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.
OK, it's a fair cop, throw on the bracelets (as Rat once said), I'm cheating again, but this is relevant to what has gone before. Many thanks to Stevie D and Dave Sez.... here is a recording of the Damned at one of their two 'secret' gigs at The Bridgehouse Pub in East London's Canning Town. The quality isn't top notch, but in the historical context of the earlier post it needs to be here.
01. Love Song
02. Teenage Dream
03. Stretcher Case Baby
04. Ballroom Blitz
05. Second Time Around
06. Born To Kill
07. Looking At You
08. New Rose
09. Noise Noise Noise
10. Problem Child
11. Neat Neat Neat
12. Summer Nights
13. Jet Boy Jet Girl
14. Pretty Vacant
Once again, I know that this is the second outing for The Members in this particular thread, but as a couple of Ruts DC gigs approach, in addition to that band I have also been listening to a bit of The Members since they were also fine exponents of the punk meets reggae 3 minute fusion that was prevalent in the '78/'79 period.
It's very short but very enjoyable for all of that.
1 One Burning Desire 02 Snapper 03 Nerves Of Steel 04 Black Hair Black Eyes Black Suit 05 Hot Head 06 Endless Day Endless Night 07 Five Miles High 08 Sravandrabellagola 09 Long Dead Train 10 Torture Garden 11 House Of Sorrow 12 Toiler On The Sea 13 The Raven 14 Bear Cage 15 School Mam 16 Walk On By 17 I Feel Like A Wog 18 Encore Break and Banter 19 Midnight Summer Dream 20 Hanging Around
Whilst often overlooked as a result of their less than serious stage antics (apolitical unlike The Clash and not as angry as Johnny and his cohorts) The Damned were nonetheless a band for firsts. First to release a single, first to take British punk rock to the US and first to split.
With the departure of Brian James, the remaining misfits of the former Damned in turn followed separate projects before coming back firstly as The Doomed, then once more under the banner of The Damned.
The band's initial uncertainty about their future lay in the fact that Brian James was the principal song writer of the material that made up their two 1977 albums 'Damned Damned Damned' and 'Music For Pleasure'. If they were to continue someone would have to step up to fill those boots. In '76 and '77 the bands sound reflected the biggest influences on Brian James.... The Stooges and MC5 etc.... that could be described as a lo-fi, high octane thrash.
In 1978 however, with the reconfigured Damned (Captain Sensible having swapped bass for guitar) their music took on a dramatic change. On the material that eventually became the 'Machine Gun Ettiquette' album, the songwriting took on a much more English flavour (with the obvious exception of their cover of MC5's 'Looking At You'). I suspect that this was a direct consequence of the remaining influences within the band, perhaps most notably those of the Captain himself who held a great appreciation of English prog rock (although the admission was not to be forthcoming for a few years yet at this point!). A huge fan of early Floyd and Syd Barrett (the band would sometimes include the wonderful 'Arnold Layne' in their set at this time), the Pink Floyd influence on the music of The Damned can still be clearly heard in the material they have recorded in the last few years.
With the introduction of keyboards, the songs took on elements of English psychedelia and Music Hall! For me, 'Machine Gun Ettiquette' remains as their finest moment (true they followed this up with two further classic albums in 'The Black Album' and 'Strawberries'). Whilst 'DDD' gave us the timeless singles 'New Rose' and 'Neat Neat Neat', 'Machine Gun Ettiquette' can equally boast 'Love Song', 'I Just Can't Be Happy Today' and 'Smash It Up'.
In 1979, The Damned proved to all that they were a band capable of great songwriting and impressive musical ability.
Now, I know that I have already posted The Damned in this particular thread (here), but the real reason for this additional post is related to a trio of professionally taken photographs of the band that I received some weeks ago from Dave Sez, who attended one of two 'secret' gigs that the band played as 'The School Bullies' at the Brigehouse pub in London's Canning Town.
Details of the two gigs that they played at the venue are as follows:
Monday 12 March - The Bridge House, Canning Town,
Comments: Appeared as The School Bullies.
Support from The Tickets.
Here are those photos that I mentioned from this gig (thanks again DS!)
Here's one of two comments from Dave who witnessed one of these two gigs:
'In thanks for so much good music, I've gone digging in the attic to give you a
taste of the times. I was at the secret gig played by the Damned under the name
The School Bullies on 12th March 1979* at the Bridgehouse, Canning Town, one of
my earliest gigs (if it wasn't the Undertones at the Marquee). The atmosphere
was intimidating - the gig started with twenty minutes of Sieg Heiling from what
seemed to be everyone in the audience except me and my mate - but the tension
was relieved by being mates with the Captain: I remember getting chased around
his garden with him manically waving a whining model airplane engine nailed on a
board that he used to cut chunks out of his mum's plants when we were too quick.
The gig was great. Below are three gig photos and two MGE promo pics - wish I'd
now coughed up for a fourth gig pic of Algy though. Good times, and here ya go,
cheers Dave Sez'.
* See correction comment uder Friday 7th September listing.
Friday 7 September - Bridge House, London
Song, Teenage Dream, Stretcher Case, Ballroom Blitz, Machine Gun Etiquette, Born
To Kill, Looking At You, New Rose, Noise Noise Noise, Problem Child, Neat Neat
Neat-Summer Nights medley, Jet Boy Jet Girl, Pretty Vacant.
Appeared as The School Bullies. Supported by the Cockney Rejects and (probably)
'A minor correction - dodgy memory after more than thirty years! There were in
fact two gigs as the School Bullies in the Bridgehouse in 1979: the Monday 12th
March gig in the photos I upped above (look behind the Captain's head for
confirmation of the Monday) and again on Friday 7th September with the Cockney
Rejects as support (which explains the Sieg Heiling). I remember being dissuaded from going to a Chinese takeaway after the gig by two
LARGE skins standing picket outside the door asking "if you're English, mate,
cos if you are ... "I was at the second gig,
not the first, as I realized today when I found two photos on the web that I
remember buying from a gig photographer by post after the gig. Dave Sez'.
And from an Damned Forum interview with Algy Ward (appearing on a Tank website, the band he was to join after The Damned).
01. Jet Boy Jet Girl
02. Teenage Dream
03. Stretcher Case
04. Ballroom Blitz
05. Problem Child
06. Love Song
07. Looking At You
08. Born To Kill
09. Second Time Around
10. Melody Lee
12. Stab Your Back
13. So Messed Up
14. Neat Neat Neat
15. New Rose
16. Pretty Vacant
18. Black Night
19. I Feel Alright
Here are a couple of links to a gig made available through the Burning Up Time Forum. An anniversary gig remastered by Dom P.
In Dom's own words:
'Here is a slight remaster of an old remaster... the famous Secret Gig at the Verulam Arms... I revisited these discs on the anniversary... and realised what a great gig it was, and also that my original mix lacked some bass welly.. so in celebration of the 30th Anniversay gone past, here it is again for all those who missed it, and anyone who is after the pursuit of sonic perfection, well kind of.... both MP3 and Hi res FLAC versions available!!!
14th February 1983
Verulam Arms, Watford , England
1. Nuclear Device / Toiler On The Sea
2. Ships That Pass In The Night
3. It's A Small World
4. Just Like Nothing On Earth
5. No More Heroes
6. Who Wants The World?
7. Never Say Goodbye
8. Baroque Bordello
9. Golden Brown
10. Princess Of The Streets
11. Midnight Summer Dream / European Female
13. The Raven
15. London Lady
Today marks the anniversary of a gig that never was. 30 years ago tonight, the band were due to play a second night at the Hammersmith Odeon. However, the gig was cancelled by the venue management after fans had ripped out seats in the front row stalls on the previous night and it is this gig that I am sharing with you here.
Quite clearly, the management had figured that with this band came trouble (it's a view that was a little outdated by 1983, but London had always had a difficult relationship with The Stranglers). It was with the ranks of bouncers that, backs to the band stared out a the throng of fans, the band took umbrage with.
To the delight of the crowd, two songs into the set, the band took matters into their own hands and Jet gave the bouncers a dressing down, refusing to play whilst they remained in front of the stage. After prompt negociation with venue officials, the gig continued without security, Hugh having said (to the crowd) that they wouldn't cause any damage. The four men on stage must have felt left with many egg on their faces as a minority of the crowd took it upon themselves to rearrange the furniture regardless of the reassurances that the band had given that resulted in the withdrawal of the venue security.
A big thanks here goes to Dom P, who provided an extremely rapid disc replacement service and in doing so upgraded the sound quality of what I originaly had. Thanks as always Dom!
1 Nuclear Device
2 Toiler on the Sea
3 Jet Winding Up the Bouncers
4 Ships That Pass in the Night
5 Its A Small World
6 Just Like Nothing on Earth
7 No More Heroes
8 Who Wants The World
9 Never Say Goodbye
10 Baroque Bordello
11 Golden Brown
1 Princess Of The Streets
2 Midnight Summer Dream
3 European Female
5 The Raven
7 London Lady
8 Nubiles (Cocktail version)
9 Down In The Sewer
I kicked this off this 1979 thread with a post that stated that Tubeway Army's epic 'Are 'Friends' Electric?' was the primary catalyst for this 35 year obsession with music that shows no signs of abating. It is therefore only fitting that Mr Numan features in this run of 20 inspirational bands that were out there in 1979.
Gary Numan's rise to fame was meteoric. Having disbanded the punk incarnation of Tubeway Army the previous year after releasing only two singles and one (albeit excellent) album, Numan regrouped with new musicians with the aim of taking them along with him in a musical direction that was completely opposite to that in which he had travelled up to that point.
Flying in the face of standard punk rhetoric, Numan made no secret of the fact that the three chord approach of punk was a means to an end (that end for him at this point was to play the Hammersmith Odeon). His aspirations were for rock stardom on a scale that had been enjoyed in pre-punk Britain by the likes of Bowie and Bolan. This degree of honesty (in part a result of his asperges I am sure) set him on a collision course with the British music press and their low opinion of him and his music was cemented at a very early stage. That cement by the way did not start to crumble until the mid-90's when a new generation of music hacks saw fit to praise him for what he did in the '79 to '80 period.
Numan's new direction owed it's existence to a chance administrative error that meant a hired synthesiser was left uncollected in the recording studio. The standard issue instrument of punk, the electric guitar was, for some time at least, cast aside, as Gary worked on the creation of what he termed 'Machine Rock'.
Electronic music was not new or even unknown in the UK at this time. Other musicians, convinced that punk had run it's course and achieved all that was possible, gravitated towards electronics. The Human League, The Normal, OMD all pre-dated the electronic Numan. Moreover, Kraftwerk had been doing this kind of stuff at least 5 years before Numan's first flush of success. But in the UK at least, electronic music was very low key, until a combination of Gary Numan's powerhouse sound and striking visuals struck a chord.... or should that be pressed the button for kids eager for the next big thing. Tubeway Army/Gary Numan became a household name in a matter of weeks!
Numan's first nationwide tour opened at the Glasgow Apollo on 20th September 1979. The last time that Numan would have played to a paying audience would have been to a couple of hundred punks in the back room of a pub. This was a different prospect entirely. In a venue considered to be intimidating at the best of times, Gary's inexperience showed and stripped even of the protection afforded by his guitar for most of the set, his performance was described as wooden (a criticism that he freely acknowledges to be true).
The Touring Principle Stage Set
'We Are So Fragile'
Hammersmith Odeon September 1979
Wooden or not, the shows that together made up 'The Touring Principle' dates were immense. The shows relied unsurprisingly on the two No 1 albums, 'Replicas' and 'The Pleasure Principle' with some reworkings of songs from the first Tubeway Army, such as 'Bombers' and 'My Shadow In Vain'.
This is a great recording from Manchester one week into that first tour.
Here's one for my good friend Owen for whom this was his Year Zero moment. I give you his thoughts, in his own words, on this date and what followed.
'Exactly 30 ago today I lost my gig-going virginity to a certain black clad band at Oxford Apollo at the tender age of 15. I can still remember every detail of my introduction to the world of live concerts all these years later. It was the beginning of a long journey with The Stranglers which has taken me the length and breadth of the British Isles. It's also given me a reason to travel all over Eu...rope from Norway to Greece & Portugal to Yugoslavia, clocking up a fair few gigs over the years. Along the way, I've had numerous touring partners, some of whom are still active and some that have fallen by the wayside (and one who I've lived with for 20+ years!). Here's some of my fellow fans that I've been priviledged to travel with: Jacquie (obviously), Dave H & Sean T, Stevie T, Graham C, Gary B, Glenn S, Carl D, Wig, Paul C, Paul B, Ade & Gunta, Danny B, Scots John, Pud, Jacko, Dave from York, Dom P, Phil C, Baz C, Tony R, Paul K, Graham K, Bez, Karen, Paul W, Neil H, Simon & Joni, Baz S, Jim BUT, Deek & Graham, Dara A, Gary R, Raj, Jim R, Paul McG, Marian, Marcel & the Dutch, Uli & Gerd and a horde of Wonky busers and other gig goers! Thanks must go to the band (in whichever form), the management and crew (notably Gaz K, Bill T, Sil, Max, Bruce, Colin, Louie) who've helped to make the journey possible. Here's to many more gigs following the one and only Stranglers...See you in March for the next round...'
01. Intro 02. Nuclear Device 03. Toiler On The Sea 04. Ships That Pass In The Night 05. Its A Small World 06. Just Like Nothing On Earth 07. No More Heroes 08. Who Wants The World 09. Never Say Goodbye 10. Baroque Bordello 11. Golden Brown 12. Princess Of The Streets
01. Midnight Summer Dream 02. European Female 03. Tramp 04. The Raven 05. Duchess 06. London Lady 07. Nubiles (Cocktail Version) 08. Down In The Sewer
A feature in this month's Mojo magazine was an interview with the band conducted on the back of the band's excellent Maida Vale gig in December, recorded for BBC 6 Music and available here. This started me thinking about the upcoming tour and The Specials in more general terms.
The short article contained two revelations:
1) The Specials have penned 3 new songs with the intention to take them into the studio to see how they pan out in a no pressure session and of far more significance....
2) Terry Hall is in remission from mouth cancer and had been clear for 6 months. All the best to TH!
The news that Neville Staple is 'to take a back seat' and will consequently miss the upcoming May tour came as a blow to many. As is so often the case seen on the Stranglers related 'Burning Up Time' Forum, fan opinion was divided. In this respect the excellent Specials forum played host to a lively exchange of opinions on the whys and the wherefores of Nev's decision.
With regards to new material I have maintained a 'Best not to' position since the reformation. but the hints in the Mojo interview could well undermine my position. Brad's comments in the interview hint of something of a departure from the expected. A reference is made to Terry's brilliant collaboration with Mushtaq. That makes me think for sure.
The other thing that is clear from this interview is that with the enforced line-up change, set change is a must.... 'Why?' has to be in there (my opinion, not theirs!).
This is potentially very exiting... new material and a handful of rarities. To date I have had the pleasure of seeing the reformed Specials seven times, three of which stand up there as the best gigs I have ever been to! I never expected to see them in this (near) complete form and they have been consistently wonderful. Therefore, I leave the arrangements for the May tour in their capable hands, with the understanding that whilst these gigs may be different from the ones that I have seen to date, the probability of disappointment is very low.
This is a great recording (I think) of the Banshees in Europe. Personally, I prefer their later material, but with this early-ish set it is clear that Susan and the boys were taking punk in another direction entirely. This is my whole point about 1979.... bands started looking forwards and making new sounds, that took British music on to the next level. Furthermore, there is certainly no doubt that Siouxsie (along with the likes of Pauline Black, Poly Styrene, Debbie Harry, Ari Up etc etc) created a space for women in the music business that simply had not previously existed.
OK, another cat lick of the 'Feline' tour, this time from Edinburgh. Whilst looking for the Bingley Hall press ad, I stumbled across a review of this gig which I thought may be of interest to the reader. I think that this may have come from the pages of 'Record Mirror', the rather light weight cousin of the main music weeklies in print in the UK at the time. It is a fine example of lazy journalism, 'let's not send a photographer down to the gig... what we'll do instead is rifle the archives for a Gus Stewart shot of '77 vintage and us that!'. Quality aside, what this rather unfavourable review this does show is that the bands new direction was greeted sceptically by both fans and the press alike.
JJ ponders 'Roger Colbert...... one for the black book!'
2. Nuclear Device
3. Toiler On The Sea
4. Ships That Pass In The Night
5. It's A Small World
6. Just Like Nothing On Earth
7. No More Heroes
8. Who Wants The World?
9. Never Say Goodbye
10. Baroque Bordello
11. Golden Brown
1. Princess Of The Street
2. Midnight Summer Dream
3. European Female
4. The Raven
6. London Lady
8. Nubiles (Cocktail Version)
This one is posted for Mark Senior who along with Phil Coxon are responsible for a highly readable blow by blow account of the trials an tribulations of touring the hard way (shop doorways for bedrooms etc!). I would post the link, but the official site appears to be down as I write this (besides which you should know where it is anyway!).
1. Intro 2. Nuclear Device 3. Toiler On The Sea 4. Ships That Pass In The Night 5. Its A Small World 6. Just Like Nothing on Earth 7. No More Heroes 8. Who Wants The World 9. Never Say Goodbye 10. Baroque Bordello 11. Golden Brown
1. Princess Of The Streets 2. Midnight Summer Dream 3. European Female 4. Tramp 5. The Raven 6. Duchess 7. London Lady 8. Nubiles (Cocktail Version) 9. Down in the Sewer (aborted) 10. Genetix
This one comes with a health warning worthy of a ton of asbestos! But, it is a posted here at the specific request of Phil Coxon (for it was his first outing with the band) and Yesican, who recently kindly helped me out with a couple of replacement recordings. Cheers to you both!
Seemingly recorded from within a closed toilet cubicle at the back of the hall, with the mike in the bowl, nestling under a generous turd.... this recording otherwise is great! Setwise it showcases 'Black & White' almost in its entirety.
2. BURNING UP TIME
3. DAGENHAM DAVE
4. BRING ON THE NUBILES
5. GOODBYE TOULOUSE
6. PEASANT IN THE BIG SHITTY
7. PRINCESS OF THE STREETS
8. DEAD RINGER
9. HANGING AROUND
12. I FEEL LIKE A WOG
1. GO BUDDY GO
4. OUTSIDE TOKYO
5. NICE ‘N’ SLEAZY
7. DO YOU WANNA?
8. DEATH AND NIGHT AND BLOOD
10. TOILER ON THE SEA
11. FIVE MINUTES