Gavin Friday remembers the Virgin Prunes
From The Independent, October 7, 2004
Virgin Prunes – A Terrible Beauty Re-released
Blame it on the Prods and the Plymouth Brethren…
Blame it on the Christian Brothers and the GAA…
Blame it on Georgie Best and the cider drinking Boot Boys….
Blame it on Sister Nora, my career guidance officer at St. Kevin’s C.B.S.
Blame it on Oscar Wilde and David Bowie…
Blame it on the Northside and Cederwood Rd…
“Take me back to ‘72, my Cooca Choo“ Caruso/Shag Tabacco
The year was 1972 when I, Fionan Martin Hanvey, first befriended Derek Karl Rowen and Paul David Hewson…..we all lived on Cedarwood Rd. ….we loved music, we had a similar surreal sense of humour, we liked painting, ….we had no time at all for football… we looked and dressed differently … we didn’t want to be cowboys we wanted to be Indians. We didn’t fit in and we didn’t want to.
“Is there life on Mars?“ asked David Bowie We knew there was… so we went there, and all of a sudden.. Fionan became Gavin, Derek became Guggi, Paul became Bono….and the dull and grey streets of Ballymun became the glittering boulevards of Lypton Village.
“ From baptism to alcohol, in a land suffocatingly green. Hey ! the myth is magic…Do you know what I mean?“ My 20th Century / Shag Tabacco.
Music was always the driving force. For me personally it was Religion…a Godsend. And then in 1976 / `77 Punk Rock spat into our faces and whispered into our ears “U2 can be a Virgin Prune” ……… and a Terrible Beauty was born.
The first actual performance of the Virgin Prunes took place in a Methodist Hall in Sutton, Northside Dublin late 1977. Myself and Guggi on lead vocals and an incognito backing band … “ Adam“, “Edge“, “Larry“ and “Dik“…Lambs dressed as Mutton. At the time I worked in a Dublin meatpackers slaughter house, so myself and Guggi dressed the band “ head to toe“ in gauze usually used for covering meat for exportation. The backing band looked like four sides of beef playing bass, drums and guitars awaiting delivery to Saudi Arabia. We played one song – a 15 minute slow motion version of, “I Can Get No Satisfaction”. After the gig Dik left U2 and joined Virgin Prunes this was closely followed by Guggi’s brother Strongman joining on bass, Dave-Id Busaras on narration and Pod on drums. Pod was replaced briefly by Haa-Lacka Binttii…then permanently by Mary d`Nellon…
Ladies and Gentleman to whom it may concern … Virgin Prunes.
We hadn’t a clue what we were doing but knew exactly … It was like a planned accident. We were making it up as we went along “ We’re so pretty, oh so pretty vacant and we don’t care“ snarled Sex Pistol Johnny Rotten. We did care… we cared so much we were fearless and yes anger was most definitely an energy. The Ireland of the late 70s was a very, very different place to the Ireland of today…
“I haven’t fucked much with the past but I’ll fuck plenty with the future“ ranted the Punk poet Patti Smith, and man did I take her seriously…
“Should I talk the way you want me to talk, say the things the way you want to hear them? I know a lot of people like that…Why should I Be like you? Be like you?“ Theme For Thought – … If I Die I Die.
October 2004 sees the re-release of the Virgin Prunes back catalogue on Mute Records through EMI worldwide, most of the recordings released for the first time ever on CD. It’s very difficult for me to be objective about the Virgin Prunes… They were my baby. I was their Daddy-Mammy Prune who in 1984 / ‘85 put this beautiful angry child into a retirement home for the musically and artistically disturbed. And now 20 years later it re appears screaming at my hall door … dressed in black, a pig’s head hanging from it’s groin, face painted white, vomit dripping lips kissing me passionately on the mouth. The Prodigal Son in Drag. Welcome home Frankenstein! Come on! Come to Daddy!
A New Form of Beauty
After releasing two 7 inch EPs in late 1980 Rough Trade Records approached us with the offer of recording an album. We instead came up with a New Form of Beauty. A seven part multi media project. A 7 inch single Sandpaper Lullaby followed by a 10 inch EP “Come to Daddy“ followed by a 12 inch EP “Beast“ followed by a live cassette “Din Glorious“ followed by a 2 day exhibition / performance / installation at the Douglas Hyde Gallery followed by a book followed by a film. Ambitious to say the least. The book was never finished, the film was never released. The film will most likely see the light of day in the next year or so, it documents the 2 day Douglas Hyde exhibition.
Originally released as a double 10 inch boxed set in a limited edition of 75,000. The “studio“ album was a totally improvised recording, the “live“ album was extracts from the band’s first live performance in Paris, France. Using the themes of “Insanity“ and “Religion“ the concept was to push ourselves to the edge of…well … Insanity. All the music was written during the day and recorded during the night a process that saw the band go without sleep for three days.
.. If I Die I Die
1982 and the band decided to employ a producer Colin Newman of Wire. This album whilst less experimental and perverse than previous recordings, still showed the band’s obtuse approach to instrumentation. If I Die I Die saw the band dabble in a dark post punk sound alongside a more mystical Celtic feel and surreal pop. It became the band’s first big selling album.
The Moon Looked Down and Laughed
Produced by David Ball of Soft Cell. The Band’s most lush and melodic of all it’s recordings yet still quite twisted in essence. With the release of if … I Die I Die, the band toured Europe extensively which opened them up to a whole new world of musical influences, a radical more musical direction was planned… despite the band’s huge popularity in Europe the band members started to pull in different directions. This one could call “the Divorce album“.
Over the Rainbow
A compilation of rarities from 1980 – 1984. Over the rainbow includes all the band’s early singles / EPs / 12 inch mixes and Album outtakes, most of which have never seen the light of day. This album shows how varied and diverse the band’s musical approach was from Glam to Industrial to Punk to Pop to Krautrock to the more experimental…