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.


Saturday, 25 July 2020

To Tour or Not To Tour - That Is The Question

Wednesday’s announcement of a tour delay cannot come as much of a surprise to anyone. At the rate that this lockdown is easing coupled with the rising rates of infection following a lifting of certain restrictions in other European nations means that UK gigs in major venues in the second half of 2020 are a pipedream.

So now that a good few respectful weeks since the sad loss of our unique keyboard player have passed, I feel that I can express my own thoughts on the matter of the tour and the future of the band on this site.

The obvious question is whether they should or shouldn’t have continued with the plans for their final major British tour. On this topic I am sure that there are as many opinions as there are fans to express them! There certainly is no right or wrong in this situation. In this I can for sure see both sides of the argument and as such my position on this is mine and mine alone, I fully respect contrary opinions and expect no recriminations!

I would rather that the death of either active, touring member of the band, i.e. JJ or Dave, trigger the drawing of a long black veil over the band’s long and illustrious career with no further live appearances in the name of The Stranglers.

On the night of the 3rd May, I stayed up late, listening to the band and in particular those songs that Dave really made his own (more from a musical rather than a vocal standpoint). This went beyond Golden Brown of course! In this respect I was the only family member, in a family heavily invested in The Stranglers, who felt able to do so on the day. The numbing effect of alcohol may have been a contributory factor in this respect as I attempted to digest this most unwelcomed of news.

From discussions earlier in the evening with Mo and Gunta, the three of us arrived at the conclusion that the element that underpinned that unique ‘Stranglers’ sound’ was not the grumbling bass of JJ (potent as it is), it was Dave’s handling of the keys that made all the difference. Think about it, over the years, Hugh, the undoubted voice of The Stranglers, was successfully replaced, Jet Black, the powerhouse drummer relinquished his drum stool for a younger man and was likewise replaced. Shoot me down, but I reckon that, at a very  good push someone could do a fair interpretation of JJ’s bass sound if they were heavy handed enough and sufficiently disrespectful of their instrument. So, that just leaves Dave. Can he be replaced in a manner that would retain that crucial ‘Stranglers’ sound’? This is where I have my doubts.

The tour as it was set up was intended to be a final major celebration of the band as a live performing band. It promised to be a party for the faithful, only marginally tinged with sadness. After all things come to an end and after well over 40 years in the business there are no debts outstanding! It would have been an opportunity for the ‘Familyinblack’ to socialize hard as always, pre and post gig, for one last time. Graeme Mullen once said ‘Sometimes the gig just gets in the way’ Never a truer word was said Mully!

The new 2021 tour will be a different proposition altogether. I have tickets for 6 gigs, having been out done by the daughter who currently had 9 but is seeking more! My problem is that I cannot foresee a situation where I will enjoy any of them. It will just be too hard on me and those that have invested half a lifetime in following this exceptional band.

On the other hand I appreciated that the statement from the band that ‘this is what Dave would have wished for’ and as an outsider I cannot say anything to the contrary. I appreciate to that there are other factors that may or may not come into play here. What are the financial implications for the band of a cancellation? How do the insurers that underwrite these big tours view such situations in terms of death of a band member and additionally in the event a global pandemic? What power do venues have (some of which will be at risk of permanent closure) over cancellations?

Please feel free to share your own thoughts.


6 comments:

  1. Interesting discussion. I was lucky enough to see them in Japan in November. Happy knowing that I had the Australia/NZ tour to look forward to. Following that I had planned 10 dates in November in the UK. I am content knowing I saw Daves last gig in Auckland. Much as I would like to see them again in April, I am now really torn. How will it feel without Dave? But whatever I feel, if the tour happens in April, the chances of getting to the UK in April from Australia are probably non existant. So suspect the choice will be taken away from me regardless

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  2. I'm not sure how the band can pay tribute to Dave unless they perform, as does Frank Zappa's son Dweezil, by allowing Zappa to solo posthumously via inserts of film footage to which the band on stage play along, and I don't think that seems likely. I suppose, in a perverse kind of way, playing live without DG WOULD actually be a very definite tribute, as it would clearly illustrate how empty everything will sound in his absence - but what kind of a gig would that be? I'm sure, given the time now available for rehearsal, they could draft another keyboard player in to have a stab at filling the gaps, but how would that amount to anything but an insult to his memory? I do not deny the right of the band to continue to do what they love to do, however intermittently that was going to be after this tour, but surely that must be under another name as, for many people, 'The Stranglers' as a live entity must be laid to rest.

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  3. I won't be going .it's flogging the dead horse as many money grabbing bands do sad to see the stranglers go that way.knock it on the head

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  4. As someone who has been blessed enough to have seen the band many times with the original four members, I can only echo the above sentiments.
    The Stranglers , more so than many of the bands I've followed for decades had, in bucket loads ,a very real, almost otherworldly chemistry.
    Here I mean no offence to anyone, least of all Messrs. Roberts,Ellis,Warne and Macaulay, but 25% of that chemistry was removed in August 1990. Another 25% with Jets retirement.
    Then we have Adrian's very cogently argued point around Dave's irreplaceable 25%. I for one cannot get my head around his passing and find playing anything Stranglers related too painful
    Rest in Peace.

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    1. Pratinblack has really closed the case for me. His sentiments, along with Adrian's own perfectly reasoned observations cannot be bettered. I am also a long time follower - from the age of 14, in 1977, to the present. I'd be lying though if I claimed to have stayed in the same seat - behind the driver - throughout. I changed seats once Hugh departed, for sure. The Mr Roberts era was painful and sad, I thought. Happily, they managed to recover from the nosedive, and soared once again, although (for me, at least) not quite so high. Then, as already pointed out, Jet's retirement, and now Dave's cruel passing... it just leaves JJ as - as I dubbed him on Twitter the other week - the lone Stranglers. Sure the other two fellas are there, but they are in The Stranglers... they ain't The Stranglers. Adrian's point about the matters of insurance are very bang on and that's an unknown part of the formula. Outside of this very relevant aspect, my instant thought at the news of Dave's passing was that there would be no more Stranglers. Not on record, not on stage. The record is lined up for completion shortly. But that, I think, may be where it is best left. As already remarked upon, stage right will be very, very blank. Conversely, if it would indeed have been Dave's wish, then soldier on they must. Yes, it is indeed a very tricky dilemma that both JJ and Jet must reach a decision upon. I don't envy them.

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