USING POP TO HELP CONQUER YOUR DEMONS

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Strawberry Switchblade are often held up as one-hit wonders, thanks to their second single, Since Yesterday, hitting #5 a few months after its release in late 1984. But I want to tell the fascinating story behind their relatively little known debut 45………………

Rose McDowall and Jill Bryson, two of the earliest punks in Glasgow, made up Strawberry Switchblade. Their name came from a James Kirk song that was never recorded by Orange Juice. The girls were friendly with everyone in the Postcard Records scene and received a lot of encouragement to make a go of things musically, with John Peel (who certainly had a thing for attractive female Scottish singers) offering them an early radio session while also persuading his mate David Jensen to do likewise given that the pop approach and sound of the girls was more likely to find favour with listeners earlier in the evening.

All of this led to Bill Drummond showing an interest and he arranged for them to record a debut 45 on 92 Happy Customers, an independent record label run by Will Sergeant from Echo & The Bunnymen. The debut, entitled Trees and Flowers, sold around 10,000 copies, was voted in at #47 in the 1983 Festive Fifty and led to Drummond signing them to Korova Records which was bankrolled by the giant WEA  and on which they would enjoy the chart success in late 84/early 85.

mp3 : Strawberry Switchblade – Trees and Flowers

A lovely little ballad which included a contribution from Roddy Frame on guitar, it’s worth looking closely at the lyric:-

Dawn cracks the dark
And it breaks the silence
Of my waking hours
And my heartbeat’s licence

For I hate the trees
And I hate the flowers
And I hate the buildings
And the way they tower over me
Can’t you see
I get so frightened
No-one else seems frightened
Only me, only me

I can’t but see
That the sun has risen
To my window, my world
Of my home sweet prison

For I hate the trees
And I hate the flowers
And I hate the buildings
And the way they tower over me
Can’t you see
I get so frightened
No-one else seems frightened
Only me, only me

They were penned by Jill Bryson who, despite appearing to the world to have a carefree attitude and approach to life which was best demonstrated by her dressing flamboyantly in a city where you were openly ridiculed in the streets for doing so, suffered dreadfully from agoraphobia with long spells in her life where should couldn’t leave her house.

I find it impossible to imagine what living with such a condition must be like and Jill’s sad lyrics capture just how heartbreaking it is to face up to and how difficult it is to explain what many will consider to be an irrational fear. I remember once, many years ago, seeing someone take an awful panic attack in the street as a result of this condition. It was scary watching a young woman, probably aged around 25-30, just grip onto a lamp-post and suddenly start screaming loudly; she had a friend with her who was obviously au fait with the condition and knew how best to handle the situation, which included reassuring those of us in the immediate vicinity that things were OK and that the fear would pass. It troubled me though to think what would happen to any agoraphobic who was struck down while out on their own….it didn’t bear thinking about.

Most singer-songwriters will have a great deal of autobiographical content in their early songs – Jill Bryson was incredibly brave to do what she did.  And in such a lovely and understated way too.

7 thoughts on “USING POP TO HELP CONQUER YOUR DEMONS

  1. I had no idea about Jill’s condition, and feel that sharing this and enlightening people in this manner was very brave of her. Thank you for letting me know.

  2. I listened to this for the first time in years last week! Lovely melody, sad words, it actually holds up really well. Not even the slightly Pinky and Perky-ish vocals can spoil this great understated track.

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