They beautify our lives then they wither and die. That’s right, this week’s theme is flowers. Let’s see what eighties songs with a floral theme we can dig up–ha!– and how many of them are about roses. (For this and our other Spotify playlists, click here.)
“Flowers Of Romance,” Public Image Limited
Okay, so -called Pil aficianados, hands in the air if you stuck with them through records like this because deep down you were hoping against hope that they’d release something that sounded more like “Public Image” and by the time you’d accepted that was never going to happen, you were stuck with a bunch of records that pretty much all went nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah. Just me, then?
“Blind Among The Flowers,” The Tourists
Pre-Eurythmics, Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart did time in a journeyman powerpop outfit called The Tourists, who had a few its but left little impression. Somewhere between this and “Sweet Dreams”, Annie Lennox found a whole new voice.
“Good Year For The Roses,” Elvis Costello
I’m not going to say I knew nothing about country music in the early eighties. Gram Parsons, The Flying Burrito Brothers and the “Sweethearts Of The Rodeo”-era Byrds were highly touted by Glasgow’s local tastemakers, such as they were. But, in common with a lot of British youth of the era, the country record I was most familiar with was “Almost Blue”, Elvis Costello’s reverent collection of covers. These days, the best thing I can say about it is that it served as a gateway to the originals. But then again, these days, it’s hard to imagine a contemporary country artist even knowing the originals.
“Trees And Flowers,” Strawberry Switchblade
A mixtape encore for this stirring song about agoraphobia from the underappreciated Glaswegian duo. It takes a particular kind of talent to write a song that sounds as sweet as this and contains the line, “I hate the trees and I hate the flowers.”
“English Rose,” The Jam
Timing was never in any band’s favor more than it was on The Jam’s when their third album, “All Mod Cons”, was released. The previous, “The Modern World” had been met with little more than a collective shrug. The music press were trumpeting new and exciting bands every week. The trio ran the risk of being lost in the shadows. Then the “Quadrophenia” movie inflamed the imagination of British teens soured on punk. The massed ranks of kids in parkas and pork pie hats had a look and a lifestyle but they didn’t have a soundtrack. So they adopted The Jam. And they adopted the band at the perfect time. Paul Weller went all-out to show what he could do on this record, even dropping the gritted-teeth delivery to sing this delicate acoustic love song.
“Carnation,” The Jam
Yes, a second song about a flower from The Jam. This one has a more typical Weller lyric: “If you gave me a fresh carnation, I would only crush it’s tender petals.”
“I Touch Roses,” Book Of Love
Another Mad World: The Book no-show. Which is a shame. I would have liked to know a lot more about this three-girl one-guy goth-pop outfit. Next time!
“The Flood,” Blue Orchids
When part of your adolescence was spent with fingers poised on a tape recorder waiting to tape songs from John Peel’s show, little nuggets of obscurity like this wind up dotted in the depths of your subconscious. Even without resorting to Wiki-research, I recall the Blue Orchids came from Manchester and were made up of various disgruntled members of The Fall. I remember owning this record but I can’t believe I ever played it.
“After Dark,” Flowers
From Edinburgh, on Fast Product, the label that released the debut records by The Human League and Gang Of Four. This song is like a case study in dysfunction from Masters of Sex set to music.
“Young At Heart,” The Bluebells
Yet another Scottish song with a floral connection. Yet the streets of my home own are smeared with dogshit and simmering cigarette butts. Ah, the irony. The Bluebells were lucky enough to be plying their trade in 1984, a year in which a Glasgow accent and a guitar were considered sufficient qualifications for a record deal. This line-dancing reboot of a song originally recorded in fake Motown fashion by Bananarama performed decently on it’s initial release Ten years later, long after the band had split, the song was used in a commercial and shot straight to number one. Not only were The Bluebells’ fortunes briefly revived, the session musician responsible for playing the fiddle that dominates the song, stumbled out of obscurity to sue the band for half the publishing. Which he received. And if this mixtape wasn’t already dominated by my Scottish homeland that is soon to decide on it’s independence, there’s a cameo at the start of this video from Clare Grogan of Altered Images, known to readers of Mad World:The Book as Gary Kemp’s “True” muse.