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.


Tuesday, 19 November 2019

London Calling at 40!


Next month sees the passing of another significant punk Ruby anniversary. 14th December marks the 40th anniversary of the UK release of ‘London Calling’, the third studio album offering from The Clash, hailed by the majority as their finest and by some, the finest ‘punk’ album of all time. Rolling Stone went even further, declaring it to be the greatest album of the entire 1980’s decade (the album was released in America in January 1980). From a personal perspective, I still prefer the rawness and anger that comes through on the first album (even if it does sound as tinny as hell), but even so I do recognise the quality of the material and appreciate the vast progression that the album makes from ‘Give ‘Em Enough Rope’.

The Clash took a risk in that they released ‘London Calling’ as a double album, a musical concept more closely associated with the ‘dinosaur’ rock bands that new bands such as The Clash and their contemporaries scorned as overindulgent, pampered has-beens who’s time was up. To follow in such sauropod footsteps just three years after punks ‘Year Zero’ was quite courageous, but the material was good enough to carry their new and varied sound across four sides of vinyl. Of course, the idea was pushed too far when the follow-up ‘Sandinista!’ was released twelve months later as a triple album. Even the most die-hard fans of the band that I know will freely admit that this was pure overindulgence on the part of The Clash!

Melody Maker
8th December 1979

The Clash however were used to courting negative press for their actions ever since they signed to major label CBS, flying in the face of punk’s sworn underground, DIY ethic. Nevertheless, The Clash rode that particular storm and by 1979 had become something of a regular gigging rock band following the tried and tested album/tour routine (in fairness to The Clash the same was true for many of the other survivors of The Summer of Hate). Joe Strummer seemed to recognise this contradiction in the band when he penned the lyrics to one of ‘London Callings’ finest cuts, ‘Death or Glory’.

‘And every gimmick hungry yob digging gold from rock 'n' roll
Grabs the mike to tell us he'll die before he's sold
But I believe in this and it's been tested by research
He who fucks nuns will later join the church’.

According to Nicky ‘Topper’ Headon, the key to the runaway success of the album was that, unlike the first two albums (where the creative process only started once the band entered the studio), so much ground work was done on ‘London Calling’ in advance of planned studio time.

Melody Maker
8th December 1979

Despite The Clash's earlier proclamations of being ‘so bored with the USA’, the band were at this time enjoying considerable success in America. In many ways this was achieved on the back of the ‘Give ‘Em Enough Rope’ album which was produced in a manner intended to appeal to the ear of the Stateside music consumer. This in turn lead to an American tour with its associated endless hours of arrow straight driving between cities that afforded the bands principal songwriters, Messers Strummer and Jones, ample time to craft songs  for the next album.

Joe Strummer at the piano
December 1979

Now pause for a second to consider the musical environment that existed in the UK at the very end of the 1970’s. The punk flame had burned with incredible intensity a maximum of 18 months, the Pistols had gone as had many of the first wave bands. Those that remained had to change to survive, none more so than The Clash. By now competent with their respective instruments (although in that respect Joe, Mick and Topper had something of a lead over Paul), The Clash had an added advantage in that the diverse musical tastes held across the band provided them with a huge range of possibilities. Were a fellow music fan to take the time to flick through the combined record collections of these four musicians, he or she would surely describe the results as eclectic ..... reggae of course, check by jowl with 1950’s rock ‘n’ roll, itself in bed with jazz! A real hotch-potch of 19 songs that somehow melded together to produce a coherent album! 

London Calling..... Rudie Can’t Fail (a big one in our household (Son is called Rudi!))...... Lost In The Supermarket..... Spanish Bombs.... The Right Profile.... Guns of Brixton... classics one and all!

To the old gezzers and she-geezers that occasionally take the time to read some of my ramblings, I urge you to take the time this coming weekend to dust down the vinyl and give ‘London Calling’ a birthday blast whilst raising a beer to a ground-breaking album.

Just ask Elvis!



3 comments:

  1. Remember getting this around xmas 79 i was on first impressions disappointed as I was only 13 i was expecting an album full of punky stuff in the similar vein to the title track I was not into the 2 tone scene at that time. Guns of brixton struck a chord with me though, years later I would of course come to love the whole album.

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  2. well, one remembers first times, and London calling was one, i was sixteen in a very boring french town called Toulon. The only escape was one record store in the part of town called chicago because of its hooker bars and various traffic spots, they had already introduced me to the doors, ramones, various early rock and punk french bands like little bob, and then they tell me i absolutely have to listen to this record called london calling; ok, i'll try... and that was it.
    This said my absolute falling in love with the Clash as a concept came with sandinista, a triple album sold for the price of a standard LP was already incredible, but then when you went through it and you had your punk heroes going through an incredible range of musical styles and still being heavily political throughout was perfection. Thank you for this reminder.

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  3. Thanks for the comments folks. jjr4, in the UK the London Calling album is for many a high point of British 'punk' and indeed British culture, up there with London's Swinging Sixties! It is funny however when organisers of prestige UK occasions, the 2012 Olympic Games, being a great example when the title track is belted out in stadiums as a statement of all that is great about Britain! If only they had spent the time to listen to the lyrics which tell of a city, post nuclear accident that is descending into lawlessness and despair..... more Brexit than the Olympics.... ooh I know controversial politics :-D

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