furs are tethered to the 1986 Molly Ringwald film Pretty in Pink. On one hand, the enduring teenage classic bears the name of a song the band wrote and birthed an equally classic soundtrack, one of Rolling Stone’s greatest of all time.

On the other, the association obscures the fact that the Furs might have been the ultimate new wave band. The group, which brothers Richard and Tim Butler formed in the late ’70s, had punk roots but also a solid mastery of the pop hook; for a time it seemed it’d be the band from across the pond to become stateside superstars.

That’s not exactly how things worked out. U2 went on the become the biggest band in the world, while the Furs became, well, that band with a song in Pretty in Pink. The story goes that Ringwald brought the song to writer John Hughes, who became so enamored of it that he wrote the film around it. Turns out he didn’t exactly understand the concept.

“The song was about a girl who kinda sleeps around, and thinks it’s really cool and thinks everybody really likes her,” Richard Butler told Mojo magazine in 2010. “But they really don’t. She’s just being used.”

The Furs aren’t the only band with a strong connection to cinema. It’s impossible to imagine The Graduate without the music of Simon and Garfunkel or Saturday Night Fever without the Bee Gees. The placement of “New Slang” in Garden State, which Natalie Portman’s character promises “will change your life,” was a turning point for the Shins, propelling their debut album Oh, Inverted World to sales of 500,000 copies, a feat seemingly impossible without the song’s appearance. “It was such a good thing for us,” the band’s James Mercer told LEO Weekly earlier this year. “It’s something that will be always there, and I mean, in 20 years, I guarantee you my children aren’t going to be complaining about it.”

Photo by Maggie Butler

Yet Pretty in Pink’s success found the Furs racing to release a follow-up album, Midnight to Midnight. It got a lukewarm response from fans who were already miffed at the band for having re-recorded “Pretty in Pink” for the film (it had debuted on the 1981 release Talk Talk Talk). By 1991 the band was no more, but not before leaving us with a handful of other enduring ’80s gems like “Love My Way,” “Heaven,” and “Heartbreak Beat.”

More than most bands of their generation, the Furs’ sound, never overly reliant on synths, has been resilient, and their influence can be heard in subsequent generations of alt-rock bands, from Korn to the Killers, Jawbreaker to Interpol. The group, reformed in 2000, has been on the road playing their hits ever since—there’s even an album reportedly in the works, their first in more than 20 years. And despite all the ups and downs of their unexpected success, band members remain grateful for their cinematic association.

“Maybe some people go, ‘Oh, that’s the band that did Pretty in Pink,’ ” Richard Butler told The

Quietus in 2010. “But if they didn’t say that, maybe they wouldn’t have anything to say about us!” The Psychedelic Furs With the Lemonheads. The Showbox, 1426 First Ave., 628-3151, showboxpresents.com. $25 adv./$30 DOS. 8 p.m. Wed., Oct. 22.

music@seattleweekly.com


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@seattleweekly.com.