Saturday, July 9, 2011

Flowers in the Dustbin

     Flowers in the Dustbin were very different and not as fast as the other anarchist punk bands, but they were still regarded as a big part of the scene. In the beginning, they were called The Anabollic (Sic) Steroids, and were around from 1980 to 1982 because their vocalist Gerard Evans became tired of the usual fast, barre chords, screaming side of punk and wanted to do something completely different. That was when Flowers in the Dustbin were born(after around ten lineup changes), and they were Gerard Evans on vocals, Charlie 'Chas' Loft on bass, Joanne Mead on drums and Samantha 'Noname' on drums.

     They played their debut gig that same year at the Lee Centre in South London. Their two female members left immediately after the show because their vocalist Gerard had been cutting himself pretty badly on stage while they were playing.

     Soon enough a demo was recorded titled 'Always Another Door' with just Gerard and Chas switching instruments in the studio(Chas did guitars and bass, Gerard did vocals and drums). At this point they became involved with the Kill Your Pet Puppy collective and where stuck between the anarchist punk bands and the goth anarchist bands. They regarded themselves in the same kind of field as The Mob, Rubella Ballet and Poison Girls. Several gigs where played, and some big ones were turned down because the band didn't believe in playing shows that were expensive for the audience to go to.

          In 1984, the band came to a stable line-up with guitarist Simon Barry and drummer Bill Mahoney from the band London's Fear. The Mob quickly approached them and helped them release a 12" record on their own All the Madmen label. It was called 'Freaks Run Wild at the Disco' and it was very different from the majority of punk that was being released at the time. Afterwards, the band got in contact with Rob from Faction and he also helped the band release a tape on his 96 Tapes label.

     'All the Best People are Perverts' became the name of that tape, and it was released in 1985. It was followed by another single titled 'Nails of The Heart' which was released on Conflict's Mortarhate label since at the time All The Madmen was having financial problems. A copy was sent to John Peel to play on his show. It contained some of the bands best work(some tracks were live and others were studio).

     Shortly after, guitarist Simon was replaced by Antje Klaehn after Si decided to bail out to pursue college, and John Howells was also added on keyboards.

     This would be the line-up to write and release the 'Lick My Crazy Colors' single. Their new guitarist had a much more softer sound so the band's sound evolved into something even more passive and bizarre. Several more gigs were played, and this was when Flowers in The Dustbin where at their best.

     Lots of material was recorded for an album meant for Cold Harbour Records from Brixton, but the label ended going going bankrupt and the album was ultimately lost(November's Song was one of the tracks). Now Flowers in The Dustbin had left the 'Anarcho Scene' and were on a separate road towards something different.

    Around 1986, the scene around them had lost, and no one really knew what to do besides bail out. The band had removed itself from that so they tried to continue, but Chas and Bill got into a really bad fight where Gerard had to try and split them, but he ended up getting his leg broken in the process(it was so bad he almost lost his ability to walk). That sparked the beginning of the end, and the band felt unsure as to where they should go or what should be done next. Fortunately, enough material was recorded for an L.P, but the band split prematurely before it could be finalized, thus it became the 'Lost L.P'(Ko).

      If the curious reader wishes to watch a small glimpse of these Flowers, some kind man or woman was uploaded some live videos of this magnificent band from out of the dustbin(pathetic attempt to be funny):

"Is it Real?" performed live in 1987

Music video(surprisingly enough, I never thought something like this would still exist) for 'Like my Crazy Colors"

"Is it Real?"

The man on the TV is strong in mind, inhumanly kind
He never feels lust
I didn’t see because I didn’t want to
See you walking away with my trust
Thats why sometimes love films tear me up
Sometimes they remind me of you
For those sweet short weeks I thought I was falling in love
Well that’s still true…

You’re not supposed to ask but just ask him
Why does it hurt?

You sold me a beautiful dream
And I bought it without hesitation
I fell in love with your innocence, I just dived in
Without contemplation
I don’t think you ever really loved me
Now it cuts me up thinking of you
They say that time is the healer and time will heal love
Now I know that’s not true

You’re not supposed to ask but just ask him, but ask him, break him, find out
Why does it hurt?

The following are explanations Gerard Evans gave for some of the band's songs:

"Stuck on a Stick"

     A subconscious rebellion against the Greek inspired concept of logic,and all the tragedies it has left in its wake. Alice in Wonderland, with it's childlike take on psychedelia, seemed a good metaphor to present anti-capitalist balls of childlike confusion and defiance, without dogmatic certainties. The only dogma was no dogma. The 'Hey Alice...' spoken middle eight was a more straightforward CV for a potential girlfriend. It didn't work. I'm still stuck, still stuck on a stick. Live out your dreams, don't dream out your life. Don't dream it, be it, as someone once wisely advised, whilst wearing stockings.

"Pocketful of Gold"

     Inspired b meeting an old Irish guy in a pub by Waterloo station, on the way to see Rubella Ballet play in Feltham. His mixture of sympathy for us devils and condescension about how we'd grow up and give in sparked the song. It also sparked a determination within me that I'd prove him (and maybe my dad, who he was maybe symbolic of) wrong. I could be wrong, but I could be right... Quite dogmatic, looking back in irony.

"True Courage"

     Ironically (or maybe not), the nearest we came to a straightforward anarcho-punk lyric was musically the most far away from the anarcho-standards... as much of a trade-off as we ever made. True courage is the courage it takes to say no... one fingered piano from Chas in both senses of the words. I'm 43 now and I still think NO is the most beautiful word in the English language. As lonf as I'm saying it and not hearing it of course.

"Aim for the Sky"

     All my teenage insecurities in one easy-to-swallow package! The chorus was a direct lift from 'Don't laugh at me cos I'm a fool', from an old Norman Wisdom film. The idea was to challenge the audience rather than entertain them. It worked: our audiences were never that big. I cringe when I hear this now - but I'm glad if it makes others cringe too.

"The Journey's End"

     Chas's take on the same theme as above - teenage angst, suitably married to a Joy Division inspired bassline, and lyrics by someone who'd clearly enjoyed a better education than me (Chas was influenced by Wilfred Owen, who I'd never heard of. But Wilfred Owen was educated in Brikenhead, where I was born - circles and roundabouts). Claire turned it into colour and gave it love.

"Last Tango in Vietnam"

     Inspired by a dream - the sort you have asleep - about a friend dancing on a nuclear weapon, which may in turn have been inspired by the film Dr Strangelove. A journalist (now a friend) described this as 'metaphysical', which had me scurrying for the dictionary. I often had nightmares about the nuclear holocaust and still occasionally do - wild, huh? Dancing in a third-world-war-torn country...

"Vethixo Disco"

     Adam Ant )particularly in his punk years) had 'Antmusic', in an attempt to throw off the shackles of genre-labels. We had 'Vethixo Music' for the same reason. I always loved the idea of punk rock discos, where punks could dance without the macho testosterone moshing that went on at gigs. In this respect, an attempt at finding non-macho likewise heads. Or maybe subconsciously referencing the early days of punks in gay discos because there was nowhere else yet. The time has come to illustrate our freedom...


     From our first ever demo, with Gerard on drums and vocals and Chas on bass and guitar. A pure pure song about the right to cross-dress. Not that we ever got round to actually doing it. Warning:contains a double-entendre of a childish and biological nature. Freedom of feeling, the feelings appealing...

"Covent Garden"

The original lyric took metaphysical to the edge - 'I was walking around Covent Garden / with my head in a sling...' It got replaced by a Chas lyric decrying followers of fashion. Which I was a touch uncomfortable with when I saw the dumbed-down leaden alternatives...but a fair point at the time, as we spotted a new anarcho uniform reintroducing conservatism via clothes and the perceived desire to belong. Spikey topped tune.

"Cowboys and Indians"

Probably the best song we ever recorded. La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la. First verse was anti-Thatcher (obviously?). Second verse was for a friend who hated her body. Third verse was me as Jesus Christ being crucified. All connected by the goodies / baddies simplicity of cowboys and Indians films, with flowers and co as the Indians of course.

"Nails of the Heart"

Straightforward feminist song. Burning memories just to keep warm' was originally 'burning crass t-shirts' - a slight not on Crass but on the paradox of how people bought their t-shirts despite their lyrics. Guitar solo sounds very like a Spear of Destiny song - as we pointed out to Si at the time! I hope some of the money made from this went to Animal Liberation. Stealing the lid from his eye to show him...

"All Fools Day / The Reason Why"

Chas originally sang All Fools Day whilst I played bass on it. Once I played so hard that my fingers bled - somehow it felt apt to the band and the song, so I just played harder and bled more. The reason Why came about when a fan of the band described seeing the phrase graffitied on a wall and touchingly saying somehow our band explained it to her. So I wrote the song for her in a way, heavily influenced by Patti Smith with the bass line at the end ripped off Modern English. Earth first. Don't bury me, I'm still alive...nature will stand when the concrete is torn down to he ground - tear it down.

"Novembers Song"

About a young soldier who, on seeing the carnage caused by WW1, commits suicide just as peace is declared. Every band had jumped on an anti-war bandwagon at this point (early 80s) and it was our instinct to try and go beyond their shitty cliches because we actually took it seriously. Still do.

"Outlaws in the Woods"

Visions of Errol Flynn as Robin Hood mix with walks in my local woods with straights staring at my pink hair and fantasies about a tribe of punk indians living in the woods. Which - via certain soul mates - would come true via the road protests a few years later. Oo-ee-oo!

"Lick my Crazy Colours"

Heavily influenced by very early Bowie. An attempt to inspire the spirit of the spirit that has inspired all the young dudes from the 50s through the swinging sixties up till what was then the present day and is now the distant past but could still be the future. Is there any tea in the pot? Is there any pot in the tea?

"The Continuing Tragedy of Mr Smith"

More straightforward punk rock, given a 60's punk tinge by the keyboards. A simple lashing out at the pin-striped commuters and their straight-jacketed lives - we constantly had these cunts in our face and we were the enemy within - hello thatcher. I wish we'd done more straightforward punk, but the times were just wrong. Hindsite is a luxury.

"The Web"

Pagan chant - we are the flow, we are the ebb, we are the weavers, we are the web. Says it all.

"Wouldn't that be Fine"

Written on the morning after the skint night before: of getting a dolecheque after being skint for a few days beforehand, in the tenth year of that cycle. An expression of solidarity with our fellow poor. Hope is an oasis in the desert, but is it also a mirage? Maybe one day we'll turn water into wine...wouldn't that be fine ?!

"South London"

What do you do when all your friends seem to be leaving for better lives and you're still here? You hit the bottle... and record your displeasure, wondering all the time whether this is positive creation or pathetic straw-clutching.

Only this isn't the straight biographical. I gave up on the concept of 'truth' in this song. Because when you catch up with your dreams, you realize you've exaggerated them. The rest is obvious. But, still, Braidwood Road SE6 was something back then...

"Anarchy Panky"

Made it ma! ...Finally, the technology to realize the Vethixo Disco! Rediscovering playfulness and the mood for dancing, romacing - we were giving it all that night.

Soon to come downloads:

Always Another Door Demo 1983
Live at Adams Arms, London W1 – 24-11-83
Freaks Run Wild At The Disco 1984 All The Madmen
Nails Of The Heart 1985 Mortarhate
All the Best People are Perverts 1985
Live At Brighton Richmond 22nd Jan 1985
Live in Nottingham 86
Lick My Crazy Colors 1986
Live at Leeds Poly 9th December 1986
Ko(Unreleased Album) 1986
Unreleased Single 1986
Live At The Timebox, Kentish Town, London ‘87


  1. just wanted to correct one thing. We were wild - properly, not arseholes -with all that entails and it comes with its drawbacks, not always perfectly balanced between freedom and indulgence. In hindsight, our tendency to have a good time all the time certainly didn't always further our creative endeavours, sustain healthy relationships or the life of the band but 'constant drug addictions and alcohol abuse' is way off the mark. With the possible exception of hash, none of us was addicted to any drugs and we all stayed away from needles. Drugs were part of the world we lived in then but I'd hate people to think they were central to what we were doing or why we stopped doing it - they weren't. Chas (BTW the 'lost' album can be found on the fITD website or Kill your pet puppy)

  2. I see. I'll go back and edit it then. That bit in particular I got from Gerard Evans' interview from Ian Glasper's book.

  3. no worries - I wasn't demanding a retraction ;), just a thought - thanks for the interest anyway - chas

  4. Here's a more positive contribution... Our relationship with Coldharbour records was summed up by the production of the video for Lick My Crazy Colours which is linked to above. It was the idea of Mark, the guy at CH who was in charge of our stuff. This guy was so unreliable that he was given a clock that went backwards by a friend as a joke. Being Mark, he put it on his office wall; after that he was even less reliable. He'd turn up late and when you said 'Mark you're late again', a light would go on in his head and he'd say 'That bloody clock'. In a moment of inspiration he decided it would be a good idea to film us playing in front of the hangars which housed advertising airships that flew over London, while the doors to the hangers opened. It's evidence of the fact that maybe we were smoking a bit too much that none of us really thought just what a dull video that would be - but it's also testament to the excitement we felt about making a proper video, we didn't really pay much attention to what it might look like. Anyway we drove up to this place (near Bedford) having had to get up at about 5 AM only to find it took the doors of the hanger two minutes longer to open than it took us to play the song. 'Never mind, they'll put loads of effects on it', said Mark. Well you can see the result and judge for yourself, but the icing on the cake was that they finished editing the video about two months after the single came out, so even if it had been 'Thriller' it wouldn't have mattered. It's sad to think those people actually ran a record company for a living ...
    The best times were earlier, 83-5, London was a different city then, so many derelict spaces you could use for whatever you wanted and so much time not having to work, I regret not being more outrageous, more militant and more unreasonable, we were far too conservative

  5. Nice history about an amazing band. They have some spoken word stuff out soon - present-day recordings. : )

  6. Hi, thanks for the article. I like very much Flowers In The Dustbin for their lyrics and music. I am 23 old, from Latin America and i identify a lot with the band and others punk bands near to FITD. It is so great that Chass shared us their comments. Congratulations to Flowers for made the band and to Listen and understand for the blog, keep going on pals.
    Regards and Anarchy!


  7. Thanks for sharing this stuff, sadly I missed Flowers in the Dustbin first time 'round (I remember the name though). :)

  8. Why is it that some people feel the urge to nearly rewrite history to massage their own ego's. The truth never bites that hard ha ha ha ha ha

  9. That's quite an accusation: 'nearly' rewrite history - so you're saying it's an accurate account. Good, cos it is. I don't mind admitting that I get a kick out of the fact that anyone at all is interested in the music we made - anyone who has ever been in a band and says they don't have an ego is pretty obviously lying. Chas

  10. I remember you lot, Chas: I remember the squatted bacon factory (or slaughterhouse?) in Swindon where the generator bust and you all went on unplugged. That was magical - summed up so much about that time, it's beauty and its danger - and one of my all time favourite gigs.

  11. A track from the Pig Factory (Swindon 28/08/83) just for you Robin Bale

  12. Ha - the pig factory! I don't remember going on unplugged but we did three nights there and my main memory is feeling the stage (which was made of old doors balanced on stuff) move. I looked down and realised the people in the audience were literally holding the stage together. That was very early on and Chumbawumba played, must have been one of their first figs too I reckon.