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

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Found a place in the southern reaches.... A day or two in the saddle ride....

JJ at Sala Albéniz, Gijon

Well make that 9 hours in a people carrier and we're nearer to the mark!

As much as I enjoy seeing the band in this green and pleasant land, it is the possibility of seeing The Stranglers abroad that appeals to me most. Our near proximity to Stansted Airport and the budget carriers that operate out of the airport mean that the option of Euro gigs are always on the table.

The Stranglers in Spain for us was virgin territory and all the more exiting for that. A second draw to this pair of gigs was that Gunta worked in Gijon over 20 years ago when she was responsible for overseeing the successful and accurate discharging of vessels and their payloads of iron ore. So she was very keen to see the town again. Thinking about this part of her career, I wonder at the sense of her bosses that were happy to see a 25 year old girl on her own boarding ships for days in the company of crews who had not seen land for months on end, let alone a woman!! As I recall, she did receive one offer of marriage accompanied by a dowry of a toy wooden ship! Thankfully for me she declined.

The flight to Bilbao was uneventful (always welcome) and we picked up our transport for the weekend quickly enough. Whilst searching the car park bays for the hire car, our paths crossed a collection of instrument wielding youths doing the same. It turned out that this would be Weller Collective were the band The Spitfires who were also playing in Northern Spain on this weekend.

Once on the road, with the appointed drivers up front of this hire tank (as a non-driver, my responsibility was limited to music provider) we started on the long journey across the top of Spain driving along the coast road sandwiched between the Atlantic and the Cantabrian Mountains to the distant port of Gijon. The spectacular scenery however is interrupted frequently with periods spent passing through tunnels..... they like a tunnel over there!

In Gijon, the hotel was located with ease. The cost was most agreeable and although the proprietor could not speak a word of English (and our combined command of Spanish offered no help whatsoever!) I have rarely felt so welcome in a hotel before. For those reading this in the UK, the hostess was a dead ringer in all respects for Margarita Pracatan who for a time frequently amused viewers on The Clive James On Television Show - she was every bit as animated!

A quick recce of the venue was in order before we headed in the direction of the seafront. The band and crew weren't around at this point, so whilst the eager promoters reconfirmed stage times I took the opportunity to take a peak at the stage and joy of joys it was very small.

The six people in our party established ourselves in a lovely bar over the road from the front and we settled down for an hour or so to watch the sun set over the horizon in the company of our good friend, alcohol.

Food followed, which was remarkably cheap, before we made tracks back to the venue for about 11.30.

Me and Paul Cooklin in a Gijon eatery
4th April 2014

Upon entering the venue, we were faced with the support band, The Tanks. I was impressed with the amount of noise they conjoured up as a three-piece. I was convinced that they were Scandinavian, but with hindsight I think that this was down to the fact that they reminded me of The Hives, they hailed from not too distant Toulouse!

The Tanks at Sala Albéniz
4th April 2014

Later, The Stranglers ambled on and powered into 'Toiler On The Sea' and it was at this point that we exchanged bewildered looks as this was like seeing the band in your own living room. There was no ruck at the front, just us, and when JJ moved to the front of the stage, the neck of his bass was projecting into the crowd over my head. Such was the close proximity of the band that it was necessary to step back a little to get both JJ and Baz into the frame when taking a photo.

The Stranglers at Sala Albéniz

It's far to say that the band looked tired, but that's hardly surprising as there had beeen no break to speak of since winding up the UK tour in Manchester a few days previously. For all that, the band were really on top form. Dave (with his keyboard rack sporting the legend 'No Queso....No Bolo!) was able to interact with the crowd well... and I'd like to think that my attempted harmonies during 'Always The Sun' were appreciated!

Baz at Sala Albéniz

Whilst we were expecting a slightly abbreviated set as a result of the continental stage time, they did in fact run to a full two hours as they had down on the UK dates.

Norfolk Coast and Something Better Change at Sala Albéniz

Thus it was that we piled back into our little hotel at around 2.30, 'whispering' in that subtle way that the half cut do. Paul Cooklin immediately entered into negotiation with the son of Mrs Pracatan in an attempt to procur more alcohol. Two bottles were as much as we managed to get hold of as the somewhat perplexed som tried to usher us swiftly in the direction of our rooms so as to ensure the ongoing slumber of other paying customers behind nearby doors.

Given the lateness of the hour and the paucity of the beer supply, the nights entertainment wound up at about 3.30 am as all decamped to their correct rooms.

The next day promised a marathon drive, back in an easterly direction, past our original starting point of Bilbao and onto San Sebastian. Some five hours of tarmac and tunnels were passed in conversation about music (1979 as always) and other such rubbish. I recall that for some reason, I mentioned that The Everley Brothers are a guilty pleasure of mine. At this point, the early rock 'n' roll, which encapsulated the hopes and aspirations of a newly empowered youth generation and a time (at least in Britain) of dreadful austerity, was succinctly summed up by Owen Carne as 'Ted shit!' We are would be music hacks one and all.

Much bigger and seemingly considerably wealthier San Sebastian finally spread out before us, but unfortunately our hotel was located on the furthest of the hills that frame the famous bay. We ascended to a great height in order to check in to our hotel. The view from our bedroom balcony was, I am sure you'll agree, quite stunning.

San Sebastian

The descent back into the town was somewhat quicker, taking advantage as we did of the funicular railway down to the beach. We walked into the old town in search of some traditional Spanish food, but sadly, this was not really forthcoming as the town was packed with people viewing football in every available venue since Real Sociedad were playing host to Real Madrid that night in San Sebastian (4-0 to the away team in case you are wondering). The venue for tonight's gig was about as far as possible from the hotel as possible, again out of town, but this time on the other hill.... and here's where the fun started. It transpired that the venue had been reported wrongly, the stated address transpired to be a small locals bar.

As the stage time approached, I watched on in amusement as Owen became more and more stressed as an outtake from 'This Is Spinal Tap' played out before our eyes. Texts to Baz and Gary, the tour manager offered no answers and it looked as though we could miss at least some of this gig. In the locals bar a couple of the old boys very slowly started to scan each and every page of the local rag for any clue as to who The Stranglers were and where they might be playing. Eventually abandoning this approach two bored policemen in a patrol car were pressed into service. They were only too happy to help (as it relieved the monotony of patrolling the San Sebastian suburbs!). They decided to escort us on foot to the gig and as a result of their initial efforts after 15 minutes of walking we arrived outside of the locals bar. Eventually, the correct location was established from some local girls and the two policemen walked us up to the doors.

'Noche Todo!'

The gig was larger, with a livelier crowd that on the previous night. The set was again tight as Jim's drum and the band evidently enjoyed themselves again. Apparently, Baz thought that it was one of the best gigs from the Ruby Tour thus far.

Duchess and 5 Minutes at the Intaxurrondo in San Sebastian
5th April 2014

JJ and Baz at the Intaxurrondo in San Sebastian

Adrian and Gunta at the Intaxurrondo in San Sebastian

As we left the venue, we were surprised to see our local constabulary friends waiting outside for more hand shaking and words of gratitude in mock Esperanto!

'Misión cumplida!' as they say in Spain.

Baz gets ignored.... could be 'Threatened'

Sunday, 13 April 2014

The Rezillos at The Square Harlow 29th March 2014

Fay and Eugene on stage at The Square in Harlow
29th March 2014

I was really looking forward to this gig and things boded well as Gunta and I had the opportunity to catch up with a couple of friends, Chris and Laura, in the downstairs bar before the gig.

With Jo Callis no longer with the band, I thought the guitarist did a good job, in fact the band were pretty tight all round. With a new single out and a new album in the offing, this was an opportunity for the Rezillos to mix it up a bit. This they did, but I found the new material to be somewhat weak, but then again that is in comparison to the songs on 'Can't Stand The Rezillos', one of the best pop punk albums of the late '70's and as such a tough achievement to match. Songs such as 'Life's A Bitch (And Then You Die)' lack the fun and wit of the earlier material. As for their cover of 'River Deep Mountain High'... well it's enough to say that I don't like the original.

Here's the recent single 'Out Of This World'

'Out Of This World'

But, of the classic material, it was delivered well. Songs like 'Top Of The Pops', a thinly veiled side swipe at the TV musical phenomenon that we all loved, but understood to be fake as hell.

There's one - Born every day
Sing song - Then fade away
Ding dong - What's the future in the pop music industry
Alright - So you make the grade
Hold tight - To the buck you made
Just wait - You been rated for constipated peak viewing time

The funniest thing about the song, is that when it did appear on the show, the presenter (Tony Blackburn as I recall) completely missed the point!! But then the Radio 1 DJ's that doubled as TV presenters on a Thursday evening were rather self absorbed with the dumb DJ celebrity thing.

Maybe I just caught them on a bad day, for sure The Square was pretty quiet this evening and that may have been the reason for the absence of an encore... did they return to the stage in other recent gigs?

Nevertheless, as I said, some of it was good indeed and here's a few of the oldies that I filmed.

'Flying Saucer Attack'

'Mystery Action'

'Getting Me Down'

'Cold Wars'

Sunday, 23 March 2014

20 From '83 (20) Dead Kennedys 688 Club Atlanta GA 28th May 1983

Along with the Ramones, for Dead Kennedys are for me at least, the most important of America's contributions to the punk genre. To watch a Biafra era DKs gig is like watching a riot developing before your very eyes. Jello Biafra always cranked the intensity up to fever pitch in a spectacle that was part gig, part performance art piece. With songs that directly challenged the attitudes of their audience, shows could be confrontational.

This recording is from the time of the release of their second full album 'Plastic Surgery Disasters'. I first heard this back in '83 at a mate's house, listening as we played to the other new thing of that year, Trivial Pursuit (very punk rock I know!) and from then on I was a convert.

Too young to have seen them in Brighton in 1983, by the time they were next likely to play, the furore around the H.R. Geiger poster that accompanied the 'Frankenchrist' album and the ensuing court case meant that in '86 the band imploded. Since then the band have faced each other again in the courts, so the chances of seeing an original line up (or a 'classic' line up if not the first) is extremely remote.


20 From '83 (19) The Damned Dingwalls Newcastle 22nd March 1983

JUST over the anniversary 31 years and a day for this one. Not the best sounding, but what a set. All the best material from the 'Strawberries' album and 'The Limit Club' (one of The Damned's finest moments and a glaring omission from the December tour in my opinion, given that Ruts DC were tour support).



01. Ignite
02. Disco Man
03. Generals
04. I Just Can’t Be Happy Today
05. Plan 9 Channel 7
06. Stranger On The Town
07. Wait For The Blackout
08. Born To Kill
09. Bad Time For Bonzo
10. Limit Club
11. Melody Lee
12. Looking At You
13. Love Song
14. Neat Neat Neat
15. New Rose
16. Smash It Up
17. Noise Noise Noise
18. Hippy Hippy Shake
19. Happy Talk

Glasgow Barrowlands 23rd March 1987

No question about the date of this one. 27 years ago on this day, The Stranglers performed at Barrowlands on the second leg of the Dreamtour. I have found a couple of cuttings relating to the gig (this is the second of two nights that the band played). The Sounds journalist clearly hated the gig, but rather inexplicably witnessed the band play on both nights, as mentioned in a fan's response that appeared in the letters pages the following week.



01. No More Heroes
02. Was It You?
03. Down In The Sewer
04. Nice In Nice
05. Punch And Judy
06. Souls
07. Always The Sun
08. Strange Little Girl
09. Golden Brown
10. Northwinds
11. Big In America

01. Nice"N"Sleazy
02. Who Wants The World
03. Grip
04. Bring On The Nubiles
05. Shakin' Like A Leaf/Uptown
06. Tank
07. Toiler On The Sea
08. Nuclear Device
09. Peaches
10. Hanging Around

Please note that this is a different source to a somewhat better quality version. This version is longer with 'Hanging Around' to close the set.

The Rezillos To Play The Square In Harlow 29th March 2014

Happy days! The Square in Harlow are playing host to Anglo-Scottish sci-fi popsters The Rezillos next Saturday. There are still some tickets left I believe for what promises to be a great show in this 250 capacity venue.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Ruts DC 12 Bar Club London 10th February 2014

Here's an updated audio of the full set. A quick word on this recording. It is an audio rip of the streaming video footage. It's notable that the balance of the channels on the original recording is very poor, so to compensate, I did what I could to balance it out and amplified the output. It is what it is, complete, including Ruffy's bad jokes (they're not that bad if truth be known).


Updated rear cover:

The streaming video can be seen here. There is a short interview with the band and the gig footage starts around 23 minutes in.