Greg Johnson “Hibiscus Song”

1999-greg-johnson-hibiscus-song“Baby, how it slides in and out of you,” sings Greg. Something about a flower, yeah?

“Hibiscus Song” is like an old folk ballad given a contemporary arrangement, but it’s all the work of Greg Johnson himself. At the centre of the video is a young woman who “smelt like red geraniums, wore hibiscus in her hair”. When we meet her, she’s dramatically applying make-up, seeming startled at her reflection in the mirror.

Out in the street, Miss Hibiscus hurriedly walks, holding a violin case. While she looks like the sort of person who’d fit in with such an urban environment, she is very ill at ease here.

In the choruses, Greg Johnson sings the song against a plain black background. He fades in and out, as if he is the dream and the Hibiscus lady is real. But then she appears in the same black space with her violin. Did Greg summon her?

Back on the street, she wanders. She stands in a fountain (the old one outside the Auckland Art Gallery, I think). Guys, it’s not looking good. Greg Johnson comes to the spot to scatter some flowers. Oh no.

Both the video and the song remind me a little of Nick and Kylie’s “Where the Wild Roses Grow”. But where Nick Cave was going for a traditional ballad, the song and video for “Hibiscus Song” have a modern flavour. It’s like a folk ballad for a troubled young woman who’s come to a bad end in a big city. Yeah, take that, Nick Cave.

Best bit: the perfect lipstick application.

Director: Bruce Sheridan
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a pinch of salt.

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