Back in February 1987, Britain’s Flesh for Lulu were riding high on the breakout success of the single “I Go Crazy.”
The song was featured on the soundtrack of the then-new John Hughes movie, Some Kind of Wonderful, so the band had earned themselves a trip across the pond to play a series of club gigs in the US.
Going crazy with Flesh for Lulu
Though all of 17 years old at the time, I was lucky enough to spend several hours with the band when they were in San Francisco — going to the soundcheck, interviewing and photographing them over dinner, seeing them play live, and hanging out after the show.
In the years to come, several singles would follow, including “Postcards from Paradise” (later covered by both Paul Westerberg and The Goo Goo Dolls) as well as the modern rock chart hits “Decline and Fall” and “Time and Space.”
Flesh for Lulu would eventually break up in 1992, but then re-form from 2013 to June 2015… though the split the second time was due to nothing like the old standby “creative differences,” but instead the untimely death of frontman Nick Marsh.
In a heartbreakingly cruel twist of fate, the singer’s voice — and then his life — were taken by aggressive throat and mouth cancer. Only 53 years young, he left behind a family: his partner, Katharine, and two young daughters, Ava and Rosa.
What they have now are music, memories, and the moments mentioned by all whose lives Nick touched.
Count me among those gifted with a few such moments. The pictures snapped across the table that night in ’87 are some of my favorites from the era — so much humor and exuberance! — leading me to share them on my blog as well as via Wikipedia several years ago.
Nick found them online, and left me a note in 2010: “Ha, those pictures really take me back there man… Those were some mental times; check out that hair!”
To take you all back, too, here are a few photos from those “mental” times, along with a brief fanzine Q&A with Mr Marsh and the rest of the definitely kind of wonderful guys. (This the first time the whole interview — obviously written by a novice journalist — has been published on the web.)
What stands out today is that during our chat, Nick mentioned what he considered to be the meaning of life — and I’m heartened by the fact that, while it may have taken some time, he so clearly found what he considered to be the only plausible answer.
Flesh for Lulu interview from 1987 (as originally published)
When Flesh for Lulu made their most recent swing of America, I was allowed the opportunity to preside over dinner of the Lulus, and had a chance to ask them some questions of no particular relevance, as well as questions of no relevance whatsoever.
But before that, they were here, and here we go…
Flesh for Lulu: Some kind of wonderful conversation
(Setting: Some restaurant South of Market in San Francisco)
Nancy J Price: How were you approached to be included on the Some Kind Of Wonderful soundtrack?
James Mitchell (drummer): We heard about it through a friend. We found out that he (John Hughes) needed some new bands for a new soundtrack. We rang up and we did this tape. We sent it in for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the last film, but we missed that one. They didn’t have a soundtrack album — thank God we missed it! We didn’t expect it to be a single off the film, but then it was.
NJP: Are you touring just because of the single?
Nick Marsh (vocalist): It’s ’cause of the film, yeah. We’re doing it with the March Violets — it’s a package deal. It’s like a package promo for the film really. It’s supposed to be a double…
JM: It’s meant to be a double-bill thing, but they’re supporting us.
NM: They’re playing first. Hierarchy!
JM: Hey, we’re the main band!
NJP: When was the band formed?
NM: In London, about… four years ago? I met Jimmy and we just started this. We met Rocco about a year later and he ruined everything! It’s been downhill ever since! When I first picked up an instrument, it was the one my mum gave me on my fifth birthday, and she was playing old Jimi Hendrix, Velvet Underground and Bob Dylan. And I was just a little kid playing along with it for years. I think the punk movement really kicked my ass as a musician, ’cause I was just a directionless musician. Then I started getting a sense of urgency about projecting. Doesn’t matter what you project, just project. I started listening to more black music, getting into everything… God, I’m waffling on aren’t I?
* * *
NJP: How did the name Flesh For Lulu come about?
NM: (Snore) We were on a chain-saw/axe massacre mission in a supermarket, cutting people to bits, and we came across this Scottish singer named Lulu, see? We said, “Ah there’s Lulu!” and we chopped her up into little tiny bits, right? And you know, one thing led to another, and so it inspired us…
* * *
NJP: What would you do if you were granted invisibility for a day?
JM: We’d probably argue about it for about six hours.
NM & JM: I’d go to the street with the most banks on it. / I’d have a religious sexual experience. / I think I’d probably rob — take lots of money and go into shops. Definitely. The urge would be too irresistible.
NM: I’d get Maggie.
?: That would be a good one, yeah.
NM: Then I’d be a national hero!
JM: I’d walk into the Pentagon and press the button. (laughs) Nah, I wouldn’t do that. Steal. Crime’s the general idea.
NM: Yeah. Get rich quick.
* * *
NJP: How would your schoolmates have described you?
NM: A complete bastard. No, no… they’d describe me as a genius, an inspiration.
JM: They’d say, “Truly, this is the Son of God.”
NM: I think they’d probably say they didn’t know it was me.
JM: At school, I’d try to like all the people everyone used to hate. I used to talk to all the people who weren’t particularly hip. I used to hang around with all the ‘hip’ people, too. Mind you, I wasn’t an angel…
* * *
NJP: Where would you like to go in a time machine?
NM: (In a really heavy hippie accent) Woodstock! I’d like to go back to Egypt.
JM: The sixties — the swinging sixties in New York or San Francisco. The “Love Generation.” I’d like going back to the birth of Christ.
NM: The twenties were brilliant.
JM: I’d like to go to the twenties… the Depression. No, no — skip that! I’d like to be in the Roman times. The Mayan civilization would be good.
* * *
NM: This is fun. If you ask any boring questions, I’ll flick food at ya!
* * *
NJP: Do you believe in past lives?
JM: Nick was Benito Mussolini. Before that, he was an ant.
Rocco Barker (guitarist): I believe in reincarnation, whether it be animal or another person. I’d like to come back as some kind of predatory bird. An eagle. I like the idea of flying.
NM: I’d like to be reincarnated as a dolphin. They’re smarter than humans.
* * *
NJP: What is the meaning of life?
All: Rock and roll. / Space and joy. / Life is short/ Reproduction. / “Do what you want to do.”
NM: The meaning of life must be love. That’s the only plausible answer.
JM: To live… to talk late into the night.
NM: Guitars, Cadillacs, honky-tonk music.
JM: Hank Williams, William Burroughs.
NM: Extended sexual orgasm.
JM: The Beastie Boys. I like the Beastie Boys. I think it’s really funny for us to hear things like “beer and girls, beer and girls” every song. I think they’re really good at it.
NM: It’s a real antidote to English sensibility.
Kevin Mills (bassist): Something that English people hate — beer and girls.
JM: It’s like they’re real brats. It’s funny, it’s lively. They seem to do quite well, too.
I Go Crazy, by Flesh For Lulu