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.
01. Song and Dance
02. Empire Song
03. We Have Joy
06. Lust Almighty
07. Sun Goes Down
11. The Pandys Are Coming
14. The Fall of Because
17. The Gathering
Back in '84 Goth was at its peak and Andrew Eldritch and his happy go lucky troupe The Sisters of Mercy were the Royal Family of the movement. The Sisters never really gripped me, although I do intend to upload one of their gigs as a part of this thread.
Loosely associated with that scene but eminently less preposterous than their laugh a minute Leeds pals, The Sisters, were The March Violets. With both bands coming from Leeds, The Sisters of Mercy's own label, Merciful Release, oversaw the release of the early March Violets singles. Unfortunately, I never saw them, but mates of mine did. They played some great songs, but I am sure that part of the appeal of the band for us 15 year old boys was the fact that they were fronted by a rather striking lady called Cleo.
So here is a short blast in the form of a session recorded for Radio 1's Richard Skinner at the end of the year.
Presenter Sue MacGregor interviews Gina Birch (The Raincoats), Toyah Willcox (Toyah), Gaye Black (The Adverts), Tessa Pollitt (The Slits) and Vivien Goldman (The Flying Lizards) about their lives in punk and the impact they had as leading female lights within a changing music industy.
Right, Ruts DC are off and slaking their thirst with a beer, which means that The Stranglers are to take to the stage.
The tour was billed as 'The Classic Collection' and whilst this may not be the punchiest of tour hooks even the briefest scans of the set clearly shows why that particular label can be applied. This year the set highlight for me had to be the coupling of a powerhouse 'Bear Cage' and 'Who Wants The World', representing one of the most creative periods in the band's career. The run out wasn't so shoddy either, especially for those whose Stranglers' palate favours a '77 vintage!
So, we're done for another year, UK tourwise at least. As restated some weeks ago, I don't think that it is on to post gigs from the current tour when the wheels of the tour bus are still turning but as it is all done and dusted, some can be shared.
It will come as no surprise to frequent visitors to this site that the most exiting part of the tour was the presence of Ruts DC as support. The Stranglers and Ruts DC on the same bill night after night! Two of my bestest bands sharing the stage. In fairness, recent years have seen a couple of excellent packages, notably Wilko Johnson and The Rezillos as openers. However, with the greatest respect to them, I have not seen a Stranglers tour support go down as consistently well as Ruts DC.
With a 40 minute set available to them, it was never going to be easy to shape the set but they managed it with a perfect showcase of their diverse material. Both Segs and Ruffy have always been at great pains to keep their shows current, so whilst acknowledging the importance of their back catalogue new material is the key to the set. It would be pointless otherwise. Ruts DC are no man's tribute act for sure!
Take a look at this set from the tour opener. The Ruts classics are all present and correct, but they sit side by side with new material from 2016's 'Music Must Destroy' (which incidentally was 'Vive Le Rock' magazine's album of the year). The dub reggae side of the bands set was limited to the brilliant 'Mighty Soldier', but you can't squeeze everything into 40 minutes can you.
As a big fan of all that The Ruts and Ruts DC recorded, it does seem a little sad that songs such as 'No Time To Kill', 'Whatever We Do' and 'Mirror Smashed' may be back in storage (only to reappear in longer headline sets hopefully) but this is the price a fan has to pay when a band continues to produce new material of such quality that it demands to be listened to!
As the tour progressed (but after this gig), for me the master stroke in the band's set construction was the fact that after playing 'Babylon's Burning', the obvious finale, they continued with the new 'Psychic Attack'. A crystal clear message that said 'This is what we were.... this is what we are!'.
Here is another in the brilliant series put together by Eric. This was one of the first bootlegs I got many moons ago and it remains a favourite, great set, great interaction between Hugh and the crowd. A classic. Thanks as always Eric!
In stark contrast to the insipid and lightweight pop pap that was being served up in 1984, there was a angry roar coming from a musical tribe that were a million miles away from Wham! Throughout the early '80s the anarcho-punk scene was pretty much fronted by Crass, but in this year they fulfilled their declared intention to split and south east London mates Conflict stepped up to fill the void.
In 1984 it is fair to say that world politics were in a mess and the UK was very much affected. In Berkshire, RAF Greenham Common had become a permanent home for thousands of women for whom the staging of Cruise missiles at the base was an affront. In terms of temperature, the relationship between the US and USSR was still below freezing as the Cold War saw it's fifth decade..... Perestroika was some way off yet.
In London's St. James's Square, WPC Yvonne Fletcher fell to a terrorist's bullet fired from the Libyan Embassy, an act that would destroy the relationship between the UK and Libya for many years and play a role in the UK endorsed bombing of Tripoli and the downing of Pam Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie.
In the month that saw Conflict play this gig in sleepy Worthing, an announcement by the National Coal Board that Cortonwood Colliery was to close prompted a walk out that triggered the year long Miner's Strike, the bitterest industrial dispute in living memory and the start of my interest in politics.
02. Increase The Pressure
03. Law & Order
04. Berkshire Cunt
05. The Guilt And The Glory
06. Great What?
07. The Serenade Is Dead
08. One Nation Under The Bomb
09. Vietnam Serenade
10. Meat Means Murder
11. No Island Of Dreams
13. Punk Inn’it
14. Technical Problem
15. Whichever Way You Want It
17. The Positive Junk
18. The System Maintains
The late, great John Peel was a God send to punks, both bands and fans. Not least among the indebted are The Stranglers since JP supported their music throughout the early years both through his own Peel sessions and by heavily plugging each new release.
MeAnIe kindly sent through this compilation of John's radio comments and links from the time of the Rattus release. Cheers!
Now admittedly, there is a possibility that this could in fact be from 1985! Not the best start I know but what the hell. Being a first generation TV recording the quality is excellent and it does represent relatively early Toy Dolls material from a post Bonnie Baz line up.
My mate Adam loved this band back in the day. Personally I could take them or leave them but recognised that what they did they did well. They did get me into a fight once though (a very rare thing for me indeed!) at the Beacon Centre Youth Club in Hassocks. A couple of Spandau Ballet soul boys in cheap shiny suits took exception to Adam and I's dancing to 'Nellie The Elephant' and things went on from there.
I did read the history of the band in 'From Fulwell to Fukuoka' (99p in the Kindle Store) and would recommend it - here.
01. Glenda And The Test Tube Baby
02. Spiders In The Dressing Room
03. 007 James Bond
04. Nellie The Elephant
05. Let Me Be Your Teddy Bear
07. Have Some Fun Tonight
08. When The Saints Go Marching In
09. She Goes To Fino’s
Here's something I haven't revisited for a while, although drinking in a Bishops Stortford pub recently with a regular visitor to the site it was commented on that perhaps this should be revived. Ever eager to please, I thought I'd give it a go, but this time with a challenging year for my collection....... 1984, not the best year in musical terms in my opinion.
For the majority of 1984 I was 15 years old and my musical taste was in some sort of transition. That year I saw Ultravox and Gary Numan in Brighton, but the music that my mates were playing was starting to get through to me. The previous year, our 'local' band Peter and the Test Tube Babies (they were Brighton based and we were 10 miles away in Burgess Hill) had released 'The Mating Sounds of South American Frogs' and this was a staple element in the musical diet in '83/'84. Likewise, I spent quite a lot of time around a mate's house listening to the Dead Kennedys' fine offering of 'Plastic Surgery Disasters' whilst trying to beat him at Trivial Pursuit (a relatively new things too at the time).
Adrian c. 1984
Adrian is wearing trainers (!), a bondage jacket sporting Crass and The Damned and a Stoke City scarf - high fashion indeed in Mid Sussex!
Those very same mates of mine all had significantly older siblings which meant that they enjoyed greater freedoms than I did as an only child. These freedoms included going to see bands in Brighton (The Subhumans, D.O.A. and The Test Tubes of course at the Richmond (Hotel)) and London (The Adicts and Toy Dolls at the 100 Club, Conflict at Woolwich Poly and The March Violets at Chelsea College). For a while yet I had to content myself with buying the records from Virgin Records, then on Queen's Road. The wonderful thing about many of the records I was amassing at the time was the 'Pay no more than....' label which allowed my limited budget to go quite far.
In the UK at least, the phenomenon that was 2 Tone imploded as The Specials bowed out with Ghost Town at the top of the UK singles chart (at a time when such thinks mattered) in the weeks that many of Britain's inner cities exploded with rational tension..... a validation of all that The Specials stood for and said. The big guns of the 2 Tone artillery evolved into different acts that followed a more pop friendly direction. Where the original message still existed it was conveyed in a more subtle manner than before.
Thus for those who were not old enough to enjoy the 2 Tone live experience, the emergence in the very early '90's of the Special Beat, a collective of original members of The Specials and The Beat was quite simply manna from heaven. As I recall there was a gig scheduled for Kentish Town's Town & Country Club that was pulled at the last minute, so the first opportunity that I got to see them was at the Garage in Highbury and Islington (then the T & C 2). Gunta and I met at the tube station, Gunta was nervous as she had been off that day with a bad cold and as her boss lived in the immediate area she was worried tat she would be spotted!
The gig was like nothing that I had witnessed before, the energy emanating from the stage was more infectious than Gunta's cold. The venue boiled as Neville Staple and Ranking Roger ripped their way through their band's back catalogues. The songs had not aged and sadly the messages they conveyed were still relevant over a decade since they were penned. Yes, Margaret Thatcher had resigned six month's earlier, replaced by the more palatable backroom boy, John Major but in 1991 and 1992 Britain was officially back in a recession, so things remained tough for so many.
Sadly, I do not have a recording of this gig (althogh I believe that the Special Beat Live alum was from this tour which caught the band at the Tic-Tok Club in Coventry).
However, here are the band in Boston in December 1990 (ignore file title in the download, this was my error).
02. Enjoy Yourself
03. Monkey Man
04. Rat Race
05. Rough Rider
06. Concrete Jungle
07. Get A Job
08. Too Much Too Young
09. Too Nice To Talk To
10. Noise In This World
11. Too Hot
12. It Doesn't Make It AlRight
16. Ranking Full Stop
17. Mirror In The Bathroom
18. A Message T You Rudy
19. Stand Down Margret
20. Longshot Kick The Bucket
22. Your Wondering Now
In what must have been one of the last ever gigs that the first incarnation of the band played they put together one of their most interesting sets. This was probably a necessity for the sanity of the collective band members (and remember, by this time there wan't much of that left in store!). Having been on the road almost continuously for the past three years they had to mix it up a bit. Hence, in the set there appears Rico's 'Chiang Kai Shek' and the desperately harrowing 'The Boiler' featuring Bobysnatcher's vocalist Rhoda Dakar. Thanks to the original uploader.
01. Concrete Jungle
02. Sock It To 'Em J.B.
03. Rat Race
05. The Boiler
06. Friday Night, Saturday Morning
07. Chiang Kai Shek
09. Do Nothing
10. International Jet Set
11. Man At C & A
12. Nite Klub
13. Enjoy Yourself (It's Later Than You Think)
14. Ghost Town
In December 1979,the now legendary 2 Tone Tour rolled into Coventry. It was a triumphant return to base when The Specials, The Selecter and Dexy's Midnight Runners (honorary 2 Toners) played a sold out gig and the venue in Coventry's city centre, Tiffany's, on 29th November. The gig was recorded, part of which, the so called 'Skinhead Symphony' (a trinity of ska covers, 'Longshot Kick De Bucket', 'Liquidator' and 'Skinhead Moonstomp', all of which had been roughed up Specials style) was to appear on the band's third single 'Too Much Too Young'.
The glowing review above appeared in the 8th December issue of Melody Maker, one of the UK music weeklies.
The iconic sleeve of 'Too Much Too Young' was put together by 2 Tone's resident graphic designer, John Sims a.k.a. 'Telflon'. A thoroughly nice chap and now based in Kent, I had the opportunity to discuss this sleeve with the man the day after a Specials gig in Margate where he had set up his Art of 2 Tone pop up exhibition. The exhibition featured the original cut and paste drafts of many off the pieces that he put together with Jerry Dammers. In my opinion, these works in progress are as beautiful as the final output! With regards to the 'TMTY' sleeve, there is an obvious addition, that has been cleverly, but noticeably, inserted. A grinning skin, who was not in the original shot. This individual was an early follower of the band and was added to the image as a thank you at the specific request of Jerry.
More examples of Teflon's 2 Tone related work can be seen on his website:
The very existence of 2 Tone as a musical movement was a political statement, however of the associated bands, two were more overtly political than the others, The Specials and Birmingham's The Beat. Songs such as 'Stand Down Margaret' and 'Get A Job' expressed their disgust with the Tory policies of the day.
When the original incarnation of the band broke up, bassist David Steele and guitarist Andy Cox went on to find huge success with The Fine Young Cannibals which they formed with 2 Tone associate Roland Gift. Rankin' Roger and Dave Wakeling formed General Public and realised some more moderate success. Now Wakeling fronts a US based version of the band who play under The English Beat banner whilst Roger and his son, Rankin' Junior perform as The Beat.
01. Twist And Crawl
02. Doors Of Your Heart
03. Big Shot
04. Rough Rider
05. Hit It
06. Walk Away
07. Tears Of A Clown
09. A Dream Home In New Zealand
10. Psychedelic Rockers
11. Two Swords
12. Best Friend
13. I Am Your Flag
14. Ranking Full Stop
16. Mirror In The Bathroom
Roger's The Beat released a brilliant album in 2016 which is well worth checking out!
01. Dawning Of A New Era
02. Do The Dog
03. It's Up To You
04. Monkey Man
05. Rat Race
06. Blank Expression
07. Rude Boys Outta Jail
08. Concrete Jungle
09. Too Hot
10. Doesn't Make It Alright
11. Stupid Marriage
12. Too Much Too Young
13. Guns Of Navarone
14. Little Bitch
15. A Message To You Rudy
16. Nite Club
18. Long Shot Kick De Bucket
20. Skinhead Moonstomp
22. You're Wondering Now
Here's a great quality radio set from The Selecter in Birmingham. Whilst the exact date is unknown, it does come from late in the year, featuring as it does quite a few numbers that went on to appear on the band's second album 'Celebrate The Bullet' which was released in February 1981.
02. Cool Blue Lady
03. Selling Out Your Future
04. Out On The Streets
06. Missing Words
07. On My Radio
08. Red Reflections
09. Washed Up And Left For Dead
10. Tell Me Whats Wrong
12. Street Feeling
With many of you traversing the land in the wake of The Stranglers's tour bus I reckon that for a week or two it is safe to veer away from them until some material from the current tour is in hand. Prompted by some recent files that were sent through to me of a Nutty nature, I thought that I would do something on 2 Tone, another musical movement that has been very dear to me over the years.
Every bit as important as the punk scene that inspired it 2 Tone and its mastermind Jerry Dammers knew just how grim every day life had become in Britain for hundreds of thousands of young people. 'Thatcherism' was biting down on our manufacturing industry, nowhere more so than in The Specials' home city of Coventry, and unemployment figures were on the rise. 2 Tone aimed to offer some respite from this reality. The bands on the label played upbeat ska music with the attitude of punks. It decried much of the pretentiousness of the late '70's post punk bands..... as Madness so succinctly put it.... 'Fuck Art...Let's Dance!'.
However, no matter how upbeat and positive the music and the message were, those were dark times and the far right National Front were on the verge of becoming political heavyweights. The National Front and British Movement targeted gigs as a means of recruiting disaffected youths to their cause. In equal measure the anti-racist stance of these bands who had both black and white musicians on the stage was a flash point for the right wing factions in the audience, meaning that many of the gigs that the bands played could be violent and frightening events. Even the genteel city of Cambridge was reduced to a battleground when The Specials played there. Terry Hall and Jerry Dammers were arrested after the gig and appeared in court in the city, the charge, incitement to riot. They were fined £400.
'Court in session!'
Terry and Jerry, Cambridge Court 1980
It was not all peace, love and unity within the bands either, The Specials intra-band relationships being particularly fragile. However, it was precisely that internal tension that made the band what they were. In their defence, for the members of The Specials, as 'leaders' of the 2 Tone movement, the pressures were immense as was the intensity of constant touring between 1979 and 1981. The original scene crashed and burned by 1981 as young people were directed by the music moguls towards a safer, lightweight and some would say moronic pop diet in the early '80's. However, the quality of the music and the strength of the message is incredibly enduring to the extent that as I write this in 2017, The Specials, The Beat, Madness, The Selecter and Bad Manners are still all gigging on a regular basis and still filling dance halls around the country.
Last week I received an email from one John King who most of you will know as the artist responsible for the creation of the rather large ear that graced the front cover of the 'Aural Sculpture' album. Some of his work was also featured in the 'Catalogue' of that 1985 tour. Sadly, as reported on these pages, the full scale sculpture, neglected and exposed to the elements in a Kingston garden, crumbled in the late 1980's.
John does however have some related original artwork drafts related to the album and he contacted me to see whether any visitor to this site would be interested in a purchase. If you are, please drop me an email (email address can be found on the site header) and I will put you and John in contact.
01. Roots, Radical, Rockers And Reggae
02. Nobody's Hero
03. At The Edge
05. Fly The Flag
06. Liar's Club
07. Silver Lining
08. Suspect Device
09. State Of Emergency
10. Here We Are Nowhere
11. Wasted Life
12. No More Of That
01. Barbed Wire Love
02. White Noise
04. Law And Order
05. Rough Trade
06. Johnny Was
07. Alternative Ulster
08. Doesn't Make It Alright
09. Just Fade Away
10. Tin Soldiers
Stiff Little Fingers are one of the lastest popular beat combo's to hit that oh so unexpected anniversary of 40 years as a band and where better to mark it than in Belfast. And what a supporting cast we have. In these times of austerity a bit of forethought has brought together a bill that is worth £30 of anyone's money.
Like so many bands, SLF are another of those that I missed first time around but I was ready for them by the time they reformed for their 'Go For It Again' tour, where I saw them in December 1987 at the National in Kilburn, a gig captured for posterity on the 'No Sleep 'Til Belfact' album. For many years this was the best gig that I had ever seen (only topped in 2009 when I first saw 6/7ths of The Specials at Brixton). For many years my musical world revolved around the trinity of The Stranglers, The Damned and SLF.
I know that Fingers have many detractors, Mully (for reasons that I understand) and Pigeon for example (for reasons I don't understand!) but they have been every bit as vital in recent years as The Stranglers. Perhaps they had their own doldrum period towards the end of Bruce Foxton's time on bass duties, but with the return of Ali, a new impetus came to the band.
This then is my near perfect line up for a gig.... if only The Damned would turn up and play a few numbers.
Also, the latest word on the street is that the surviving members of The Clash are booked to be in Belfast on the same day for a photoshoot!
A coupe of merry minstrels! Here's one of the occasional musical collaborations of TV Smith and Leigh Heggarty, here captured in Soho's famed Denmark Street with a set that fully spans Tim's long career as an angry shouter!
OK to continue with the Leigh Heggarty theme! Earlier on I mentioned my first encounter with The Price was in West Drayton. Whilst it was at the Angler's Retreat, this would not have been at a gig that I would have been at since I would have been on a work placement in Basingstoke at this time. Not sure who recorded this, Chris Braund perhaps?
01. The Cover Up
02. Can’t Remember Why
04. Running Out Of Time
05. Yesterday’s Man
06. What Can I Say
07. Getting Nowhere
08. You’re Gone
09. On The Ice
10. Too Many People
11. Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)
01. The Price You Pay
02. Shattered Land
03. So What About Love
04. Was It You?
06. Between The Lines
07. Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?
08. Hawaii 5-0
09. Turn Around
10. Dancing On A Saturday Night
11. Turning Japanese