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

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Gig Review - The Jam/Department S/Bananarama/The Questions Michael Sobell Sports Centre London Sounds 19th December 1981

Sounds reported on a big gig that took place at the Michael Sobell Centre in North London's Islington. The venue remains, but it's time as a large concert host was short lived.

"The Jam/Department S/Bananarama/The Questions Michael Sobell Sports Centre

The Questions are a very early opening turn. They're promising but the vast gaping spaces of Desperate Dan's tennis court sap their energies.

The tiresome M/C is Gary Crowley, for once not merely acting the idiot. He tells an unfunny joke about skinheads and generally displays how to fail an audition for the Sooty Show.

Bananarama are introduced and the three belles line up to sing their song. This of course id 'Ai A Mwana' done with a tapped backing. They astound the world by performing a second tune. Both are overlong and weak. Those who applaud the trio of turkeys have clearly never experienced The Marine Girls. If only they were here.

Department S have some amusing lyrics, worth hearing but only once. All the words are driven by an identical rhythm, a heavy rumble approaching the hinterland of Metal-vile but not quite kickin' ass. An insane plastic surgeon and a mad tailor got together in the nut-house and planned revenge on the world. They called it Vaughn Toulouse.

The hall filled gradually  as the audience filed in from the surrounding snow. Inside it is still cool enough to necessitate the continued wearing of the parka and to shiver, both from cold and the thought of The Exploited playing a few hundred yards up the road.

The Jam hit the stage and the drabness gives way to a wild celebration. The temperature soars in degrees per  second as the vast mass of humanity jumps for joy at a glimpse of their heroes. People cheer and scream song titles with a religious zeal.

In their euphoria perhaps they don't notice the shaky or uncertain timings or the atrocious sound. Foxton's bass only reaches the ear after a boom increasing bounce off each of the brick walls. It virtually occludes the guitar and a good proportion of Weller's voice. The bass riff laden 'Start' is virtually obliterated.

Scenes of blind devotion worry me. Pop musicians as idols, The Jam as worshiped icons. I've every respect for Weller and his commitment to just causes and concerns (compare with those once contemporaries in social commentary, The Clash, and their tragic infatuation with, and ridiculous adoption of, distant and obscure political causes) but the adulation of the 'star' does not alter.

The Sobell Centre is staging a rock and roll show, with soft drinks, outside mobile toilets, ugly crushes at the exits and surely a pocketful of pretty green for someone. No, I don't know the alternative either but it's not hard to see Weller going the way of his heroes from the past, Pete Townsend, Ray Davies or (shudder) John Lennon. All well lauded figures doing their level best but in harsh real terms able to change nothing. The constant, inescapable acclaim slowly but surely sucks away the idealistic venom. But then I'm just old and cynical and I hope Paul can prove me wrong.

These inconsistencies aside, tonight was a Christmas present to the fans and despite the early hesitancy the group powered to heady highs and were, simply, excellent. 'Set The House Alight' (sic) and 'When You're Young' were just two  that sent shivers dancing up my vertibrae and melted away the initial doubts.

The true highlights are the brand new songs of the Mach planned LP. There iis 'A Town Called Murder' (sic), 'Happy Together', not The Turtles hit but laced with an equally memorable melody and announced as a 'tender love song to touch you're soul'. Also, 'Precious' with an auto-wahing, sub-Shaft fast guitar meeting with the drums and bass head-on in a rhythmic and almost funky (shock, horror) concoction. A two-man (Keith and Steve) brass section are featured strongly bringing a great new delicious dimension to Jam-sound.

'That's Entertainment' finds Paul and Bruce ('he's pissed, he always is' observes one long-standing fan) doning acoustic guitars, a mournful tale of Eighties realism grafted onto a Sixties (Everley Brothers!) music.

Paul asks the audience to take a CND leaflet prior to 'Going Underground'. After two sets of encores the density of populace heading doorwards makes this impossible. Many wouldn't have bothered anyway. They bound cheerfully over the snow to a warm house, cup of cocoa and bed. Until the apocalypse, the Jam keep 'em happy"

Paul Weller goes for the Ralph McTell look
(Michael Sobell Centre, Islington 12th December 1981)


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