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.


Sunday, 31 January 2021

'There's A Riot Going On.....' - The Nice Incident 1980

 



The Stranglers cuffed in Nice June 1980

It was the tumultuous scenes on the 6th January in and around the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. that brought to mind another rumpus almost forty years ago. In the first instance I am talking about the riot that saw supporters of Donald Trump, a strange collective of Good 'Ole Boys and Q-Anon conspiracy theorists (or as some wag captioned them 'The Village Idiot People'), attack and enter the seat of US politics, and in the second, the 'riot' that ensued after an unsuccessful gig at Nice University on 20th June 1980.

The two events attracted widely differing levels of media attention unsurprisingly. The insurgency of Trump's militia set the world's media outlets ablaze, whilst reports of punk misdemeanors on the French Riviera were in large part confined to the pages of the music press of the day and the UK's sensation-seeking tabloid press. On the other hand similarities are to be found in terms of the issue of who was responsible for inciting a riot.

In both cases lawyers for and against poured over transcripts of what was said in the period immediately prior to the violence, with each side assigning legal significance to which ever comments carried most weight in favour of the case they were making.

In Washington, the outgoing President urged a crowd of his supporters to walk down to Capitol Building , two miles distant, where 'We're probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them because you'll never take back our country with weakness.  You have to show strength, and you have to be strong'.

In Nice, after the PA broke down for a third time in the band's set as a result of the inadequacy of the generator's provided by the University, the gig was abandoned. Jet Black explained the events that had occurred  throughout the day, including the University authority's refusal to allow a more powerful generator onto the site for fear that the heat produced would damage the concrete beneath. Jet's explanation was translated into French by Jean-Jacques and the band departed for a post (half) gig meal. Back at the abandoned gig, the riled and frustrated audience took the University to task for its failings by rearranging the campus somewhat.

In Washington, by the time the riot was quelled, five people were dead, including a Capitol police officer, more than 60 people were arrested and critically the political systems of the United States were on their knees.

In Nice, the outcome was less dramatic admittedly, with damage caused that, according to the University, amounted to £10,000 (approximately £40,000 worth today). Plate glass windows were smashed and trees set alight within the campus grounds.

In The Stranglers' situation, the damage to the fabric of the University could be quickly and simply reversed. The damage to the band's career was potentially devastating, the statuary penalty for incitement to cause riot was 1 year to a maximum of 5 years and there was real concern within the band camp that our gallic bass player could be looking at some manner of custodian sentence.

If incitement to riot under French Law carries such a harsh sentence, is there any chance that Trump could be extradited to France to answer charges for what occurred in Washington in a Nice courtroom?

Here, I have pulled together the contemporary reports of the Nice incident for your reading pleasure.


The decisions on the fate if The members of The Stranglers were decided largely on the unlicensed recording of the gig made by Radio Monte Carlo.... I want ! I want! I want!

Arrested

UK Tabloid (Daily Mirror/News of the World?) June 1980


The Sun 21st June 1980

From Peter Stephens in Paris

Punk rock stars The Stranglers were behind bars last night after a riot at a concert.

The four-man British group were accused of deliberately urging their audience to wreck the concert hall.

They are likely to spend the weekend in a French jail before a court hearing tomorrow.

The group were arrested at their French Riviera hotel after walking out of the show at Nice University because of a power failure.

Students threw metal barriers through floor to ceiling windows when the band complained about the uni.

Police allege that one member of the group said to the audience “I urge you to break everything”.

The controversial foursome are Hugh Cornwell, Jet Black, Dave Greenfield and Jean Jacques Burnel.

The Stranglers’ manager, Ian Grant, said in London last night “We have been trying to get a lawyer to see them but it appears that there is no obligation on the police to let them have representation until 48 hours after arrest.”

Charged

The Sun June 1980

POLICE ACCUSE PUNK STARS

Three members of The Stranglers punk rock group were charged by French police last night with inciting a riot.

The three, Jet Black, 40, Hugh Cornwell, 31, and French guitarist Jean-Jacques Burnel were accused after appearing before an examining magistrate in the Riviera resort of Nice.

The fourth member of the group, 31 year old Dave Greenfield, was freed by the court.

Their London manager will fly to Nice today and lodge £30,000 bail so that the three can be freed on bail.

Otherwise they could spend months in jail awaiting trial.


Wrecking

The band were arrested and held in Jail for 36 hours after a riot during a concert at Nice University. Fans went on the rampage, smashing windows, wrecking furniture and setting fire to trees in the campus gardens.

Their manager Andy Dunkley said late last night that “The police have told us nothing. Dave Greenfield is back at the hotel exhausted".

He added “None of them got much sleep on Saturday night, they were four in a cell.”

Mystery

“Most of today they were taken from the cell for questioning then dragged back again.”

Mr Dunkley said Dave Greenfied may have been released because he said little on stage.

But mystery surrounds the reason Hugh Cornwell was charged.

Several witnesses claimed he was not on stage when the riot began.

Andy Dunkley was tour manager at the time.


Melody Maker June 1980


Record Mirror 28th June 1980




 

Unknown

Stranglers in jail on ‘riot’ charge

The Stranglers found themselves on the wrong end of the law yet again at the weekend when they were all arrested in Nice after a gig at the University turned into a riot. Keyboard player Dave Greenfield was later released but the other three – Hugh Cornwell, Jet Black and Jean-Jacques Burnel, were all charged with inciting a riot and held in prison.

The band’s manager, Ian Grant, was flying to France at the beginning of this week to arrange bail but at press time it was still not clear whether the band would have to remain in France until the trial came up and whether their upcoming British tour would have to be postponed.

The trouble started last Friday when the Stranglers arrived to play the gig at Nice University and claimed that both the power supply and the PA were inadequate for them. They decided to carry on with the gig but the power supply failed three times and the third time it happened the band left the stage for good. Jet Black was alleged to have told the angry audience to “take it out on the University, not us, and ask for your money back” which Jean Jacques Burnel kindly translated into French.

The audience did demand their money back and proceeded to wreck the theatre causing damage estimated by university authorities at £10,000.

The band meanwhile had already left the university and gone for a meal. When they returned to their hotel the police swooped and took them all into custody.

The following day they were brought before an examining magistrate to determine if there was a case for them to answer. A tape of the gig was playing to the magistrate who confessed he wasn’t able to understand any of it and demanded a translation.

The band were then taken back to the police cells for a second night and brought before the magistrate again on Sunday. He freed Dave Greenfield who had said nothing throughout the gig but charged the remaining three and sent them back into police custody. A trial date has not yet been fixed.

The tape containing the ‘evidence’ of the gig was made by Radio Monte Carlo without the permission of the band and the band’s management will be suing the radio station for unauthorized taping at the as well as the organisers for failing to supply adequate power or PA.


Melody Maker June 1980



In Court


Unknown

Stranglers face the French music

The Stranglers, currently working on final details for a British tour in February, returned to France last week for the first stage of their court case in Nice.

Hugh Cornwell, Jean Jacques Burnel and Jet Black heard the court prosecutor demand that Burnel should be jailed for a year, and Cornwell and Black six months each on charges that they incited fans at Nice University to damage the hall after protesting about the poor quality of sound equipment at the gig in June.

They have paid more than £9,000 in compensation for smashed windows , damaged furniture and burnt trees. If found guilty they could get either suspended sentences or a fine when the verdict is delivered on January 13.

Meanwhile the band have their new album, “The Meninblack” for release in January, and will be touring Britain in February.


New Musical Express 5th July 1980

Stranglers out

The Stranglers’ British tour goes ahead next week on schedule – and its likely than more dates will be added to those already announced.

The tour was salvaged last Friday when the three members who’d been in a French jail for almost a week on a charge of inciting violence – Hugh Cornwell, Jet Black and Jean Jacques Burnel – were released, the first two unconditionally and Burnel on a bail of 100,000 francs (about £10,000). 

The accused are now required to report back to the court when summoned – probably in October – either to face trial, have the charges dropped or be re-bailed. They are hoping that by that time the court will be prepared to settle for a fine rather than a jail sentence.

Speaking from his Nice hotel on Friday, manager Ian Grant told NME: “Even our lawyer was surprised when the boys were freed so quickly. At best, we thought they’d be held until Monday. At worst they could have been in custody until October.

Naughty boys bailed, so UK tour is on

“The prosecution pulled all the usual strokes. They even raised the age-old issue of Jean Jacues’ national service in France, but fortunately we had the documents with us to prove he was exempt. Apparently they also contacted Interpol to get details of the band’s record in other countries, but the telex didn’t come through with the information in time for the court hearing – which is just as well!”

There is no question of The Stranglers not surrendering to their bail in October, though it seems that, if found guilty, the least they can expect is a fine of the same amount, which allegedly is the extent of the damage caused at Nice University where the trouble occurred.

The main worry, said Grant, is over Burnel – because it was he who spoke to the audience in French, and is therefore regarded by the police as the main culprit. But the band still insist that they in no way incited the riot, and hope to prove that this was not an isolated instance (British band Screen Idols had a similar experience with under-power generators when they played Nice University at the end of last year, though there were no riots or police involved).

The question of The Stranglers’ finances is also causing concern. The present hassles come on top of Cornwell’s jail sentence in March and the civil action in which the band have been involved, But Grant insisted that The Stranglers will continue come what may – even if their company is forced into liquidation.

The band cancelled their Athens concert, because they weren’t freed in time to make the necessary ferry bookings. But they were playing in Italy yesterday and tonight (Thursday) – then it’s a how in Palma on Friday, back to Italy on Saturday and home for their UK tour starting at the London Rainbow next Tuesday.

Record Mirror 5th July 1980


Aftermath

The band were released, only  couple of dates were lost and the British tour went ahead as planned. But the Nice experience had a profound effect on the band. The years 1979 to 1980 represent a low for the band and yet for many a fan these two years saw the band at the top of their creative game. At one time, the band attributed the misfortunes experienced in these years to an over-active interest in the Men In Black phenomena. On the other hand, pharmaceuticals may have made a contribution too!

In the wake of the Nice incident, the S.I.S. jailbird library was supplemented to the tune of one, with Jet's account entitled 'Much Ado About Nothing' which he subsequently updated in the 2011 account 'Seven Days in Nice'. 











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