Released on: Gold Against the Soul (Album #2) Columbia Records, 14 June 1993
Also on: Roses in the Hospital (Single #12) Columbia Records, 20 September 1993
Peak UK Chart Position: #15
Band Ranking: #17
It’s just about the idea of something beautiful in a decaying place. It’s about people who hurt themselves in order to concentrate, or just to feel something.
Richey Edwards on ‘Roses in the Hospital’
Outside of a number of tracks on The Holy Bible, ‘Roses in the Hospital’ feels like one of the songs which is most closely connected with Edwards’ own life. Although its title was taken from a line in the 1980 film Times Square – see [T32c] ‘Damn Dog’ – the song’s theme and especially Edwards’ comment about it bring to mind his own experiences of self-harm and his time spent in a number of hospitals. This was reflected again not only on The Holy Bible but also in the much later song [T226] ‘Bag Lady’ which contains the hospital-related line “you cover illness with flowers / but flowers die, flowers die”. The line “stub cigarettes out on my arm” refers to a form of self-harm Edwards was open about practising.
Unusually for a fairly upbeat Manics track it is Moore’s drums rather than the guitars which dominate the song. The effect is heightened by the jangling percussion heard most clearly towards the beginning of the song; this will have been the work of Andrew “Shovel” Lovell of the Manchester house group M People, who is credited with percussion throughout Gold Against the Soul. Moore’s truly dominant moment is during the breakdown, notable also for Bradfield’s sneering “roses in the hospital / this century achieved so much”.
The song closes with an unusually messy fadeout which is very uncharacteristic of the band. Among the various lines Bradfield can be heard saying is “Rudie gonna fail”, a clear reference to ‘Rudie Can’t Fail’, a track by The Clash on their 1979 masterwork London Calling. When the Manics went on to record the Know Your Enemy album, the same Clash LP was arguably a major inspiration.
When the song was eventually released as the third and final single from Gold Against the Soul it reached #15, which would prove to be the highest chart achievement of any single taken from one of the band’s first three albums. It has been suggested that having supported the Manics support slot for Bon Jovi at the Milton Keynes Bowl in August was one reason for this success. In an example of Manics censorship to appease radio tastes, the line “we don’t want your fucking love” was removed from the version of the song sent to stations. Instead, the song’s title is used again in its place.
It caused some consternation among fans that ‘Roses in the Hospital’ was omitted from the Forever Delayed compilation in 2002, not least because the phrase “forever delayed” originated in the song’s lyrics. The title seemed even more odd because the song [C155] ‘4 Ever Delayed’, which was actually written for the compilation, was also not used. That song only saw release on the 2003 B-sides and rarities compilation Lipstick Traces.
The song’s fairly literal video largely eschews performance footage in favour of various staged hospital shots, some interesting closeups of liquids and roses, the band wandering around in a railyard and a young girl who is unimpressed by the flowers she is offered by the band.
Choice Lyric (Full Lyrics)
“all we ever wanted was a home”