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

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Hey Ho! Let's Go! To The Butlins Bop!

'Fresh' from this years 'Rebellion Festival' I must have been a glutton for punishment to agree to spending the first weekend of October in the Butlin's Holiday Camp some 7 miles outside of sunny Skegness. Actually it was my daughter who persuaded me that I had to go. You see she turned 18 that weekend and she knew that she had me somewhat over a barrel.... what her Ladyship wanted that weekend, her Ladyship would get! In truth it was a great weekend but it reinforced an important lesson once again.... I cannot stay up later than an 18 year old!! And what is more I shouldn't actually try to! With great friends and bands that I have been following for 30 years what more could you want other than sleep.

Friday night was a solid nod to the UK '82 scene with headline sets from two of the big hitters of that time, The Adicts and The Anti-Nowhere League. For me, this was the second time that I had seen The Adicts in a 24 hour period having been at their Islington gig the night before.

The Adicts

The ultimate showmen for me. Monkey and crew must be the largest stakeholders in each and every West Coast jokeshop.... and he is such a messy boy! Original members, Kid and Pete Dee, along with the aforementioned Monkey are ably assisted by a couple of excellent German musicians and together they make a great good time noise between them. And what tunes they have from the explosive opener of 'Joker In The Pack' to the head clearing 'Vive La Revolution'.

At the finale of The Adicts' set their crew release a dozen or so oversize beach balls into the crowd to accompany the band's rendition of the long established Liverpool FC anthem, 'You'll Never Walk Alone'. Much juvenile fun is had belting these things around as the band shift into Eric and Ernie's 'Bring Me Sunshine' which brings the show to a close. To my great embarrassment, upon heading towards the bar amidst the final settling snowstorm of Adicts' confetti, I accidentally side swiped a descending beach ball straight into the face of a wheelchair bound punk who was unseen to my left! Belated apologies should you read this.

The Anti-Nowhere League 

Now I haven't seen the League for many years now and I was unsure as to whether they would be playing this weekend's bill given the recent misfortune that befell Animal when he was glassed in the throat in his hometown of Tunbridge Wells. However, he was indeed here and apart from a less than complimentary reference to his Kent assailant, nothing appeared to be amiss and the League delivered a great set of 'We Are The League' classics supplemented with the likes of 'For You', 'Fucked Up & Wasted' and 'Let The Country Feed You' and of course, that legend of the early '80's classroom..... 'So What'. Great to see them again and good to see Animal back on stage doing what he does best.

'Let The Country Feed You'

A few beers after the League saw Day One draw to a close... for me at least.... Mo and Laura had other ideas and after acting as good Samaritans leading some lost revelers to their chalet.... it is impossible not to get lost in that place where everywhere looks identical, no more so than in the dark. Eventually they returned at 6.30 in the morning after having partied in the chalet of 'Hung Like Henratty'!

'So What'

Pete Bentham & The Dinner Ladies

As winners of the 2018 Introducing Stage popular vote, Pete Bentham & The Dinner Ladies were able to open the day's proceeding on one of the main stages on Day Two. Hailing from Liverpool with their self declared 'Kitchencore' sound, they delivered a punchy set at this unearthly time of day (at least in terms of your average rock 'n' roller!). The set was great and the band played the audience well. Personally, Pete reminded me of a very much more personable version of Mark E. Smith!

Tom Robinson Band

I do not own anything by Tom Robinson or TRB. I know some of the singles but that’s about it. Nevertheless, I was keen to see at least a part of their set early on Saturday afternoon. Older musicians than most of their contemporaries they eschewed the safety pins and ripped clothing, for many the uniform of 1977 punk. In their song writing however they were the original political punk band and my goodness was Tom Robinson angry. It was for this reason that I was so very keen to see them. Tom was the only original member, Dolphin Taylor was not behind the kit and I know that Danny Kustow died earlier this year, but they were regardless a very tight unit. Whilst I watched them they played ‘Grey Cortina’ and ‘Winter of ‘79’, both from the ‘Power in the Darkness’ album of 1978 along with ‘Too Good to be True’. Tom looked to be in rude health as he approaches his milestone 70th birthday. Good to see such a significant band, another ticked of the punk band bucket list.

The Undertones

I was lucky to have left Tom and his band when I did. Had I stayed for another song or two it is highly unlikely that I would have made it into the venue where The Undertones were playing. Shortly after I got through the door a strict one out one in system was introduced.

The band seemed unphased when the compare introduced them as the ‘Tome Robinson Band!’. Well in rock ‘n’ roll terms it was pretty early. They launched into their set with an exuberant ‘Jimmy Jimmy’. Watching The Undertones play is like getting a great big punk hug! It is nigh on impossible not to sing along whilst grinning like an idiot as this troupe of middle aged men from Derry regale a middle aged audience with hormone heavy tales of triumph or disaster, be it in relation to getting the girl, losing the girl or getting their hands on popular confectionery! Paul Loone expressed his discombobulation at being on stage at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. ‘He would normally be in the bookies’ said bassist Michael Bradley.

What a collection of songs they have in their arsenal. Forget ‘Teenage Kicks’ and ‘My Perfect Cousin’, formidable though they are, a typical Undertones set quickly brings the listener to the realisation that they were one of our great singles bands….. ‘You've Got My Number (Why Don't You Use It?)’, ‘Get Over You’, ‘Wednesday Week’….. well you get my drift. With ‘Teenage Kicks’ cropping up mid set it was with ‘My Perfect Cousin’ that they closed a fantastic set, a song that contains the most masterful lyric of the punk era…..

‘His mother bought him a synthesizer
Got the Human League into advise her
Now he's making lots of noise
Playing along with the art school boys’

Peter and the Test Tube Babies

What is there to say about the Test Tubes? They have been consistent since 1978, one of the few bands not to have broken up. It’s funny to think that compared to my mates I saw them first time relatively late (they were our local band). It was 50p to get into a Sunday lunchtime gig at Brighton’s Richmond Hotel back in 1985. Then it was the original line up of Peter, Derek, Trapper and Ogs. These days it is just Peter and Del who continue with the band but the songs still hold up….. none better than ‘The Jinx’ from their greatest album, 1983’s ‘The Mating Sounds of South American Frogs’. The only downside to their set was that I was hit on the back and the back of the head by about a pint and a half of cider. I’m not getting shirty about it or anything….. if someone wants to part with £4.50 for a pint only to launch it at a band on stage minutes later, well that’s down to their own intellect and bank balance I suppose.

Sham 69

Like him or loath him, Jimmy Pursey won’t go away. Few characters in punk, other than John Lydon, have the ability to divide opinion in the way that Jim does. Is he a rabble rouser who inadvertently gave the far right a home in the late ‘70’s or is he a well-intentioned individual who happens to view the world through a rather simplistic lens? In my view he fits the latter description but either way I have always loved Sham’s material. It is not up there with the likes of ‘White Man in Hammersmith Palais’ or ‘Down in a Tube Station at Midnight’ but Sham’s songs have a different appeal altogether.

I first saw Sham back in 1992 (I think) at the Marquee.... it was pretty dreadful as I recall, it was during the time that they had keyboards on stage! The gig was in no way memorable as all I can remember is Jimmy ruffling the heads of two very young skinheads wearing Skrewdriver T-shirts and telling them to grow their hair. I have seen Mensi engage with a punter in a Skrewdriver shirt at an Upstarts gig.... let's just say that his approach was more robust! I saw them too at a 'Holidays in the Smoke' gig around the mid to late '90s. I have no idea what Mr Pursey had done on that day but half of the audience were baying for his blood. However, in this latest incarnation with three quarters of the classic line up now restored with Dave Tregunna back on bass they are a very different band to what they were in the '90s.

Again, as with The Undertones, its easy to forget the popular appeal that Sham had over the last two years of the 1970's. The band cropped up with fair regularity on Top of the Pops taking their cock-er-nee antics in to the nation's front rooms on a Thursday evening, causing Mums and Dads (mostly the Dads) to roll their eyes and tut! Those great singles, 'Angels With Dirty Faces', 'Hersham Boys', 'Questions and Answers' and of course 'Hurry Up Harry' are all in there prompting a raucous sing-a-long! The set opens too with a nod to the bands early days with 'I Don't Wanna' and 'Ulster Boy' from 1977. However, it is not all nostalgia as a couple newer songs feature, 'Tear Gas Eyes' and 'Bastille Cake' both of which were received well.


Always great to see 999 although quite why they are on at 12.15 on a Sunday lunch time is baffling. Here you have an original first wave punk band, veterans of The Roxy and The Vortex for Heaven's sake! They should be way up the billing in my opinion.

They are one of only a handful of the original punk bands who kept on going through thick and thin. As Nick Cash is always at pains to point out.... 'It's all about the music!'. And 999, much like the UK Subs, live by that statement and it's a commitment that has earned them a very loyal following. So, despite the very un-rock 'n' roll stage time I was very glad to see a good turnout for the lads. They played a great set and I am very much looking forward to the release of their new album, now late in the mixing stage.

After the gig I had a chat with Guy and Nick, who was manning the merch stage. I love 999's take on merchandise..... you never know what there will be on account of the band sticking to the original DIY ethic...... find a random shirt screen print a logo on it and knock it out. Brilliant!

The Angelic Upstarts

This was the second set of the weekend for The Upstarts as they had filled in for the AWOL Bad Manners the day before. These days an Upstarts gig falls something between a Working Man's Club turn and a full on punk gig. Mensi provides the banter and the band periodically jump in when he decides to do a song. I loved his anectodote about his punk initiation seeing 999 first (at this point Guy Days of 999 was watching the bands set from the wings) and then The Clash on the 'White Riot' tour.... can't recall where he said but it was a student gig, so I am guessing at Newcastle University (20th May 1977). Mensi, then a young coal miner, turned up with a load of colliery mates and went to pay for admission to the gig. The guy on the door explained that this was a student only gig so did he have an N.U.S. card (contrast with the recently upped post of The Stranglers at the University of Surrey in 1978 (here). Mensi responded 'I've got an N.U.M. card'. 'Look' says he 'We'd prefer to pay to get in, but we're going in'. On a second refusal our Mensi took matters in had with regards to gaining access to the gig.... launching a plant pot through a plate glass window which he and a handful of fellow miners stepped to go and see The Clash!

As for The Upstarts this afternoon, well they were brilliant as usual!

The Stranglers

Photo: Owen Carne

Given the issues that some folk had with venue access the previous day I decided to encamp in the venue that The Stranglers were due to play in, unfortunately this meant that I missed The Lurkers. But on this occasion, I didn't get to see much of the MIB either. Twice, a couple of people on the barrier crushed the daughters arm as she was holding the barrier to steady herself. This resulted in me getting her out of the venue on two occasions! When she went back in for the third time I decided that I couldn't be arsed to battle through the crowd anymore and I settled for another (at this point unneeded pint). So there's not much to be said about that one!

Nevertheless, Mo was pleased to see her pink framed moonface in one of the crew's photos from the stage.

'Where's Wally?'

The Cockney Rejects

After the hassle with The Stranglers and this being the culmination of what had been a great weekend, I dragged my somewhat drunken arse from the bar in order to see The Cockney Rejects. The situation in the venue was much better that it had been in Blackpool where the unbearable heat inside the gig meant that I only saw two songs before having to leave.

Tonight, once again The Rejects gave it their all with a great set (this time we saw it all)..... most of which I can't remember very well! :). But anyway here's a picture instead.

Well done to Butlin's as Skegness and to all behind the organisation of the 2019 Great British Alternative Music Festival for a full weekend of great bands at a great price!

1 comment:

  1. thanks for the great review...I should look into flying over there for this festival next year. looking forward to seeing 999 for the first time this Friday.