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Flesh For Lulu

+ {Gigantic} + {Nick Marsh}

A hybrid of gloomy, glam goth-rock and avant-psychobilly (led by the Peter Perrett/LOU REED-like Nick Marsh) FLESH FOR LULU were the nearly-men of the post-“Batcave” circuit. Derivative of the mid-80s indie times, F4L lacked any coherent musical direction, and were best-described as a loose strand of flashy garage-rock akin to The VELVET UNDERGROUND, NEW YORK DOLLS and GENERATION X; it was a fair bet that the PIXIES copped an earful of the band’s distinctive guitar sound.
Formed in Brixton, London, in 1982, vocalist/guitarist Nick Marsh and drummer James Mitchell were almost immediately joined by bassist Pope Glen Bishop and ex-WASTED YOUTH guitarist/vocalist Rocco Barker. As aforementioned, the Batcave venue was where they first hooked up their top hats and coat-tails, supporting the like-minded ALIEN SEX FIEND and The SPECIMEN.
Building a fair-sized fan following, a demo underlining the promising `All That You Know’ (soon-to-be `Restless’), `DNA’, `Spy In Your Mind’ and `Dark & The Gun’, led them to the offices of Polydor Records. The choice of their `Roman Candle’ debut single in late ’83 went under the radar, but its 12” EP version – pre-emptying the phrase “24 Minutes of Music Very Cheap” – implicated that they’d lost none of their indie ideals. In between infectious follow-ups `Subterraneans’ (as Flesh 4 Lulu) and `Restless’ itself, summer ’84 was spent supporting goth immortals The SISTERS OF MERCY.
Under-promoted for reasons best left unsaid, their eponymous FLESH FOR LULU (1984) {*6} – highlighting the previous two 45s – sold poorly, leading to a quick-fire exit for a band, who only a year ago, showed so much enterprise. A sneering, stylish cover of The ROLLING STONES’ `Jigsaw Puzzle’, and a mixed bag of metaphors and warped lyrical abandon courtesy of Marsh/Mitchell-penned pieces (`Brainburst’, `Hyaena’, `Heavy Angel’ and the grinding `Dog Dog Dog’), all encapsulating a time when it was cool for cats to be camp and crazy.
Already touring without UNDER TWO FLAGS-bound Bishop, who’d been superseded by Kev Mills (ex-SPECIMEN), the label-less FLESH FOR LULU dug in their high-heeled winkle-pickers and delivered the decidedly more lo-fi BLUE SISTERS SWING (1985) {*6} 12”/mini-set for the small Hybrid imprint. Generating more publicity for its controversial cover – the Spanish-banned two nuns locked in a kissing embrace – than its musical content (the sublime `Seven Hail Marys’ the exception), if this record had been patient for a handful of further additions, a ready-made fanclub was in waiting for `Death Shall Come’ and `I May Have Said You’re Beautiful, But You Know I’m Just A Liar’.
Statik Records (home to The CHAMELEONS, MEN WITHOUT HATS, et al) recorded their most accessible material to date in the shape of the Craig Leon-produced BIG FUN CITY (1985) {*7}. Kicking off with the sing-a-long `Baby Hurricane’ (very “Pretty In Pink”), the record displayed a quantum leap in confidence, from the choppy clawing of `Cat Burglar’ and the LOU REED-esque `Let Go’, to the GUN CLUB-ish `Vaguely Human’ and The ONLY ONES-cloned `Rent Boy’.
Moving on to Beggars Banquet Records, FLESH FOR LULU bit at the jugular of commercialism through singles `Idol’ and the glam-packed/SWEET-like `Siamese Twist’. From another angle, the group’s `I Go Crazy’ was chosen as a US single from other alt-rock acts to represent the rom-com movie, Some Kind Of Wonderful. A man known only to fans of PETER AND THE TEST TUBE BABIES, keyboardist Derek “Del Strangefish” Greening was fleshed-out on the ‘Lulu’s 1987 parent set, LONG LIVE THE NEW FLESH (1987) {*6}. Further failures to communicate, namely the pop-fuelled `Postcards From Paradise’ and the US-only re-hash of `I Go Crazy’, were well-suited to MTV, but not the ears of a discerning audience who’d loved their early works.
PLASTIC FANTASTIC (1989) {*5} was much of the same, an album aimed squarely at the American market; proof in the pudding was the failure to release the set in Britain until early in 1990, after preview 45s `Every Little Word’ and `Time & Space’ generated poor reviews. Their efforts not reciprocated in sales terms, Marsh and Co were unceremoniously dropped again, and finally threw in the towel shortly afterwards; officially in ‘92. They’d left behind several decent rock-pop songs with attitude and a couple of covers: `1970 (Feel Alright)’ (The STOOGES), `I’m Not Like Everybody Else’ (The KINKS), `Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White’ (ED COBB).
A comeback in 1996 under the name of GIGANTIC was welcomed by Columbia Records, who inked a deal with Messrs Marsh and Barker (plus recruits Dave Blair – bass and Al Fletcher – drums) for one album, DISENCHANTED {*6}. Produced by Tim Palmer, who’d had previous experience with post-goth acts such as The MISSION and The MIGHTY LEMON DROPS, fans on their tour with GOO GOO DOLLS and BUSH pointed out the merits of `Spanish Nightmare Vendetta’, `Tame Me’ and the Britpop-esque title track; they covered JACQUES BREL’s `Seasons In The Sun’ on a subsequent EP for the Music For Nations imprint.
Post-millennium, things looked brighter when FLESH FOR LULU re-formed, although due to moonlighting commitments (Nick with Naked Goat and Rocco with The Space Police alongside raga toaster GENERAL LEVY), activities were kept to bare minimum; by 2005 rumours filtered of a new album, but it was down to a solo and sedate NICK MARSH, who delivered A UNIVERSE BETWEEN US (2006) {*5}; its highlights stemming from `Destiny Angel’, `Best Shag In The World’ and a cover of LEE HAZLEWOOD’s `Some Velvet Morning’.
Around the same time, goggle-eyed fans of F4L or just the Brits-abroad series, A Place In Spain, were treated to Rocco and wife Dawn as they nearly bought property.
Sadly, just as F4L were ticking over again, Nick Marsh died of cancer on 5th June 2015.
© MC Strong 1997-2003/GA&ID // rev-up MCS Jun2015

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