|Genres||Post-punk, gothic rock, art rock|
|Labels||Baby, Rough Trade, Mute|
Virgin Prunes was an Irish post-punk band formed in 1977. They disbanded in 1986 after the departure of singer Gavin Friday. The other members continued under the name The Prunes until they split up in 1990.
The band consisted of childhood friends of U2's Bono. Lypton Village was a "youthful gang" created by Bono, Guggi (Derek Rowen) and Gavin Friday (Fionan Hanvey) in the early 1970s, where every member received 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 teenage Paul Hewson his alter-ego and now-famous moniker (taken from "Bono Vox", a hearing aid shop on Talbot Street in Dublin City Centre), later simply "Bono." Known for its outrageous and controversial stage performances, led by theatrical singer/songwriter Friday, the band 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, guitarist Dik Evans (brother of U2's The Edge), bassist Strongman (Trevor Rowen, brother of Guggi) and drummer Pod (Anthony Murphy), completed the original lineup. Pod left the group and was replaced by Haa-Lacka Binttii (né Daniel Figgis, now a composer and multimedia producer and curator). With Binttii on drums, tape loops and keyboards, the band secured a deal with Rough Trade Records. They released their first single, "Twenty Tens" on their own Baby Records label through Rough Trade in late 1980, followed up by a second single, "Moments and Mine", in early 1981.
Two other tracks recorded with Binttii were released during 1980 before conflicts with other members forced him out of the band. "Red Nettle'" was included on NME compilation C81 and "Third Secret" appeared on 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 rerecorded 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, 12" single and a cassette. All four parts appeared on an Italian version of A New Form of Beauty, which was released as a double album, although with a different track listing to the cassette version.
In November 1982, the Virgin Prunes released their debut album ...If I Die, I Die (produced by Colin Newman of Wire) as well as Heresie, a French box set. Commissioned by Yann Farcy after seeing them perform at the Rex Club in Paris, Heresie 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 switch to guitar and allowed Pod to return as the band's drummer. The Virgin Prunes started to record but abandoned the album Sons Find Devils, which has never been released.
A retrospective video titled Sons Find Devils was released in 1985; this video had nothing to do with the unreleased album of the same name. In May 1985, rarities compilation Over the Rainbow was released.
In July 1986 the band, now a four-piece, finally released a new album, The Moon Looked Down and Laughed (including recordings of music written for Sons Find Devils). Later that year, frontman 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 breakup.
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 (1988's Lite Fantastik, 1989's Nada, and 1990's Blossoms & Blood. Dik Evans played on Lite Fantastik while 17-year-old Justin Kavanagh (aka Valley Limberg) from the Dublin hardcore band Mutant Asylum (now a member of Paranoid Visions along with his cousin Cormac Figgis, aka The Master Switch) took the helm as guitarist for "Blossoms & Blood". In 1993, Justin Kavanagh went on to form Gormenghast and Snifferdog. Binttii's youngest brother Jonathan Figgis is the boy who appears on the cover of the second Virgin Prunes single, "Moments and Mine".
In 1998, Cleopatra Records rereleased 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 he and his 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, Figgis was composer in residence with Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown, Dublin. One of his compositions, "Post Production", a 23-section suite for four musicians, was performed at the Winter Garden in New York City in December 2006. In 2008, Arts>World financial centre commissioned Figgis to compose and perform the sole European commission to celebrate their 20th anniversary of arts programming. His multi-disciplinary festival, Snakes & Ladders, appeared on Broadway on 8 January 2010 at Peter Norton Symphony Space.
After much talk, years of anticipation from fans, and input from the band, The Virgin Prunes discography was remastered and reissued on Mute Records in 2004. The set of reissues included ...If I Die, I Die, The Moon Looked Down and Laughed, Over the Rainbow, Heresie and an album of selections from the A New Form of Beauty series. In 2006, Busaras, Guggi and Friday contributed a track to the sea shanty collection Rogue's Gallery, appearing in the track listing as Three Pruned Men.
On 4 October 2009, three original members of the band - Gavin Friday, Guggi and Dik Evans - performed two classic Virgin Prunes songs, Sweethome Under White Clouds and Caucasian Walk, at Carnegie Hall as part of "An Evening with Gavin Friday and Friends", to celebrate Friday's 50th birthday. J.G. Thirlwell appeared with them as backing vocalist.
- A New Form of Beauty Parts 1-4 (double album; 1981, rereleased 1993 and 2004)
- Heresie (1982, rereleased 1986, 1988, 1993, 2004)
- ...If I Die, I Die (1982, rereleased 1991, 1993, 2004)
- The Moon Looked Down and Laughed (1986, rereleased 1993 and 2004)
- * The Hidden Lie (Live in Paris 6/6/86) (1987, rereleased 1993)
- Heresie 10" box set (1982)
- Over the Rainbow (A Compilation of Rarities 1981-1983) (1985, 2004)
- Artfuck: A Compilation of Rarities (1980 - 1983) (1993)
- An Exhibition (promo, 2004)
Singles & EPs
- "Twenty Tens" 7" single (1980)
- "Moments and Mine" 7" single (1981)
- A New Form of Beauty 1 7" single (1981)
- A New Form of Beauty 2 10" single (1981)
- A New Form of Beauty 3 12" single (1981)
- A New Form of Beauty 4 cassette (1982)
- "Pagan Lovesong" 7"/12" single (1982)
- "Baby Turns Blue" 7" single (1982)
- "The Faculties of a Broken Heart" 12" single (1982)
- "Love Lasts Forever" 7"/12" single (1986)
- "Don't Look Back 7"/12" single (1986)
- An Extended Play 12" EP (2004)
- "Baby Turns Blue – Director’s Cut" digital single (2004)
- Sons Find Devils (1985, rereleased 1997)
- Rolf Vasellari: The Faculties of a Broken Heart, Black Sheep Press, 1985.
- "Virgin Prunes - Discography". Retrieved 25 June 2012.
- David Fricke (ed.). "U2 Join Lady Gaga, Scarlett Johansson and More for Gavin Friday Benefit at Carnegie Hall". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2009-10-17.
- True Life Story, the official Virgin Prunes site
- Gavin Friday, official website
- Guggi's official website
- Daniel Figgis' official website
- Mute Records website
- Peter Rowen official site