Aural Sculptors - The Stranglers Live 1976 to the Present

Welcome to Aural Sculptors, a blog aimed at bringing the music of The Stranglers to as wide an audience as possible. Whilst all of the various members of the band that have passed through the ranks since 1974 are accomplished studio musicians, it is on stage where the band have for me had their biggest impact.

As a collector of their live recordings for many years I want to share some of the better quality material with other fans. By selecting the higher quality recordings I hope to present The Stranglers in the best possible light for the benefit of those less familiar with their material than the hardcore fan.

Needless to say, this site will steer well clear of any officially released material. As well as live gigs, I will post demos, radio interviews and anything else that I feel may be of interest.

In addition, occasionally I will post material by other bands, related or otherwise, that mean a lot to me.

Your comments and/or contributions are most welcome. Please email me at

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Adam Ant Celebrates The 35th Birthday of Dirk Wears White Sox - Islington Academy 22nd November 2014

Finally, this was my chance to see Adam Ant play the brilliant 'Dirk Wears White Sox' album. I had tickets back in April to see the performance at  the Hammersmith Odeon/Apollo (or what ever the hell name it goes by this month), but it clashed with the Wonky Bus dates so something had to give, and on this particular occasion it was Adam. But hey, this was much better, rather than see him do it in Hammersmith (which in my own opinion is one of the most sterile venues in London, not to mention a pig to get to for me) these dates were to be played in the small Islington Assembly Hall which forms part of the Town Hall.

I have seen Adam play on and off for the past 33 years. In fact that would definitely tend towards the 'off' end of the scale as in this period I have only seen him three times, in 1981, 1995 and now in 2014. 1982 could have been added to that list as through the Bivouac fan club I was allocated a ticket for his first solo gig following the disbanding of the Ants..... but my parents wouldn't let me go!

First time around it was on the Prince Charming Review when Adam Ant was a fully fledged rock star. As a 12 year old at the time, I thought the album was OK, but pretty tepid in comparison with 1980's 'Kings Of The Wild Frontier' (which was the first album I bought off my own back). What was good about the Prince Charming period was the B-sides of the big hit singles for which Adam and Marco delved deep into Adam's Ants past and rerecorded tracks that earlier incarnations of the band had recorded several years earlier. In this way, such tracks as 'Christian D'oir' (b/w Prince Charming), 'Beat My Guest' (b/w Stand and Deliver) and 'Friends' (b/w Ant Rap) first came to my attention. This was a trend that the two solo Ants continued after the break up with the likes of 'Red Scab' (b/w Goody Two Shoes) and 'Juanito The Bandito (b/w Friend Or Foe). Even to my young mind, these B-sides made more of an impression on me than the big hits.... and I was oblivious to the fact that they were old songs.

Thereafter it was a case of working backwards. Upon the shock announcement that Adam was culling the Ants, a series of early recordings were released in order to milk the final pint from the cash cow that was Adam and the Ants before Adam himself potentially sank in the choppy and fickle sea of teenage pop fandom.

'Deutscher Girls'/'Plastic Surgery' from Derek Jarman's unfathomable punk film 'Jubilee' was released as was a collection of early Ants recordings on the 'Ant Music E.P.'. Prior to this and in parallel with getting 'Kings' and 'Prince Charming' I was busy acquiring the early pre-Marco singles..... 'Zerox', 'Cartrouble' etc. Then 'Dirk Wears White Sox' came my way, probably in early 1982.

Towards the end of the lifetime of the Ants, my musical allegiance was switching from Adam and Toyah to The Stranglers and The Damned (Gary Numan and Tubeway Army were also well in the mix at this point). It was only when I went to Uxbridge in 1988 that friends introduced me to the mass of material that pre-dated the 'Dirk' album (and incidentally was the source of all of those all important re-recorded B-sides). On cassettes I heard a plethora of demos 'Madam Stan', 'Decca' etc. With tastes that had matured somewhat it became apparent to me that the best material that Adam and the Ants produced pre-dated even 'Dirk' (as great as that was) and with the exception of those B-sides the majority of it had never seen the light of day.

Switch to the present day, or yesterday in fact and the gig.

Adam and his band ran through the 'Dirk Wears White Sox' album in its entirety and I was transformed back to my bedroom 30 years ago. I can't believe that it was all reproduced so well, These songs can be best described as quirky, but the band did a magnificent job on it, especially with the falsetto harmonies that feature frequently across the album. Personal favourites of 'Nine Plan Failed' and 'The Day I Met God' were clear highlights, as was 'Zerox'.

'Nine Plan Failed'
Adam Ant at Islington Assembly Hall
22nd November 2014

'Table Talk'

Part of the show was given over to acoustic performances of S.E.X. and 'Picasso (Visita El Planeta De Los Simios)'. A nod was given to the direction that the Ants took after Malcolm McLaren took the first band when Adam played 'Kings of the Wild Frontier' and 'Dog Eat Dog'. Aside from that only a cover of Dave Berry's 'Strange Effect' and possibly a new song took the set beyond the 1970's Antz. This was manna from heaven for me... a perfect 1979 time capsule and yet sounding completely contemporary.

And finally, a treat in the form of the wonderful 'Bathroom Function'!

The Specials At The Troxy, London 21st November 2014

This gig posed me a problem. For the first time in the years of gig-going I double booked, such was the interval between booking and show. A few weeks ago I got a ticket to see The Angelic Upstarts and Sham 69 in Islington having forgotten that I had an engagement with The Specials across town in Limehouse the same night.

The Specials won out by virtue of the fact that their tickets were twice as costly and I had two of them.

It would have been good to have seen Graham Coxon, but sadly poor connections from home to the Commercial Road meant that we only arrived 10 minutes ahead of The Specials taking the stage. The first thing you notice is how beautiful the venue is, a lost secret tucked away in East London. I looked it up on Wikipedia and found that this art decco treasure first opened in 1932 and played host to the likes of Vera Lynne and Clark Gable in its day before falling in decline in the post-war years. Recently saved from it's use as a Mecca Bingo emporium, in the right hands this could be a great  addition to the London music scene.

And so The Specials came on to Ghost Town, in my opinion one of the greatest songs ever penned, but unfortunately one that the band have always struggled with to nail in a live setting. So now The Specials were out of the blocks, the brass were in place as were the strings (an addition from the last couple of years) and yet despite there being a full complement of musicians on the stage there were some very big holes. As ever, Lyn did his level best to fill those holes but even his stage exuberance could not mask the fact that Neville and now Roddy were absent. In Roddy's place was ex-Ocean Colour Scene guitarist Steve Craddock. Now Roddy Radiation may have been a thorn in the band's side, but he was the lead guitarist of The Specials and the very fact that his relationship with some band members was at times on a rocky road no doubt contributed to the band's edge. I don't recall much being said on stage about the line up change other than Terry's lyric in 'International Jet Set' of 'Hi Roddy here, she said Roddy who?'

'Pearl's Cafe' and 'Hey Little Rich Girl'
The Troxy, 21st November 2014
(Listen out for Terry's kind words for the injured Bono)

The first part of the set was mostly dedicated to 'More Specials' and I have to say that in parts the band sounded a little discordant, but at other times the quality continued to shine through, 'Man at C&A' stood out as did 'Nite Klub', as always. Finally, I got my wish to hear them play 'Why?' which was preceded by Lynval's introduction that set the song in the context of the near fatal knife attack in the centre of Coventry and the racially motivated beating he received in West Hampstead after a gig at the Moonlight Club.

At this point we moved back a little to see the rest of the band. Despite my misgivings about the band without Neville and Roddy (I won't even venture into Jerry territory here) I never tire of watching the rhythm powerhouse of Horace and Brad doing what they so so well and seemingly effortlessly (although I am sure it is not!).

After 'Gangsters' we headed back out onto Commercial Road, homeward bound. I have no regrets about the gig, I'm glad that Terry & Co won out over Mensi & Co. I have no doubt that, were this my first live exposure to The Specials I would have absolutely loved it, but with earlier gigs in 2009 particularly they set a very high bar to top.

A Less Than Favourable Review of Aural Sculpture

OK it came from the pages of bimonthly teen pop publication 'Smash Hits', who at the time were fawning over Nik Kershaw and Spandau Ballet, so not earth shattering for the band.......

Smash Hits
22nd November -5th December 1984

Aural Sculptors Passes 500,000 Hits!

The site hit another landmark this morning marking half a million hits! Thanks to everyone's support over the last few years and keep coming back as we move on to the million.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Alternative Sculpture....... The Rejected Rough LP

To coincide with the great piece on the official site that tells the fascinating story of the creation of the 'Aural Sculpture' album and the inter-band tensions that shaped its construction, Here in FLAC  (and MP3) format are the original demos that were laid down prior to the involvement of Laurie Latham.

I have always held the view that some of the best material that came out of the Aural Sculpture sessions were consigned to B-side status and of those one or two of these demo tracks should have made the final cut of the album proper.

Thanks to all of those involved in the preparation of these demos for the enjoyment of all. They have long been doing the rounds but never before with this sound quality.

'Behold... The Stranglers Bring You Alternative Sculpture'.

01. Hitman
02. North Winds
03. Achilles Heel
04. Skin Deep
05. Punch And Judy
06. Here and There
07. Shakin’ Like A Leaf
08. Head On The Line
09. In One Door
10. The Beast
11. Souls
12. Hot Club




Many thanks to MeAnIe and Dom P.

Happy Birthday Aural Sculpture

In 1984, I was very much a back seat music critic. Aged 15 I was in the first term of the 4th year (that's year 10 to younger readers) when Aural Sculpture hit Woolworth's racks. Disposable income was non-existent at that time so album purchases were few and far between. When someone did buy an album (more often than not with WH Smith's vouchers received from an aging aunt on a birthday or at Christmas) they did the rounds at school and in this way music collections were built up on C90 cassettes.

Anyway, my mate and I had a habit of passing the time on the back of the school bus pouring over record sleeves and analysing the lyrical content of any albums that we got our hands on (within the bounds of good taste of course).

Aural Sculpture was one such album to receive this treatment in November of that year. Of the album tracks, then as now 'Spain' was a stand out song. The line '.... but the pleasure got caught in pain, ended up like a bull in a china shop, under the name of Spain', prompted me to read George Orwell's 'Homage to Catalonia'...... oh did I forget to mention that as well as being back seat music journo's in waiting, we also tried to carry off an air of pseudo-intellectualism (with added spots!)?..... what knobs!

Other songs hit home too, such as 'Skin Deep', 'Souls' and 'Ice Queen'. I also remember well getting hold of the singles.... much more affordable that the album and what a juvenile joy 'Vladimir and The Beast Was' to the 15 year old dirty mind..... 'Ah dear Dmitri!'.

A few months later I saw the band for the first time at the Brighton Centre and the bond with the band was firmly cemented.

'Aural Sculpture' was a flawed masterpiece in that some elements of it worked and some maybe worked not so well, this was certainly carried through to the tour with the sometimes hit and miss utilisation of the brass section.

But it was truly a Stranglers album not least in the sense that it continued the tradition of confronting and testing the fan's expectations. The addition of brass was as much a challenge to the die-hard as 'The Raven', 'The Gospel' and 'Feline' were in the preceding years. And that kind of sums up the band for me, four musicians who refuse to do what is expected of them in the studio.... and to hell with the consequences.... as a music fan i must admire that irrespective of whether I like the result of not.

The last resting place of the Ear
14th June 1988

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Rolling Back The Ears - Aural Sculpture At 30!

Monday sees another notable anniversary in the career The Stranglers, for it was 30 years ago this coming Monday (17th) that CBS released 'Aural Sculpture'.

More will follow in the coming week, but as a taster, here's a contemporary interview with Hugh Cornwell broadcast on Radio Luxembourg on 19th December 1984 in which he discusses this latest album and how it came into being.