Flesh For Lulu – Flesh For Lulu (Caroline)
When people give you the whole ‘it’s all online anyway’ argument about buying music, it’s worth bearing in mind that this is the first CD issue of Flesh For Lulu’s album – which was originally released in 1984. Subtitled The Polydor Years, it brings together the tracks from the first three singles, as well as three BBC sessions recorded between 1982 and 1984. SInger and guitarist Nick Marsh sadly died of cancer in 2015, but guitarist Rocco and drummer James Mitchell spoke to me about the album’s re-issue.
Google Flesh For Lulu, and you will usually find them described as ‘goth.’ Yet this is particularly surprising when you listen to the four tracks they recorded for the John Peel show in the summer of 1982. This version of the band has far more in common with the likes of Human League and Thompson Twins, the ‘new pop’ of the time, than the sound the band would pursue when they signed to Polydor. Guitarist Rocco, who joined subsequent to the session was more blunt when I interviewed him ahead of this re-issue.
‘I thought it was fucking awful!’ he told me, quite cheerfully. ‘They were closet rock’n’rollers! i let them out of the closet’ Mitchell concurs that Rocco joining the band – then including bassist Glen Bishop -bought the thing together. ‘There was Simple Minds, Depeche Mode…we had no idea what we were doing, we were finding our way. Funnily enough, that was what Polydor liked!’
With Rocco on board, the band left behind any connection to synth-pop and set about becoming a great rock band.The following year saw a session for David ‘Kid’ Jensen and a lot of gigging, and finally signing to Polydor. Their first single ‘Roman Candle’ wasn’t included on the original album, but it is now, in both 7″ and 12″ remix versions. It’s a worthy addition, to what is an excellent album.
Flesh For Lulu understood that rock had directions still to go. Building upon the likes of the Velvet Underground and the Stooges, ‘Restless’ kicks off an album bursting with songs that brood and energise at the same time. While it’s possible to date the album as being made in the eighties, at the same time it still feels fresh, and considerably more vital than music a fraction of its age. The cover of the Stones ‘Jigsaw Puzzle’ (originally on Beggars Banquet, quite probably Mick and co’s finest hour) updates the song another fifteen years or so, adding another layer of menace. ‘Hyena’ and ‘Dog Dog Dog’ had debuted on the ‘Kid’ Jensen session a year earlier, showing that the second session (included here) was a band that had found its sound.
The centrepiece is probably the second single ‘Subterraneans’ – a suitably Bowie-esque title that sums up what is still so great about this period in eighties music. Dark music that you could lose yourself into (though just as possibly find yourself), and was celebratory at the same time, driven by tribal rhythms. This is music that begs to be played loud – whilst zooming down roads at the dead of night. Don’t, however call them goths. Rocco again: ‘We just looked liked that. It had only just had a label applied to it.’ He recalls talking with Siouxsie and the Banshees’ bassist Steve Severin about how both their bands had got lumped in with that. ‘I just found the whole goth thing a little bit Rocky Horror Picture Show.’
The Banshees were labelmates on Polydor, as were The Cure. But the dark rock was not what the label were expecting. ‘Polydor were horrified!’ recalls Mitchell. ‘We were signed as a Depeche Mode-type band. The guy who signed us [Alan Sizer] wasn’t happy.’
Polydor dropped them – but the band went onto great success State-side where ‘I Go Crazy’ featured in the John Hughes Film Some Kind Of Wonderful. That is, of course, another story, but be grateful that the first chapter of the story has -been-reinstated.
Flesh For Lulu is out now on Caroline