A Natural History

There are several partial March Violets biographies to be found on the internet. Below are a couple of the more complete ones. Somewhere between all of these is the truth.

Note: We said "complete" and not "accurate"...

From Trouser Press, written by Greg Fasolino

The March Violets began in 1981 as one of Leeds' four famous drum machine bands, alongside the Sisters of Mercy, Three Johns and Red Lorry Yellow Lorry. The Violets favored stark, primitive rhythm-box beats (as did the others), overlaid by Loz Elliott's heavy bass throb and Tom Ashton's inventively droning guitar (reminiscent of Magazine's John McGeoch). What set this quartet apart was the unique interplay (à la X or the Airplane) between the two complementary lead vocalists - big, bearded Simon Denbigh and enigmatic Rosie Garland. His dark, commanding intonations intertwined with her eerie soprano wailing, imbuing the simplistic material with a strident, almost dissonant mystery.

Before a schism with Andrew Eldritch led the Violets to start their own Rebirth label, they were on the Sisters' label, Merciful Release, starting with Religious as Hell, an establishing 7-inch. Natural History collects the band's early work, including the EP (save for the odd "Bon Bon Babies"), three follow-up 45s (the brilliant "Grooving in Green," "Crow Baby" and the insistent '84 dancefloor hit, "Snake Dance") and such rarities as the searing "Radiant Boys" (copping the riff from the Cure's "Object") and mesmerizing "Undertow." Though not a discrete album, Natural History flows magnificently.

By "Snake Dance," Garland had departed, replaced by the more upbeat Cleo Murray. The lineup held for the subsequent "Walk into the Sun" but, as 1985 dawned, Denbigh was squeezed out of the band (he immediately formed Batfish Boys). The first post-Denbigh 45 (the misnamed "Deep") laid bare the Violets' weakened condition. Electric Shades, the band's second compilation album, assembles the entire contents of the three later singles: "Snake Dance," "Walk into the Sun" and "Deep." With the dissipation of the band's intensity, Cleo's thin, pretty lead vocals simply don't carry the new material. The Violets continued to surrender to conventionality, obtaining a real drummer and crassly exploiting Cleo's beauty. After contributing two items (including an amazingly catchy rendition of the Rolling Stones' "Miss Amanda Jones") to 1987's Some Kind of Wonderful soundtrack, the March Violets faded away.

From All Music Guide, written by Steve Huey

Like their contemporaries the Sisters of Mercy and Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, the March Violets were a slow, droning goth rock band from Leeds, England. The group was formed in 1981 by vocalist Simon Denbigh and guitarist Tom Ashton, along with additional vocalist Rosie Garland. With a bass player and drum machine, this lineup recorded the EP Religious As Hell in 1982 for Sisters of Mercy leader Andrew Eldritch's Merciful Release label; it received some exposure on DJ John Peel's radio program. Bassist Loz Elliott joined the band in 1983, in addition to vocalist Cleo Murray, who replaced Garland. A spat with Eldritch led the Violets to found their own Rebirth label, which in 1984 issued a collection of the group's early singles and EPs entitled Natural History, which featured the club hit "Snake Dance." In 1985, Denbigh was forced out as well, and with him went much of the band's passion; a second compilation, Electric Shades, was issued in that year, and a live drummer had joined the lineup to no avail. After contributing two songs to the soundtrack of Some Kind of Wonderful in 1986, the group split up. Cleopatra issued a comprehensive retrospective, Botanic Verses, in 1994.


This rock band with definite "gothic" leanings was formed in England during 1982. Loz Elliott (bass) met Simon Denbigh (vocals) in Leeds, and the latter recruited an old friend, Tom Ashton (guitar). Together with hastily recruited female singer, Rosie Garland, they entered the studios to record an EP that brought them subsequent exposure on BBC disc jockey John Peel's show. After further releases on the fashionable Merciful Release label, they acquired the services of Travis when he replaced the original drum machine in late 1984. Vocalist Cleo Murray replaced Garland for their "Snakedance" single in 1983, and then Denbigh left owing to a "mutual decision" to form the Batfish Boys. By this time the band behind her only retained Tom from the original line-up, with Loz the latest recruit on bass. In 1986, they signed to London Records, releasing "Turn To The Sky", which just failed to scrape the charts. By this time they were trying to shake off the taint of the "goth" tag, emphasizing that their influences were bands like Z.Z. Top, Led Zeppelin and the Pretenders. Critics used Cleo's blonde hair as justification for comparisons to Blondie.