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Green Fingers

Green Fingers Playlist
By Bryan Biggs, Artistic Director at Bluecoat


With many of us staying at home, the garden provides welcome solace at this time, and for many of us without access to one, our back yard or window box or potted plant can still connect us with the natural world. So, taking a ‘green fingers’ theme, Bluecoat’s Artistic Director Bryan Biggs has created a playlist about gardens, planting and growing. Drawing from his large and eclectic vinyl record collection, and with a little help from the internet, he has come up with 40 tasty morsels, which he introduces here:


Spring in the air, there’s magic everywhere, and I have gone for a wide selection to reflect the biodiversity of the theme, harvesting a rich crop of folk, psychedelia, ska, reggae, hip-hop, soul, punk, indie, prog, blues and novelty – from the 1960s to the present. There are songs you’ve probably never heard before, and others you might not want to hear again. The theme is broadly interpreted: old weird folk tales, elegies to suburban lawns and strange gardeners, gardens as metaphor, earthy and earthly delights, poisonous venom, herbs and flowers growing slowly, blossoming gloriously.


Can you dig it? Now, go and make your own selection.


The playlist is available here on YouTube:


A slightly reduced version is available here on Spotify:


• Haley Sims The Plant Song (2014). Minute-long introduction to planting. Do try this at home.


• Jimmie Rodgers English Country Garden (1962). Traditional folksong reworked by American singer that reached the top ten in the UK in 1962. Don’t forget the robin.


• Procol Harum She Wandered Through the Garden Fence (1967). From the eponymous first LP from the UK band who scored a worldwide hit that year with A Whiter Shade of Pale.


• Rolling Stones Dandelion (1967). Released as the B-side to We Love You, the song, its nursery rhyme references caught the innocent mood of the Summer of Love.


• The Move I Can Hear the Grass Grow (1969). Harder and weirder Summer of Love 45, performed here by the Brummie band at America’s Fillmore. Original version on Spotify.


• Don Drummond Garden of Love (1964). Instrumental from Jamaican trombonist Drummond, with ska pioneers, The Skatalites.


• Barrington Levy Black Roses (1983). Reggae star Levy’s tribute to the special woman in his life - ‘To keep it and care it you got to water it’.


• Cocoa Tea There's a Herb Tree in my Garden (1991). Dancehall artist Calvin George Scott
reworks Ben E King’s Spanish Harlem to sing praise to the wisdom weed. Not on Spotify.


• John Martyn The Gardeners (1968). Dread tale of gardeners from guitar pioneer Martyn’s first LP, The Tumbler, that reflects his folk roots.


• Sam Lee and Friends The Jews Garden (2013). Traditional British folk song ‘Sir Hugh’ dating back to persecution of the Jews in the 13th century - performed here live in London. The LP version (2012) is on Spotify.


• Sandy Denny Whispering Grass (1973). Ink Spots’ hit, later popularised by Windsor Davies & Don Estelle from sitcom It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, sung here by singer extraordinaire Denny.


• Joni Mitchell The Hissing of Summer Lawns (1975). From the jazzy maturity of Mitchell’s LP of the same name, an incisive take on the banality, boredom and gendered power of LA.


• Minnie Ripperton Les Fleurs (1970). From her seminal soul/jazz/psych Come to my Garden LP, this much-sampled track likens the seed in the flower to the beauty within us all.


• Stevie Wonder The Secret Life of Plants (1979). More philosophical botanical musings from Mr Wonder, from the soundtrack to the documentary of the same name. 


• Booker T. & The MG's Green Onions (1962). Maybe from the allotment rather than the garden, these onions are really cooking! Timeless R&B instrumental from Booker T.


• Marv Johnson I'll Pick A Rose for My Rose (1969). Classic Motown from the artist who performed on Tamla Records’ first release. The original 1968 single is on Spotify.


• De La Soul Potholes in My Lawn (1988). Unlikely subject for a hip-hop song perhaps, but DLS pull it off with their customary infection, ingenuity and humour.


• Giles, Giles & Fripp Digging my Lawn (1968). Same subject addressed by British trio. Wonder what Robert Fripp thinks about this early piece of psych whimsy? Not on Spotify.


• Jegsy Dodd and the Sons of Harry Cross Mushie Picker Boogie (1986). Magic mushroom keep fit work out from the local legends’ Winebars and Werewolves LP, issued on Probe.


• John Otway Beware of the Flowers (live, 2007). Wild performance with twin hinged guitar! On Spotify is the original 1977 version, Otway accompanied by Wild Willy Barrett.


• Siouxsie & The Banshees Green Fingers (1982). Hibiscus, mandrake and ivy are all namechecked in this track from A Kiss in the Dreamhouse. Great goth psychedelia.


• Courtney Barnett Avant Gardener (live, 2014). Marvellous wordplay from Australian singer about gardening and health problems. The LP version (2013) is on Spotify.


• Stealing Sheep The Garden (2012). Liverpool’s finest ask what’s hiding in the garden in this enigmatic and pulsating song from their first LP, Into the Diamond Sun.


• The United States of America The Garden of Earthly Delights (1968). Older listeners might remember the band from the CBS sampler, The Rock Machine Turns You On. Still awesome.


• Michael Chapman Not so much a garden (1969). Growling vocals and guitar wizardry from Yorkshire folkie experimentalist, on his debut Harvest LP, Rainmaker.


• Tim Hart and Maddy Prior The Gardener (1968). Pre-Steeleye Span, the English folk duo from the LP, The Folk Songs of Olde England Vol 2. Maddy in fine voice.


• Trees The Garden of Jane Delawney (1970). Trad song updated by folk rock outfit, somewhat in the shadow of Fairport Convention. I actually saw them twice live.


• Genesis I Know What I Like (live, 1973). Careful with that lawnmower! Peter Gabriel at his eccentric best, Phil Collins on drums. Selling England by the Pound LP version is on Spotify.


• The Very Things The Bushes Scream While My Daddy Prunes (1993). This ‘Dadaist post punk band from Worcestershire’ suggest that plants have feelings too.


• Hawkwind Garden Pests (1992). Intergalactic sonic explorers turn their attention to more mundane garden bugs in this instrumental, with groovy graphics, if you are on YouTube.


• Stephen Stills/Manassas Johnny’s Garden (1972). A contemplative garden eulogised by the Crosby, Stills & Nash singer’s side project, Manassas.


• Gerry Lockran Garden of Life (1973). Melancholic and faintly psychedelic track from veteran of the British folk scene. Not on Spotify.


• Parsonsfield Weeds or Wildflowers (2013). Connecticut band’s singalong about mortality. Will there be weeds or wildflowers growing on your grave?


• Television Personalities Arthur the Gardener (1981). This could be considered an update of Clive Dunn’s saccharine 60s single, Grandad - by prolific UK post-punk legends.


• Kate Bush Under the Ivy (1985). The flipside of arguably her best (dance) song, Running Up that Hill.  Strangely, Under the Ivy is not on Spotify, only versions by tribute bands.


• Washboard Sam Diggin' My Potatoes (1952). The Blues are awash with metaphors, and Sam (b 1910) is not singing about spuds here. Big Bill Broonzy (guitar), Willie Dixon (bass) accompany. A different version is on Spotify.


• Tiny Tim Tiptoe through the Tulips (live, 1968). Minor novelty hit for ukulele player and musicologist TT (Herbert Butros Khaury), reworking a 1920s song. Original single on Spotify.


• Ghost featuring Lady Saw I neva promise you a rose garden (2010). Version of the Joe South-penned country song by ‘Queen of Dancehall’ (now Marion Hall). Not on Spotify.


• Capability Brown Garden (1972). Haunting song about a garden by a band named after England’s most famous landscape gardener. From their lost classic prog LP, From Scratch.


• Pink Floyd Grantchester Meadows (1969). Time to leave the garden and head for this Cambridge beauty spot, memorialised on Ummagumma. Remastered 2011 version is on Spotify.


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