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Richard Butler explained the song's meaning to Mojo magazine November 2010: "The song was about a girl who kinda sleeps around, and thinks it's really cool and thinks everybody really likes her, but they really don't. She's just being used. It's quite scathing."
John Hughes named his 1986 movie after this song. Starring Molly Ringwald, Andrew McCarthy, and Jon Cryer, Hughes wrote the plot around the song's lyrics, but according to The Psychedelic Furs, he muffed the meaning. Richard Butler recalled to Mojo how this song got co-opted onto the Pretty In Pink movie: "We did the song (on 1981's Talk Talk Talk), and were very pleased with it. It wasn't that we were disappointed it wasn't a hit to begin with - at that point, we didn't know what was going on, or whether any of them were singles or whether we were that kind of band. A few years later, Molly Ringwald took it to John Hughes and said, 'I love this song, we should use it for a movie.' He took it away, listened to it, and wrote Pretty In Pink, which totally got the whole thing wrong. It was nothing like the spirit of the song at all. It's really hard to say whether it was damaging for us. I suppose we got tied in with the story of the film, and if that's what people thought the story was about, and didn't look much further than that, they were getting a very false impression."
This song was re-released with the movie, which was 5 years after it first came out. The re-release charted at #41 US and #18 UK. When it first came out in 1981, it hit #43 UK and did not chart in the US. This new version remixed to make the song more appealing to a Pop music audience. The original includes much rougher, edgier guitar riffs, and the closing, barely audible lines are muttered by Furs lead singer Richard Butler as though he's ruminating in stream of consciousness style about Caroline while he's in a drunken haze. The remix has more polished, more upbeats riffs, and while the same lines are included in the trail-off, a louder riff plays over them to make them even less audible and make the overall effect more pop and less bitter. (thanks, S.D. - Denver, CO)
This was one of the first "New Wave" hits of the '80s. Other British bands like The Pet Shop Boys, New Order, and Bananarama had success with the synthesizer sound that was catching on in the US.
The band was a 6-piece when they recorded this song, and all 6 members got a songwriting credit on the track, which ended up being a big deal when it was used in the film and re-released. Here's the lineup:
John Ashton - guitar
Richard Butler - vocals
Tim Butler - bass
Vince Ely - drums
Duncan Kilburn - saxophone
Roger Morris - guitar
As for how the song came together, Tim Butler told us
: "We were in a studio for three weeks writing Talk Talk Talk
. Some of the band had gone home; it was later in the day and I think Duncan and Roger, because they lived in the same area, they'd gone. It was just me, Richard, Vince and John. We were just messing around, and the initial riff of it came up. Usually, we'd play an initial riff and Richard would say, 'Wow, that's cool! Carry on. Do something else.' We would just work round and round it and experiment. That one came pretty quickly."
This was The Psychedelic Furs biggest hit in the UK. In the US, their only Top 40 was "Heartbreak Beat," which hit #26 that year.
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