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 19 April 2020

The Gathering of the 5,000 18th April 1987- 33 Years Ago Today

Mortarhate flyer for the gig

I had been meaning to post something on this gig for a while but today I was prompted to do so by on seeing an Instagram post from Steve Ignorant on this anniversary.

In April 1987 I was 18 years old and for the past twelve months or so in a position to travel up to London gigs from home in West Sussex. Prior to this 'coming together of minds gig' in Brixton I had seen conflict and a couple of the other anarcho bands that were regularly hosted by the Richmond Hotel in Brighton. I used to go with a mate who, like me, lived in Burgess Hill (10 miles north of Brighton) and for both of us the necessity of getting up to this gig was not so much that Conflict were headlining, but the fact that Steve Ignorant would be on stage with them and Crass songs were in the offing. Neither Matt or myself had got to see Crass, who had split in accordance with a long established strategy three years before in 1984.

Announcement of the gig in 'Sounds'

To be honest Matt was a bit more clued up than me on the anarcho scene, having been going to see Conflict at Woolwich Poly and Eltham, AYS, Poison Girls, Rubella Ballet etc etc in London. You see, he was the youngest of five.... so he got to do far more than me at a younger age.... still bitter after all these years!

Arriving in Brixton, there was as we expected a healthy turnout from Conflict's friends of the Metropolitan Police, but inside the venue, initially all was calm. I do not remember many of the bands that played prior to Conflict, other than Thatcher on Acid and Benjamin Zephaniah, the poet. For the first part of the Conflict set I was at the front thrilled to be hearing those Crass songs. 'Banned From The Roxy' renamed as 'Banned From The UK', which turned out to be more prophetic than anyone originally imagined, 'Big A Little A' and 'I Ain't Thick It's Just A Trick'. This was a big occasion that saw buses from all corners of the UK bringing punters down to London for the event. Later I moved back.... that's the wonderful thing about the Brixton Academy, the sloping floor means that even a short arse such as me can see the stage from further back.

Out of the joyous ruck at the front, the mood further back in he venue was a little darker in places. Conflict never shied away from calling out other band's that they had issues with. There were spats with The Exploited, Oi Polloi (if I remember correctly) and most publicly New Modal Army, whose appearance on Top of the Pops in 1984 with Justin sporting an 'Only Stupid Bastards Use Heroin' triggered a war of words between the two prominent 'protest bands' that culminated in Conflict releasing an  album entitled 'Only Stupid Bastards Help E.M.I.', a dig at NMA for signing to the major label.

To my left were a group of punks baying for blood.... 'Kill Colin, Kill Colin!'.... well they were a bit too far away from the stage to do him any serious damage! The gig ended before schedule due to people on the stage so Matt and I decided to make an exit. The atmosphere outside was not so conducive to 'Anarchy and Peace' so we made a beeline for Brixton Tube Station and Victoria.

It was only next morning that we heard on the radio that something of a riot followed the gig with 50 plus arrests and four policemen injured. It turned out that luck had been on our side and we had just managed to make it onto the Tube before the London Transport Police made the decision to close it along with bus routes in and out of Brixton in an attempt to contain a crowd containing elements that were looking for confrontation with the police.

Gig review in 'Sounds'

If Conflict thought that they had been in hot water before the 'Gathering' the fall-out proved how bad thinks could be.

'Sounds' April 1987

News of the live album and detailed reportage of the gig from the Daily Mirror!

Reading through this stuff again, some 30 years after the event, some of the claims made that this was always intended to be an harmonious night in which 'to forget our troubles' may have being stretching credibility a little too far. I never saw any leaflets appealing to people to take the opportunity to riot, but there was certainly information available that pinpointed the locations of all butchers, bookies, burger bars, the Police Station, Boots the Chemist and even the local Conservative Club!

I still have the 'Ungovernable Force' gig shirt with the date on the back that I bought from Rough Trade in Portabello Road a couple of weeks later. It would be rather snug now but who knows after 3 months of housebound isolation....


  1. I saw Conflict at the Richmond in 1987 when I was at Sussex Uni! Brilliant... I've got the double LP of this gig somewhere... sounds not great IIRC!

  2. I was at that gig as well. I saw the trouble inside the Brixton Academy towards the end of gig. And a bit of the trouble after the gig in the road outside. I have come down for the gig with a group of people from Stoke in a van. So after the gift we all met up and went looking for our van which had been forced to move. Eventually we founded and drove back home. So we were not affected by the tube closure or the bus diversions. From what I saw the police had totally over reacted to what would otherwise have been a peaceful leaving of the venue.