The Prunes’ arty experimental approach to their Irish proto-goth rock was alternately funny (albeit unintentionally) and harrowing. Not as aggressive as they were melodic, Virgin Prunes are most definitely an acquired taste.
Fionan Hanvey and Derek Rowan were childhood friends in Dublin. Another of their pals was one Paul Hewson.
In the early 70s the lads adopted new identities, with Hanvey becoming ‘Gavin Friday’, Rowan renaming himself ‘Guggi’ and Hewson being branded ‘Bono Vox of O’Connell Street’ – which was shortened to simply ‘Bono’ prior to him finding fame in U2.
Friday and Guggi formed Virgin Prunes with third vocalist Dave-iD Busaras, guitarist Dik Evans (brother of U2’s The Edge), bassist Strongman Trevor Rowan (brother of Guggi) and drummer Pod (real name Anthony Murphy). Pod left the group and was replaced by Daniel Figgis, who took the new name Haa-Lacka Binttii.
The band secured a deal with Rough Trade and released their first single Twenty Tens (I’ve Been Smoking All Night) in late 1980. They released a second single, In The Greylight, in early 1981.
Conflicts with other members forced Binttii out of the band and he was replaced by Mary D’Nellon.
Their 1982 album If I Die I Die is probably The Prunes at their most consistent. It has its slow moments (ie: bad poetry, obtuse songwriting) but Gavin Friday sounds suitably gloomy, and the production by Wire‘s Colin Newman accents the group’s artiness.
Virgin Prunes disbanded in 1986 after the departure of Gavin Friday. The rest of the band continued as The Prunes, but split up in 1990.
Gavin Friday (Fionan Hanvey)
Guggi (Derek Rowan)
Strongman (Trevor Rowan)
Pod (Anthony Murphy)
Haa-Lacka Binttii (Daniel Figgis)
Drums, keyboards, tape loops