Sister Europe

Album: The Psychedelic Furs (1980)
Play Video

Songfacts®:

  • Richard Butler, the band's frontman and co-songwriter, wrote the lyrics to this song about a specific person who left for Europe. "It's basically about my girlfriend, who I've been going out with for years," he said at the time. "She's in Italy at the moment."

    Butler cloaked his feelings of loneliness and desperation in metaphor, using images to express his thoughts. He wrote the lyrics, but the entire band got composition credit on the song.
  • The band's producer, Steve Lillywhite, knew just how to infuse Butler's vocals with enough raw emotion to sell the song. Butler recalled Lillywhite's instructions: "He told me, 'go down the pub, have a couple of beers, and when you come back, I want you to sing like it's three in the morning, and you're talking on the telephone to someone.'"
  • "Sister Europe" is an early Psychedelic Furs song, released on their debut album in 1980. At the time, they were making what they called "beautiful chaos," with long jams at their live shows where band members competed for solos. This sound was refined in the studio but kept its essence, creating a unique soundscape set against Richard Butler's diaphanous lyrics.
  • Don Letts directed the music video, which shows the band performing on a shadowy set. Letts' other work includes "Rock The Casbah" for The Clash, "E=MC2," for Big Audio Dynamite, and "Everyday I Write The Book" for Elvis Costello.

    Note that we never see Sister Europe - Psychedelic Furs felt that showing the characters from their songs would ruin the fun.
  • This song was a popular opener for the band's live shows and also inspired several covers. Tenor saxophonist Gary Windo (who also contributed horns to the Furs' Forever Now album) emphasized its jazz feel on his 1985 album Deep Water and, a decade later, the Australian rock band Icehouse covered it for their album The Berlin Tapes. The Foo Fighters also included it at as the B-side of their "All My Life" single in 2002.

Comments

Be the first to comment...

Editor's Picks

Steely Dan

Steely DanFact or Fiction

Did they really trade their guitarist to The Doobie Brothers? Are they named after something naughty? And what's up with the band name?

John Waite

John WaiteSongwriter Interviews

"Missing You" was a spontaneous outpouring of emotion triggered by a phone call. John tells that story and explains what MTV meant to his career.

Butch Vig

Butch VigSongwriter Interviews

The Garbage drummer/songwriter produced the Nirvana album Nevermind, and Smashing Pumpkins' Gish and Siamese Dream.

John Doe of X

John Doe of XSongwriter Interviews

With his X-wife Exene, John fronts the band X and writes their songs.

Brian Kehew: The Man Behind The Remasters

Brian Kehew: The Man Behind The RemastersSong Writing

Brian has unearthed outtakes by Fleetwood Mac, Aretha Franklin, Elvis Costello and hundreds of other artists for reissues. Here's how he does it.

Intentionally Atrocious

Intentionally AtrociousSong Writing

A selection of songs made to be terrible - some clearly achieved that goal.