I was scrolling down the list of singers/bands/subject matters previously featured on this little corner of t’iternet when I discovered a medium-sized hole where the words Lilac Time should be.
I could have sworn that I’d typed up some sort of posting in the dim and distant past but it certainly isn’t showing up in the index. I recall picking up a second-hand vinyl copy of the album Paradise Circus some five or six years ago in the days before charity shops started to make a killing on such product and I do recall scribbling down some notes as I gave it a listen but I must have left it at that or else I’ve accidentally deleted an initial draft (I’ve history in that respect).
Anyways…..The Lilac Time have been making music for over 30 years now without ever getting beyond cult status. They have, in the main, been a vehicle for the brothers Stephen and Nick Duffy, the former whose name may be familiar to you if you’re ever followed the career of Duran Duran – he was one of the founding members of the New Romantic beat combo but left about a year before they landed the major record label and became international superstars. As Stephen Tin Tin Duffy, he enjoyed some chart success in 1985 with the charming but saccharine Kiss Me, albeit at the third attempt, and in a remixed form, some three years after its initial release
It was around 12 months later that The Lilac Time formed, with their self-titled debut album coming out on a small independent label, but creating enough of a buzz to have Fontana Records dangle a contract. The debut album was remixed and reissued by the new label to reasonable reviews but without gelling with the radio producers or the record purchasing public. Given that Stephen Duffy had demonstrated immense staying power and determination to achieve his previous hit single, it was no surprise that the band knuckled down for album number two, Paradise Circus, which was released in 1989.
I’m not going to make any outrageous or bold statements of it being a lost classic, but I think it is fair to say that it is an album that ought to be better known than it is and certainly deserved a better fate than failing to chart, nor indeed did any of its three singles, including this perfectly polished piece of pop:-
The album as a whole is a gentle and enjoyable listen, fairly acoustic in nature, and packed with catchy choruses that worm their way into your brain. But 1989 was the time when British pop music was almost exclusively focussing on baggy/Madchester and the sounds being offered up by The Lilac Time were deemed by many to be old-fashioned toe-tapping stuff that belonged to a different era.
A third album in 1990 didn’t get them any further forward, and having been dropped they made a move to Creation with label boss Alan McGhee also taking the management reins. After it flopped, the band broke up and Stephen tried his arm as a solo artist to no great avail. He did, however, in 1996 get back into the charts as one-quarter of the Britpop group Me Me Me, whose other members included Alex James of Blur and Justin Welch of Elastica, with this one-off single that reached #19:-
It’s not one that I recalled when typing up these notes but I did recognise it, without fondness, when I went digging for a listen.
The Lilac Time reformed in 1999, but again experienced no commercial success. Despite this, Stephen Duffy had built a reputation as a great songsmith and arranger, and so it was no real surprise that Robbie Williams came calling in 2004 asking for help In writing and producing songs, a venture that was stupidly successful with the one album they delivered together selling in excess of 8 million copies.
In a sense, nothing really mattered after that as the money from the Williams partnership would see him set up for life and before long he was back with his brother as The Lilac Time making records of a pop/folk nature, the type that has me running for the hills.
I might not have much time nowadays for the output of the band, but I’m always happy when one of the 1989 songs come up on random shuffle on the i-pod player, such as these:-