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 23 October 2022

Trade Test Transmission – Buzzcocks Bounce Back In 1993


In 1989 something wonderful happened when Buzzcocks announced a reformation tour. How it came about I cannot rightly recall, but perhaps in part it was something to do with the fact that Steve Diggle’s band ‘Flag of Convenience’ started performing under the name of ‘Buzzcocks FOC’ but I can’t say for sure. So, here was another name punk band with itchy feet. When Buzzcocks split back in 1981 it wasn’t really on their own terms, the combined age old rock ‘n’ roll pitfalls of constant touring and Class A substances colluded to bring the band down. Buzzcocks were to attend to unfinished business in a handful of gigs in UK cities offering up a set of classic singles and album tracks, enough to make a fan cry tears of joy! Changes were once again afoot though when John Maher returned to the US to resume his normal life. For a short time his place on the drum stool was taken up by ex-Smith Mike Joyce and together, Shelley, Diggle, Garvey and Joyce released the ‘Successful Street EP in 1991. That same year the band laid down demo versions of material that was intended to form the basis of the band’s fourth studio album, shortly after which Steve Garvey left the fold once more. The demo’s were shelved for a while as band activity seemed to tail off for a while. New material was only available in the form of those demos to those lucky enough to acquire a cassette copy of them.

Bereft of a rhythm section, Tony Barber and Phil Barker were drafted in a line up that was to remain stable for several years. It was not until 1993 that the band were back in the studio for a frenetic month of recording. Some of the demos made the cut, but others were culled (‘Tranquilizer’, ‘Why Compromise?’, ‘Australia’ and ‘Dreaming’ (at least until it was resurrected for inclusion on the 2006 album ‘Flat-Pack Philosophy’)). The new album entitled ‘Trade Test Transmission’ finally saw the light of day in April 1993. As I remember, it’s release was not heralded by much fanfare, but that not withstanding it is a great album in my opinion taking many of the trademark aural signatures of classic Buzzcocks whilst refining the sound to acknowledge that the musical landscape had not stagnated in the course of their 12 year recording absence. At this point in the ‘90’s guitar bands were back in vogue with a harder sound perhaps that Buzzcocks were used to. Indeed, significant endorsements of the band’s achievements and importance from Stateside musicians, most notably Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, did much to buoy the band up and ramp up the Buzzcocks profile. On that point in a perfect ‘Something’s Gone Wrong Again’ moment, Buzzcocks were on the verge of playing some of their biggest gigs of their lives having secured the support slot on Nirvana’s 1994 tour…. Until that is Cobain decided upon a different course of action entirely.

As with their earlier albums the songs were written by Steve Diggle and Pete Shelley and if anything Steve Diggle has a bigger piece of the pie this time around contributing 5 of the 15 songs that appeared on the original release of the album. I recently read some reviews that were written at the time of the 2004 reissue and was rather surprised at the lack of enthusiasm that the reviewers expressed for the album. One criticism of the album that I can relate to is that there is very little space in the songs, they are generally all full on…. In keeping with the grunge scene of the day perhaps. Earlier releases would perhaps be rather less frantic. Nevertheless, despite the guitar heavy feel to the album, the quality of the writing shines through brilliantly. Old themes are revisited such as in ‘Palm Of Your Hand’ or ‘Who Will Help Me To Forget’ and ‘Last To Know’. Buzzcocks here also dipped there toes into the murky world of far right politics with the track ‘Crystal Night’ a track which as the name suggests is based upon the so-called Kristallnacht, infamous nights of violence meted out against the jewish community across Germany between 9th and 10th November 1938. The song warned of a resurgence of far right sentiment in the present day. As an aside, the only violence I ever witnessed at a Buzzcocks gig occurred in London in a Spastics Society benefit gig at the Town & Country Club in Kentish Town when members of Combat 18 were causing problems...the fact that Steve Diggle burned the Union flag on stage probably heightened tensions somewhat as well! Never given over to the overt expression of political opinion in their songs, Buzzcocks did support RAR, appearing at the Manchester RAR Festival in 1978. At the end of the day why write political songs when there are still songs to be written about wanking and romantic setbacks as yet unwritten!!

I saw the band a few times when they were promoting ‘TTT’, most notably at the East Wing, a smaller hall within the Brighton Centre complex and at the Old Trout in Windsor, when they came on so late that I saw about a third of their set before having to get the last train back into London. The stage set was cheap (I guess) consisting of a wall of old TV sets that provided a riot of colour behind the band.

There is no better way to describe the quality of ‘TTT’ than to post some contemporary audio.... the aforementioned Demos having received a formal vinyl release in the past couple of years.

1 comment:

  1. I Did Brighton 93 Also had to Hot Foot up the hill to Station before they went into OA