Unlike the last two posts I do not have a recording of the gig as an accompaniment to the review that follows, which must have been one of the bands earliest. That would be nice indeed!
This review of a gig that they played at the famed Wardour Street venue on 7th November 1976 abounds with references to the similarities of the band's sound to The Doors (and the Velvet Underground). Aside from the reviewer's skepticism of Hugh's proclamations about the worth of The Marquee, all made from the stage of the said venue, it is a very positive piece of music journalism, with an early prediction of the band's rapid rise to success that was just a few months away. He also predicted that 'Go Buddy Go' would be a hit for the as yet unsigned group.
As for Hugh's disparaging tirade against the Marquee, I am a little perplexed. Far from being a dinosaur rock venue, it was always my impression that the management/bookers for the Marquee were pretty savvy when it came to identifying the 'next big thing' in music. As mentioned in the review, The Stranglers were by no means the first in the crop of punk/new wave bands to play there. The 'Live at the Marquee EP' by Eddie and the Hot Rods was one of their best known releases and put them on the map. Most of the London based proto-punk Pub Rock bands also took to the Marquee stage on a regular basis.Throughout 1977 the venue was synonymous with punk.... The Adverts, Buzzcocks, X Ray Spex, The Damned, Chelsea....all Marquee Club regulars.
I guess at the time that The Stranglers found punk in the middle of 1976, the fact that not twelve months previously the band's regular gigs featured a string of 1960's covers played to apathetic audiences in sparsely filled pubs would not have made good press in that steamy summer of hate!
“We’d like to mourn the death of the Marquee. The place is dead. The regulars have grown into the wallpaper, the Marquee don’t know what’s going on today. Wait till we’ve finished then smash the place up.”
Hugh Cornwall (sic), guitar player with the Stranglers, looks old even by my standards, yet whenever he opens his mouth he spews forth kindergarten nihilist polemics, the sort of immature garbage you can smile at when lisped by babes like Rat Scabies or Barrie Masters…. But from a grown up recycling Doors licks, well, it’s just sad.
And when he’s doing it he’s on stage at the Marquee, striving desperately to join the Pistols in getting banned from there – when it’s the Marquee that launched unquestionably the most successful of all punk affiliated bands (that’s still what the Hot Rods are) – it’s plain stupid.
Despite their verbal idiocy, which seems also to run through their songs, the Stranglers are pretty certain to be huge. The fact is they are a terrific band.
Every member is a strong player: Jet Black (strangely enough the central motif of one of their best songs, “Down in the Sewer”, reminds me of Jet Harris/Tony Meehan kitsch instrumental cinemascope) is good and energetic, but he can hit that Mo Tucker metronome when required; Jean Jacques Burnel may be a lousy singer – but some of his bass work – particularly on a rather childish anti-education tirade embellished with discipline fantasies called “School Man” (sic) – is authorative enough to act as lead.
Dave Greenfield enacts his Ray Manzarek duties with aplomb, his astute use of piano and organ both as colour, as lead and as play-off against the guitar is a joy to hear, and he throws in an okay Dracula type vocal on “You’re Not Real”, while Cornwell is fine as a singer and breaks up his Velveteen riffing with lovely flowing Robby Krieger leads.
On just hearing them live, their words leave something to be desired. “London Lady” for instance appears to be a regressively sexist rock ‘n’ roll put down, while “Bitchin’”, a rant against everything in general and “posers” in particular, ill befits a mob of would-be 1966 L.A. hoodlums.
But the music, which fuses the Velvets with the Doors, and the songs, which are dynamically structured with a sophistication quite alien to the minimalist bands who are the only comparable phenomenon to the Stranglers around these days, have a drive and a flair that is quite intoxicating. “Go Buddy Go” is a hit.
The boring thing is that their conformist “rebel” image will require them to smash up the dressing room when they appear on Top of the Pops.*
On the same page as the review is another ad for a gig at The Red Cow in Hammersmith, which strangely omits the date. A cross check with the gigography in the Burning Up Time Forum indicates that the band played the venue on 2nd December 1976.
Time to type in 'time-machine' in an Ebay search methinks!