When I was still on the outside of it, Flesh for Lulu both sounded and looked like college radio to me. Launched as a band during the heyday of MTV and when the aftershocks of the nineteen-seventies punk explosion still shook the firmament, Flesh for Lulu simply looked the part on those occasions when they slashed across the television screen as I fulfilled my duty as an eighties teen and watched music videos as if it were the earned spoils of a social justice movement. The band had the necessary teased up hair and elaborate outfits, not to mention the immediately identifiable and yet undefinable whiff of Britishness to them, to seem like the proper breed of garishly-adorned new rock star for this ridiculous decade we were trekking through. Plus, there was just enough of a hint of danger and sexual ambiguity to them that they certainly weren’t going to be accepted by the U.S. mainstream. In the comforting arms of outcast-loving college radio kids they would go.
The band’s album Plastic Fantastic came out during my sophomore year at the radio station. It was one of those records timed to catch the attention to college kids shortly after they’d gotten back to school, hungry for their alternative rock after a summer enduring whatever bland nonsense dominated their hometown radio stations. Like a lot of other records from eighties stalwarts that arrived in roughly the same timeframe, Plastic Fantastic doubled-down on the glossy sound of early records, as if it were trying to see off the decade with a fireworks finale of cheesy guitar solos and candy coated rebellion. In general, I think we college rock fans were in pursuit of something different at the time, music that brought a little nondescript earnestness to the proceedings (and Kurt Cobain was waiting in the wings to deliver just that), but that didn’t mean a full-fledged rejection of the Flesh for Lulu record. At least at my station, it still sounded pretty good, tickling some primal part of us that wanted our music to be big and a little ridiculous, proclamations of bratty urgency to a mixed up world. It probably helped that the opening track and lead single, “Decline and Fall,” spat out a corrosive assessment of the American culture that matched the collective dismay of most of us in the reign of Bush the Elder.
As it turns out, Plastic Fantastic was the final Flesh for Lulu album. Evidently, college rock success wasn’t enough for their label, and the band was dropped shortly after the record came out. They shopped themselves around a little bit, but the lack of immediate takers exacerbated tensions within the band and it all fell apart. The individual members went on to other things, but of course nostalgia springs eternal, and there were overtures by lead singer Nick Marsh to make new music under the Flesh for Lulu name. That didn’t really come to pass, though, in part because Marsh’s ongoing battle with cancer took a turn for the worse. One week ago, it was announced that Marsh succumbed to the disease. There is a fund created to help cover medical expenses that is still active, expanding its scope to provide further support for Nick’s surviving wife and two daughters.
Listen or download –> Flesh for Lulu, “Decline and Fall”
(Disclaimer: When I posted another song from this album about a year ago, I noted that it appeared to be out of print to me with concessions that I could be wrong. Regardless, the track is shared her as celebration and commemoration and is not intended to deprive anyone of due income. Here would probably be a good plus to include another hyperlink to donation portal for Marsh’s family. I will gladly remove the track from the internet if asked to do so by any individual or entity with due authority to make such a request.)