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 adrianandrews1@sky.com.


Saturday, 28 January 2012

Ruts DC - Hammersmith Odeon & John Peel Session



Just received this in a trade. A bit of background research into this brief gem would indicate that this has been available on other blogs for an age, but I had somehow missed it and that being the case so may you have. But this is too good to miss. Also considering that earlier links may now be redundant I think I have sufficient excuse to post it again.

From what I can gather, this very early Ruts DC set was recorded when they opened for The Skids at the Hammersmith Odeon on 21st October 1980. The quality is so good, I would say that it is a radio broadcast (perhaps part of a Skids 'In Concert' set?) and it unsurprisingly featues a majority of Ruts tracks, with the single 'Different View' being the only new song (this was only 3 months after Malcolm's death).

I'm sure you'll agree with me that this is top notch stuff. The question that I have is whether this is the full set or a radio edit?

In order to bulk this up to a respectable CD length, I have added the band's only Peel session from February of the following year.


https://rapidshare.com/files/3355709809/Ruts_DC.zip

Hammersmith Odeon 21st October 1980

01 Love In Vein
02 Different View
03 West One (Shine On Me)
04 Society
05 Babylon's Burning

John Peel Session 16th February 1981

06 Mirror Smashed
07 Parasites
08 Fools
09 Different View

Artwork will follow.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

More Memories of 'La Folie'


More 'La Folie' nostalgia has now been posted on the official site. In a tour diary from the second leg of the tour, Phil Coxon is ably assisted in dragging out the memories of a cold winter, long, long ago by Mark Senior. Thanks chaps! Read it here.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

'No Nukes Festival' 9th April 1982

'No Nukes Festival'
Utrecht 9th April 1982

Last for the night now and to round of the look at 'La Folie' here's a 30 minute TV gig of The Stranglers Utrecht Festival appearance.

https://rapidshare.com/files/3358910389/VTS_01_1.zip

1. Second Coming
2. Non Stop
3. Who Wants The World
4. Baroque Bordello
5. Golden Brown
6. The Raven
7. Nuclear Device
8. Genetix

Sheffield Polytechnic 21st January 1982 - 30 Years to the Day


Here'a  reasonable sounding boot from the second leg of the 'La Folie' tour, recorded on this very night 30 years ago!

https://rapidshare.com/files/2708827533/Sheffield_Poly_21st_Jan_1982.zip

1. Down In The Sewer
2. Just Like Nothing On Earth
3. Second Coming
4. Non Stop
5. The Man They Love To Hate
6. Who Wants The World
7. Baroque Bordello
8. Golden Brown
9. How To Find True Love And Happiness In The Present Day
10. Thrown Away
11. Tank
12. Let Me Introduce You To The Family
13. Tramp
14. The Raven
15. Nuclear Device
16. Genetix

Here's the full artwork:
Front
Back

La Folie - 30 Years On


Don't dwell too much on the title, to do so is rather depressing, can it really have been that long ago!? Yes, I'm afraid it was and it goes back to my earliest interest in the band.

This was the second 'concept' album in succession from the Stranglers, although the subjects were worlds apart (no alien references intended there).Gone were the dark extra-terrestrial/government conspiracy themes of the substance driven 'The Gospel According to the Meninblack'. However, the thread that ran through 'La Folie' was as equally mysterious as a hanger full of UFOs..... that most dangerous of human emotions.... LOVE! However, gnarly old punks could sleep easy in their gutters, for this was not to be a collection of boy meets girl slush, rather eleven tracks each concerned with different, darker, aspects of love.



Not a complete list, but here's an indiction of the different facets of love represented across the tracks of 'La Folie':

  • Devotion to God ('Non-Stop')
  • Glamour/pornographic imagery as a substitute for love ('Pin-up')
  • Family ties and loyalties/the Mafia ('Let Me Introduce You To The Family')
  • Hypercritical, new found devotion in the wake of John Lennon's murder ('Everybody Loves You When You're Dead')
  • Addiction to toast ('Golden Brown')
  • A distortion of love leading to cannabalistic acts ('La Folie')
I have already stated in a previous post, that I think that 'La Folie' is truely the last great Stranglers album. It mixes themes and styles like no other Mark I offering (even more so if you consider 'Love 30', the b-side of 'Golden Brown', best described as Wimbledon on acid!).

As was the case for their earlier albums, some of the characters that resided within these songs were rather obscur and some research was required in order to get the most out of the lyrics. There was Jive-talking, New York musician Milton Mezzrow and girl gourmet Issei Sagawa that stand out. In fact, knowing  the subject can be very important! Prior to researching the background to the track 'La Folie' (see link), in all innocence, I sent the lyrics to a female French penfriend in the hope that she would help with the translation. What must she made of it (and me!). To give her credit, she did continue to write for a while, but the correspondence faltered within a few months.

That The Stranglers themselves were satisfied with how the album turned out is, I think, evidenced by the strong presence of tracks from the album that featured in the live set (upto 6 of the original 11).The album was toured either side of Christmas, commencing on 11th November 1981, two days after the albums release, and winding up on 8th February 1982. Incidentally, it was in this period that the band achieved their greatest chart success with the single 'Golden Brown' reaching Number 2, in the then still credible UK singles chart.

The tour looked stunning, with the band as usual, challenging their audience with the stage visuals (at one point, with the assistance of the support band, 'Folie' was spelt out in sheet-wrapped human form!).

'Mr Burnel, you are cleared to land'
Bath Pavillion 3rd December 1981

Once again if I may, I will point you in the direction of Phil Coxon's tour diary.

Here then is an example of a show from this period, albeit post UK tour, when the band played the 'No Nukes Festival in Utrecht, Holland on 9th April 1982.

'No Nukes Festival'
Utrecht 9th April 1982

NEW LINK: https://we.tl/lUJpfuieJU

1. Intro
2. Down In The Sewer,
3. Just Like Nothing On Earth
4. Second Coming
5. Non Stop
6. The Man They Love To Hate
7. Who Wants The World
8. Baroque Bordello
9. Golden Brown
10. How To Find True Love And Happiness In The Present Day
11. Tank
12. Let Me Introduce You To The Family
13. Tramp
14. The Raven
15. Nuclear Device
16. Genetix
17. La Folie

Full artwork here (pdfs included in downlaod file):
Front
Back

Ruts DC Confirmed for Rebellion 2012




Ruts DC have now been confirmed to play this years Rebellion Festival taking place in Blackpool over 2nd to 5th August.

I am hopeful that this will require plenty of warm up gigs from now to August!!

Megaupload - A Sledgehammer to Crack a Nut!

Two nights ago, I tried to log on to Megaupload a couple of times and failed. Thinking nothing more of it I went to bed. Yesterday morning, I woke up to the news that the site had been taken down.

It's not the end of the world and alternatives will be found, but surely there must have been a better way of doing this! The owners of the site claim that they rigorously dealt with complaints of possible piracy of copyright material, so where was the investigation into Megaupload's processes of policing site content. To take the site down just like that leaves a bad taste in my mouth (not to mention a hole in my wallet!).

I am heatened to see that the opposition to the proposed anti-piracy legislation seems to be strong across the US political spectrum and I hope that they effectively succeed in binning these bills.

Support the artists, buy the albums, go to the gigs, buy the Tshirt... share the bootlegs between like minded people. I am quite capable of policing my own site thank you very much.

Like thosands of other people who enjoy sharing music on blogs and forums, I am now looking for a suitable alternative. Whoever I choose, I just hope that they don't have a Bon Jovi album lurking somewhere on their servers!!

As none of the links now function, should anyone have a specific request for a gig no-longer available, please email me and I will repost.

IT APPEARS THAT THE STOP ON-LINE PIRACY ACT (SOPA) BILL HAS BEEN WITHDRAWN (FRIDAY) IN THE FACE OF LAST WEEK'S ONLINE BLACKOUT CAMPAIGN!

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Tubeway Army The Early Years


Gary Numan in 1978

On my musical journey through my teenage years Gary Numan preceded The Stranglers. Bedroom wall superiority was only achieved by The Stranglers some time around '85 I'd say. Up to that point, it was all Touring Principle and Teletour era posters and telecon stripes painted on the wall (illuminated by red spotlights if I remember correctly). Also painted on one wall was the Tubeway Army logo, identical to  the road sign indicating that normal speed restrictions apply (only rotated so that the black bar runs across the horizontal).

To many, Gary Numan may have seemed to fall from outer space into peoples living rooms in the autumn of 1979 with the quirky, but brilliant 'Are Friends Electric?'. However, whilst Tubeway Army were catapulted to fame with unusual rapidity, the band had served something of the time honoured rock 'n' roll apprenticeship in the two years leading up to chart dominance.

It was Tubeway Army that released the aforementioned 'Are Friends Electric?', but the band at that point were a far cry from the Tubeway Army that had existed up until the previous year, in terms of personnel, but more noticeably sound.

Formed in 1977, the band consisted of Gary Webb and Paul Gardiner, who came together briefly in the ranks of another London punk band, The Lasers. Recognising a kindred spirit in each other, the two abandoned The Lasers with a view to forming their own band.

Much boot leather was lost on the streets of London until they reached the door of Beggars Banquet in Fulham. Beggars was a fledgling record label established in a similar vein to the other groundbreaking independent labels of the punk era, most notably Stiff and Chiswick Records.

Two singles were released on the label in 1978, 'That's Too Bad' in Febuary 1978 and 'Bombers' the following July. These 7" offerings took the 3-chord approach that such small labels required, but the songs left the 'No Future' message behind. Many of Numan's lyrics and themes predated punk by several years. Something of a loner, he wrote science fiction stories inspired by the likes of Philip K. Dick and William Burroughs. This material dominated the entire span of Tubeway Army. The thing was that to yet to be christened Gary Numan, what he saw as the simplicity of punk was nothing more than a means to an end. Gary aspired to the kind of fame then enjoyed by rock's elite (a far cry from the punk ethic.... at least that's what the musicians of the scene were telling the NME!). Numan made no secret of his admiration for David Bowie and he wanted some of that fame, fame, fame.


Tubeway Army Mark I 1978 (at the time of the 'That's Too Bad' single)
(l-r: Gary Numan, Jess Lidyard, Paul Gardiner)

Tubeway Army  Mark II 1978 (at the time of the 'Bombers' single)
(l-r: Gary Numan, Barry Benn, Paul Gardiner, Sean Burke)



But before that was possible there was gigging to be done. At this point, Gary's uncle Jess Lidyard handed back the drumsticks for the time being.

Unfortunately, Tubeway Army were not what you could call prolific on the live circuit. Numan himself puts this down to a fear of an often unpredictable, occasionally violent audience at such close quarters. However, I on the very limited evidence available (see later), live they were tight and entertaining. Many of the bands live shows were at the Roxy towards the end of the venues short existence in London's Covent Garden. In fact, the venue played host to all of the key bands with a stake in Tubeway Army's early career (Mean Street (Gary Numan), The Lasers (Gary Numan and Paul Gardiner) and Open Sore (Sean Burke and Bary Benn)).




Tubeway Army appeared at the Roxy on several occasions between July and October 1977, supporting X-Ray Spex (then mistakenly billed as Two Way Army) and Penetration as well as headlining in their own right. But whilst The Roxy continued to put on punk bands until its closure in April 1978, the doors were closed to further gigs by Tubeway Army.

The ban was as a consequence of a management change in the latter days of the club's existence. The new manager, Kevin St John, was by all accounts a rather dubious character with his own interests at heart rather than those of the venue. By all accounts, predatory by nature, it seems that the somewhat androgynous lead singer if Tubeway Army was in his sights!

In Paul Marko's excellent and massively comprehensive account of this legendary club, Gary declined to contribute, but emailed the following to the author:

' Thanks for the email, about the Roxy Club. Unfortunately my memories of the place are all unpleasant and I don't want to go over any of it.  I was only involved late in the day and wasn't there when it was a cool place to be. Sorry.'

The only currently known live recording of the 'punk' Tubeway Army comes from February 1978. A bootleg of the show attributes the recording to The Roxy 1977, but that cannot be the case since the recording is more accurately dated by Gary's reference to the scheduled release of the first single. Besides that, people better placed than myself believe that the recording originates from a gig at The Rock Garden, Covent Garden on 21st February 1978.

Putting exact date and venue to one side, Gary's personal issues with the Roxy and its proprietor were clearly evident in the thinly veiled song 'Kill St Joy'.





With the Roxy club history, the band continued to gig, but by all accounts this was becoming an increasingly less enjoyable experience to Gary.



One of the last gigs Tubeway Army played was support slot to Dunfirmline's The Skids at the White Hart pub in Acton on 28th January 1978, which as history has it descended into something of a blood bath. This event further focused the band (or Gary at least) to break from the then waining punk scene to seek something new.

Flyer for the ill-fated Skids support slot
28th June 1978

Change was afoot for this particular band. Gary, disillusioned with punk in its entirety was determined to changed direction and it seems that in this respect the existing members of Tubeway Army had the age-old choice of 'Either you are with me or against me' To this end, Paul Gardiner was with and Sean and Barry were against and the waves parted.

It was at this point that Gary's ever supportive uncle Jess once again took the newly vacant drum stool back in order to maintain the momentum.

Within a month of the Skids debacle, Tubeway Army were back in the studio, this time at Spaceward in Cambridge. The recording session is well documented and doesn't require repeating here, other than to say that in that recording studio Gary Numan found his fast track to Bowie-like fame. All it took was the late collection of a hired synthesiser and the rest is history... or maybe not quite.

Recorded between July and August 1978, the eponymous 'Tubeway Army' largely ditched the three chords and produced an album that in many respects was a prototype for the electronic movement that was to become dominant within two years (lead to a very significant extent by Gary himself).

An eclectic mix of guitars (both eclectic and acoustic), drums and the newly discovered synthesisers 'Tubeway Army' was different for sure, with themes of alienation, The Life Machine, Joe the Waiter and Everyday I Die, the themes would have been familiar to anyone who had seen the band in pubs and clubs in the previous twelve months, but the game plan had changed somewhat drastically.

'Tubeway Army' (a.k.a. The Blue Album)


'Tubeway Army' Re release
I remember buying the Tubeway Army album in a Brighton second-hand record shop in late 1981 and the reissued double pack of the first two singles a year later and that for then was it for Tubeway Army. That was until Beggars Banquet searched the vaults. In 1983, Numan had realised that his retirement from the stage was premature announced plans for a major UK tour. This was the 'Warriors' tour. Beggars, realising that there was life in the (not so) old dog yet, issued (from 'ealy '83 to early '85) a series of 12 inch singles featuring unreleased material from the 1978/1978 period.

The icing on the cake was the 1983 issue of an album of unreleased material under the banner of 'The Plan', many of the songs on which had only appeared on the 'Roxy' bootleg.


Thanks to Gary Numan and Beggars, these related releases more than doubled the available recorded output of Tubeway Army.

Finally, a 20th anniversary reissue of the Tubeway Army album featured a cleaned up, remastered version of the 'Live at the Roxy' bootleg, retitled as Living Ornaments '78, in keeping with a series of official live tour recordings released from '79 to '81.

That then was the lesser known story of Tubeway Army, a band that continued to operate under that name for the time being, but in a very different form. The founding members (Gary and Paul) remained at the heart of the band and other musicians were recruited who were to remain with Gary Numan up to the point to his Wembley '81 'retirement' shows (some of these players returned for tours later in the '80's as well).

Tubeway Army 1979
(l-r: RRussel Bell, Paul Gardiner, Billy Currie (on loan from Ultravox), GN, Chris Payne, Ced Sharpley)

From 1979 onwards, the visual aspects of a bands performance became increasingly important (in direct contrast to punk). Gary Numan himself was instrumental in this trend, with the reintroduction of massive lighting rigs on tours, promotional videos and striking looks for both himself and his band (emulated by many kids at the time, including myself!)


The turning point came with a live appearance on the the hugely influential 'Old Grey Whistle Test' from which it is abundantly clear that Gary Numan was offering something rather unusual with this new material (which would feature on Tubeway Army's second album, 'Replicas')

'Down in the Park' Old Grey Whistle Test BBC Television 1979

Top of the Pops followed shortly afterwards which brought Gary Numan and this version of Tubeway Army into the homes of every music conscious teenager in Britain.....

Recommended listening:
Tubeway Army (reissue)

Recommended reading:
Sean Burke's website (guitarist for Tubeway Army, Open Sore and Tubeway Patrol)

Recommended viewing:
Tubeway Army on the OGWT (thanks Numa Boots)

Saturday, 14 January 2012

JJ Burnel on After They Were Famous

JJ Burnel on 'After They Were Famous'

Hearing the very brief Willessee at Seven clip, I was reminded where I had seen this clip before. A few years ago, JJ appeared on a TV programme called 'After They Were Famous'. Hosted by Matthew Kelly and running for all of two minutes, this footage is not going to tell any fan anything new.... but it was on my hard drive so for what iyt is worth, here it is! (from a VHS video rip).

NEW LINK: https://rapidshare.com/files/3085949239/JJ.zip

http://www.megaupload.com/?d=MFBG054C

JJ Burnel & Baz Warne RTE Radio Interview 22nd October 2010



As en example of some more of JJ and Baz's little acoustic sideline (referred to in the France 2007 post), here's a feature that appeared on Ireland's RTE Radio back in 2010. The short extract featuring a rather belligerent Burnel is from 'Willesee at Seven', a prime time early evening magazine show in Australia. Recorded during the band's ill-fated 1979 Australian tour, this interview was to the Stranglers what Grundy was to the Pistols.... all good sweary fun.

NEW LINK: https://rapidshare.com/files/2808232775/RTE_Interview.zip
http://www.megaupload.com/?d=HCHGF7P5
1. Intro
2. Extract From 1976 Interview
3. Interview
4. Strange Little Girl
5. Interview
6. Fading Dutch Moon
7. Outro

CD label

Modern Eon 1981 Radio Recordings


I have to admit, I don't know a great deal about this band (although I do own their only album and one of their singles). Nevertheless, some of you reading this will have seen them in their Rainbow support slot of 7th March 1981 (assuming of course that you weren't propping up a bar until the headliners appeared!) and other UK dates that made up 'The Meninblack Tour'.


For those familiar with this short lived Liverpool band, I though that you might like to hear some radio sessions that appeared recently on Dime (thanks here do to the original uploader, dclubok). Giving these tracks a listen, the material is very much of it's time and very in keeping with the scene that was at that time emerging from Liverpool.

More information on the band can be found on their site, here. Moreover, Modern Eon feature in Phil Coxon's excellent account of following the band on this tour, as posted on the official site.

Modern Eon in 1981


John Peel Session BBC   1981-02-05

1. High Noon
2. The Grass Still Grows
3. Mechanic
4. Real Hymn

Richard Skinner's Radio One show 
Recorded 10th September 1981

1. The Foist
2. Garland Leaves
3. After the Party
4. From the Window

BBC In concert Royal COurt Theater, Liverpool, UK
FM broadcast 1981-02-21  This is incomplete.

Second Still     --    missing
Watching The Dancers  --   missing
01 Waiting for the cavalry
02 Mechanic
03 Choreography
04 Euthenics
05 Real Hymn

Files have been uploaded in lossless FLAC format.

The Stranglers Sell Out!!....... The Roundhouse



I was surprised to learn earlier this week that the band's London date at Camden's Roundhouse has sold out many weeks in advance of the gig. I do not recall this happening in a long time. On the one hand, fair play I say. On the other hand though, I say 'Oh Bugger!' since I was caught on the hop and didn't get my act together in time. Therefore, should any kind reader happen to fall into possession of two spare standing tickets, please bear this faithful author in mind!

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Public Image Limited Brixton Academy 27th May 1986



A quick musical diversion from The Stranglers now.

This gig meant a lot to me, it was my second London gig (for those interested, the first, a few weeks before this one was Peter & The Test Tube Babies and The Long Tall Texans at the 100 Club). All gigs prior to this had been in the Brighton area, with an occasional trip to Guildford.

PiL had at this point released 'Album' and were riding high on the commercial success of the classic 'Rise' single. The gig promised to be a good one, besides which as a young punk, I was slightly in awe of John Lydon. The gig was great and certainly not without incident. Then as now Lydon had (an entirely reasonable) aversion to spitting and even as late as 1986 some in the audience had failed to move with the times and persisted in hawking up material to share with the band and with 'Ole man Rotten in particular! He got increasingly frustrated throughout the gig as his attempts to stem the gloopy flow by persuasion failed.

At one point he vowed never to play London again (thankfully he didn't mean it maaaan) and Public Image was cut short as he left the stage. At other times in the gig, I recall someone getting onto the stage to attack him, whilst on the right hand side of the stage someone scaled the rather large PA before dropping his trousers at the top.

In short, a great night, and certainly a far cry from the 'We are not worthy' relationship that we have seen with London audiences at more recent PiL/Pistols gigs.

Album was great and 1987's Happy? had its moments but unfortunately what followed in 9 and That What Is Not had little of the creativity that characterised earlier PiL material. Now, as they are recording a new album with the core of the band as was in 1986, I wait with baited breath hoping for something really memorable.

Thanks to the original uploader, bigboxoftapes.

http://www.megaupload.com/?d=QCA49DT3

NEW LINK: http://rapidshare.com/files/1307066980/PiL%20Brixton%2027.5.1986.zip

01 Kashmir
02 FFF
03 Low Life
04 Fishing
05 Pop Tones
06 Pretty Vacant
07 Banging the Door
08 The Flowers of Romance
09 Bags
10 Round
11 Home
12 Public Image
13 Rise
14 Annalisa

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Leigh Heggarty's Mad World of Guitars

Following on from the post I made on the recent Ruts DC appearance at The Forum, I recently recieved an email from my friend Leigh Heggarty thanking me for the review. I remember Leigh from years ago when I occasionally used to see him playing in the late '80's and early '90's with his band The Price, regulars in the Uxbridge area (I was at Brunel at the time).

More recently, judging from his excellent blog 'Leigh's Mad World of Guitars' he's not letting up on the gigging. Whilst I wasn't so aware of some of the bands that he is currently involved with, I was certainly aware of his involvement with both TV Smith and with Ruts DC, two big hitters in my book. Please take a look at Leigh's blog. Whilst I have posted on the Paul Fox benefit gig (not a review, rather a moan that I missed it), Leigh gives the background on the rehearsals with The Ruts and Rollins, filling in when Paul was too ill to play. Leigh's exitement about playing with these people is infectious and his Ruts related posts certainly made me smile!

The Lochnagar Crater, La Boiselle, The Somme



In the coming Spring my son is scheduled to take a school trip in preparation for his history GCSE to two of the principal sectors of British engagement on the Western Front, namely the Somme and the Ypres salient. To say I am jealous is an understatement, but my proposal to accompany the party as a helper was met with a look of abject horror!

On school trips to France in the early '80's (the nearness of Newhaven harbour made this an easy option), we used to pass through some of the battlefields of the Great War, but it wasn't until 2003 that I travelled to the Somme region specifically to tour the battlefields and memorials that dominate the landscape. Subsequently I have also made a couple of trips to Ypres and the surrounding areas, fields and low lying hills that devoured British and Empire soldiers (not to forget German troops as well) throughout the entire span of the conflict.

In preparation of boring my son senseless on the subject of the Western Front (along with The Stranglers something of an obsession of mine) I thought some people may be interested in one particular site on The Somme, The Lochnagar Crater, known locally as La Grande Mine.

Located near to La Boiselle, a tiny village on the infamous Albert to Bapaume road, the site is easy to miss. I recall a single sign post indicating the turn of for 'La Grande Mine'.

Mine Craters at Albert Seen from an Aeroplane
Richard Carline 1918
(The Lochnagar crater is clearly visible in the top right of the corner, the straight road runs between Albert and Bapaume)

The Lochnagar crater was created on 1st July 1916, the opening day of the Battle of the Somme. The result of the detonation of 24 tons of ammonal (a mixture of ammonium nitrate, TNT and aluminium powder) at 7.28 am, which along with the explosion of other mines (a total of 16, including Hawthorn Ridge and Y Sap mine) marked the opening of that terrible and disasterous Allied offensive which aimed to bring the war to an end.

The area beneath what was to become the crater was mined by the 179th Tunnelling Company Royal Engineers. The target was the so called Schwaben Höhe, a German stronghold.


Detonation of the Hawthorn Ridge mine at 7.20 am on 1st July 1916


When the Lochnagar mine went up, it was described thus by C.A. Lewis (2nd Lieutenant of No 3 Squardron of the Royal Flying Corps) in the air as an observer:

'The whole earth heaved and flashed, a tremendous and magnificent column rose up in the sky. There was an ear-splitting roar drowning all the guns, flinging the machine sideways in the repercussing air. The earth column rose higher and higher to almost 4,000 feet. There it hung, or seemed to hang, for a moment in the air, like the silhouette of some great cypress tree, then fell away in a widening cone of dust and debris.'
Immediately after the explosion it was critical to gain possession of the crater. This was the task of the 10th Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment (otherwise known as the Grimsby Chums one of the Pal Battalions of Lord Kitchener's 1914 recruitment drive).

Many soldiers were also killed and wounded in this mad dash to take control of the crater's edge as at the time of moving forward, much of the material blown skyward in the blast was still airbourne and on the way down.

As the advance in the La Boiselle area faultered British troops took shelter in the crater only to be subjected to heavy artillery fire from their own guns. Whilst the Schwaben Höhe was destroyed in exlosion , the crater changed hands several times with the ebb and flow of battle across the shattered Somme landscape and the result was massive loss of life on both sides.

Aerial shot of the Lochnagar Crater showing the extent of the blast.


To give an indication of scale, here am I photographed from the opposire rim, standing next to the memorial cross

Australian Soldiers in the Crater (July 1916)

Sadly, like so many other areas of the Western Front, the soil surrounding the crater still periodically relinquishes the remains of men destroyed on 1st of July and subsequently as fighting returned to the area.

One such case is the discovery of the body of Private George Nugent of the Tyneside Scottish in October 1998. The remains were interned in the Ovillers Military Cemetery on 1st July 2000 (84 years to the day since his death) and his details subsequently removed from the Memoral to the Missing of the Somme at Thiepval.



I chose this particular site to post on as to my mind it is so poignant, perfectly and silently illustrating the futility of war and the flaws in the minds of men that can conceive such means of destroying life on such a grand scale.

To those that have not made the short trip to the battlefields of The Great War, I would urge you to go. To Rudi, be warned I may stow myself away in the hold of the coach yet!


Allez Jean-Jacques! A Trip to France April 2007


In April 2007, I was very much getting back into this Stranglers thing. With the UK 'Suite XVI' dates done and dusted, Europe called. The last, and only time, I saw the Stranglers abroad was in Dusseldorf in June 1988. Back then it was less convenient to see a band play abroad. Budget airlines and the Eurostar have since done much to change that, to the extent that the cost difference in travelling to a gig in the UK and seeing a gig in Northern Europe is not that great. Cheap travel, hotel deals and cheaper gig tickets make a big difference. And, given that on this occasion, my travelling companion was Paul 'The Fixer' Cooklin, costs were further reduced to the extent that financially three consecutive gigs were in the frame, Lille, Cannes and Paris.

Paul and I met up at Waterloo early morning (this was prior to the opening of St Pancras International) to board the Eurostar to Lille. This was my first trip on the Eurostar and I was very impressed. My level of comfort was enhanced by the little bottles of red wine that Paul kept procuring throughout the journey! Pinot Grigiot obviously had not at this point been established as the official touring tipple of our small group!

The day was beautiful and our afternoon in Lille was passed in the main town square in the company of Michelle, Neil the Walker and our genial hosts Eric and Fred (who planned to get us to the venue that evening). I have to say that whenever I have travelled anywhere to see this band, local fans have always been most hospitable and generous. This trip was no exception and this aspect is one of the reasons why such trips further afield are so enjoyable.

Lille 4th April 2007

The venue was small and intimate with a ready supply of red wine. The gig itself was highly enjoyable and afterwards we had the opportunity to seek out the band for a chat (after all we had no homes to go to!). JJ and Baz obliged and chatted to fans and posed for the odd photo.

Post-gig with JJ
Lille 4th April 2007

Baz post-gig trying to seduce the camera!
Lille 4th April 2007

The evening took us back into the centre of Lille for a very late evening meal and the usual post-gig analysis.

Here's a recording of the show:

The Stranglers, Le Splendid, Lille
4th April 2007
1. Intro
2. Five Minutes
3. Grip
4. Spectre Of Love
5. Nice N Sleazy
6. Death And Night And Blood
7. Unbroken
8. Peaches
9. Always The Sun
10. Golden Brown
11. I Hate You
12. Lost Control/ Summat Outanowt
13. Walk On By
14. Relentless

1. Burning Up Time
2. All Day And All Of The Night
3. Duchess
4. London Lady
5. Nuclear Device
6. Dagenham Dave
7. Hanging Around
8. No More Heroes
Full artwork here (pdfs also included in download file)

The following nights gig was in Caen (Hérouville-Saint-Clair), but in order to get there it was necessary to track back to Paris and then take another train out to the Normandy coast. A little jaded from the night before, I lost my breakfast (if indeed I had had any at all) in the street as we crossed Paris to get to the correct terminal.... the English abroad, I ask you! We got to the right place, but not in time for our pre-booked train. Eventually objective Caen was reached. Being without independant transport for the trip, I am ashamed to say that we did not make the short detour to get to the landing beaches a few short miles to the north. Instead we resigned ourselves once again to right the wrongs of the world in a brasserie in the company of our ever present travelling companion, one L.K. Hall. In a brief respite from resolving world hunger, third world debt and the heady question of which next, red wine or white wine? we took in a short acoustic set from JJ and Baz at the local FNAC store (the gallic equivalent to our WH Smiths I suppose). The set, which featured Strange Little Girl, Dutch Moon and I Hate You (see the Paris gig below for a similar set from Nice the previous week), was interupted briefly when Baz was compelled to chastise a local suited gent for continuing his mobile phone conversation as the two played (bear in mind that the venue for this set was about the size of an average living room!).

JJ & Baz Caen 5th April 2007

Set completed, there was just time for another couple of photos before heading out to the venue for the main event.

Me and the bass player (my eyes give away our afternoon's occupation!)

Paul and the bass player

Unfortunately, I do not have a recording of this gig. Whilst enjoyable, I recall it to have been very quiet with a very restrained audience. This can be quite a characteristic of European gigs, the venues can be quite unusual and the audience reaction to the band unpredictable (in contrast to UK dates where the venues are quite consistant and the crowd reaction much the same from Liverpool to London).

Herouville St Claire
4th April 2007

That night after the gig, only JJ appeared after the gig at some distance and in contrast to the previous night he was clearly not to be approached! Something was up, I don't think that he could get on the bus and he had clearly seen his arse! Giving JJ a wide berth, an earlier night was considered to be the best option as the following night in Paris was expected to be something of a party.

Back in Paris, as you may expect, during the day we did not encounter any fellow fans, this being a metropolis, but our modus operandi was unchanged from Lille and Caen. This day we were ensconced in a wonderful cafe/bar on the street in the St Germain district of the city. The company was good (for this date we were joined by one of Paul's work colleagues) as was the opportunity to people watch (consider that this was a very warm spring day in the centre of Paris!).

Of the gig, a do not recall anything particularly unusual. Ian, occupying the drum stool for Jet on these dates, did an excellent job. I do remember thinking that it was great how hard he played the drums, Jet just doesn't hit them that hard anymore.

After the gig, a sizable contingent hit a nearby late night bar (where Ian joined us). This being Paris, a large number of people had popped over from the UK for the date, so the bar was filled with many familiar faces.

On leaving the bar (did it close?) we went for the latest evening meal I have ever had, it must have been 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning! The restaurant was heaving, not with clubbers, drunks, prostitutes and people that have missed the last train home, as you would see in a late licenced place over here, but middle aged couples on a night out. People travelling to London in this Olympic year are in for a shock.

Here's the show then. I hope that you enjoy it.

Baz & Dave
Le Cigale, Paris
6th April 2007

1. Five Minutes
2. Grip
3. Spectre Of Love
4. Nice 'N' Sleazy
5. Death And Night And Blood
6. Unbroken
7. Peaches
8. Always The Sun
9. Golden Brown
10. I Hate You
11. Lost Control

1. Summat Outanowt
2. Walk On By
3. Relentless
4. Burning Up Time
5. All Day And All Of The Night
6. Duchess
7. London Lady
8. Nuclear Device
9. Dagenham Dave
10. Hanging Around
11. No More Heroes

FNAC, Nice 30th March 2007
12. Strange Little Girl
13. Dutch Moon
14. I Hate You
Full artwork here (pdfs also included in download file)

And so our little jaunt to France came to an end..... with an eye upon the next time.