Liam Ó Maonlaí – Vocals, Bodhran, Hammond Organ, Harmonica, Marimbas,
Fiachna Ó Braonáin – Background Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Sitar
Peter O’Toole – Background Vocals, Bass Guitar, Bouzouki, Electric Guitar, Mandolin
Leo Barnes – Background Vocals, Saxophone
Jerry Fehily – Drums, Percussion
Claudia Fontaine – Background Vocals
Jimmy Helms – Background Vocals
Jimmy Chambers – Background Vocals
Luis Jardim – Percussion
Gary Barnacle – Brass
John Thirkell – Brass
Peter Thoms – Brass
Lovely Previn – Fiddle
Producer and engineered by Alan Winstanley and Clive Langer.
Photography by Amelia Stein.
Design by Steve Averill.
– – – – –
Blackrock, Co. Dublin.
Engineer Chris O’Brien set up a small but funky recording set up in the front
room of the house and recorded a few songs namely ‘Fatman’, ‘My Baby’s Coming
Home’ and ‘Show Me’. This was all around the time of the Magic Carpet gigs.
Then through a man called Lorcain Ennis we did some demos in Strand Studios
off Caple Street in Dublin. Leo Barnes was invited to play some sax on a song
called ‘Out Walking’ which literally blew us all away. This is where the first
demo of ‘Love Don’t Work This Way’ was recorded.
A tall man with U2 connections called in one evening and picked up a copy of
the tape and pretty soon the phone was ringing wanting a meeting with the band.
In the mean time, gigs were happening in places like the Colony Restaurant,
Timmerman’s, The Chicken Club at the Pembroke Bar, various gigs in Trinity and
U.C.D and of course in the Risk night-club. It was in the Risk night-club that
the famous friends started coming to see us. It was here that we hit something
musically, that was to send out waves around the globe.
U2 at this stage had set up a record label to help Irish artists. We were offered
a one single deal for the song ‘Love Don’t Work This Way’ which we recorded
in Windmill, with Flood as an engineer/producer. It was really a tiring day
but a very professional experience, which felt like a stepping stone for all
of us. The record got great airplay and reviews and it was important to have
such a recording to send to various record companies whom were intrigued by
the band’s sound. Finally, after touring for a while and rehearsing a lot, we
went over for a meal organised by London Records. This was a strange event at
the time. Almost like being courted, where the other person is eager to impress.
Anyway, we ate a lot and drank too much and made no promises to anybody. Eventually,
the paperwork was right and we signed
our first recording contract with London Records.
So many names were put forward to work with that we were dreaming names at
the end. They were stressful days where it was hard to know where it was all
going. Eventually we played with U2 in Dublin sometime between late ’87 and
early ’88. Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley came to see us. What we liked was
their versatility; they had worked with (Dexy’s Midnight Runners, Madness, and
David Bowie) to name a few. We did a good week of rehearsals and reshaping and
we then went to London to record. It was put together in
Westside Studios near Notting Hill Gate and we did some overdubbing in Townhouse,
in Battersea (once owned by Pete Townsend). We felt good in Townhouse with their
selections of pianos/organs/ercussions/vibes/marimbas, etc. It was a very soulful
session meeting the various people involved like the Jimmy’s (Helms/Chambers)
who did some backing vocals, Luis Jardin with his big fat cigars who played
percussion and Claudia Fontaine who’s voice changed the shape of the album so
wonderfully. We ate a lot of Indian food and drank a lot of beer, wine and whiskey.
There was a lot of coming and going on behind the scenes with a whole sub committee
making the album, too. I remember Clive was on the phone a lot. We eventually
mixed in Westside, we had the company of people in Archies bar, while Alan Winstanley
did the mixing on the album which came to be called ‘People’.
1988’s ‘People’, was the most successful debut in Irish history. Even before
the release of ‘People’, expectations were high. Rolling Stone magazine said
they were the ‘best unsigned band in the world’. The album’s original sleeve
is shown above – now a collector’s items. CD’s were starting to hit the market
and subsequently, to get the market going for CD’s rather than lovely old crackly
vinyl, extra songs tended to be added to the CD that weren’t on the vinyl version.
‘Lonely Lane’ and ‘Saved’ being the bonus tracks for ‘People’. (The Limited
Edition Import listed below with a different catalogue number is no different
to the normal CD). After it was released the band were said to be the next U2
– which was highly unfair to both Hothouse Flowers and U2. They were, after
this release, probably as big, if not bigger than U2. The album reached Number
2 in the UK chart and Number 1 in Ireland.
PETER: People forget that there’s plenty of room for U2 and
us. They assume neither of us can stand each other and that we live in this
huge shadow but it’s nothing like that. (Speaking in 1988).
( The song was released as a single.)
LIAM: Things out there
are very hard to understand. I find it hard to give my understanding to what
is going on in the world. I’m trying to do that through the songs. Putting my
finger out. Trying to make contact. Let some people know that somebody wants
to understand. Saying sorry is a hard thing for some people to do. It’s a human
frailty. Not being able to do it. Surrender? Yeah, it’s like that. Especially
to say sorry when it would be easier not to. (Speaking to Melody Maker in 1988).
LIAM: ‘I’m Sorry’ isn’t too personal.
It’s meant to be taken at face value. It can be about anything. It’s up to the
listener. (Speaking in 1989).
(There was once a time, believe it or not , when they didn’t play it! The video
is slightly different as there is no mandolin in the intro, a count in on the
drumsticks by Jerry and a shorter run by Leo on sax before the last verse. The
song was released as a single.)
LIAM: I like the idea that somebody could take ‘Don’t Go’ as a straight love plea. The night before last, I looked out into the audience and saw this couple. There was something in the way they were looking at one another which told me they were thinking of splitting but when the chorus came in, they both started smiling. Quite a story. The song could be for anyone. Parents, exiles, sons and daughters. For me, it’s a very personal thing, the death of my friend, Eamon. The day he died. A beautiful spring day, otherwise. A slow death. One year long. So much pain for the people around him. It’s not a difficult song for me to sing though. It’s a rejoicing song, in spite of everything. Just like ‘If You Go’ which is about the same thing, written in the same mood and the same day. ‘Don’t Go’ is here and now. Immediate. I like to think the present being more important than the past or the future. More important than looking forward to things. Most people waste too much time looking ahead or looking back. Living in the moment can be too difficult, too painful. It has to be learned continually. (Speaking to Melody Maker in 1988).
LIAM: That song was written about
a friend of mine who was in a motor bike accident. And he was in a coma for
about a year and one day I was inspired to write this song for him because it
was one of those beautiful days and the sky was so blue and so I thought to
myself, “Please don’t go.” It was my personal plea to him because
I realised how precious life was and how beautiful it could be. I didn’t want
him to die. (Speaking to Beat magazine in 1989).
LIAM: The light, I suppose, is whatever
anyone believes to be God. Whatever anyone believes to be God. Whatever anyone
believes to be the light. It could be love. It could be some kind of escape.
I had to leave that line open. To me, it is God and salvation. God is there…
it is nothing to be fathomed. Nothing I could fathom. I could find no justice
in saying who or what it is. It might become clearer to me. There will always
be ups and downs. Even the most pious and the most wise will have their confused
moments. There are wise people who become children again, going back to enjoy
the wonder once more. Knowing how to remain a child is a wise thing in itself.
(Speaking to Melody Maker in 1988).
IT’LL BE EASIER IN THE MORNING
(This version starts with a verse – but later versions on the ‘Home’ tour started
with a chorus. The song was released as a single.)
LIAM: An obvious song. Sleep
is an amazing thing. The idea that you will wake up and things will be different.
Sometimes, they might be worse. Looking to a new day. Offering words as a kind
of solace. That’s all. The best songs are the ones an audience can empathise
with. I think we want to offer something. But that’s not all. A song’s objective
is also to stir something in a listener. Perhaps to bring some kind of relief.
People have come up to me and said they needed this song. That’s the
best kind of flattery. (Speaking to Melody Maker in 1988).
LIAM: Well, actually, ‘It’ll
Be Easier In The Morning’ is about when I was younger. You see, when I was younger
I used to have trouble sleeping. But, I learned from this experience, that if
anything gets you down never lose sleep over it. There’s always a new day.
LIAM: We made ‘Don’t Go’, and somebody said, ‘We really like
that; would you like to be played on The Eurovision? We’d make a video for you.’
And we thought, ‘Yeah, Planxty had done it, so it’s not a sick thing to do.
They’ve done it well, it’s a cultural event. It mightn’t be everybody’s cup
of tea, but it’s an opportunity to do some good art.’ So, we did it. We spent
a really hard-working two weeks travelling all over Europe, places we’d never,
ever been before. We were playing on the streets, doing gigs, and it became
almost all of the time. It was very heavy on us, but of course, the results
were immediate attention from all the world. We were in America in no time.
We were all over Europe in no time, we were on ‘Top of the Pops,’ we were on
This song has been a mainstay of the set since its beginnings. It gives the
opportunity for Liam to stretch his fingers on an acoustic guitar. During the
intro, when they supported INXS at Wembley Stadium in 1991, he said it was for
an old man he saw sleeping at the bus station he saw last night. The song has
gone through some changes from the original. On the LIVE
album, the song has altered to a more funk feel with a muted guitar constantly
holding the rhythm. Each line has a longer separation, too.
LIAM: He’s hoping to be saved every night
when he goes there. I was thinking a little of all those characters you see
in the corners of Irish pubs. A lot of people who would devote their lives to
the bottle would once have devoted their lives to something else. Somebody
else. It’s a long road from there. It’s quite a nice side-step from life though.
Something to revolve your life around if you can no longer handle revolving
around it, around a woman or a god. (Speaking to Melody Maker in 1988).
IF YOU GO
Trivial Fact: Fiachna breaks a string
during the live performance of this song on the video ‘Take A Last Look At The
Sun’ and still plays on…
LIAM: The desire to reach the other side. There’s an ambiguity about
it. Like ‘Don’t Go’, it can be taken as a love song, though it’s another song
about Eamon passing away. I’m not sure if I know what Heaven really is. It might
depend on my mood on the day. Sometimes I feel more… um, enlightened. Sometimes
Heaven might be a place on Earth. A new life. The promise of something new.
A possible Heaven. A Heaven where there are no bodies so man and woman, man
and man, are the same, almost merging their souls. (Speaking to Melody Maker
LIAM: It’s a last farewell – ‘if you go, I hope you get there, if you
get there, I hope you like it’ – kinda like a hail and farewell to someone who’s
going for the last time. By the same token it’s saying ‘don’t go easy -fight!’
People connect with that and take from it what they want. The feel of the song
is greater than the words sung. (Speaking to New Musical Express in 1988).
THE OLDER WE GET
LIAM: It’s like walking. The way it moves. Like the sea too, perhaps.
When I sing, ‘like a child touching age’, it’s a child touching adolescence.
Finding the first moments of adolescent knowledge. Thinking it’s going to be
easy now you’ve grown up. That’s my own experience. Then we’re proven wrong.
You can’t predict things. You can choose what colour slippers you’re going to
wear, but you can’t know when somebody is going to walk out of your life. You
just assume that they won’t. Finding perfect love. That’s one of the real answers.
I’m not sure it’s the only answer. There’s a lot of unattached people who find
a meaning to life in solitude. People who are willing to live with themselves,
alone. It’s terrifying. When I talk about searching out the answers, I’m thinking
about other people too. Most people are, I’m sure, searching out the answers
to mysteries. They fall in love with mystery and that’s a trap. We’re all led
by mystery. Money is a mystery to us. We don’t know what the mystery is until
we have money. Then we find out it’s not a mystery at all. Neither does it solve
everything. Playing the Eurovison thing had mystery, but it had more to do with
going to Europe to do the video. The travelling. The adventure, if you like.
(Speaking to Melody Maker in 1988).
LIAM: ‘The Older We Get’ is about a specific issue – how society treats
older people, marginalises them. (Speaking to New Musical Express in 1988).
YES I WAS
LIAM: It’s also self-reassurance.
As much as reassuring someone else. Even when there’s pain to consider. Yeah,
devotion. A very personal one. (Speaking to Melody Maker in 1988).
LOVE DON’T WORK THIS WAY
(This version is not the same as the single version which Maria Doyle Kennedy
appears on. This version was recorded for the album. The single being recorded
with Mother Records. Check out the 1998 version (very different) which appears
on the B-side of ‘You Can Love Me Now’.)
LIAM: A more negative
look at love, sure. The idea that you can’t fall in love with mystery. That
you simply have to fall in love wit her, you’re only in love with what you don’t
know about her. The beauty of summer is only what you missed in that summer
gone. People putting love on a pedestal. Not meeting love head on. That comes
back to mystery. (Speaking to Melody Maker in 1988).
LIAM: The turning point was the single. ‘Love Don’t Work This
Way.’ (Speaking in 1989).
LIAM: Just before we got together as a band, my friends were
listening to Joe Tex, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye and the whole Motown thing –
we were all dancing to it. That was a big inspiration for the music that I wanted
to do. When we started, I sang with this black soul voice and ‘Love Don’t Work
This Way’ came out of that inspiration. (Speaking to Hot Press in 1998).
BALLAD OF KATIE
LIAM: The set is almost Hollywood. You can imagine the sand. The saloon
bar. The silence as he moves in. Yul Brynner could be that man. What a man,
Jesus!The man is told to leave. He’s very understanding. He leaves. I don’t
know if it is right to tell him to leave. Everyone has a right to arrive. I
have a feeling though that guy in the black boots is a happy-go-lucky. He might
just fall in love with the girl for one night and leave her, hurt. I see bits
of myself in both these characters. I don’t know if I was trying to work something
out writing the song. Jealousy is in there. That horrible feeling. The feeling
you sometimes can’t do anything about. (Speaking to Melody Maker in 1988).
FEET ON THE GROUND
(The song was released as a single.)
LIAM: It does take on a lot. It does sound quite anthemic at times.
The essence of it, for me, is in the chorus. The importance of maintaining a
direct link right down to the roots, to the ground. Times are changing and things
are moving faster. My head isn’t exploding now. I haven’t come across anything
worse now than I found before. I guess I’m saying that I want to know, that
I want to understand. Dealing with times of trouble… this song might be a
way of pinning things down. Reminding myself what it’s all about. We need anchors,
yeah. That’s what is good about a wife or a close partner. Someone who will
tell you when you’re wrong. Someone to straighten your tie. (Speaking to Melody
Maker in 1988).
– – – – –
UK 1st January, 1988.
US CD 25th October, 1990.
UK: LONLP 58
US: 828 101-2
ASIN: B00004T4B3 Cat: 35045.
Limited Edition CD ASIN: B00002DE0K
Additional images and extensions
‘People’ Japanese release without ‘Lonley Lane’ and ‘Saved’
Promotional sample LP with lyric insert, picture sleeve and matching obi-strip
Catalogue Number: L28P1265
‘People’ audio tapes
Conversation and Music with Hothouse Flowers – US promotional release 12″
Dave Fanning interviews the band between songs
01. Don’t Go (excerpt of busking version)
02. Kansas City (excerpt of busking version)
03. It’ll Be Easier In The Morning (excerpt of album version)
04. Feet On The Ground (excerpt of album version)
05. Don’t Go (excerpt of album version)
06. I’m Sorry (album version)
Label: London Records
Catalogue Number: SA085
‘People’ Sampler (UK) 5 track promotional release 12″ vinyl. Same track
listing on both sides
01. Don’t Go
02. Easier In The Morning
03. I’m Sorry
04. Hallelujah Jordan
05. Ballad of Katie.
Label: London Records
Catalogue Number: HOT-1 or LONLP58, 828101-2.