Friday 9 December 2016

Flowers are hot property with 1990 hit

The particular genius of Liam O' Maonlai - and Jeremy Clarkson's favourite band, Hothouse Flowers - are without doubt up there with U2

Published 28/11/2016 | 02:30

Hot stuff: Hothouse Flowers's 'I Can See Clearly Now' topped the UK's download charts this week
Hot stuff: Hothouse Flowers's 'I Can See Clearly Now' topped the UK's download charts this week

If it wasn't for Hothouse Flowers, the landscape of Irish rock would be a lot flatter. Critics can argue about Hothouse Flowers's place in the canon but, for me, songs like Your Love Goes On, This Is (Your Soul), Hallelujah Jordan, Your Nature and Don't Go rank them up there with some of U2's finest.

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And personally, I think Liam O'Maonlai possesses as sublime a singing voice as Bono or, whisper it - sacrilege of sacrileges - even Van Morrison.

Don't all laugh at once, but some of the greatest moments of my life have come courtesy of the Flowers.

Running in to the sea with them in Valencia in 1988, and flying around Europe with them on a specially-hired Ryanair plane around the same time. This is to say nothing of the most surreal memory of them at all, perhaps.

It was five years ago when I had a party at my house, and Liam, being Liam, turned up two hours early, on his bicycle at the door, oblivious to time, or much else for that matter.

While my then-girlfriend/now-wife ran about the house getting everything ready, Liam (who looks a tad Christ-like with his unkempt beard and long hair) and I sat in the courtyard drinking wine and discussing Bob Dylan's Born Again Christian albums (Saved, Slow Train Coming) as the aforesaid Bob Dylan Born Again Christian album blasted piously out of the sound system until the guests finally arrived and I changed the CD playlist to something a little more secular.

It was perhaps the most surreal moment of my life.

And Liam O'Maonlai, surely one of our national treasures (along with fellow Flowers Fiachna O'Braonain and Peter O'Toole), is a surreal character in the extreme.

Hothouse Flowers's new album Let's Do This Thing is something all discerning music lovers should buy for someone they love for Christmas, or, even better, for themselves. Once you hear it in full, you will become especially enamoured of its unique talents.

Allow me to digress. On March 4, 2015, Jeremy Clarkson called his producer on Top Gear Oisin Tymon, a "lazy Irish" so 'n so before punching him in the face, an event which happened shortly before Clarkson got reacquainted with his P45 by way of the BBC.

Last week, Clarkson's "favourite band", the decidedly Irish Hothouse Flowers, effectively launched Clarkson's new £160m show The Grand Tour on Amazon Prime, playing I Can See Clearly Now in the Californian desert. (The Flowers are now number one in the UK download charts with the track.) Presumably Jeremy doesn't think Hothouse Flowers are lazy Irish so 'n sos then? You couldn't imagine two more different people than Liam and Jeremy if you tried. The former is a profoundly gifted, spiritual tree-hugger who believes in Mother Earth, has deep respect for the Aborigines and the American Indians and indeed for all cultures of the world - the latter is a knuckle-dragger who makes Donald Trump come across like Marty Whelan.

Asked about the Flowers involvement, Liam told me last Friday: "We find ourselves in the desert, and in the desert we remember water.

"I drive a car but would not be a car fanatic, however, having been invited to perform on The Grand Tour in the Mojave desert I saw an opportunity to offer prayer through music to the spirit of renewal happening among the indigenous people.

"They stand in peace and prayer to protect our water. They stand for us and have an unbroken relationship with infinite nature."

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