Flowers In The Dustbin – All The Madmen / Mortarhate Records – 1984 / 1985

Stuck On A Stick / Pocketful Of Gold / True Courage

The Journey’s End / Last Tango In Vietnam

Nails Of The Heart

All Fools Day / The Reason Why

The regular browsers to this KYPP site will know of my personal fondness for Flowers In The Dustbin, so it is with great pleasure that I am re-uploading the first two releases by this band. Indebted to Gerard for the informative text below. At one point in time my favourite band from that scene! Shambolic performances and some wonderful vinyl released.

Flowers In The Dustbin were doing a gig at the Roxborough Tavern in Harrow when Mick Lugworm came up and asked us if we wanted to do a record on All The Madmen. It was a complete surprise – we hadn’t even considered a record at that point. But it was full of good omens for me. David Bowie’s ‘mad’ brother was in “Cane Hill loony bin”, which was my local (so to speak) – so doing a record on a label named after the song Bowie wrote about him was neat, particularly given our fondness for utilising the Doors ‘all the children are insane’ line.

Freaks was recorded after Si (guitar) and Bill (drums) had been in the band less than a week. Bill had filled in on drums with us before however, and none of the songs required a Jimmy Page level of competence for Si to learn.

Finding a studio was done via that traditional rock n roll grapevine, the local Yellow Pages. I found one just around the corner from my old school, which at the time seemed some kind of fitting, if ill-defined, revenge. We booked two days and invited old friend – and This Bitter Lesson chanteuse – Claire Taylor to put some extra vocals on it. I thought Claire was a Goddess and her   voice was liquid velvet and so could take the edge off my own perceived vocal shortcomings. Also it seemed a good idea to have a woman singing at a time when the only female punk vocals around seemed to be apeing the numbing aggressive shouting of their male counterparts.

Back to the recording. To cut a long story short I lost my voice and consequently missed the two days recording, having to book a third a week later when I was better. So I can’t relay too much about it other than to say there was some muso tinkering with the Pocketful Of Gold guitar line I’d written to make it more ‘tuneful’. While the cats away, da-da – decays. 

Freaks sold some copies – we were never told how many – and, more importantly to me, was the answer to a clue in the NME crossword. It’s funny what you think validates you.

Nails Of The Heart was recorded for Conflict’s Mortarhate Records. I’ve no memory of how this initially came about but can only presume that Colin from Conflict living near me in Bromley at the time is not unconnected.

We were booked into Alaska Studios in Waterloo, which was a big step up for us – 24 whole tracks! Rob Hendry ran the Mr Clean studio we rehearsed at in Bermondsey and was accordingly drafted in to produce. He’d produced some 4-track demos we’d done at Mr Clean and had previously played with all manner of luminaries from Renaissance to Twiggy via Alan Price and the Nashville Teens. Which is nice.

Nails was my paean to feminism and its failure to properly pierce the punk veil of illusion. It seemed a suitable riposte to what I perceived as the macho studded leather jacket crowd who bought records on Mortarhate. (Which may have been unfair of course, but that’s how it felt at the time and in the place). Perceptive listeners may spot a Spear Of Destiny guitar solo in the middle – we didn’t spot it till maybe 6 months later (apart from Si presumably). The Reason Why was inspired by the beat-talk-poetry of Patti Smith on Birdland (and lashings of teenage angst!) via some graffiti on a wall relayed to me by an artist called Julie Travis. All Fools Day was a miserablist Chas composition from our earliest days. All in all I think it was quite a brave record compared to its peers. On release, Nails Of The Heart leapt into the Sounds alternative charts and the next week leapt out again, lest we get too excited.

By this point we’d all been on the dole for some years and life was getting harder. Si bailed out to pursue his college / career ambitions as the rest of us started to think a bit more seriously about trying to make something resembling a living at music. Sometimes I think it might have happened too if we hadn’t lost our discipline in the hedonist department.

I’ve no idea how it felt for other bands but in hindsight the defeat of the miners strike seems like it was quite a turning point. Up till then there really was a feeling that workable alternatives (in life, not music) were being created and there was at least a possibility of ‘alternative lifestyles’ stretching out into old age. Or maybe that was youthful naiveté – it certainly seemed so once Thatcher turned her bile on the travellers at the Battle of the Beanfield.

By this point, and maybe not coincidentally, Flowers In The Dustbin had left the anarcho building,  though as I’ve said previously, I don’t think FITD as a band or concept were ever actually in it, despite ourselves. As the map is not the territory, so the band is not the members. 

We went on to get an ‘indie’ record contract and were gigging with the likes of the Cardiacs / Primitives / Fuzzbox.   We even did a gig with some of the blokes out of Madness, causing me to drastically rethink my opinion of them (in a positive direction). But that was another era of the band, and a different story… 

…bits of which are available HERE along with free downloads of everything we ever did and continue to do.

GERARD – 2009

  1. Pete
    June 13, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    It’s funny, reading Gerards article above plus reading/hearing the comments of nearly every other band that fell under the anarcho/protest/peace punk umbrella (take the interviews in “The Day The Country Died” for example) you’d have thought that no one blindly believed in the movement or its ideas, everyone was suspicious of the motives of others whilst all were the only ones that “didn’t fit in” to its narrow confines. I think this in itself proves that there was more individuality, diversity and free thought coursing through the “scene” plus an enthusiastic willingness to absorb new ideas and music than we’d like to give it credit for. There again, us punk rockers always were a cynical bunch!

  2. luggy
    June 13, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    Funny to see you mention Cane Hill as my aunt & uncle were nurses there. Used to go to the social club there with them which was open really late. Strangely, Alan Hudson & a couple of other Chelsea players of the time used to drink there as well. Doubt too many current Chelsea players drink in mental hospitals these days!

  3. Bimble
    June 14, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    I brought the ‘Stuck On A Stick’ 12″ when it came out. On getting it home I immediatly fell in love, both with the songs strange charm & Gerards unique voice. A real breath of fresh air in those non melodic thrash times. Years & years later I moved to brighton. I remember being @ the wild park urban free festi & having a random conversation with another festihead, somehow we got onto how the great Flowers In The Dustbin were, I said how I’d always loved the singers voice, when another bloke listening in said “really? see that bloke over there, thats him !!” I was so blown away by the coincidence I felt compelled to go & say hello. I went over, introduced myself, shook Gerards hand & we’ve been friends ever since. (Hi Gerard, small world eh!!) I still have the 12″ to this day, in fact I’m gonna go dig it out & give it a spin. “somewhere over the rainbow…..”

  4. Chas
    June 16, 2009 at 8:37 am

    How dare you Gerard! There was no ‘muso tinkering’ Gerard was the only one who knew what the chords to Pocketful of Gold were supposed to be and something got lost in the process of teaching Si the songs. 14 years later when we did a couple of reunion gigs Si and I discovered that we had been playing different tunes. The same things happened on at least one other song. There was never any muso tinkering in flowers in the dustbin – let’s get that straight.

    For years Gerard and i have had this (possibly false) memory that the Mortahate single was part of an arrangement for us to record an album with them, but that we forgot about it.

    As for the blindly believing thing, if the bands all thought they were the only ones who didn’t, that impression probably came from doing loads of fanzine interviews where the questions were
    what do you think of anarchy?
    do you eat meat?
    what do you think of war?
    do you like Crass?
    etc etc,
    I recall us being asked those questions on a weekly basis, which did give you the impression everyone just sat around staring at their Crass posters! Of course we weren’t the only ones and there are lots of bands listed on this site who can say the same I’m sure, but there were hundreds of crass-clone bands (none of whom had a fraction of the imagination of the originals) who aren’t. Pete – if you want to know what we thought about it at the time the lyric to Bible Seller is on Gerard’s site I think.

  5. gerard
    June 16, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    Bible Seller isn’t on the site at the moment but here are the lyrics:

    I’ve thought this all through, thought about you,
    walked our pathways in your shoes;
    on a black and white screen youre right i scream
    – for my minds sake.

    but, sitting in a colour cinema, i could take my heart and hold a wake;
    so ill rise beside my dreams and do as my heart tells me to.
    im going to tear out my soul, so you can see the beauty in complexity;
    i might be right i might be wrong, but you wont find out from the words to a song.

    i show one side of just one fight amongst a bloody battle waged
    by starving swordsmen, where one thousand flags are raised.
    animals and peace make their demands and leave my conscience dazed,
    like vultures swooping for my heart, who want all the life of which theyre part.

    youre looking for a meaning, but everything means nothing (or so i say);
    the only hope is in a spirit that leaps over words and sweeps hearts away.
    so stop scanning tracts of purity, pinned so tritely to your wall,
    as if right and wrong could exist among words (as if they existed at all).

    i offer no bibles for your brain,
    nor any four chords underneath the right flag;
    just a song to stir your soul,
    wings, for when your feet drag,
    for when your mind drags.

  6. Carl
    June 16, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    Well I loved the band, I droned on about getting “Bridge Across Forever” on here , once or twice !!.

    Compared to most of the toss in the Ian Glasper books (Go on, I challenge you to read the index and list the number of bands that you had time of day for…I didnt get too many, and I wasnt interested in the black anarcho church/army.), they stood miles above and away from it, on a personal level that probably went over your average Crass fan.

  7. gerard
    June 18, 2009 at 12:20 am

    hey luggy

    did your relatives ever mention bowie’s brother?

    or is that a tasteless question (i’m wonderin now…)

    mentalism, as the partridge put it, was the debate that half our songs were trying to start…

    Cheers to Dave for this:

    “Cause I’d rather stay here
    With all the madmen
    Than perish with the sadmen roaming free
    And I’d rather play here
    With all the madmen
    For I’m quite content they’re all as sane
    As me”

  8. gerard
    June 18, 2009 at 12:30 am

    OK finally ready to answer these properly – apologies for the delay:

    “fanzine interviews where the questions were”

    what do you think of anarchy?

    like lydon said , literally taken it’s just mind games for the middle classes

    do you eat meat?

    no – 46, vegan and sexy

    what do you think of war?

    love it, in the right context

    do you like Crass?

    members, yes. music, not really. influence – yes, in the main

  9. luggy
    June 18, 2009 at 11:00 am

    They never really talked to me about their work but I was pretty young at the time. They were my favourite uncle & aunt (& there’s a lot of them having Irish parents!) but unfortunately drank themselves into early graves. Must be a stressful job to do though.

  10. dan i
    dan i
    June 19, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    i offer no bibles for your brain,
    nor any four chords underneath the right flag;
    just a song to stir your soul,
    wings, for when your feet drag,
    for when your mind drags.

    Now that’s why I went to see Flowers In The Dustbin – brilliance and honesty. Thanks Gerard and Chas. I just posted on the Flux Of Pink Indians tape entry about how so many of the bands were grey and the same, but Flowers – never!

  11. geraint
    July 12, 2009 at 1:23 am

    Great read Gerard. There’s always something inspiring about youthful idealism no matter how those dreams pan out in the end.
    Did Rob your producer used to have an eye patch or is that my memory playing tricks on me?
    See you soon mate.

  12. gerard
    July 14, 2009 at 11:41 am

    Hi Geraint

    I think it was Chris, the other bloke who ran Mr Clean studios, that had the eye-patch. But not permanently. Just when he was on pirate duties.

  13. gerard
    July 14, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    …on the other hand, I can’t see how you would ever have come in touch with Chris so maybe it was Rob. M’hearties.

  14. Carl
    July 14, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    Gerard…what the bloody hell are “pirate duties ??? “

  15. gerard
    July 14, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    Hi Carl

    Well, y’know, hijacking boats, brandishing a cutlass, saying Jim m’lad with a parrot on your shoulder and sometimes wearing an eyepatch…

  16. Carl
    July 15, 2009 at 8:36 am

    So basically being a bit of a “seafaring old dog” then !!

  17. gerard
    July 16, 2009 at 11:41 pm

    Well I guess Bermondsey was sort of by the Thames!

    And still is I expect.

    Which makes me think of Uncle Albert.

    “During the war………”

  18. gerard
    March 9, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    Latest news: me, Chas & Dev are on the lookout for a drummer with a view to going into the rehearsal studio , so if anyone knows anyone they think might be suitable, just get in touch, joining up the words: webenquiry @ flowers in the dustbin

    We’d like someone who’s extremely good and able to practice in London – cheers!

  19. Carl
    March 14, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    Are you doing some recording Gerard ??..Be good to hear it if you are.

    By the way, I don’t live in London and could not drum if my life depended on it..Apart from that I am your man !!

  20. gerard
    March 15, 2011 at 6:44 am

    Putting a new FITD album together Carl, though the live FITD thing that needs a drummer is almost a separate project. Nothing is ever simple in this band 🙂

  21. yet another dave
    yet another dave
    March 19, 2011 at 12:49 am

    Have you left Brighton (again) Gerard ?

  22. gerard
    March 19, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    No Dave, still here

  23. yet another dave
    yet another dave
    March 26, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    See you in the Concorde on 16th May at Adam Ant then.

  24. gerard
    March 29, 2011 at 9:56 am

    Got my ticket – do we know each other then? Which Dave are you?

  25. sonny
    March 29, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    Got my Adam Ant ticket too!

  26. yet another dave
    yet another dave
    March 29, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    Yes of course we know each other Gerard. It’s the Dave who used to live in Whitechapel but now lives in Brighton. The one who’s been at more FITD gigs than most. Now that’s a reunion show I’d travel to. I’m going up to Bristol with Sonny on the 8th April as well for The Mob.

  27. gerard
    March 31, 2011 at 12:11 am

    Oh hi Dave, look forward to seeing you at AA then! Meantime, enjoy yourself at the Mob!

  28. gerard
    November 14, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    Here’s a Brazilian band called Gattopardo playing their version of ‘The Reason Why’ on a bridge in Brazil. It’s called, as they explain “‘motivos maiores’ (in portuguese this means major reasons or bigger reasons).”

  29. yet another dave
    yet another dave
    November 15, 2011 at 10:29 pm

    You missed a trick not trying this Gerard. Gig on a bridge would have flown over people’s heads !

  30. luggy
    November 17, 2011 at 10:06 am

    Reckon this lot beat playing on the bridge 😉

  31. gail
    November 30, 2011 at 10:42 am

    just wanted to put my two penneth in! I lOVE LOVE LOVE flowers in the dustbin! loved coming to the gigs and dancing down the front and loved the individual band members (not in any naughty way of course!) keep up the good work and hope to see you all soon. Gail (ex lost Cherrees) xxx

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