Dave Amitri on The Lotus Eaters
mysterious and strange, or trying to appear like this
giving an impression of vague unworldliness or mystery.
“a rather fey romantic novelist”
My love of fey 80’s synth pop duos is well documented. It’s a strong genre in my musical world from China Crisis to The Associates and Blancmange it’s music that I love. So when I saw a vinyl copy of “No Sense of Sin”, The Lotus Eaters 1984 album that contains the magical “The First Picture of You” at the local car boot sale I decided to invest a pound and take it home. Singer and co writer Peter Coyle stares dreamily from the cover. No sign of keyboard playing co writer Jeremy “Jem” Kelly though. I played it once and it sort of drifted past me. A second play and it began to seep in until now when I’m wondering if I’ve found a lost gem. On top of that using the power of Google and wondering if there was a story behind The Lotus Eaters I wasn’t left disappointed, more on that later. This is no Thompson Twins style reappraisal, I’m not quite sure what it is but I hope it strikes a chord somewhere.
So I’ll start at the beginning. Coyle and Kelly had been in bands in the early 80’s. Coyle’s band The Jass Babies managed a Peel session while Kelly had worked with Michael Head who went on to form The Pale Fountains. They met in 1982 and recorded a Peel session which included TFPOY as The Lotus Eaters the same year and were immediately signed by Arista. Just like that. Easy this music business, right?
The album followed the release of TFPOY as a single. It’s remarkable in It’s own way. It’s as soft and sweet as a bowl of butterscotch Angel Delight. It’s as light as the tiniest feather of goose down. As fragile as a spiders web made of the finest porcelain. It’s sensitive and kind and androgynous. All things we’ve come to understand as right and good wrapped up in a piece of 80’s pop. We want our pop stars to be Keith Moon don’t we? Rough, ready, loud and a nightmare to be around. We want our songs to have edge and our artists to have beards. The Lotus Eaters were being sensitive and kind and androgynous in 1984. You could say years ahead of their time or maybe were they looking back at Wildean themes of love and beauty that didn’t belong until Morrissey crashed through the glass ceiling that The Lotus Eaters had just tickled with their feather duster. Someone on this site will no doubt call them “earnest bedwetters” but these guys were putting their feelings out there on record and dressing them up in 3 minute pop songs a million miles from what is expected and very 2021. Musically the songs are very similar and very much of their time. In fact I defy you to find anything that defines the era any better. The drum sound, the production, everything about it. Lyrically it borders on 6th form poetry but it’s clearly trying to be something a bit different. So I’m not going to review it per se just leave some lyrics from some of the songs for you to peruse as they can give you a flavour of it way better than I can.
the dusty rooms
We are travellers of the sorrow
We can build a humble home
A home without woe”
Set Me Apart
The language of tears
The pure and the perfect
Don’t let me settle in this hazy grief
Still all your secrets of more than one love
Floating forever in your freedom
Set me apart from other boys”
Love Still Flows
“Heaven will hold
His soul will crumble
His soul will never be the same
She closes paradise forever
Love’s lost her power
There’s nothing in those words of boy angel
There’s nothing in that childlike soul”
When you Look At Boys
“When you look at boys
What do you feel
When you look at boys
Do you look in detail
You look and you stare
At dancing, spiral beauty
My heart can break up
In this wild thought”
The First Picture Of You
It’s warm in and out
The pulse of flowing love
Spread the calm to meet the others
Pleasure fills with love ’til dawn
It’s warm in and out
The call for sacred hours
The soft chant of new-born singing
The magic force of your feelings
You get the point. I need to add that on the 2010 Cherry Red expanded version there’s a song call “Two Virgins Tender”. They just don’t let up on the fey sentimentality. It’s a bit weird yet beautiful and innocent and quite disarming. All sung in Coyle’s barely above a whisper vocal style. However, the gorgeous angelic harmonies on TFPOY lift the song above the others and is just never matched. It’s a gorgeous pop song but when I delved into the what happened next to The Lotus Eaters it became something else. The classic case of the blessing and the curse.
Success came and went in the blink of an eye. The band broke up in 1985 and despite Coyle and Kelly remaining in and around the industry even attempting the first of several comebacks in 2001 they could never, would never match the perfection of TFPOY. It was over. Tough this music business, right?
So now to the real reason why I decided to put this piece together. I found a Peter Coyle website with a biography written in 2017 and it is extraordinary. I’ll post some excerpts and a link should you choose to read it all. Clearly written from the heart it reads as a free-form flow of thoughts of what happens when a pop star has that moment and spends the rest of their life trying to match it either commercially or just trying to be heard.
“Peter says that since then “I have not focused that much on trying to sell the records. I believed that if I wrote the right song then the rest would take care of itself. I still believe it. I still think that if a song is right, it will find some way of getting out there into people’s heart and soul.”
“The beginning of 2017 saw Peter at his exquisite best, as he delivered the songs he had written with Martyn Ware, based on the poems of Picasso, at the Everything You Can Imagine Is Real late shift event at London’s National Portrait Gallery. Blindfolded by a scarlet satin scarf as he began his performance, Peter continued a full sensory experience throughout, the highlight of which was undoubtedly the beautiful purity of his voice.”
“At that time (I was 17) 1979 I would do gigs wrapped up in bin bags or hanging upside down or something. I was very influenced by Peter Gabriel and Ian Curtis and would perform like a screaming banshee”
“The Lotus Eaters supported Big Country on their UK tour. The Big Country boys were really nice people. There was no bullshit there at all, which I really admire and respect them for. Having said that we were the totally wrong band to support them”
“I was in love with Funkadelic and wanted to get some funk into my soul. We ended up with the I’d Sacrifice Eight Orgasms With Shirley MacClaine Just To Be There album. We wore wigs and sunglasses and flares and just let the music play”
“ I let all my deep black thoughts out and wrote songs about racists about politicians about moneymen about aids about organised religions about machismo both male and female about Chernobyl about the darkest sides of people and nature about life in Liverpool for me about my dreadful state of mind.”
There’s loads more of the same as it becomes a wailing howl of pain as Coyle opens his heart and soul about everything. It’s astonishing.
What does all this mean? I’m not sure but Coyle is now on the Rewind circuit performing TFPOY to middle aged mums and dads looking for a weekend away from the kids. I hope he’s found some peace and solace in the fact that he did produce a lovely, thoughtful, hopeful, ambitious album that contained one exceptional song nearly 40 years ago and one he should be enormously proud of. There’s no judgement from me I just thought it a story worth sharing. Cruel this music business, right?