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

Monday, 6 April 2020

20 From '77(3)The Rezillos John Peel Session 12th December 1977

Here we have the Scottish clown princes + one princess of punk.... The Rezillos with their first session for the late, great John Peel. 'Can't Stand The Rezillos' will always be highly ranked in the shifting sands of my Top 20 album list!



20 From '77(2) 'The Damned can now play three chords, The Adverts can play one.... Hear all four of them at the Electric Circus Manchester 26th June 1977

Sunday 26th June saw a third return of The Damned to the Manchester, having previously played at the Electric Circus on the 21st January and at Middleton Civic Hall on 14th May. The London bands recognised  that more so than any other UK city outside of the capital, Manchester had a parallel scene and as such a receptive and enthusiastic audience. This northern hub of punk for a time had the Electric Circus in the Collyhurst area of the city. The Circus was to Manchester what the  Roxy was to London in terms of being punks home turf and this evening The Damned were once again with Stiff label mates The Adverts (who also supported at the May gig) with The Prefects from Birmingham on the bill too.

The Damned at the Electric Circus
26th June 1977

So here you have something unusual, an audio record of a complete night at the Circus with all three bands recorded by a diligent audience member, the noise of individuals in the crowd and the clink of glasses take you right into the heart of '77 punk in one of its most iconic venues.

The Prefects

The Adverts

The Damned

Artwork (Box case):

Sunday, 5 April 2020

20 From '77(1) The Jam CBGBs New York 16th October 1977 (Two Sets)

In 1977, the flow of touring punk bands favoured movement to the east with US bands arriving in the UK with earlier and greater regularity that western-bound UK bands heading to America. The Damned in keeping with nearly everything else in punk were first to make the journey in April, exporting the British take on punk rock. Their punk contemporaries were to follow significantly later. The Stranglers' visit planned for late '77 didn't come off and they along with the Pistols did not make the crossing until early in 1978. In doing so both bands fueled the anti-punk sentiment when they did tour). It is interesting then that one of the earliest bands to attempt the feat of winning over American audiences was The Jam, the most quintessentially English band of the lot.

Whilst indisputably a bonafide  first wave punk band, The Jam were outsiders on the scene. Interlopers from the Surrey suburbs they were also considered to be too conservative, both with a small and large 'C' to gain easy acceptance among the London punk elite. Paul Weller's open appreciation of '60's R&B labelled him early on as a revivalist (a toxic label in a new music scene whose declared mission was to destroy everything that came before it). In this respect it is funny that the early Pistols set featured as many Small Faces and Who covers as did The Jam's set.

The Jam also had a different genesis from the Pistols, Banshees and The Clash. Like The Stranglers, The Jam were a semi-professional band that significantly pre-dated the punk scene (by at least four years in the case of The Jam!). They served a time honoured musical apprenticeship, playing social functions, weddings and perhaps most importantly the Working Man's Club circuit that was still highly popular in the 1970's. If the punters called out for 'Tie A Yellow Ribbon' or 'Living Next Door to Alice' that is exactly what they were given in the main. Thus in contrast to many of the other first wave bands, by the time that The Jam first descended in to the fetid basement of the Roxy Club they had loads of gigs under their belt. The transition was quite straight forward. Weller witnessed an early Sex Pistols gig and like many other musicians and would be musicians he saw the future and nailed The Jam's colours to the punk mast. A tweak to the attitude of the band a bit of taking in of the suit trousers and ties was all it took and hay presto!..... authentic 1977 punk.

So fair play to The Jam as being in the vanguard of British bands to venture into CBGBs, the spiritual home of American punk. The set is a good mix of the first two albums. The second album, 'This is the Modern World' was set for its UK release the month following this New York appearance.



Early show

01. I've Changed My Address
02. Carnaby Street
03. The Modern World
04. Time For Truth
05. London Girl
06. All Around The World
07. Sounds From The Street
08. London Traffic
09. Bricks And Mortar
10. In The City
11. Takin' My Love
12. In The Midnight Hour

Late show

01. I've Changed My Address
02. Carnaby Street
03. The Modern World
04. Time For Truth
05. The Combine
06. All Around The World
07. Sounds From The Street
08. London Traffic
09. Bricks And Mortar
10. In The City
11. Takin' My Love
12. Batman Theme

No Elvis, Beatles, or The Rolling Stones.....In 1977

Everyone I am sure must have wondered at some point what it would have been like to be five years older. This I think is especially true for music fans. For many people, myself included, proper awareness of music that is around you, as opposed to the music that is favoured and played by your parents, kicks in at around the age of 10. Perhaps for those with older siblings in the house it may be a bit sooner. This being the case, differences of only a couple of years (representing as they do a significant percentage of  life time over those tender years) make a huge difference to an individual's experience of and engagement with the music that they are hearing for the first time.

My 18 year old daughter, who loves punk, gets annoyed with me for many reasons, one of those being because I saw The Stranglers with Hugh, Siouxsie & The Banshees, The Ramones and Adam & The Ants. She feels that she missed the punk boat (which she did), but I at 33 years her senior also feel the same.

Jordan's coming for ya Mo!

In 1977 I was eight years old, the music that I was exposed to at that time was served up in the morning over breakfast, on school days, by Terry Wogan, then doing his first Radio 2 Breakfast Show stint. For this reason the airwaves in our house were ruled by the likes of Wings with their 'Mull of Kintyre', along with Chrystal Gayle fretting over the possibility of an emotionally triggered change in eye colour. In 1977 my parents were in their late '30'sand rooted in the rock 'n' roll of their teenage years (my Mum saw Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent in Brighton on that fateful tour which is quite cool as well as Cliff Richard and The Shadows, which isn't). Although, by the time the '70's came round Elvis more often than not gave way to The Carpenters when it came to time spent on the Pye Black Box stereo. The only parental concession to the contemporary music scene came in the gaudy satin-clad form of Anni-Frid, Benny, Bjorn and Agnetha (a guilty pleasure of mine for that reason!).

Punk did not feature in our household at all. Even if my parents did scan he shock headlines of the Grundy incident over toast and marmalade, it never made it as a topic of conversation. Indeed, when the Pistols took to the Thames to outrage 'The Establishment' and the 'Jubilee ga-ga' public at large, I was clutching my commemorative coin whilst sporting a rather fetching Union Flag rosette!

Adrian, a punk in waiting! (blue cardigan with rosette!)
June 1977

My world at the age of eight revolved around Stoke City F.C., and TV shows such as 'The Six Million Dollar Man', 'Dad's Army' and 'Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em'. Not 'Star Wars'! I coveted my neighbour's plastic light sabre, but never saw the film.... still haven't.

When I did finally hear current music of the type hat was considered to be too brash for a Radio 2 playlist, it was in the back room of a local pub that I was occasionally taken to by my parents on a Sunday lunchtime. The Boomtown Rats, Squeeze and Tubeway Army provided the soundtrack to that day's game of pool with my Dad in 1979. The penny dropped, in my mind, rather than into the pool table coin slot, but my wherewith all to take advantage of this new discovery was rather curtailed by both my age and by a lack of disposable income to blow on 7" singles in Woolworths and W.H. Smiths. Albums were out of the question for a while yet at that point in time!

So what if I were five years older, seeing a band in 1977 would still be out of the question in most cases. Venues/pubs maintained pretty strict age policies (much relaxed now) which would have been no good for a newly promoted 12 year old! Besides which parental blessing to see a band called The Vibrators or The Damned would be highly unlikely.

As an aside, I did go to my first gig at the age of 12, it was the aforementioned Adam & The Ants in 1981, but this was only towards the end, a long time since Adam had switched from The Marquee to Her Majesty's Theatre.

So, '77 would be out, but the musically switched on 15 year old in 1980 would have much better options with which to gain musical satisfaction. So many bands would have been within reach .... you know, the ones that make it onto those Facebook lists of band's that you wished you had seen but never did (The Jam, The Ruts, The Adverts.... in case you're wondering).

But this is all the stuff of self-isolation daydreams! Whilst the imagined 56 year old would be five years closer to retirement with a gigography that could really turn my daughter against me, as Paul Cooklin would say, 'We are where we are'. And besides, since I write this in the middle (I hope) of the COVID-19 'lockdown' (God I hate that horrible American terminology!), we shouldn't be so frivolous as to wish our lives away with such fantasies.

So. that being the case I will accept my 'youthful' 51 years and just be happy to share some of the stuff I missed.

Saturday, 4 April 2020

Nuremburg Stadhalle Erlanngen Germany 4th April 1985

35 years ago tonight!



01. Intro
02. Something Better Change
03. Uptown
04. Dead Ringer
05. No Mercy
06. Souls
07. Nice ‘N’ Sleazy
08. Skin Deep
09. Let Me Down Easy
10. Midnight Summer Dream
11. European Female
12. Golden Brown

01. Strange Little Girl
02. Peaches
03. Death & Night & Blood
04. Threatened
05. Punch & Judy
06. Hanging Around
07. I Feel Like A Wog
08. Down In The Sewer
09. Nubiles (Cocktail Version)
10. Toiler On The Sea

'A Night In London' The Rainbow London 4th April 1980

Ignore the date on the sleeve, cross-checking against the multitude of versions of this well known bootleg in circulation I believe that this is a recording of the second night (i.e. 4th April). Worth downloading as the volume is better than is the case for the '.... And then they were three' bootleg. This is another Rat Zone remaster. Cheers.


The Ruts Apeldoorn Holland 18th January 1980

To go with te Militant Entertainment article here's a recording of The Ruts in Europe. Some 10 months after the RAR tour, the band were well and truly into their stride. Brash and confident they were just very, very good. If the NME journalist was predicting big things for The Ruts back in March '79 on the back of their gig at West Runton Pavilion, Heaven knows what superlatives he would have been trawling his thesaurus for six to ten months later.

I am really looking forward to doing a few Ruts DC gigs once we are allowed out to play again!



 01. Savage Circle 
02. Something That I Said 
03. I Ain't Sofisticated 
04. SUS
05. Demolition Dancing 
06. Backbiter 
07. Out of Order 
08. Jah War 
09. Criminal Mind 
10. Babylon's Burning 
11. Dope for Guns 
12. Staring at the Rude Boys 
13. H Eyes 
14. You're Just A...
15. It Was Cold
16. In a Rut
17. Society
18. Love Song
19. Human Punk

Master-Minding The Militant Roadshow - RAR On The Road New Musical Express 31st March 1979

Clockwise from the top: The audience at West Runton Pavilion (20th March 1979), Irate Kate (RAR Offices), The Ruts, Red Saunders and Syd Shelton, Misty in Roots.

With just one more working day to go -until the kick-off of Rock Against Racism's most ambitious venture to date the 90-odd band, month-long Militant Entertainment tour - RAR's cramped North London headquarters is on red alert.

Bouncy RAR staffer Irate Kate (who's nothing of the sort) is putting the finishing touches to booking hotels for all concerned – no mean task when you consider she has had to arrange accommodation for several hundred people in a bewildering variety of 40-strong entourages.

The four-bands-a-night line-up is completely changed every fourth night, and no two line-ups are the
same, as a different local band is brought in each night to augment each block of three bands.

"There have been some difficulties booking 40 people into one hotel. If a hotel objects to having us, they object 'cause it's a bunch of pop groups," she says with characteristic good nature.

'''We don't say RAR are coming to beat up the NF in your town," she adds, smiling.

The thought of Kate beating up anybody is difficult to imagine. She's a friendly, wholesome looking 19-year-old who's "supposed to be doing my A-levels". Instead she's the mainstay of the RAR office. Until October she ran the office on her own, but a growth in RAR's activities has meant that two others have given up their day-time jobs to not only hold the RAR fort to make sure that the 100 or so letters RAR receive a day are answered, eventually, and that the worldwide orders for RAR badges, T-shirts, stickers and posters are dealt with as promptly as possible.

RAR receive mail from lands as varied as Japan and Scandinavia. Of late there's been a marked upsurge in communiques from America which RAR put down to The Clash's recent tour.

And that's only half the work-load, for RAR's primary function, other than to rid the isle of rancid racism, is to put on gigs. Since their inception nigh on three years ago they have staged over
800 gigs, but the current tour, involving the kind of logistics that would give even an experienced
promoter a headache, is by far the most significant project.

"A tour like this will put us on the map," opines John Dennis, who along with Wayne is the other full-time RAR office worker. He adds matter-of-factly : " This is just the start of RAR in rock terms."

A former adventure playground leader, Dennis is the only one of the crew wedged into RAR's office this Thursday afternoon who comes close to fulfilling any preconceived notions people may have about RAR being "a bunch of earnest politicos".

Tall and thin, with striking angular features, he has the air of a consumptive romantic poet.

Neither he nor his two colleagues are remotely punky. There isn't a leather jacket between them, let
alone a pair of bondage strides. Of late this trio have been working a 13 hour day seven days a week to ensure that all goes off according to plan on the tour.

Also present is RAR initiator Red Saunders - a garrulous gent of Falstaffian girth, a trifle 'paranoid' and fond of using left wing slogans - and three 'temporary helpers'. There are two girls, one who types out copy for the latest edition of Temporary Hoarding, read aloud by Red, and Jane (I think) whose job it is to enter mail order sales of RAR 'product' (badges, posters, T-shirts) into an accounts book.

There is also Alan, a disarmingly callow-looking member of Her Majesty's Armed Forces who's set for his first-ever tour of Northern Ireland. He deals with the out-going mail.

In the last five months sales of RAR 'product' have amounted to £7,300.

"The sales go up and down," Jane tells me. "Obviously they increase after a carnival, but the maximum is about £6-700 a week."

To get any more accurate picture of the finances is impossible without further investigation into the organisation's out-goings. Certainly the rent of the office is not high - £5 a week – and neither is the amount spent on staff wages.

Until three weeks ago Kate, John and Wayne were paid a pittance, but this was increased three-fold to a figure in the region of what the ambulance drivers were being paid before their strike.

Red's contribution to the RAR effort is entirely voluntary, although temporary helpers are paid expenses. 'We want to avoid the martyr syndrome," explains Kate. At present they have a solicitor engaged in doing the work which is necessary for RAR to become an official tax company.

The bulk of the organisation's income comes from the sale of their fortunately ubiquitous badge. Little money is made from gigs.

"What money we do make," says Kate, "is always used to finance the next gig."

Right now they have around £1000 in their bank account which is kept at the Co-op, as much for geographical convenience as for reasons of ideology.

This, as Red is eager to point out, doesn't just sit there. And RAR are hoping to save up enough money to buy permanent premises. They've got their eyes on a building in Finsbury Park which they hope could double as a dispatch office and as a record shop. Kate, perhaps a little naively, also sees it as a place where fans could hang out before going to the Rainbow.

RAR have occupied their current office for the past two months. Since their inception they've worked from a variety of locations in the metropolis, starting out at Red's photographic studio.

The Militant Entertainment tour is, to put it mildly, a strain on the RAR finances. So much so that Kate's father magnanimously agreed to stand as guarantor for a £750 overdraft. Similarly other monies have been borrowed from friends and supporters.

No donations to any political parties are made from RAR's funds, the money instead going to keep the wheels turning and to further the cause.

"It doesn't all get put in a bag and put on the 8.15 to Prague," says Red caustically.

One other source of income that in Red's words is "something of a red herring" is the question of RAR membership. For a £1 it is possible to actually join for life and RAR estimate that 3,500 supporters have done just that.

Apart from life membership one gets a 'free' badge and reduced admission to RAR gigs. But, they point out, most 'kids' can't afford to layout a quid on life membership, and instead just purchase a badge or a sticker.

This question of membership is being raised at RAR's July conference . It seems that one can belong to the organisation without forking out the necessary green one, as is illustrated by the fact that Leeds RAR has some 500 members each of whom is entitled to badges etc and admission to gigs at concession rates.

One other feature of the organisation that needs to be dealt with is Temporary Hoarding. Apparently this isn't produced from the North London base. All contributors, who include John Dennis, work for it for free, and one potential source of revenue RAR refuse to milk on political grounds is selling advertising space to record companies.

They are currently trying to find a major distributor for Hoarding, but so far have found that all the major publishers they've approached have refused to touch it because they're afraid it would attract too many libels. Penguin Books are, however, interested in publishing a Temporpry Hoarding book and a deal is currently being negotiated.

An atmosphere of thriving chaos reigns this Thursday afternoon in the RAR office. The clutter is such that it's almost impossible to walk unimpeded around the four jammed-together desks that occupy most of the space. Lord only knows how Jane's three-month old baby manages to sleep through the cacophony of work. As Red opines: "You have to have an incredible sense of humour to work for us."

FIVE days later and Militant Entertainment has reached its third stop, a tiny village on the Norfolk coast called West Runton - a generous spit from the better-known seaside resort of Cromer, renowned for its crab .

The gig is The Pavilion, a prefabricated building whose one concession to rock culture is a dire sub-Roger Dean mural behind the stage. Despite its seeming unsuitability for rock and roll these days the West Runton Pavilion is Norfolk's leading rock venue. And a glance at the upcoming attractions proves that whoever runs the place knows his business.

With Cambridge and Leicester under their belts respectively RAR are in fairly good spirits, though tired and in John Dennis's case (he is in charge of finance) a little harrassed. The only casualty so far is Wayne's black eye.

Wayne had intervened to –restore the peace after one of RAR's security men became overzealous outside Leicester Poly the previous night (Monday), only to be mistaken for a bouncer himself which
in some thug's eyes was enough justification to take a smack at him.

On the road RAR have an eight-man, sorry, person team, and throughout the tour are relying extensively on the local RAR groups.

"We're fortunate in that we only have to deal with the bureauocracy, says Wayne referring to the London office's role in the shindig. It does seem, however, that HQ has taken all the major decisions regarding the tour.

Given that the priority was to play towns where the National Front plans to stand a candidate at the imminent General Election, the local RAR groups suggested potential venues and dates, as well as selecting which local band should play, after which Wayne did a personal reconnaissance of all the venues to confirm their suitability.

Though each 'official' has a definite role to play in the tour (Red Saunders for instance, is the tour's Master Of Ceremonies, a role which he clearly relishes)  no-one ultimately in charge of the operation.

"We're a collective," emphasised Saunders. And obviously in the best spirit of collectivisation no-one shirks at doing a stint on the RAR stall; The Gang Of Four's maverick drummer was even helping out.

As for the choice of bands, this, says Kate, was "deeply debated" by the committee, Wayne and John actually dealing with the bookings. Despite the excellence of the bill there does seem to be an absence of 'name' acts.

Says John : "We wanted to get away from the bands we knew could draw."

Wayne echoes his colleague : " We've deliberately gone for smaller bands. It's very much in the RAR tradition. We were among the first to book Generation X, Tom Robinson and Stiff Little Fingers. We started out booking those bands." And John again : " We're there to support new bands and they're there to support us."

Nevertheless, attempts to contact some 'name' acts like Public Image Limited, The Clash, and X Ray Spex - and even John Cooper Clarke - with a view to playing the tour proved difficult. RAR were particularly miffed at  The Members' attitude towards doing Militant Entertainment since they had, after all, given The Members their first London gig .

RAR, though, are inclined to blame those who surround these bands, rather than the individual musicians themselves. They do say that getting in touch with Joe Strummer isn't as easy as it was; The Clash apparently couldn't do the tour because of their difficulties with Bernard Rhodes. Kate, for one, would have liked Ian Dury on the tour.

Perhaps I'm being over-jaundiced, but it does seem in at least some cases that bands only play RAR gigs because there's something in it for them. On the other hand there is RAR's attitude, a somewhat egotistical one at that goes along the lines of " It's not The Clash playing such and such a place, it's RAR playing . .. "

John Dennis brings up the fact that Elton John said in last year's marathon NME interview that he would like to do an RAR gig . "It's like him too," he says with an utter lack of conviction. He explains that he prefers to book punk and reggae bands because that's how RAR started and it's these acts which RAR feel a lot in common with.

"We've grown with new wave," he says.

Surely Elton playing a gig would do more for the movement than, say, Misty or whoever in terms of publicity alone. Or is RAR afraid at having some of the thunder stolen from them? Perhaps I'm being
churlish ...

How about  the claims of inefficency that have been made by some bands playing RAR gigs?  "We're an organisation of rock fans who're doing it ourselves. When you look at the rock scene there aren't many organisations trying to help consumers," says John. "So there are going to be mistakes."

" It's true we're not efficient," says another of the collective. "And we're proud of it."

Originally the idea was for the bands to play for expenses only, but this was scotched in favour of splitting the profit four ways – 25 per cent to each of the three 'headlining bands' (the billing alternates so that each of the three bands gets to top the bill) and 25 per cent to RAR - where and when money was made on the gate.

I forgot to ask what, if anything the local group gets out of it, other than exposure.

No-one in the RAR set-up expects the tour to make money; to break even is all they're hoping for.

"If we were to look at it economically we wouldn't have looked at it at all: ' explains John. One sop for the band is that where-ever possible the entourage will stay at decent hotels. "We can't shit on the bands in both ways," is how Wayne puts it. "If they're not going to get any money then the least we can do is to give them a hotel room with a bathroom."

Last night the entourage, and it included everyone, stayed in the comfort of Leicester's Post House Hotel.

This far into the tour it's impossible to see how things are going to work out financially, but with money made at Cambridge and lost at Leicester things are working out pretty much as expected.

"The bigger gigs, like Leeds should subsidise the smaller ones like Newport," says Wayne. And no-one is expecting to make money in the wilds of Norfolk on a Tuesday night.

To cut costs universities and polytechnics are letting RAR have the use of their halls entirely free. Star Hire, the PA company, have agreed to work for 30 per cent less than their usual fee. Consequently they're working with a crew of three instead of their normal six-man operation.

''I'm so tired I can hardly talk straight," one of them told me. "Four bands playing in four hours is a very tight schedule. It's like a first night every night."

Star Hire work a great deal with reggae acts, and have received several threatening calls-from people claiming to represent the NF. Moreover a Mightly Sparrow gig at the Rainbow in December, where Star Hire were working, had to be called off after a bomb hoax believed to be the work of the NF.

With so small a crew the RAR team is doubling as roadies. To add further to the collective effort, two Eastern Counties bus drivers have agreed to drive two double-decker busloads of fans the 20 miles or so from Norwich for free. Shame their employees couldn't be as generous. The Norwich branch of RAR have had to hire the buses at £90 apiece.

Brace yourself North Norfolk, London punks are decending (or a couple of 'em at least)

On the final night of the Gang Of Four, Misty, The Ruts line-up, The Ruts are topping. Second on, Gang Of Four (local outfit The-Pain Killers opened - unfortunately I missed them) are given the kind of reception usually reserved for the closing act. The Pavilion is far from full, but the audience seem more than willing to make up in energy for the lack of numbers.

Halfway through the evening RAR are convinced they stand to lose at least £200 on the night, but despite this and the prospect of a six-hour drive back to London their spirits rise - Red's aided by more than the odd beer - as the music culminates in a truely devastating performance from The Ruts.

More than one record company A&R man was spotted the previous night at Leicester and A&R
person/producer MuffWinwood is sniffing out tonight's action. If he isn't impressed by The Ruts then his ears should be removed just as soon as he can fix up an appointment.

Malcolm Owen and Paul Fox
West Runton Pavilion 20th March 1979

Following hard (and I mean HARD) on the heels of the too sanguine Misty (no malice intended, but if this is what ganja does for you, forget it). The Ruts start the way they go on – with enough energy to fuel the entire Concorde fleet.

They slip with awesome ease from what can perhaps be best described as psychedelic punk (shades of Hendrix) to the kind of reggae that ought to have Misty wincing into their Rasta nosh. As the Gang of Four are about to tie the knot with EMI or CBS, The Ruts are apparently about to sign with Virgin: Mark thee, The Ruts will be enormous.

Malcom slays Segs! Red Saunders looks on amused
West Runton Pavilion 20th March 1979

Actually Misty just about aquitted themselves in the all-bands-together encore. Jamming on a reggae chant of 'Rock Against Racism', they lead what seems like half the entire audience through a genuinely moving number, so full of good vibes I'm surprised that John and Yoko didn’t materialise in a bag singing the 'Give Peace A Chance' refrain'.

"Peace and Love", intoned one of Misty's singers. What with Red Saunders giving the audience and it must be said nearly falling on his butt in the process...... one of those "The only way this is possible is because of you the people out there" raps, I was reminded of similar so-called 'hippy' beanos.

All the more a shame then, that one lout had to disgrace himself on his way out of the building by
assaulting the kid selling the Socialist Worker's Party's Rebel mag.

Evidently the message hadn't got through to everyone.

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Angelic Upstarts Moonlight Club West Hamstead 12th March 1979

Here's a short early Upstarts set from West Hamstead's Moonlight Club in March 1979.


01. Police Oppression
02. I'm An Upstart!
03. The Young Ones
04. Do Anything
05. Leave Me Alone
06. We Are The People
07. Student Power
08. Never Again

Angelic Upstarts Sounds Interview 1st April 1978

Probably one of the first national press interviews with the Upstarts from UK music weekly 'Sounds' from almost exactly 41 years ago!

Who Killed Liddle?" On stage a tall young man wearing a police hat, white shirt, trousers and jackboots is down on his hands and knees. Necks crane to see what's happening.

"Who killed Liddle?" He is eyeball to eyeball with a pig's head which sits there obscene and inert
apart from the slight scum of blood oozing out on to the boards. 

"Police killed Liddle Towers'" 

And the Angelic Upstarts erupt.

'Questions are unanswered/Policemen scared to talk/ Perhaps they're hiding something/Will our message get across/ Please tell me why I did he die/ Tell me now/Tell me how. '
The Liddle Towers case has gradually got under the skin of North-East People, particularly those who see his death as an extreme example of what can and does happen to them.

Probably you know the background: more than two years ago on leaving a club in Chester-Ie-Street, Co. Durham, Mr Towers was arrested by a group of policemen for being drunk and disorderly and at some stage, either then or in the cells, suffered injuries from which he later died; the inquest jury brought in the staggering verdict of 'justifiable homicide' which seemingly rendered any minor felon liable to summary execution; since then the Home Secretary has repeatedly refused to clarify the affair by means of a public enquiry.

The Upstarts are not exploiting that situation. Rather they recognise it, know its realities deep in their bones. As Decca Wade their drummer puts it, they have all lived for 20 years and never even made it to the bottom rung of the ladder yet. He, Mensi and Mond, the guitarist, grew up together on the Brockley Whinns estate, South Shields (bassist Steve is a 'wetback' from across the Tyne in north Shields). It's hard.

Talking with them at length when they played South Shields Bolingbroke Hall and the Whitley Bay Rex Hotel kept on making me think about our Rock-Racism features (Sounds, last week). In an area with few coloured people th Upstarts and their generation have been weaned on social deprivation and poverty. Change the colour of their skins and you'd call it a ghetto. Which just proves that colour is irrelevant and racism an evil deception and deflection from the issues that matter in improving the lot of all peoples.

'To seek out an identity /You alienate society' ('Upstarts'). 

Decca: Steve's posh y'naa but where we come from they've got mudguards on the Hoover. They  built a youth club on the estate. Why, aa wouldn't say it's a dive but Jacques Cousteau is the bouncer."

The blues say 'Bin down since I began to crawl.' Born punks like the Upstarts have been hitting back since they could lift a hand in protest. Not winning though. Not yet. So they've always been in trouble.

Memories of their gang's failures as delinquents crease them up with mirth now - the thought of all that posing as hard men and 'pros' which some of their mates still do as they strut down the corridor to the cells yet again.

Mensi: "We've got 43 car thefts and 96 traffic offences between us (guffaws)."

Decca: "Dee ye remember those lads that tried to break into Martin's Bank by braying in the front door with a brick (chuckles)?" .

Mensi: "And when ye got done for nicking that big copper boiler ... it weighs a ton and they got 20 dole wallahs together to roll it along to where they can cut it up. Dead inconspicuous like. The polliss find Decca and a couple of other lads with saws and ask who helped them shift it. 'Naybody' they say. 'Ye must be bloody bionic,' say the cops (collapses in a heap)."

Decca: "Aye. Aa threw Domestos over the vicar once, y'naa."

Gullible Soundsman: "Good Grief!"

Decca: "They done me for bleach of the priest (groans)."

The average reaction in these grim urban settings is to let the bastards grind you down. Pulped people feel no pain. So far the Upstarts have not yielded though the band is probably the first constructive outlet they've found.

Where frustration ruled they begged or borrowed motorbikes and crazy-rode them over the pit heaps. Two fingers to the shapeless, shifting enemy they all detested - authority.

They hated school but when they got out what else was on offer?

Mensi: "They stuck a youth club down on the estate and then thought they' d solved our problems forever more. But who runs it? A polliss. He waint let people in with safety pins in their clothes."

Decca put in a good word for the man because he'd helped him paint a couple of P A columns of  doubtful origin for the club .

'So you're the youth leader / You're the man in charge of this place / You're the leader / You're  the one with double face I Try to stop them breakin windows / Keep the kids off the street / It don't matter how you do it / You're the sort that lands on your feet' - ('Youth Leader') 

It's almost surprising that since they left school at 16 on the whole the Upstarts haven't been 'dole
wallahs'. They all went into heavy industry. Decca served his time as a 'burner' in the shipyards and Mond is still there as an electrician ("I've got to. There's £8 a week to pay in fines for my motoring offences.").

Mensi was an apprentice down Westee pit for three years before quitting because he couldn't stand the shift work and the wet conditions any more (the coal face is a mile or so out under the North Sea - "I saw three men dead in my time down there"). Steve still works as a builder's labourer an mentions casually that he owns two cars ("I'm rough, but they're rougher than me, that's why they take the piss." Mensi: "The singer rolled on his back and groaned 'Every band's got its Glen Matlock to    bear.' ").

I think they should write the first(?) punk work songs. But for the moment other subjects are more
immediate because when they formed the band they gave a focus to the opposition they had been
aware of all their lives.

Mensi and Mond, inspired by the Buzzcocks' 'Spiral Scratch' EP, founded the Upstarts last summer. Their first gig was arranged for the Civic Hall in neighbouring Jarrow. At the first whisper of 'punk' a councillor objected but was overruled.

However, the worst fears were realized when the audience, people who shared the Upstarts’ frustrations surely, threw everything I sight at the band as if they were the enemy. Roadie Skin Brown was hit on the head by a table and had seven stitches in the cut. The bass player and drummer quit on the spot.

Mensi wrote this:

‘Everywhere you go it always seems the same / Small town small minds never seem to change / Quick to condem you / Always out of hand / Stranger in a strange world / Stranger in their land’ (‘Small Town Small Minds’)

‘They rebuilt the band but it didn’t get any easier. When they hired the Bolingbroke Hall the residents of the street got up a petition against it which, again to their credit, the council turned down.

Mensi was attacked in the street by an old woman outraged by his Swastika armband: “She set about me with her umbrella. Ah tried to tell her it didn’t mean anything, we only do it to annoy people but she wouldn't listen. So ah ran away. Never moved so fast."

On the other hand a leader of the local branch of the National Front was seen down at the police station, complaining about the Upstarts abusing them: 'Facism kills' is scrawled across the front of Mensi's shirt and on their backdrop there's a 'Smash The Front' .

To me that is one way they should clean up their act. The confusion is not only provocative but damaging. The fact is they oppose the Front and it's too delicate an issue for ambiguity, whether artistic or sheer bloodyminded. While defining their opposition they also need to let their potential supporters know exactly where they stand.

Their chaotic 'progress' continued through to another near riot at the Londonderry pub in Sunderland. Mond: "They loved the way we played but they took it on themselves to beat us up afterwards. "

This is about where a remarkable character called Keith Bell came into their lives. He is 32, shortish but built like Gibraltar, and describes himself as 'gangster (retired)' . The boys dragged him along to see the Damned and the Dead Boys and he was startled to find that punk was his music. He agreed to look after the Upstarts until someone suitable who knew the biz came along and he's been doing a formidable job of it ever since.

Keith is acknowledged as one of the hardest men in Shields. The first time I met him he produced a police handbill with pictures of the areas 'heavies' and guided me round it. "He was mine .. . that one I bit his thumb off in a fight . . . and that's me.”

Obviously he can be the baddest of bad news. His reputation alone preserves order at the Upstarts gigs now but it would be ridiculous for me to swathe his activities in the blanket glow of romantic
admiration for the outlaw. Yet he also has a sort of honesty and openness that commands respect
aside from his physical presence.

I have a feeling that he sees himself a dozen years ago in lads like Mensi. Not that he's approaching the job in the spirit of a priest or a social worker – his main ethical principle he sums up as "beating the system" and he means to see that the Upstarts do that by the only route available to them, music (and record deals, fame and fortune are a kind of victory on its own terms over a system designed to forever crush those at the bottom of the pyramid, even though it's for a few individuals and the structure is unchanged). 

Mensi says that he has been stopped in his car eight times in two months and ordered to present hispapers at the cop shop. The sum total of offences was one faulty rear light: "They had a party at the police club that night. The lad who got me was promoted to sergeant."

Then they played at the Talk Of The Town (Shields that is), Mensi got a bit carried away and flashed his butt at a heckler. They seemed to go down well but a couple of days later they heard that the club owners had been warned about a possible prosecution which could cost them their licence if a similar act were presented again .

‘I just can 't take much more of this oppression/ I'm goin of my head and it's causin a depression/ Why can 't I go out for a walk/ Why can 't \i sit down and have a talk/ They 're asking me how and they're asking me why / Have you ever seen grown men cry ?' - ('Police Oppression ')

Mensi wanted to know what was going on, asked for an interview with the chief, Superintendent Leach, and got it. Mensi reckoned "He was a kind enough bloke" and their conversation had its entertaining side. The Supt. Was curious about how the Upstarts came by their police hats. He also mentioned that in the small hours earlier that week while proceeding in a homeward direction he had to brake violently to avoid an object lying on a zebra crossing which, on closer examination, proved to be a somewhat festering pig's head. The Supt. had a shrewd idea of how it got there.

But the serious business was that Supt. Leach had a report from two of his officers about possible
breaches of the laws against obscenity and incitement to violence (specifically through 'Liddle Towers', 'Police Oppression' and the kicking suffered by the pig, the symbolism of which was not lost on them). Mensi understood that the venues would be prosecuted rather than the band but basically took it that they were being warned off.

I checked with the Supt. who did indeed seem an affable sort and he was shocked at the suggestion.

"I explained the law to them," he said. All the difference in the world eh? "I pointed out that the act they performed could be offensive to public decency or that it could be taken to incite people to
violence against a member of the police. "

He said the bum-baring was his main concern though that was a one-off gesture of irritation by Mensi. He held that "Everyone is entitled to their own opinions", including on the Liddle Towers
case, but agreed that the possible incitement prosecution could be taken as a form of artistic censorship. He said it was the courts not him who decided on guilt but he agreed it would be his
whether or not to prosecute.

Supt. Leach was amiable to Mensi and amiable to me. A polite family man. I’m sure he believed he
hadn't been so rude as to 'warn off' the Upstarts yet how else can it be taken? If a theatre was leant on like this there would be hell to pay - after all that's Art, middle-class, grant-aided. But perhaps instinct has sussed where the more flesh and- blood threat comes from.

Of course the Upstarts will not yield. At current gigs the pig is likely to get the treatment with an axe borrowed from a gent called Mad Willie. But it's dubious whether any more promoters in Shields will risk having them.

As if that weren't enough to cope with, Decca had been thrown out of his home by his mother: "Aa've got nay money because someone shopped me to the dole about the band. But get no money from the band either! Anyway she was fed up and she came for me with a poker. My doctor' advised me never to get hit with a poker so aa left."

Keith offered him a bed for the night and grouched about how they were always spoiling his evenings coming round with their problems. They joked about him being the all time unlikeliest mother-figure.

Then Decca said what it all meant to him: "Aa'm five foot six sitting here and Aa'm six foot tall when Aa get on stage. The best time to play is when Aa'm mad."

Some days after I'd finished writing this feature and wondered whether I'd ended up glorifying what I detest - violence - I got a phone call from Mensi. He said they had been due to play at the Lees Club, Sunderland, that night but that at 5.30 that morning the licencee had been woken by police and given much the same warning-off/explanation of the law received earlier by the proprietors of the Talk Of The Town, South Shields.

The gig was cancelled and other Sunderland clubs have become suddenly chary of the Upstarts. The Lees Club management have refused to comment. Likewise the Northumbria police as to whether this incident did occur, and whether the Upstarts are being systematically banned from all licenced premises in the area.

Meanwhile the Upstarts booked themselves another gig at the 'dry' Bolingborke Hall. And they cut their single, 'Police Oppression/Who Killed Liddle Towers', at a local studio - 500 copies ordered
because that's all they can afford.

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

David Bowie - Berlin.... Soundz Decadent BBC Radio 2 Documentary


David Bowie, some people hate him, but most, if not love him (and many do including myself) cannot but appreciate the catalytic influence he had over British (and American) music over an incredible five decades. Arguably, and to my mind it is a strong argument, the case can be made that without the existence of Bowie punk would never have happened. Aside from Bowie himself, two American 'punk pioneers' in the form of Lou Reed and especially Iggy Pop drew inspiration from the man.

The music of David Bowie is so diverse, more so than any other artist that comes to mind. It doesn't follow that diversity of styles is an inevitable consequence of a long career.... I mean, look at The Rolling Stones! But the Bowie back catalogue has something of everything from the whimsical Newley-esque ditties of the sixties to the impeccable glam of Ziggy in the seventies, through to American soul, the avant-guarde electronica of the Berlin era, new-romantisism..... and then into the '90's and he was even doing drum and bass stuff.

For me David Bowie's most interesting period, including some of, but not all of, his finest material was the time that he spent in Berlin. In the years, 1974-1976, the man declared himself to be the 'Thin White Duke'..... this in reality was a rather grand title for a man losing touch with reality with a helping hand from copious amounts of cocaine and other chemical friends. Cadaverous to the extreme in appearance and living with the paranoia that comes with serious drug misuse.... Bowie was in real danger of becoming Aladdin Sane!

So it was time to retreat and where better to do so than that place behind the Iron Curtain, the former inter-war decadence capital of Old Europe.... Berlin. What better place to get clean. So off David went to do just that with his mate Iggy Pop..... WHAT!!!!! Hiding away in an effort to get clean in the company of Iggy!!! Bloody hell the man must have been off his rocker!

'Iggy, did you write down the engine's number?'

Nevertheless, for both men, this East German sabbatical was to lead to the creation of music that then as indeed now is critically acclaimed.

For Bowie a trio of albums was the product of this intensely creative period:

  • Heroes (1977)
  • Low (1978)
  • Lodger (1979)

Of these three, the 1977 and 1978 offerings are masterpieces. I love 'Hunky Dory' no doubt about that, but 'Low' is just sublime. In this time Bowie was soaking up the atmosphere of Berlin and the wider Germany like a sponge. This was instrumental in bringing a distinctive European flavour into British music in the early 1980's. David wholeheartedly embraced this new European music that was the stock in trade of bands like Kraftwerk. Indeed, Kraftwerk were singled out for special attention on '77's 'Heroes' album which features the track 'V2-Schneider', a nod to Florian Schneider, one of the two founding members of Kraftwerk. Schneider was clearly listening as the Dusseldorf-based quartet returned the compliment that same year on their ground breaking 'Trans Europe Express' album, the title track of which name checks both Dave and Ig in the form of an encounter in the band's home town. And let's not forget  the reference to David's own rail themed album of the previous year 'Station to Station'. What a bunch of trainspotters eh!

'From station to station, back to Dusseldorf City
Meet Iggy Pop and David Bowie....
Trans-Europe Express'

This documentary tells the story of this incredible period just a few years prior to Bowie's most successful album, '1983's 'Let's Dance'. A commercial high, yet creative low, but hey, that's just my opinion. Give me 'She's Got Medals' any day of the week!

'My Way' - The Sid Vicious Story BBC Radio 2 Documentary

Just a thought. In these days of self-isolation, a music based documentary or two may help to alleviate the heavy burden of cabin fever!

Here's one from BBC radio about Sidney and his short 'Live Fast, Die Young' life.


Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Cobra Lounge Chicago 7th and 8th June 2013

Here's something from the Stateside leg of the 'Giants' tour. The band played two nights at Chicago's Cobra Lounge and here we have the full gig from the first night (7th June) and a handful of tracks, including a couple omitted from the previous night's set from the second night (8th June).

MP3 (as recieved):

7th June:
8th June:


7th June 2013

01. Toiler On The Sea
02. Goodbye Toulouse
03. (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)
04. Norfolk Coast
05. Nuclear Device (The Wizard Of Aus)
06. Freedom Is Insane
07. Mercury Rising
08. Peaches
09. Relentless
10. Golden Brown
11. Skin Deep
12. Always The Sun
13. Walk On By
14. Burning Up Time
15. Nice ‘N’ Sleazy
16. Hey! (Rise Of The Robots)
17. Who Wants The World?
18. Time Was Once On My Side
19. Duchess
20. No More Heroes (Intro)
21. No More Heroes
22. Hanging Around

8th June 2013

01. (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)
02. Golden Brown
03. A Soldier’s Diary
04. Unbroken
05. No More Heroes

Peter and the Test Tube Babies Butlins Skegness 10th October 2019

And here's another from the 'The Great British Alternative Music Festival', this time from Skegness. Peter and the Test Tube Babies, my local punk band. I was at the front for this with my daughter..... her choice! As the band came on I was hit on the back with a full pint (..... here I am certain that it was alcohol rather than piss because it was below room temperature!). It doesn't particularly bother me, but does make me wonder who in this day and age can afford to pay club prices for beer only to launch at the stage!

Good to see a couple more tracks from 'Soberphobia' in the set..... a great album from my teenage years!



01. Moped Lads
02. Run Like Hell
03. The Jinx
04. Never Made It
05. My Unlucky Day
06. Every Second Counts
07. In Yer Face
08. Up Yer Bum
09. Spirit of Keith Moon
10. None of Your Fucking Business
11. Keys To The City
12. Keep Britain Untidy
13. You Shake My World
14. I'm A Maniac
15. Banned From the Pubs
16. Blown Out Again

Angelic Upstarts Butlins Minehead 9th March 2019

Here's a great recording from last year's 'Great British Alternative Music Festival' in Minehead. The Upstarts never fail to deliver a set full of passion and commitment to their message. Mensi is his usual shy and retiring self as he and the band run through some of the band's greatest songs beefed up with a couple of tracks from their recent album 'Bullingdon Bastards'. Many thanks to the original uploader to Dime.



01. Intro
02. Two Million Voices
03. Never 'ad Nothin'
04. Student Power
05. Mr Politician
06. Tories, Tories, Tories (Out, Out, Out)
07. Give The Fox A Gun
08. You're Nicked
09. Solidarity
10.Woman in Disguise
11. Last Night Another Soldier
12. Leave Me Alone
13. Machine Gun Kelly
14. Police Oppression
15. I'm An Upstart
16. The Murder of Liddle Towers

Monday, 30 March 2020

Hammersmith Odeon 30th March 1987

And here is the second night from the Odeon in what proved to be a great trio of London dates.



01. No More Heroes
02. Was it You?
03. Down In The Sewer
04. Nice In Nice
05. Punch And Judy
06. Souls
07. Always The Sun
08. Strange Little Girl
09. Golden Brown
10. Northwinds
11. Big In America

01. Nice ‘N’ Sleazy
02. Who Wants The World?
03. Bring On The Nubile
04. Shakin’ Like A Leaf
05. Uptown
06. (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)
07. Tank
08. Toiler On The Sea
09. Hanging Around
10. Nuclear Device
11. Spain

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Last Words on the Dead Kennedys (San Francisco Weekly 23rd - 29th June 1999)

Punks at War

Dead Kennedys, Alternative Tentacles, and the law suit that threatens punk's most enduring and provocative partnership

It was January 1978, and the Winterland was packed, and the Sex Pistols had just played their last show anywhere, and it had ended with lead singer Johnny Rotten cackling these choice parting words: "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?" Cheated wasn't the half of it. The Sex Pistols were the most famous band to come out of a British punk scene that was just beginning to find its footing in the U.S. The band's breakup wasn't just a musical event; followers lost a cultural-political icon. Without the Sex Pistols - that sneering bunch of self proclaimed anarchists who lived to challenge conventional notions of what a rock band should be – American punks would have to figure things out for themselves.

At North Beach's Mabuhay Gardens, the figuring had already started. While radio stations were clogging themselves with ELO and the Eagles, the Mabuhay was showcasing bands and music that were not just alternative, but challenging. Many of the bands took stylistic cues from the Sex Pistols and Ramones, but others, including Flipper and the Residents, experimented wildly, bent on befuddling their audiences more than entertaining them.

It was a culture of self-determination, where "do it yourself' was the operating credo. Who said you had to suck up to some big label to get your records out? Who said that Rolling Stone was the only music magazine on Earth? Fanzines such as Search and Destroy and Punk Globe sprang up to document the scene, both within and outside the Bay Area. Mainstream media outlets started to take a peek at what these strangely dressed folks were up to. Record labels (like 415 Records) started putting out singles and compilations.

And by 1978, a transplant to San Francisco from Boulder, Colo., name of Jello Biafra, né Eric Boucher, had decided he wanted to do more than just watch his favorite bands; he wanted to be up there on the Mabuhay's stage too.

Biafra had saved some money, and so he gathered up three musicians – guitarist East Bay Ray, bassist Klaus Flouride, and drummer D.H. Peligro (who replaced early drummer Bruce Slesinger). Biafra, who wrote lyrics, wanted to put forth a band that was political; San Francisco was providing ample material. This was the time of the Jonestown massacre, and Dan White's murder of Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone (and that's not to mention White's infamous and absurd "Twinkie defense").

And so the Dead Kennedys - and, simultaneously, Alternative Tentacles Records -  were formed. The story of AT and DK is, to a remarkable extent, the story of punk rock in San Francisco.

"[Alternative Tentacles] was a dream more than a business plan," Biafra said in a telephone interview
in early June, speaking from a downtown San Francisco office. "It was something I felt we had to do to document all the great music that was going on that wasn't being recorded. I saw these amazing bands like the Avengers, Negative Trend, the Sleeperz, Dils, Offs, Mutants, UXA, Crime, Nuns - all of 'em breaking up before they put out what would’ve been some of the best albums any band's ever made.

"I knew that if I ever had any money, I wanted to do a record label to correct the situation, to help fix that"

Alternative Tentacles wasn't envisioned as the relatively wide-ranging label it is today. Back in 1979, it was just supposed to release a single, "California Uber Alles." But on the strength of that single and the Dead Kennedys' live shows, the group with one of the more politically sacrilegious names in
America got a reputation as one of the most interesting bands in San Francisco.

Even if the group didn't quite fit the clichéd definition of punk rock. And it didn't.

The Dead Kennedys didn't spike their hair, and while most punk bands of that era marched in a strict lock step - both in terms of sound (three-chord, Ramones-y blasts) and politics (sobersided anti-Reaganism) – the Dead Remiedys instead played rockabilly-on Benzedrine-fusillades and often spoofed pop songs of the day. Singing in nasal, piercing tones, taking lyrical shots at whomever struck his momentary fancy, Biafra gave punk something it thought it wasn't supposed to have: a sense of humor.

"California Uber Alles," for example, posited a "suede-denim secret police" state, controlled by then-California Gov. Jerry Brown, where people would "jog for the master race ." "Holiday in Cambodia"
Disemboweled snotty post-grads who pro-claimed their hipness and whined about their bosses, suggesting that the whiners would "work harder with a gun in your back/ For a bowl of rice a day."

Biafra was always the most visible and vocal member of the band, quick with a  snappy line and good for a prank, the most famous being his 1979 run for mayor of San Francisco. Though parts of his platform addressed what he considered legitimate, concerns - he lobbied for, and still supports, legalizing squatters' rights - much of his candidacy was decidedly goofball, calling for the public auction of city positions, the establishment of a legal board of bribery, and the requirement that Financial District workers wear clown suits. When Dianne Feinstein called for a cleaner city, Biafra was vacuuming leaves off her front lawn the next day. In a city that felt worn and cynical after the Jonestown and White incidents, Biafra's campaign proved a tonic; he finished fourth out of 10 candidates, getting approximately 4 percent of the vote.

Biafra, the Dead Kennedys, and Alternative thus earned reputations as the leading provocateurs of punk rock. To this day the Dead Kennedys account for more than half of Alternative Tentacles’ sales. Account. As Biafra puts it, “Alternative Tentacles remains one giant prank against the mainstream entertainment industry and the agendas of the corporations that own it."

But this irony-filled approach to life in and around the recording industry has led Biafra and his label into a series of legal troubles.

In 1986, San Francisco and Los Angeles police raided Biafra's home, and he was subsequently charged with distribution of harmful matter to minors - that is, a poster of a sexually explicit painting by Swiss artist H.R Giger titled Landscape #20: Where Are We Coming From, which was included in copies of the Dead Kennedys' 1985 album Frankenchrist. The Los Angeles District Attorney's Office prosecuted Biafra on obscenity charges, which could have led to a one-year jail term and $2,000 fine. But the trial of the criminal case, much of which focused on First Amendment arguments over whether the painting was indeed obscene, resulted in a hung jury. Biafra had won, but the emotional and financial stress of the case helped break up the band that year, after it released a final album, Bedtime for Democracy.

Biafra now; Klaus and Biafra in DK days; Ray now.

Then in 1996 the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police and Sgt. John Whalen sued Borders Books, Biafra, Alternative Tentacles, and one of the label's bands, the Crucifucks, for defamation and copyright Infringement. That band had used a photograph of a police officer lying dead next to a squad car on the back of its 1992 album Our Will Be Done, which included anti-police songs such as “Pigs in a Blanket” and “Cops for Fertilizer”. The photo was posed, with Whalen playing the dead officer; it had originally been used by the Philadelphia FOP as a part of a mid-‘80s promotional campaign for a police wage hike. In April 1997, a federal judge ordered the band to pay the Philadelphia FOP $2.2 million. Three months later, that judgment was overturned, and the case was eventually dismissed.

So Biafra's label prepares to celebrate its 20th anniversary this week as one of the luckier punk ventures in history. It has done what few punk rock labels ever do - survive - and has remained, by virtually all accounts, supportive of punk rock (as loosely defined) locally, nationally, and globally.

But Saturday's celebration might be a more inclusive and happier affair if not for yet another lawsuit, one that challenges the credibility and integrity of the Alternative Tentacles label, and that, regardless of the outcome, will leave noone who was once a Dead Kennedy unwounded.

On Sept. 30 of last year, former Dead Kennedys members East Bay Ray, Klaus Flouride, and D.H. Peligro (born Ray Pepperell, Geoffrey Lyall, and Darren Henley, respectively) sat down and voted to terminate their relationship with Alternative Te ntacles. Ray, who has acted as the official spokesperson for the three rebelling band members, says he discovered in 1996 that Alternative Tentacles had raised the wholesale price of its CDs without informing the band. Ray and the two other former Dead Kennedys argue that the increase in wholesale prices should have resulted in higher royalties on Dead Kennedys sales. In their suit, they claim Biafra took profits from the wholesale price increase for himself.

Greg Werckman, who was working as Alternative Tentacles' label manager at the time (and is now
Biafra's manager), says the label wasn't obliged to increase the band's royalty rate. Proceeds from the increase in the wholesale price were fed into overhead for the label, a financial move that, he contends, does not violate the Alternative Tentacles’ agreement with the Dead Kennedys. Werckman does acknowledge that in 1997 he and Ray sat down to go over the accounting of the band’s royalties (as well as those for the solo albums that Fluoride recorded for AT), and found that the royalties had been calculated from a formula that left the Dead Kennedys underpaid on record sales.

It was, in Werckman’s view, an honest mistake, and he informed Biafra of the discrepancy. “Ray does have a case, not for a higher royalty rate, but for back payment.” Werckman says. The royalty shortage amounted to about $75,000, which Biafra placed into a trust account, to be released to the band either with his permission or through a court order.

But the argument isn't entirely about royalties. It's also about loyalty.

Ray, Flouride, and Peligro say that Alternative Tentacles was originally formed, owned, and controlled by the entire Dead Kennedys band. When the group broke up in 1986, they say, the other members ceded
ownership of the label to Biafra alone in an oral agreement that required him to not only properly administer royalties to the Dead Kenneds, but also promote and grant "most favored nation” status to the group. That status required Biafra to ensure that the Dead Kennedys' royalty rate would be as highly paid as any other band on the label. (Werckman contends that no such royalty arrangement ever existed.)

The Dead Kennedys band was, itself, a partnership, formed in 1981 and known as Decay Music. The three dissenting former members of the band felt they could therefore vote to sever the Dead Kennedys' connection to Alternative Tentacles. And they did so at a meeting last September. (Biafra did not vote; in a court filing, he claims that he was out of town at the time, and that his offer to send a proxy to cast his vote was refused. Even if Biafra had been there, say Ray's lawyers, his vote would have been moot because, they say, he has a conflict of interest as a partner in Decay Music and owner of Alternative Tentacles.)

Ray says that he never wanted to get involved in a lawsuit In fact, he says, early in 1998, he, Flouride, and Peligro hired an attorney, Michael Ashburne, who told them that he didn't do litigation. "We said, 'Well, we won't need to go that far. We've known each other for 20 years, we're partners together,' “ says Ray.

But when Biafra continued to argue that the three former members were not owed anything, they sued Biafra both individually and as owner of Alternative Tentacles, as well as Mordam Records, which distributes Alternative Tentacles’ records. The suit, files on Oct. 29, 1998, seeks the right to control the Dead Kennedys’ catalog, as least $50,000 in damages, and an injunction preventing both Biafra and Mordam from selling or distributing Dead Kennedys recordings.

Biafra countersued in November and attempted to move the case to federal court, claiming that it was an issue of copyright law properly decided in a federal venue. Senior District Judge D. Lowell Jensen disagreed, ruling it was a simple contract dispute; he remanded the case to San Francisco Superior Court and ordered Biafra to pay $12,160.50 in legal fees for, essentially, wasting everyone's time trying to make a routine state contract suit into a federal case.

At first, Biafra doesn't want to discuss any of the legal problems. He's feeling harried, having spent most of the day talking to reporters about Alternative Tentacles, and sounds tired. "I don't know," he sighs. "It's all a pretty concocted attempt at fraud on their side. That's all I'm going to say right now."

But that's not really all. "Everything they've said is completely untrue," he claims. "It's an attempt to take something that doesn't belong to them, and try and shake somebody down for money, all because I wouldn't sell out 'Holiday in Cambodia' and Dead Kennedys and everything we represented to a Levi's commercial. The ad agency representing Levi's wanted to put 'Holiday in Cambodia' in a Dockers commercial, no less."

And this claim illustrates the central paradox of the Alternative Tentacles/Dead Kennedys lawsuit: Members of a band that poked holes in the craven, commercial, lying facade of modern life are accusing one another of being craven commercial liars.

For example, David M. Given, a San Francisco lawyer representing Ray, Peligro, and Flouride, uses this calm legal language to characterize Biafra's assertion about the Levi's ad: "A bunch of horseshit"

All sides agree that the band was approached with some sort of offer to use a song in a commercial. Given says Ray told other band members of the offer, as he would with any DK-related business offer, but they “weren’t down with it, and it never happened.”

Werckman holds a sort of middle ground in the Levi’s argument, saying that “Holiday in Cambodia” was just one of about 30 songs the ad agency was considering for the commercial, and in the end the agency decided to use a different song.

Still, Biafra argues that the Levi’s situation cuts to the heart of the issue in dispute: preserving the integrity of his old band and of his record label. “The reputation of Dead Kennedys and my own reputation are cemented and linked," he says. "If I screw up, it screws up the legacy of Dead Kennedys. If the other guys go and screw up, it screws up my personal reputation. If 'Holiday in Cambodia' wound up in a Levi's commercial, everybody would blame me. I might even get beat up again." (The beating Biafra references happened in 1994 at Berkeley's 924 Gilman club, where he was attacked by people shouting he was a "rock star" and "sellout.") '''That's not fair. To put it mildly, that's not fair."

As both sides claim the moral high ground, the ground gradually seems to transform itself into empty or unprovable rhetoric. Biafra says the consequence of this war of words is "a frivolous, mean-spirited lawsuit, where the only people who win in a situation like that are lawyers laughing all the way to the bank."

But don't his former bandmates have the right to separate themselves from Alternative Tentacles?

''Whether they have the right to do it or not, is it morally right to do it in the first place? That speaks volumes about where their heads are at, as far as I'm concerned. They don't give a damn about anything but quick free money. And that's not what Dead Kennedys or Alternative Tentacles has ever been about"

"Biafra was obviously the media person," Ray retorts, "but a media person is not the whole thing that makes a band .... I set up the label and ran it for the first three years, and I'm given no credit for it right now. Keeping the Dead Kennedys independent, and the fact that Biafra has a nice big mansion on Diamond Heights, is a direct result of my efforts."

"If Biafra weren't the label, he would be carrying the fucking flag up the hill," Given says, "screaming about corporate greed."

Werckman calls the dispute "pathetic on both sides."

There is plenty of time for additional recrimination and response. The case is scheduled to go to trial on Sept. 27.

In punk rock, as in most genres of pop music, scenes come and go. And if punk in San Francisco has never died off, it has never again approached the fertility that it enjoyed in the late '70s and the early ‘80’s.

In 1982, around the time that Alternative Tentacles stopped being the Dead Kennedys’ vanity label and began releasing other records in earnest, the late Tim Yohannon and a group of others founded the fanzine MaximumRockandRoll in San Francisco, one of the leading arbiters of punk ideology (even though many feel that its view of punk rock is strict, misguided, and, at this point, outdated) .

In 1994, the fanzine banned Alternative Tentacles from advertising in its pages, and refused to review its record releases, claiming that it was no longer punk. From its very beginning, the fanzine's letters page was rife with complaints about the "true" definition of punk. Every month, with each new issue, the complaints continue.

But there's another view: Ralph Spight, who sings and plays guitar in San Francisco's Hellworms and has been part of the local punk scene since the early '80s, credits Alternative Tentacles for being both loyal and daring. "Some of them sold pretty well," Spight says of his AT recording efforts with the bands Saturn's Flea Collar and Victim's Family. "Some of them didn't. But on any other label in the world, doing the things I've done, I'd be dropped."

And AT's openness to experimentation makes it more "punk" than new bands aping the old look and sound.

"Sometimes I get really excited about the bands going on around here, and then sometimes I get really bored," Spight says. He sees a punk scene that threatens to go stagnant and become just another musical style - which would leave it far, far away from its radical roots. "I'm pretty jaded about it all," he says.

Although it has released records from local groups such as Neurosis and Zen Guerrilla, Alternative Tentacles has increasingly focused on aggressive and noisy bands outside the confines of the Bay Area, and new labels have stepped in to cover local punk music. The most famous, Berkeley's Lookout, has functioned for 11 years, supporting bands like Green Day and.Operation Ivy (members of which would later form Rancid). Molly Neuman, Lookout's general manager, praises Alternative Tentacles for proving that the do-it- yourself ethic can work. "[Alternative Tentacles] demonstrated that independent music can survive without tons of media support and attention, without radio, without MTV, and can still survive outside of the mainstream music industry's standards," says Neuman.

Neuman says she hasn't kept up on details of the Alternative Tentacles/Dead Kennedys case. But when asked about it, she makes the same comment, three times.

"It's a shame."

Neuman is right in saying that Alternative Tentacles helped establish the model for how an independent rock and punk label might operate successfully. To perhaps oversimplify, that model is analogous to a shopping mall: If you have one or more successful and familiar "anchor" bands, people buy the smaller acts, too. The label's name and logo become a brand and a signifier of quality. That's part of what differentiates the independent record label from a major: Nobody buys a Ricky Martin album because he's on Sony, just like Miles Davis; but Alternative Tentacles record buyers, knowing the Dead Kennedys' history, might be more likely to buy a record by, say, the Causey Way.

The Causey Way, one of AT's recent signings, is an upstart, Devo-esque band from Gainesville, Fla. Says singer Causey, somewhat waggishly, "We were approached' courted,' as they say - by some of the majors, but no one understood the integrity of our mission like our brothers and sisters at AT. I have only wonderful things to say about Jello Biafra."

This "shopping mall" system of independent marketing has worked for Washington D.C.'s Dischord, home to Fugazi and Minor Threat; Chicago's Touch and Go, for which famed producer Steve Albini records and performs; Southern California's SST, which mainly sustains itself on '80s albums by Black Flag and Husker Du; and, of course, Alternative Tentacles, home to the Dead Kennedys - at least for now.

As the former members of the Dead Kennedys prepare for the trial that would resolve their dispute (at least in a legal sense), Jello Biafra continues to oversee new Alternative Tentacles releases, which have recently included spoken-word albums by leftist cause célebrès such as the late environmental activist Judi Bari, A People's History of the United States author Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, and alleged cop murderer Mumia Abu-Jamal, as well as musical offerings from bands at various positions on the punk spectrum.

Though he rarely publicly performs music - partially because of knee damage he sustained in the 1994 beating - Biafra occasionally sings or writes for musical projects, including Lard, a collaboration with members of the Chicago industrial band Ministry. The bulk of his post-Dead Kennedys recordings, however, are his own politically themed spoken-word albums, and he continues to speak around the country, mainly on college campuses.

Ray and Flouride have been playing together locally in Jumbo Shrimp, a surf rock trio. Peligro now lives in Los Angeles, where he continues to play music. Ray also has his hand in a number of recording projects, an says he's started getting involved in the rave scene, which attracts him because "you don't have to deal with lead singers."

Ray catches himself and laughs. '''That's a joke. Kind of." .

Alternative Tentacles Records' 20th Anniversary Party, featuring the Causey Way, Wesley Willis, Hellworms, Creeps on Candy, Crucifucks, DJ Whats His Fuck, and host Jello Biafra, happens Saturday, June 26, at 9 p.m. at the Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell (at Polk), S.F. Tickets are $10: call 885-0750.