Once described as Rolling Stone as “the best-unsigned band in Europe” Hothouse Flowers were formed in 1985 by two former school friends Liam Ó Maonlaí and Fiachna Ó Braonáin, who would become the backbone of the group to this day.
They didn’t do the usual band apprenticeship of trawling around the clubs. Instead, they took to the streets busking to hone their craft. They quickly became a familiar, and popular, sight in Dublin City Centre going by the rather cumbersome name The Incomparable Benzini Brothers, they were so engaging that they won a Street Entertainer Of The Year award in their first 12 months.
One quick name change, a TV appearance and an encounter with Bono later and they released their first single Love Don’t Work This Way, on U2’s Mother Records. Eagle eyed viewers will spot Maria Doyle Kennedy on backing vocals in the video.
The band were on their way and things started moving very quickly. Their debut album, People, released in May 1988, was the most successful debut album in Irish history hitting number 1 in Ireland within a week of release and even reaching number 2 in the UK.
The first single Give It Up hit number 3 in Ireland and made it to number 30 in the UK .
However, it was the second single and a fortuitous appearance in front of a global TV audience that would really give the album a boost. The band were picked to be the prestigious interval act for the 1988 Eurovision song contest which was held in Dublin. A video accompanied their performance of Don’t Go, the second single from the album, which was filmed in 11 countries and cost an astonishing £250,000 pounds to make.
They later utilised the Eurovision clip into a shorter version to accompany the song. which went on to reach number 1 in Ireland and Number 11 in the UK.
Their second album Home was recorded sporadically on breaks between touring. Released in June 1990 it hit number one in Ireland and number 5 in the UK. Of the five singles released from the album one would become a signature for the band, despite being a cover.
I Can See Clearly Now was a cover of the 1972 Johnny Nash song and has become a staple of their repertoire. In 2016 they performed the song live on the premiere episode of Amazon Prime’s The Grand Tour, which reignited interest in to and saw it hit no. 1 on the iTunes Singles Rock Chart in the UK.
In 1991 they also had a hit with another iconic cover. A collaboration with The Dubliners on a cover of Bette Midler’s classic track The Rose saw them hit Number 2 in Ireland.
Their third album Songs From The Rain was released in March 1993. The lead single from it, An Emotional Time, reached number 5 in Ireland.
By this stage the extensive touring and relentless creative regime was taking its toll and in early 1994, the band went on a year-long sabbatical. That year would turn into several years as the various members worked on their own projects and enjoyed their family lives.
A more revitalised band returned in 1998 with the album Born. Since then, they have released another three albums. The most recent, Let’s Do This Thing, came out in 2016. They tour extensively and have earned their place as elder statesman of Irish rock. They bring their amazing live energy to Forever Young on Friday July 14th.
Hothouse Flowers play the ‘Forever Young’ festival in Palmerstown House Estate on Friday July 14th, 2023. ‘Forever Young’ is a three-day celebration of the music of the 1980s featuring artists such as Andy Bell (Erasure), Bananarama, Billy Ocean, Tony Hadley, ABC and many more.
Full line-up and tickets are available here