SO, Will, I ask the guitarist staring at me down the lens of a Zoom call, how truly scary is Annie Lennox when she’s angry?

In his vinyl-lined room at his home near Southport up the coast from Liverpool, Will Sergeant, Bunnyman and now author, starts to laugh.

“She’s quite scary,” he admits.

Back in the summer of 1979 Echo and the Bunnymen – Sergeant, lead singer Ian McCulloch (also known as Mac, though Sergeant called him Macul back then) and bassist Les Pattinson were in Leeds to support the band The Tourists, then fronted by a certain Ms Lennox. Running late, the Bunnymen found their way to the venue blocked by a Mini which they decide to bounce down the road and out of the way.

You’ve guessed who the Mini belonged to, haven’t you? “Scottish women can be scary at the best of times,” Sergeant writes in his new memoir Bunnyman, “but Annie Lennox in full kill-the-Sassenachs mode is best avoided.”

“I’ve egged that up a little bit,” Sergeant admits this morning, smiling. “But we did move her Mini down the road and she was fuming, and we were like ‘S***’. We were only kids.

“I’ve never met Annie Lennox since so I don’t know how scary she is now.”

A spitting mad Aberdonian singer (in the days before she became a superstar herself) is possibly as glitzy as Sergeant’s new book gets. It’s not a traditional music memoir about musical (and other) highs and lows. It’s a book that finishes just as the Bunnymen are beginning, really. Sergeant’s book covers the pre-history of the group who were, for a time at the start of the 1980s, possibly the best band in the world.

HeraldScotland: Will SergeantWill Sergeant

It’s a book that ends a year into the band’s life, Pete de Freitas, their drummer through their imperial years (and later tragically killed in a motorbike accident in 1989, aged just 27) only appears on the penultimate page.

But he will get his due in the next book, Sergeant points out. This is about beginnings.

And so, it’s a book about Liverpool, the trauma of the Second World War, Beatlephobia, the importance of the Liverpool club Eric’s and the rupture of punk. The portrait of an artist as a young, acned, music-loving young man, you could say.

And it’s a book about damage, family dysfunction, loneliness and friendship.

“I always wanted to document growing up because it was brilliant and horrible at the same time,” Sergeant tells me at the start of our conversation. “Everyone’s got a story about growing up. Nothing unusual really. But I like to know the minutiae of people’s existence. Mac always used to say he doesn’t want to see Bowie onstage, he wants to see him putting his socks on, which I thought was quite good. What are they like in real life? And there’s a bit of real life in this.”

There is. In the opening pages Sergeant introduces us to his father, “a dad with zero empathy”, a man who showed his children neither love nor compassion, “to the extent that my brother and sister still hate his now dead guts to this day.”

Maybe that’s because of the Second World War. Alf Sergeant had served in the Eighth Army. In Italy he was in the back of an army truck that was driven into a ditch by a drunken captain. Alf sustained a blow to the back of the head which left him unconscious for 19 days.

“Looking at photos of him before the war and after the war, he was a completely different person,” Sergeant suggests. “He looked like a happyish kid. Even the pictures I have of him in the army, he was okay. Then he had this accident. And I know a bash on the head can change your personality.

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“He must have been a likeable bloke at some point. But he was only ever likeable when he had been on the ale really. He was great in the pub. But when he used to come home, he was a horror.

“That’s why I’ve never got into being a big boozer or anything like that. I never wanted to be like him.”

Alf and Sergeant’s mother Olive would fight constantly. Eventually, when Sergeant was 13, his mum left the family home. He didn’t hear from her again for years.

I wonder now how writing the book made Sergeant reflect on his parents all these years later? “I feel sorry for them. People don’t like airing the dirty washing in public, but it’s what happened, and you can’t blot over it. And it wasn’t that bad. At the time you didn’t think anything of it. I didn’t ever think, ‘Oh God, my mum and dad don’t get on. They hate each other.’ I’d just ignore it and go out and play football or whatever.

“When you’re young you just go with the flow. It’s only later on you go, ‘Bloody hell, that was a bit weird.’”

The national story that we keep being told about the Second World War is that it a cause of celebration. Our finest hour and all that. But that all-too neatly glosses over the trauma, the horror, the shock of it that was passed on to the next generation in both family relationships and physical surroundings.

“I’ve just been to see that Don McCullin exhibition at the Tate [in Liverpool],” Sergeant points out, mentioning the great British photographer of the late 20th-century, “and I saw pictures of Liverpool in the 1970s. Bombsites everywhere.

“It was only basically after the [Toxteth] riots that anyone took any notice of Liverpool and started to think, ‘Wait a minute, we’ve got something here. It’s on the river it’s got these amazing buildings. Why are we ignoring it?’

“The Albert Docks. I remember when they were derelict. It’s when they realised they could make some cash that that they took notice.

“They ruin the history. That’s what does my head in. They knocked down the Cavern and then built a fake one. They wouldn’t knock down Graceland, would they?”

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Who, I ask, was the teenage Will Sergeant?

“Well, I was very insecure. I was covered in spots. There was no interest from girls. Forget it. I was moody, I was in a nark all the time, you know? It was a defence mechanism, really. I was scared of everything. I suppose it was just instilled in me from my dad. I was scared of everything. I was scared of my shadow, scared of the skinheads, scared of the Kirbyites, scared of going to the football match.”

What did that leave him? Music. Led Zepp, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull. In Bunnyman there’s no rewriting of his musical tastes to conform to post-punk acceptability.

“Yeah, you make your own cool, don’t you? I’ve got a double-neck guitar because of Jimmy Page. Mac hated it. ‘What do you need 18 strings for?’ I tried to use it a couple of times at a Bunnymen gig, but he got such a hump over it.”

That said it took punk to open the door enough for him to even think about even picking up a guitar. “Totally. To be in a band … Posh people did that, virtuosos, and music school people or whatever. It just seemed like an impossibility.

“And punk gave you that possibility. In our first gig I played one string on the guitar, stupid little notes, and I just figured out which notes sounded alright and which ones didn’t and avoided the ones that didn’t.”

HeraldScotland: Sergeant with Ian McCulloch Sergeant with Ian McCulloch

Before we get to the band, though, we need to talk about Eric’s. Liverpool at the start of the 1980s – and Eric’s in particular – nurtured many of the musicians who would dominate the scene for the first half of the decade. And not only the Bunnymen. Julian Cope of The Teardrop Explodes, Holly Johnson and Paul Rutherford of Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Pete Burns of Dead or Alive were all regulars. There’s an argument for saying it was far more important than the Blitz Club in London.

“It was a scene,” Sergeant recalls. “Everybody hated each other. It wasn’t all chummy. There was a lot of jealousy, and it wasn’t like the summer of love. It was the winter of hate.

“And we hated everybody,” he says of the Bunnymen. “We just thought they were all s*** and we were the best. That’s the way it is. It’s still a bit like that.”

The arrogance of youth. “Yeah, I think you need it.”

That desire and need to kick against the pricks meant the scene had little time for Liverpool’s most famous sons. “I did an interview early doors and I said, ‘I hate The Beatles’. I didn’t really hate them. I didn’t consider them. I didn’t have loads of Beatles records. I know that they’re brilliant and I know their songs will last forever. It’s just, if you liked Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull, the Beatles weren’t really in your collection.”

It was in Eric’s that Sergeant first met Ian McCulloch. First impression? “That he was quick, that he was funny, similar sense of humour in away. I thought he was great.”

They began to talk about forming a band. They bought a drum machine and asked their mate Les to play the bass. Echo and the Bunnymen were born.

In the cartoon version of the 1980s that we are constantly presented with all these years later – one that takes in the Blitz Club, Duran Duran, the new British invasion and tends to be reduced to London, with maybe the odd mention of The Smiths and New Order – the Bunnymen are sometimes written out of the picture. And yet live the Bunnymen were a fierce, thrilling combination of arrogance and noise.

“Yeah, I think we don’t get the credit we deserve. We didn’t sell that many records. All those other bands sold millions. We didn’t. but there was something about us, a presence about us, that made us seem bigger than what we actually were.”

McCulloch soon earned the nickname “Mac the mouth” for his gobby insolence. In the book Sergeant writes at one point, “It is when singers start to believe their hype that the trouble starts.” Are you speaking from experience there, Will? “It’s obvious, isn’t it? Yeah. It’s not any secret. We all know what he’s like,” he says of McCulloch. “He thinks he’s the best in the world.

“But you need that as a singer, don’t you? You can’t go on the stage thinking, ‘Am I okay?’ You’ve got to believe in yourself, haven’t you? Fair dos, but sometimes it gets a bit too far the other way.”

HeraldScotland:

Writing the book, Sergeant says was like getting in a time machine. “The weirdest thing is I could put myself in Eric’s on a particular day and know who was there and sort of walk around the club and remember exactly where the little bit where they sold the burgers was, where the bar was, where the jukebox was and the dressing room.

“I remember coming in down the stairs the smell and the heat hitting you,” He pauses for a moment. “Memory is an amazing thing.”

This is an ending. Remembering all our yesterdays. All our crystal days, if you like.

Bunnyman: A Memoir, by Will Sergeant is published by Constable on Thursday, £20