Strawberry Switchblade. I’ve always had a soft spot for this unsung 80s duo. Back when I was a wee teen dabbling in goth I came across a pic of Rose McDowall & Jill Bryson on the cover of UK new wave pin up mag Smash Hits. No need to hear them. With their Siouxsie in overdrive makeup, Victorian outfits and almost Yayoi Kusama level of fetish for polka dots, their image fluttered deep in my stomach, AKA that telling midpoint between my brain and my trousers. When I finally got my black mittens on the vinyl I gave the lace and eyelined covered album a whirl. Despite their early Jesus and Mary Chain veneer and black lipped Scottish sneers I was supremely pissed to discover on first listen that they were decidedly way more Strawberry than Switchblade, in fact they were straight up synth pop. That said I smartly resisted the urge to turn the record into a UFO and after repeated listens the somewhat sad sublime lyrics and undercurrents of Velvet Underground influence would eventually win over my head, while the sugar coated cooing went to work melting the soles off my creepers. Though they had a huge push from John Peel, major label love from Warners and production via Bill Drummond (KLF, Echo & The Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes) Strawberry Switchblade would burn out after only one album and a handful of singles. Despite being the next best thing since sliced kamaboko in Japan, they barely charted in the UK and to this day are often unfairly punished with the ‘one hit wonder’ tag.
Gone but certainly not forgotten, Jill is now a painter and Rose keeps a somewhat low profile in the music world collaborating with the likes of Primal Scream, Coil (RIP), Psychic TV, Boyd Rice and other esoteric projects. The Strawberry’s pyscho-sweet Victorian look lives on in the Japanese Lolita Goth subculture (which it predated by 2 decades) as well as being the subject of numerous articles in trendy style rags and much fawning over by the kiddies of today on Tumblr. And for those of us cover collecting geeks their version of Dolly Parton’s Jolene is a classic (at least around these parts it is).
And so speaking of covers we have Los Angeles’ Dum Dum Girls who wisely pay tribute to where tribute is due with a sweet, spacey lo-fi indie rendtion of Strawberry Switchblade’s Trees & Flowers.
PS Those in Thee Versions Galore Facebook Fanclub with a penchant for polka dots, got the original and bonus rare versions on the wall for you…