Virgin Prunes – Red Nettle

21st November 2023 · 1980s, 1981, Music, Postpunk

Virgin Prunes began life at the same time, at the same social club in Dublin, as U2 – but went in a very different direction, blending avant-garde cabaret with improvisation and experimentation.

This piece of avant-garde minimalism really does require stereo speakers to do it justice.  That’s where its experimentalism resides; its collaged and looped fragments are honestly a bit of a head-fuck – especially on headphones.
Listening to it has an effect similar to when you’re a kid and you spin yourself round and round and round and struggle to stand up when you stop, with your head spinning.
It first appeared on the NME’s C81 cassette compilation and subsequently on the early rarities compilation Over The Rainbow.
It’s pretty much the only thing I like by The Virgin Prunes, whose theatrical brand of avant-garde cabraret is generally a bit much for me, though I like some of the odder moments on that compilation, blending atonal piano, field recordings and found sounds of birds flapping and squawking.
So it’s odd to recall the band’s roots in 1970s Dublin when the teenage Fionan Hanvey used to hang out at a social club with some other local lads, calling their little gang The Lypton Village.
Hanvey and his friends, brothers Derek and Trevor Rowen, Anthony Murphy, Dave Watson and Richard Evans, gave themselves street names – Gavin Friday, Guggi, Dave-iD, Strongman, Pod and Dik – and formed a band, naming themselves The Virgin Prunes after their slang term for outsiders and freaks.
Meanwhile Dik’s brother David Evans and his mate Paul Hewson started their own band that did quite well… U2.