The Times We Lived In: Hothouse Flowers at HMV

Sat, Oct 19, 2013, 01:00

Ah, yes. The flowers that bloom in the spring, tra la. This picture shows The Hothouse Flowers performing in the first-floor window of the late, lamented, HMV shop on Grafton Street in the spring of 1988.

The band had planned to busk outdoors, on the street, by way of a pre-publicity stunt before the release of its debut album, People. But word got out and some 3,000 fans turned up, prompting a hurried change of plan.

There’s a wonderful innocence about this celebrity frenzy from the days before Facebook and Twitter – before celebrities, almost. Look into the right-hand panel of the window (the one which reads Next cafe Espresso, with its elongated s’s) and you’ll see a group of those same fans, craning to get a look at their heroes.

The window itself is a kind of modernist version of the sort of triptych you might find in a church. Something to do with those stern geometric shapes, perhaps; the triangles formed by the three panels and the phalanx of square tiles underneath.

From the left-hand panel, Hothouse singer Liam Ó Maonlaí salutes the crowd while Leo Barnes looks, and presumably sounds, seriously cool on saxophone. In the central panel guitarist Fiachna Ó Braonáin, wearing one of his trademark funny hats, offers a cheery thumbs-up.

What are they singing? Probably their greatest hit, Don’t Go, with its quirky bittersweet lyrics and theme of living for the moment: “while the sun smiles, stick around and laugh a while”.

True to their name, The Hothouse Flowers blossomed, then faded; by 1994 it was all over for the band. The individual members are still going strong, though. As, indeed, is HMV, whose return to our streets represents a triumph for music fans of all ages and tastes.

Maybe one day they’ll even be back on Grafton Street.

Arminta Wallace

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