Virgin Prunes [Special]

The Virgin Prunes was an Irish gothic (post-punk) rock band. The band formed in 1977 and disbanded in 1986 after the departure of member Gavin Friday. The rest of the band continued on without him for a while as The Prunes, but they too ended activities by 1990. Friday and Guggi, along with third vocalist 'Dave-iD Busaras' (David Scott Watson), guitarist Dik Evans (brother of U2's The Edge), bassist Strongman (Trevor Rowan, brother of Guggi) and drummer Pod (Anthony Murphy), completed the original lineup.

The band consisted of childhood friends of U2's Bono and The Edge. Lypton Village was a "youthful gang" created by Bono, Guggi (Derek Rowan) and Gavin Friday (Fionan Hanvey) in the early 70s, where every member got a new identity and where they could escape from dreary and predictable Dublin life and be anything they wanted to be. It was both lead singers Friday and Guggi who first gave a teenaged Paul Hewson his alter-ego and world-famous moniker "Bono Vox of O'Connell Street," later simply "Bono." Known for its outrageous and controversial stage performances, led by the bands' theatrical singer/songwriter Friday, they first began playing small shows in Dublin gaining them a cult audience and ridicule from the culturally conservative community. Friday and Guggi, along with third vocalist 'Dave-iD Busaras' (David Scott Watson), guitarist Dik Evans (brother of U2's The Edge), bassist Strongman (Trevor Rowan, brother of Guggi) and drummer Pod (Anthony Murphy), completed the original lineup.

Pod left the group and was replaced by Haa-Lacka Binttii (aka Bintii, aka Princess Tinymeat, né Daniel Figgis). With Binttii now on drums, tape loops and keyboards, the band secured a deal with Rough Trade Records. They released their first single "Twenty Tens (I've Been Smoking All Night)", through Rough Trade but on their own Baby Records label in late 1980. They released a second single "In The Greylight" in early 1981. Two other Binttii tracks were released during 1980 before conflicts with other members forced him out of the band. "Red Nettle'" was included on an NME compilation C81 and "Third Secret" was included on the Cherry Red compilation Perspectives And Distortion. Work had already started on the project "A New Form Of Beauty" while Bintti was with the band, but after he was replaced by Mary D'Nellon (Drums), some of his tracks were re-recorded and his name was not included in the credits.

"A New Form of Beauty" was a project that originally contained four chapters and was released in various formats - 7" single, 10" single and 12" single. There was also supposed to be a cassette but this fourth part was never officially released, although all four parts did appear on an Italian version of A New Form Of Beauty which was released as a double album.

In November 1982, the Virgin Prunes release their debut album ...If I Die, I Die (produced by Colin Newman of Wire) and Heresie, a French boxset. Heresie was commissioned by Yann Farcy after seeing them perform at the Rex Club in Paris and was based on a loose examination of insanity. In 1984 both Guggi and Dik Evans, unhappy with the music business, left the band. This forced drummer Mary D'Nellon to take up the guitar and allowed Pod to return as the band's drummer. The Virgin Prunes started to record the album Sons Find Devils, which has never been released.

In 1985, confusingly enough, a retrospective video titled Sons Find DevilsOver the Rainbow, a compilation of rarities, was also released. In July 1986 the band, now a four-piece recording music written for 'Sons Find Devils', finally released a new album, The Moon Looked Down and Laughed. Also that year frontman Gavin Friday left the group. His departure was confirmed in the liner notes of the band's 1987 live album The Hidden Lie which contained a short statement confirming the band's break-up.

After disbanding as The Virgin Prunes, D'Nellon, Strongman and Busaras formed an offshoot group called The Prunes, which released three albums between 1988 and 1990 (Lite Fantastik, 1988; Nada, 1989; and Blossoms & Blood, 1990). Dik Evans played on The Prunes' album Lite Fantastik and a seventeen year old, Justin Kavanagh from the Dublin hardcore band Mutant Asylum (a.k.a. Valley Limberg) took the helm as guitarist for "Blossoms & Blood". In 1993, Justin Kavanagh went on to form Gormenghast with Padraig O'Toole of "The Gods". Justin Kavanagh also formed Snifferdog with Gerard Griffin in 2005. Gormenghast reformed in late 2008 after 13 years and are currently working on a new album.

Note: Guggi and Strongman's youngest brother Peter Rowan (nicknamed 'Radar') was the little boy whose image has appeared on countless U2 albums and single sleeves over the years, most notably Boy, War and Best of 1980-1990. Peter is now an acclaimed professional photographer in Dublin, recently utilizing the new spelling 'Rowen' for his surname in order to avoid confusion with the American bluegrass musician Peter Rowan.

Binttii's youngest brother Jonathan Figgis is the boy who appears on the cover of the second Virgin Prunes single 'In The Greylight'. Jonathan now runs the award-winning film production company October Eleven Pictures with his other brother Jason Figgis. In 1998, Cleopatra Records re-released the Sons Find Devils video, along with a soundtrack album on CD. This was the first commercially-available Virgin Prunes material to be released since 1993 and, for a few years, the only commercially available full-length Virgin Prunes album on compact disc (though studio recordings of the songs "Baby Turns Blue," "Pagan Lovesong," and "Caucasian Walk" had cropped up on CD compilations of various Goth and other dark/avant-garde post-punk bands).

Gavin Friday has since had a reasonably successful solo career in both music and film. Guggi remains an influential artist in Dublin. Dave-id still records as a solo artist in Ireland. After 20 years of self-imposed seclusion from the rock world, Dik Evans recently gave an overview of his and brother Edge's early years in U2 for the December 2005 issue of 'Word Magazine'. Trevor, Mary and Anthony Murphy live quietly throughout Europe. As of 2004, Daniel Figgis is currently composer in residence with Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown, Dublin. His most recent composition, Post Production, was performed at the Winter Garden, New York City, in December 2006. After much talk, years of anticipation from fans, and with much input from the band, The Virgin Prunes' discography was remastered and reissued on Mute Records, which included ...If I Die, I Die, The Moon Looked Down and Laughed, Over the Rainbow, HeresieA New Form of Beauty series.

In 2006 Dave ID-Busaris, Guggi and Gavin Friday contributed a track to the sea shanty collection ''Rogue's Gallery, appearing in the track listing as Three Pruned Men.

[Web sites]

Virgin Prunes - A New Form Of Beauty (1981)
Virgin Prunes - A New Form Of Beauty 1-4 (1981) : (part1) (part2)
Virgin Prunes - Twenty Tens Ep (1981)
Virgin Prunes - The Faculties Of A Broken Heart EP (1982)
Virgin Prunes - Heresie (1982)
Virgin Prunes - Pagan lovesong (1982)
Virgin Prunes - If I Die, I Die (1982)
Virgin Prunes - Over The Rainbow (1985)
Virgin Prunes - The Hidden Lie [Live In Paris 1986]



Virgin Prunes - Sons Find Devils (Remastered) (2002)
Virgin Prunes - Over the Rainbow (2xCD Remastered) (2004) (Part1) (Part2)
Virgin Prunes - A New Form of Beauty (2xCD Remastered) (2004) (Part1) (Part2)
Virgin Prunes - The Moon Looked Down and Laughed (Remastered) (2004)
Virgin Prunes - Hérésie (Remastered) (2004)
Virgin Prunes - ...if I Die, I Die (Remastered) (2004)

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