Rose McDowall (left) and Jill Bryson (right).
|Origin||Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom|
|Genres||Pop rock, new wave, bubblegum|
Strawberry Switchblade were a Scottish female new wave duo formed in Glasgow in 1981 by Jill Bryson and Rose McDowall, best known for their song "Since Yesterday" from 1985, and their flamboyant clothing with bows and polka-dots.
Before being signed
The punk movement expanded rapidly in the United Kingdom in 1976. At the time, Rose McDowall and Jill Bryson were part of the bohemian art scene who adored the New York Dolls and who followed Scottish punk band Nu-Sonics (later Orange Juice) during their career, with McDowall playing and recording with Paisley punk band The Poems.
Bryson studied for four years at the Glasgow School of Art where she achieved a BA honours degree in mixed media.
As friends, McDowall and Bryson socialised in Glasgow pubs, catching many local bands at the time. One of these bands was Orange Juice, fronted by Edwyn Collins. Members of New Pop and Orange Juice had recorded a live version of "Felicity" as a flexi-disc and intended to release it. A fanzine, to be titled Strawberry Switchblade after a James Kirk song, was planned to promote the flexi-disc but never materialised. The "Felicity" flexi-disc was eventually released in conjunction with the debut Orange Juice single, "Falling and Laughing". McDowall was later given the name by James Kirk.
The band's very first incarnation, an all-female 4 piece, recorded one demo at Glasgow's Hellfire Club and played a handful of gigs. Friends Janice Goodlett and Carole McGowan completed the line up on bass and drums respectively.
Strawberry Switchblade played at a John Peel gig in Scotland, and he invited them to record a session for his BBC Radio 1 show in October 1982. They also recorded a session for David Jensen's Radio 1 show three days later. On both sessions the band were augmented by James Kirk from Orange Juice on bass and Shahid Sarwar from The Recognitions on drums.
Early days making records
The sessions were heard by Bill Drummond (a Scottish musician who went on to form The KLF) and David Balfe, respectively manager and keyboard player with the recently defunct The Teardrop Explodes, who became the group's managers.
The band's first single, "Trees and Flowers", was released in July 1983 through 92 Happy Customers, an independent record label run by Will Sergeant from Echo & The Bunnymen, and sold over 10,000 copies. It was featured at number 47 in John Peel's 1983 Festive 50. "Trees and Flowers" was written by Bryson about her medical condition agoraphobia.
Drummond signed the band to Warner Music Group subsidiary Korova in 1983. They got a full backing band with whom they toured and began recording an album with producer Robin Millar. However, at the record company's behest, they reverted to the duo of Bryson and McDowall and for production duties they hired David Motion, who would soon go on to produce hits for Red Box.
In late 1984 their second single, "Since Yesterday", was released. Having been given a large marketing push over the festive period, it became a UK top ten hit in early 1985, peaking at number 5, and also met with success in Europe and Japan.
Their cover version of "Sunday Morning" (originally by Velvet Underground) was released as an extra track on the 12" of "Since Yesterday". It was not included on any of the Strawberry Switchblade albums.
In March 1985 they released their next single, "Let Her Go".
Following the release of their eponymous album in April, in May 1985 they released a further single, the ballad "Who Knows What Love Is", one of two tracks on the album produced by Phil Thornalley of The Cure.
Although their commercial success had waned in the UK they remained popular in Japan and two later singles, "Ecstasy (Apple of My Eye)" and "I Can Feel", were only issued in that country. The second of these only featured McDowall as by this time the partnership had irreparably fractured. By early 1986, the group had disbanded.
In December 2005, Warner Bros. Platinum Records released a career retrospective of the band, made up of sixteen different tracks from various recordings on one compact disc.
McDowall continued in music, playing with many neofolk bands and performing alongside a number of old and new friends. Often now seen performing in and around Glasgow – McDowall has culminated a number of 'Resident Session Artists' to formulate her band in different locations, including people associated with her current representation, Night School Records – such as Michael Kasparis; Proficient Celloist Jo Quail and her son, Bobi Lee.
In July 2013, after a break of almost 30 years from music, Bryson returned to songwriting in a new band called The Shapists (named after the fictitious art movement in the film The Rebel), that includes her daughter Jessie Frost.
|Strawberry Switchblade discography|
|Year||Album details||Chart positions|
|1985||The 12" Album
|2005||The Platinum Collection
|1983||"Trees and Flowers"||—||–||3||–||–||–|
|1984||"Since Yesterday"||Strawberry Switchblade||5||–||6||24||–|
|1985||"Let Her Go"||59||–||–||–||–|
|"Who Knows What Love Is?"||84||–||–||–||–|
|"Ecstasy (Apple of My Eye)" (released in Japan only)||—||–||–||–||–||71|
|1986||"I Can Feel" (released in Japan only)||–||–||–||–||–|
|"–" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that territory.|
- "Go Away" (1983)
- "Trees and Flowers (Just Music)" (1983)
- "By the Sea" (1984)
- "Sunday Morning" (1984)
- "Beautiful End" (1985)
- "Michael Who Walks By Night" (1985)
- "Poor Hearts" (1985)
- "Let Her Go (Kitchensynch Mix-Up)" (1985)
- "Black Taxi" (1985)
- "Jolene (Extended Mix)" (1985)
- "Being Cold" (1985)
|1984||"Since Yesterday"||Tim Pope|
|1985||"Let Her Go"|
|"Who Knows What Love Is?"|
- Strawberry Switchblade Album review AllMusic.
- Paul Lester, "Cult heroes: Strawberry Switchblade – the clue was in the name". The Guardian, Tuesday 14 April 2015 
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 29 January 2008. Retrieved 18 January 2008.
- "1982 4 Piece Demo". Rough Trade. Retrieved 27 January 2018.
- "BBC – Radio 1 – Keeping It Peel – Strawberry Switchblade". BBC. Retrieved 26 May 2011.
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- "Strawberry Switchblade – complete interviews, by subject: Recording the album". StrawberrySwitchblade.net. Retrieved 26 May 2011.
- "Strawberry Switchblade – singles discography". StrawberrySwitchblade.net. Archived from the original on 17 July 2011. Retrieved 26 May 2011.
- "Strawberry Switchblade – complete interviews, by subject: Recording the album iv". StrawberrySwitchblade.net. Retrieved 26 May 2011.
- "Strawberry Switchblade – albums discography". StrawberrySwitchblade.net. Retrieved 26 May 2011.
- "New music - Jill Bryson's blog and news". Jillbryson.com. Retrieved 27 January 2018.
- "THE SHAPISTS HOME". Theshapists.com. Retrieved 27 January 2018.
- "Chart Stats – Strawberry Switchblade". Chartstats.com. Archived from the original on 19 January 2013. Retrieved 9 November 2009.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 535. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- "Indie Hits "S"". Cherry Red Records. Archived from the original on 6 June 2011. Retrieved 9 November 2009.
- "The Irish Charts – All there is to know". IRMA 2006 – 2008. Retrieved 9 November 2009.
- "dutchcharts.nl – Strawberry Switchblade – Since Yesterday". 2006-2009 Hung Medien / hitparade.ch. Retrieved 10 November 2009.