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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday, 26 February 2012
Here's a reasonable sounding bootleg from the band's second night at the Odeon in Birmingham, early in the Aural Sculpture tour.
1. Something Better Change
2. Nuclear Device
4. Dead Ringer
5. No Mercy
7. Thrown Away
8. Let Me Down Easy
9. Midnight Summer Dream
11.Ships That Pass In The Night
14.Death And Night And Blood
16.Punch And Judy
18.I Feel Like A Wog
19.Down In The Sewer
20.Nubiles (Cocktail Version)
21.Toiler On The Sea
Full artwork here (pdfs are included in the download folder)
I think that the internet is peppered with this gig from Strathclyde University, but what the hell, no excuse is needed to post on The Ruts. Besides, the quality and the set is excellent!
2. Stepping Bondage
3. I Ain't Sophisticated
5. Dope For Guns
6. Something That I Said
7. Criminal Mind
8. Jah War
9. Babylon's Burning
10. Savage Circle
12. Out of Order
13. Blue Suede Shoes (w/ Aunty Pus)
14. You're Just A...
15. It Was Cold
16. In A Rut
17. Dirty Ditty #1
19. Love Song
20. Dirty Ditty #2
21. Human Punk
In response to a request from Dave (from West Bromwich), here's a recording from the 10 Tour from The Hummingbird in Birmingham. Overall, not a bad recording, except for a glitch during School Mam. It serves as a good document of the gig. A couple of tracks are missing from the set that I have.
2. Shah Shah A Go Go
3. I Feel Like A Wog
4. Straighten Out
5. Shakin’ Like A Leaf
6. 96 Tears
7. Someone Like You
8. Sweet Smell Of Success
9. Always The Sun
10. Ships That Pass In The Night
12. Where I Live
13. School Mam
14. Let's Celebrate
17. Was It You?
18. Down In The Sewer
19. All Day And All Of The Night
20. Punch And Judy
Full artwork here (pdfs are included in the download file)
Saturday, 25 February 2012
Flyer for the gig clearly knocked up without a record company's design department budget - just take a look at the logo!)
Tickets I recall were quite hard to come by, but luckily, being in Uxbridge at the time, I was able to skip a couple of lectures and make my way down to the relatively nearby Windsor to pick up a couple of tickets.
It was with a great deal of trepidation that I and, I am sure everyone else there on the night, waited for the band to come on. In the event, they won the day, at that time the two new members were not quite as flamboyant in their roles as they were to be in later years. A sympathetic treatment of the back catalogue with the opportunity to see the band in such close quarters, once again without the brass cavalry, was what I suspect I enjoyed most about that night.
The Old Guard
The Old, Trout Windsor 25th February 1991
Looking through some old cuttings recently, I came across a rreview writted by a mate of mine, for another mate's fanzine. Quite a positive review I think.
It's not perfect quality, but is worth hearing from the point of view of listening to a band embarking on a completely new phase of what had already been a long career.
I would suggest that you listen to this whilst reading the article on the official site, here.
There's a handful of new material in there as well.
1. No More Heroes
3. Something Better Change
5. Never to Look Back
6. Someone Like You
8. Heaven or Hell
9. Always the Sun
10. 96 Tears
11. I Feel Like a Wog
13. Wet Afternoon
14. Mr Big
15. Hanging Around
16. Toiler on the Sea
17. Down in the Sewer
18. London Lady
19. All Day and All of the Night
Full artwork here (pdfs are in the download folder).
Friday, 24 February 2012
Another Happy birthday one. These were great gigs, with a real 'family feel' for me at this time. The Set was cracking too!
1. Shah Shah A Go Go
2. I Feel Like A Wog
3. Straighten Out
4. Shakin'like A Leaf
5. 96 Tears
6. Someone Like You
7. Sweet Smell Of Success
8. Always The Sun
9. Ships That Pass In The Night
11. Where I Live
12. School Mam
13. Let's Celebrate
2. Was It You?
3. Down In The Sewer
4. Golden Brown
5. Walk On By
6. Strange Little Girl
7. All Day And All Of The Night
9. Nuclear Device
10. The Raven
12. Punch And Judy
Full artwork here:
Thursday, 23 February 2012
On this night many years ago, a friend offered me a ticket and transport up to that night's gig at the De Montford Hall in Leicester. Then, I was living in Ealing and Raj Lamba, a big fan at the time, was based in Finchley, so we were well placed for the shortish trip north for the gig.
Parked up, Raj and I found a pub near the venue and met some others that we knew from gigs around that time and had the traditional couple of pints. Inside the venue, I remember chatting to a lad called Sean, an associate of Steve Tyas I think, who was showing off his latest Stranglers related tattoo.
From the venue bar, we punters diffused into the venue during the support slot set, which was completed as I recall. After they vacated the stage, there was the usual to-ing and fro-ing from the bar ahead of the headline.... but this was somewhat prolonged and the usual stage time was missed. Eyebrows were raised as the wait was prolonged without any further explanation. Eventually, someone came on stage (the band's tour manager?) to explain that as a result of the venue receiving a coded message indicating that the IRA had planted a bomb within or in the vicinity of the venue, the hall had to be evacuated and the gig was off.
The Modus Operandi of a coded warning was typical of the IRA campaign at this time, but what sunk this gig was the fact that the IRA had detonated a device at a military recruitment centre in Leicester only 3 days before (20th) in which two people were injured. This too represented a typical tactic, further recognised coded messaged warnings in the immediate aftermath of a genuine bombing. This invariably resulted in a full scale security response, with the maximum level of disruption and fear, with minimum effort expended. Concerning the De Montford Hall, this was to prove to be just that, a false and yet highly disruptive alarm.
Subsequently, the Leicester date was rescheduled to 15th March, which I had to miss due to an exam the following day.
We drove back from Leicester to London in little over an hour!... and in silence. All I gained from the day was this set list.
Set list from the abandoned gig
Leicester De Montford Hall
23rd February 1990
Mully has since assured me that he was nowhere near Leicester at the time!!
January, February and March are very anniversary friendly for The Stranglers, since over the years they have quire regularly embarked on tours of the UK in these winter/spring months.
So, I give you the Newport Centre, this day (minus one.... I got distracted last night!) 22 years ago.
Full artwork here:
Tuesday, 21 February 2012
A rather short but sweet anniversary gig from exactly 29 years ago. The quality is good, suggesting that this could have been a radio broadcast, I'm not sure.
1. No More Heroes
2. Baroque Bordello
3. Golden Brown
4. Princess of The Streets
5. Midnight Summer Dream
6. European Female
This intriguing gathering has been briefly mentioned across the net, but I thought I'd try to bring together as much of the source material as I could find and put it in one place.
Now this was 1979 and the mutual animosity that existed between the British music press weeklies and The Stranglers was well documented in those self-same papers. But for one hot September Sunday in 1979, it was a case of gloves off and pads on for a chari-dee event in old London Town. The charity was Help A London Child and the venue was Paddington Green Recreational ground.
The gauntlet was thrown down in the form of an ad which promised "The Cricket Match of the Century" with The Stranglers & Friends vs The Media XI.
Press ad for the event September 1979
Could this be the opportunity to once and for all settle scores in that most English of ways? On the sports field..... Well quite frankly no!
'.... a word about your Raven review'
'... hit straight with perfection'All of the UK weekly music papers reported on the match. This was after all an opportunity for the journalists (more usually on the receiving end of the band's disdain for their profession) to get one over on the band without the usual repercussions. I would suspect that the Media XI would have taken the event very seriously for this reason. Judging from the press reports that appeared in the following week's editions, the band and their black-clad compardres took a more casual approach to the game with the possible exception of Messrs Cornwell and Sensible (both known to be cricket fans) and Eddy Grant (surely a ringer!). For the rest of The Stranglers, high tea in the pavilion was replaced by beer and marching powder!
'Kicked In The Bails'
Sounds 22nd September 1979
Sounds 22nd September 1979
NO BALLS: Who says we writer chappies haven’t got what it takes? Faced with the snarling might of assorted Stranglers, Motorheads, Yachts, Steel Pulses and the odd X-Ray Spex, Fischer-Z, Flying Lizard, Zone and the Dreadlocked Eddy Grant, a Media XI showed the true WG Grace spirit and trounced their black-garbed adversaries in a Year of The Child charity cricket match in London at the weekend.
Sportsmen to the last, the notable writers benignly allowed the blind-swishing musical bounders to accumulate a respectable 133 all out – a grim-faced Captain Sensible having particular difficulty picking the line of his own girlfriend’s bowling and a tetchy JJ Burnel smashing his stumps to dust on having his furniture rattled by an innocuous looking slower one and subsequently causing one of those unpleasant pitch invasion scenes by autograph-hunting yobbos.
Donning the pads, the jovial journalists strode to the crease only to find themselves confronted by somewhere in the region of 20 sneering, beer-swilling fielders and a hostile and hitherto unseen ‘quickie’ who swiftly dispatched three of our valiant men to the pavilion. However, a sterling and courageous knock by none other than our very own Soundsman, Dave Lewis, including several mighty sixes of the swiftly dispirited musicians’ attack before he very sportingly gave his wicket away, ensured a conclusive victory for the men (and women) in white. Film rights of the cataclysmic clash have already been secured by Kerry Packer.
JJ prior to wicket splintering!
Record Mirror 22nd September 1979
It was a glorious sunny day when we piled into the taxi “Paddington Green” I briskly asked the driver. My escort spat out of the window and I knew it was going to be a well organised day filled with thrills. As usual I was wrong, we arrived after about three quarters of an hour stuck in the sweltering traffic at a patch of grass about two metres square. I was naturally horrified, such was the length of time I’d spent rolling my hair up in ball that we were late already for the stars versus the journalists cricket match. There certainly wasn’t enough room for a good game of tiddltwinks, let alone the Stranglers throwing balls around like yobbos. “Where’s the cricket then,” I asked the driver. “How the bleedin’ ‘ell do I know,” he politely replied driving into a heat haze over Shepherds Bush flyover. At long last we found the stupid cricket match.
The game was in aid of Help A London Child and little men kept wandering around with dustbins waiting for people to throw in 20 pound notes and solid gold bananas in. The journalists team included the Freddie Truman of rock journalism, Editor Alf Martin, who had given up a whole weekend’s cupboard building to come and bowl devastatingly slow balls and to sweat blood in order to come up with a truly devastating 11 runs before he was hit in that sacred bit of a man’s anatomy and he was removed from the game.
On the stars (?) side there were three of the Stranglers , who I thought ran frightfully fast all things considered.
Sadly, despite all of this valiant effort, the Stars lost by three wickets (whatever that means, I think it’s when you knock the little sticks that are precariously perched on the three big sticks). Struggling on were David Cunningham of the Flying Lizards, who ought to change their name to the Tight Plimsolls. The incredibly athletic Eddy Grant (who virtually leapt over the wickets in his eagerness). Plus various members of Motorhead (best not described in sporting attire) and the Damned (very spotty).
The Motorhead bit of the team had to keep vanishing behind bushes and under trucks. I really couldn’t figure out if this was for Lemmy to rest or to have some more talcum on his feet which he kept whipping out from the little paper bag. At least it was talcum, you never can tell with these rowdier boys.
Hugh and Captain in full flight
The athletic Eddy Grant
Jet and Hugh discuss the finer points of the MCC Rules with the editor of Record Mirror
A wonderful day was had by all and some of our more lethargic pop artists had a good run. Unlike their usual trip to the Music Machine’s bar and back that they normally indulge in. Piles of money were made by the little men for charity so everyone was happy – even the injured Alf Martin who is currently resting.
New Musical Express (confirmed source unknown)
'Stranglers on a Dodgy Wicket'
The Stranglers made steps to improve their bad boy image the other week when they organised a charity cricket match in London in aid of Capital Radio's Help A London Child campaign.
With the help of a very athletic Eddy Grant, various members of The Damned, Motorhead and Flying Lizards, they took on a team of writers and broadcasters and were given a fairly comprehensive drubbing for their pains.
The Stranglers, who turned out all in black and had as many as 40 on their team at any one time, spent a lot of their time lying down and threatening to take the bus home.
Some brief comments have appeared over the last few years on the Burning Up Time forum from fans who went along on the day to lend their support to the band.... Or to cop a look at Kate Bush who was rumoured to be in attendance. For those fans, the band were accommodating with autographs etc, with the apparent exception of JJ who tried to do a runner in the face of autograph hunters. Some people have reported long stored pieces of memorabilia signed by Kate Bush, but it seems that one Flying Lizard was masquerading as the lovely Kate on the day. What larks!
'Eyes Off She's Mine Dammit!'
I'm sorry to say that I cannot offer any more insight into the event other than what appeared in print at the time. But what the hell, it's a good excuse to post some fantastic photos of boozed-up cricketersinblack that Freddie Flintoff would gladly raise his bat (and pint no doubt) to!!
Sunday, 19 February 2012
Saturday, 18 February 2012
Nearly an anniversary post this one. A mere 33 years old last Thursday. A nice sounding recording this from the band's first trip to Japan.
2. Burning Up Time
4. Straighten Out
5. Dead Ringer
6. Bring On The Nubiles
7. Hanging Around
8. No More Heroes
11. Nice 'N' Sleazy
Full artwork here (and pdfs are included in the download folder):
The pedants among you may notice the mistake in including the Raven motif on the cover, predating as it does by months the release of that album.
Unfortunately, the exact date of this gig is unknown to me. It is a reasonable recording of part of the gig. Suggesting that this may actually have come from a radio broadcast (certainly, the full gig version, was one of the poorest quality bootleg that I had).
1. Shah Shah A Go Go
3. Down In The Sewer
4. Hanging Around
5. The Raven
6. Dead Loss Angeles
8. Baroque Bordello
11.Bring On The Nubiles
Full artwork here (pdfs are included in the download file):
Here's a not so guilty pleasure... aspects of the career of the enigmatic Adam Ant.
In 1980, at the age of 11, I was given pocket money to the tune of £1 a week. This in fact was just about sufficient to by a tune a week (OK, two tunes if you count the b-side!). At the time, a 7" single was 99p in Woolworths or WH Smiths (the most usual record outlets unless you lived in a big town or city or were lucky enough to have a local enthusiast owning an independent record shop).
In November of that year, I took my pound into town to purchase 'Antmusic', at the time the latest hit single from the 'Kings of The Wild Frontier' album.
In a slow but determined process, I started to backfill the collection, firstly with the 'Kings' and 'Dog Eat Dog' singles, then the album itself. In the meantime, the band fully embraced the teen market that the success of the album and 'Antmusic' had opened up to them (myself included) and the result was the 'Stand & Deliver' and the 'Prince Charming' album, with it's associated chart friendly singles. Even then I was starting to have some doubts, now being a discerning 12 year old music critic! Nevertheless, if I had some misgivings about the A-sides, the B-sides were always more interesting, 'Fall In', 'Christain D'ior' and 'Beat My Guest' to name three. I did not know until some time later that these songs were re-recorded versions of songs from a more dangerous period in the Ants history.
Whilst on the one hand I was listening to 'Prince Charming', on the other, I was still delving further backwards into the back catalogue which was infinitely more interesting, 'Cartrouble', 'Zerox' and 'Kick'. This I think was one of my first exposures to punk/post punk (if you exclude buying up the singles released off the back of 'The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle'!). To cap it all I got hold of a copy of 'Dirk Wears White Sox', which to my mind has stood the test of time better than 90% of the albums released at the same time.
In late '81 a tour was announced that was to prove to be their last. My uncle, as a Brighton taxi driver managed to get tickets as he was on the spot at the time. Such was the popularity of the band at this time that the tickets sold in a matter of an hour or so after the box-office opened.
This was my first gig. I had turned down a ticket to see the Police a couple of months earlier on their 'Ghost In The Machine' tour as the Ants tour had been announced and I had high hopes for that one.
Adrian (on the right sporting Dee Dee Ramones hairstyle courtesy of my Dad!)
Pre-gig 28th December 1981
The show as I recall was very well-staged and theatrical, with costume changes and set changes throughout. The band played well, they were after all at this time a collection of very accomplished musicians, but what I remember most was the pre-'Kings' material, 'Physical' and 'Cartrouble'.
Early in 1982, Adam disbanded the Ants and went off with Marco and Merrick in tow to pursue a solo career. I was a lucky winner of a ticket to see his first solo gig to an invited fan-club audience. Unfortunately, this being in London I was not allowed to go, being just 13 at this point.
Fast forward to the late 80's, Adam and the Ants seemed a long distant memory, by this point I was heavily into the Stranglers along with many other bands of the era. I was at Brunel University and went to see T.V. Smith of Adverts fame at the Anglers Retreat in West Drayton. It was here that I met some folks from the local area (Hayes and Uxbridge) who I'm happy to say are still good friends 20+ down the line. Discussions on punk ensued and a common interest in the Ants came up. It was at this point I was first introduced to the really good stuff, the stuff that could only be acquired on the then flourishing bootleg stalls of Camden Market. It was at this point that I first discovered the original recordings of many of the songs that had been recycled as B-sides of the hit singles.
The Madam Stan Demos.... The Decca Demos.... The Fetish Demos....
Here in fact was by far their best material (all from the '78 to '79 period) of which the vast majority had never seen the light of day!!
A far cry from the Dandy Highwayman of the early '80's Adam and the Ants gigs in this period were dangerous affairs, violence was common, elements of the audience were quite unsavoury (perhaps in part with Adam's flirtation with Nazi imagery, something that a hostile music press homed in on). Certainly, older fiends of my Hayes mates told of guaranteed punch ups whenever the band played outside of central London!
Adam & The Antz Marquee London 1978
To illustrate how different the punk-era Ants were from the Saturday morning TV band the finished up as, I would recommend a listen of the 'In Bondage '78-'79' CD, which brings together some of the aforementioned demos, with a gig from the Marquee Club in London's Wardour Street.
3. Vive Le Rock
4. Never Trust A Man (With Egg On His Face)
5. Gotta Be A Sin
6. Beautiful Dream
7. Room At The Top
8. Man Called Marco
9. Kings Of The Wild Frontier
1. Stand & Deliver
3. Ants Invasion
4. Killer In The Home
5. Ant Music
7. Goody Two Shoes
9. Band Introduction
10. Christian D'ior
11.20th Century Boy
Full artwork here:
In the following years, Adam hit trouble. Initially ridiculed as just another washed up pop star struggling to cope with a stalled career, he became a press darling for all the wrong reasons.
However, more recently, Adam has had a more sympathetic reception as public understanding of bipolar disorder of which he has been a life-long sufferer has increased.
The good news is that in the last 18 months or so Adam Ant has been back on the road, playing to consistently appreciative audiences. Best of all the current set draws heavily on the material from the band's early days and I suspect that for quite a high proportion of those audiences these songs will be completely new.
See what you think. from this recording at the 100 Club in London from January 2011.
Artwork is included in the download file.
So there you go, a long career in music, marked by massive success, some notable failures and a good measure of controversy, not that unlike The Stranglers. Good luck Adam!
Thursday, 16 February 2012
This could be best described as a 'keeping your hand in' gig for the band. For many fans, it presented a great excuse for a weekend away in the bracing winter Peak District hills in the company of the Stranglers. For this event, a group of us travelled up from London and Hertfordshire for what promised to be a unique gig.
To a dyed in the wool urban dweller such as myself, Buxton is bloody remote, nestled in the Derbyshire hills, the town is small and this is reflected in their Opera House. A beautifully plush venue which made a very pleasant change from the increasingly uniform corporate city venues that the band usually play.
After a generous pre-gig pre-med, Paul Cooklin and I felt that in keeping with venue, we should perhaps switch to gin and tonic once inside. So, it was with a G & T in hand that we were escorted to our seats by a very elderly and very sweet 'usherette' who to her credit did not seem unduly alarmed that her charges for the night were something of a far cry from the usual Puccini admirers that used the venue.
In this instance, being seated at a Stranglers gig did not seem to be such a problem, this being a one-off under such unusual circumstances.
In the row, Paul Cooklin, Adrian & Gunta
Buxton Opera House 16th February 2008
Quite clearly I have my suspicions regarding the photographer... must have been his dodgy shorts in such a cold February!As I recall from the reviews that appeared in the following days on the Forum, for many in attendance, this gig was a lacklustre plod through a greatest hits set. I certainly do not recall in in those terms, the band were on form and the whole weekend was a real treat on a social, musical and dare I say it a cultural level.
It was also the occasion of one of the best responses to stage invader that I have ever seen. OK, so maybe Baz struck it lucky with the timing, but he came out with such a pearl, that the bass player struggled to hold it together to play for several minutes. Listen out during 'Duchess'!
Full artwork is here:
Friday, 10 February 2012
Now I know that this recording is not hard to find on the net, but I wanted to put it up here anyway. The Clash are well documented live, even in their very early days. Listen to any of those '76 recordings and you'll hear a band that really were not particularly accomplished (with the exception of Joe, who had musical form). Very early on, they were much slower but as a result of heavy gigging, by the time this recording was made they were faster and tighter.
1. I’m So Bored With the USA
2. Hate and War
3. 48 Hours
5. Police and Thieves
7. Capital Radio
8. What’s My Name
9. Protex Blue
10. Remote Control
In The summer of the 1986 (far removed from the 'Summer of Hate'), I attended a Physics A level course at Sussex University in Falmer, near Brighton. I know what a nerd! Nothing further to mention on the course, but as it was over the weekend, my mate and I not relishing another evening on a deserted campus, took the train into Brighton, where on the Saturday night, a local band I loved were playing at the Zap Club on the front as part of a punk 10th anniversary celebration. The Four Guns I had seen quite a few times before in Brighton pubs and it's a real shame that the only boot I have of them is near unlistenable, otherwise I would put it up.
The Four Guns c. 1986
The band played a great set as I recall, but it was the aftershow entertainment that sticks in my mind. Again, in no hurry to get back to some grotty student accommodation, we stayed on in the club for a 'punk disco'. Now up to this point, my exposure to original UK punk was pretty limited, beyond The Stranglers and The Damned. Of course, I knew the bands that came out of that period and had chart success in the late '70's and early '80's, but apart from the hits, I was pretty ignorant of what each of these bands was doing in 1976 and 1977. There were big gaps in other words.That night, all the usual suspects were played and this meant that I was hearing a lot of 'new' material for the first time and what an eye opener it was..... Police and Thieves.... What Do I Get...... Identity..... Where Have All the Boot Boys Gone?..... Bored Teenagers etc etc.
Walking back to the University in the early hours of Sunday morning, I was plotting how and when I could get hold of as much of this stuff as possible and as quickly as possible. Luckily for me, Brighton was something of a record collectors Mecca, with numerous excellent record shops (Wax Factor, Vinyl Demand) and critically, the Brighton Centre record fair that used to take place every 6 months or so. So, over the next 18 months or so, the majority of the £33 a week I earned cleaning a local A&E department was channelled through these outlets.
It was that same weekend that Channel 4 I think it was screened a documentary, again marking that anniversary, that trawled the Granada vaults and collected footage broadcast by 'So It Goes' between 1976 and 1977. Watching this the following week, further reinforced what I had missed. Of that footage, it was the Clash footage from Manchester's Elizabethan Ballroom in November 1977 that really blew me away, the intensity of Strummer's performance was amazing and for that reason, 'What's My Name' from the first album remains to be one of my favourite Clash songs.
The Clash 'What's My Name'
Manchester November 1977
Wednesday, 8 February 2012
'In The Poppy Fields'
I pleased to give a plug to a new site that will be of interest to fans of Mike Peters and The Alarm. Mike has been a friend and associate of The Stranglers for years so there is a good chance of a far cross-over interest between sites.
Sunday, 5 February 2012
Jet Black once described the bands now long association with the 'colour' black as 'a non-image that became an image'. In addition to a wardrobe overhaul, the band took on the alter ego of 'The Meninblack'. So, what the hell was it all about?
Throughout 1981, the band had successfully toured their commercially unsuccessful masterpiece 'The Gospel According to the Meninblack', by which point they were deeply immersed in the idea of alien visitation. But to the best of my knowledge, the seeds for 'The Gospel' were sown long before, some three years in fact as the band were laying down 'BlackAnd White' at Bearshanks in the Northamptonshire countryside. Tasters to the bands new darker direction, preceding 'The Gospel' came in the form of 'Meninblack' from the Raven and the 'Who Wants the World?' single.
It was upon the release of 'The Gospel' album, that the full extent of the Meninblack (MIB) obsession became truely apparent. Personally, I love this album, but I can understand that to many fans, still reeling from the change that 'The Raven' brought with it, 'The Gospel' must have been a step too far!
Music Press Promo Ad for 'The Gospel'
As I have said, for me at least, it is a masterpiece. Framed within a UFO visitation itself (the sound of landing and take-off start and close the album), it is dark, brooding and very claustrophobic. Some heavy substances were involved in the making of the album and that comes through! In fact, there has been talk that the ill-fortune experienced by the band in this period was in some way connected with their interest in this particular area of the paranormal.
The band at this time (or shortly after) had a very good relationship with BBC West who broadcast a local arts magazine programme called 'RPM' (the link includes a short piece on the band's November 1981 gig at 'The Granary' in Bristol). Out of this relationship came a short documentary film (written by Hugh and Jet), now commonly referred to as 'The Black Documentary'. In short, although you can see it for yourself, the film was an investigation of the scientific and psychological nature of what we understand to be black. It was an unusual topic which covered aspects of physics, but more interestingly looked at the ways in which black has been utilised over the centuries by the authoritarian bodies of church and state as a tool by which to exercise control.
Undoubtedly, the perception of black is very mixed in the human psyche, since it is seen to find representation across the entire morality spectrum. From
Honestly, it was the only picture I could find!
Oswald Mosley and the BUF
...... and the Ugly
Not to be forgotten in this film are The Men In Black (whoever or whatever they may be). For the purposes of the documentary, Hugh and Jet took on the identity of two such MIBs.
Stills from The Black Documentary
'RPM', BBC West 1982
There cannot be many readers of these pages who cannot claim any familiarity with the MIB phenomenon.
Enshrined in UFO lore since sightings in the immediate post war period, the theory goes that following an encounter, witnesses have been called upon by authority figures with the aim of silencing them and supressing attempts to bring sighting reports to a wider audience. It is said that these stern authority figures present identification linking them with security bodies, but on subsequent follow up, details of the individuals or in some cases the organisations that they claim to represent cannot be corroborated. Moreover, it has also been a consistent characteristic within reports of such visits, that the 'agents' display peculiarities in terms of their mannerisms and speech. In addition, their clothing and the cars they arrive in seem to be vintage and out of keeping with the fashions of the day (as portrayed in the photos of Hugh and Jet).
The jury is out on the MIB. Personally, I like the notion that such reports represent a modern take on the reports of visitations by demons and even the Devil himself, that were a feature of the horrific European witch trials of the 17th century. Such paranoia reached the US shores shortly after in devout Christian communities, most notably Salem.
Whatever the truth about the nature of MIBs, speaking as a Stranglers fan, they have served me and the band admirably over the past 30 years or so and for that I raise a glass to them.... but don't tell anyone....OR ELSE!
OK then, here's the film.
MIB fuether reading:
The Men in Black Enigma
Exploring The Myth of The Men In Black
Men in Black (MIB)