The subversive beauty of the Virgin Prunes captured the imagination of a generation during a decade of extraordinary creative activity from 1977 to 1986. The band emerged from a closely knit group of young Dublin musicians called ‘Lypton Village’, some of whom formed U2. They all shared a vehemently anti-patriarchal, anti-establishment spirit and their different religious backgrounds strengthened their mutual interests.
The Virgin Prunes, which meant ‘outsiders’, comprised: Gavin Friday (Fionán Hanvey) and Guggi (Derek Rowen) on lead vocals, Strongman (Trevor Rowen, Guggi’s brother) and Dik (Richard Evans, brother of David Evans aka U2’s ‘The Edge’) on guitars, Pod (Anthony Murphy) and then Mary d’Nellon (David Kelly) on drums and Dave-Id Busarus (David Watson), who also wrote and performed songs. The band was joined briefly for a year during 1980 and 1981 by Haa Laacka Binttii (Daniel Figgis).
From early on, their performances were challenging, experimental and improvisatory. Post-punk and new wave, they brought elements of glam rock, gothic melancholia, industrial music, and avant-garde art performance into their work. The Virgin Prunes also explored Irish folk music, Irish literature (inspired by Oscar Wilde’s poetry, Samuel Beckett’s drama and James Joyce’s word play), fairy tales, children’s nursery rhymes and lullabies, sound collage and dark ambient music – all animated by the magnificent, haunting vocals of Gavin and Guggi.
They released five albums between 1981 and 1986: A New Form of Beauty (1981), If I Die, I Die (1982), Heresie (1982), Over the Rainbow (a compilation of rarities 1981-1983) (1985) and The Moon Looked Down and Laughed (1986).