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

Saturday 8 April 2023

Fuck Art Let's Dance! - 'Dance Craze' Gets The Deluxe Treatment (At Last!)


Music Week magazine announcement of the original 'Dance Craze' release
7th February 1981.

Rock ‘n’ Roll films can be lame affairs, a vehicle by which stars on a downward trajectory can salvage something from a flagging career or a means by which a record company can foister a few more quid from soundtrack sales on the back of a bit of celluloid exposure. However, very occasionally, a rock ‘n’ roll film can spark the imagination of its audience.
When Bill Haley & The Comets’ ‘Rock Around The Clock’ opened in British cinemas in 1956, the reaction took the public by surprise as young audiences let rip. Seats were slashed and members of the audience danced in the isles, their reverie only halted by the arrival of the police. Such behaviours were very unbecoming in austere, 1950’s Britain. When similar scenes occurred some 25 years  later upon the release of the film ‘Dance Craze’, the element of shock had gone. Teenagers and their associated youth cults/movements (call them what you will) were well established, if not well received by the wider public. As suggested by the name of the film, audiences were again in the isles dancing to the band’s performing on the big screen. Was there fighting? I don’t know, probably if some of the 2 Tone gigs were anything to go by. Did seats get slashed? Most certainly.

By the time Joe Massot's film was released in the UK in February 1981, 2 Tone’s flame was already sputtering. The Specials’ camp was not a happy one and within six months they would be no more. The Selecter  released their second album in the same week as ‘Dance Craze’. However, the single that shared the same name of the album, ‘Celebrate the Bullet’ was subject to radio play bans, by virtue of the fact that John Lennon had been shot dead only weeks before. Such censure hastened the demise of the band. All girl 2 Toners, The Bodysnatchers called it a day that year without releasing an album. The Beat continued on their own ‘Go Feet’ label into 1983 before splintering. Madness went on to win the hearts and minds of chart aware kids with a string of classic singles that paid scant regard to the original 2 Tone sound. And Bad Manners? Well they were Bad Manners.
It was Massot’s intention to make a music film about Madness, a band his son had seen on their first US tour. However, realising that the bands originally signed up by Jerry Dammers onto the 2 Tone label formed a cohesive scene that encompassed both music and fashion, the scope of the film project was revisited. At the time that the footage was shot in 1980, all six bands that featured in the film were alive and well and in your town. The film is intense, the stage is crowded (the bands sum of members was 43 musicians!) and the dance floors heroically bore the weight of thousands of bouncing souls and soles. The Top Ranks, Locanos and Meccas of Britain throbbed with energy when the 2 Tone bands rolled into town. The exuberance of the stage performances transmitted effortlessly into the receptive audiences as the boundaries between musician and music fan blurred. At no point was the absence of a feeling of ‘them and us’ more apparent than during the stage invasion that became a regular feature at the end of a Specials set. Occasional glimpses of a microphone or guitar headstock would be the only indication of the fact that in the middle of the throng a band were playing!

‘Dance Craze’ was a tonic for troubled times. British industry creaked under the malign influence of a new economic experiment. The ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland were at a ferocious peak and women in Yorkshire walked the streets in fear as a serial killer did was serial killers do. Black youth rose up in the inner cities as policing methods caused resentment to boil over and the National Front smashed up gigs in their efforts to find a scapegoat for their woes. This was the nature of the soil in which the 2 Tone seed germinated in 1978-’79.
2 Tone is remembered as a movement/scene with an anti-racism message at its heart, which of course it was. However, the bands were not given over to preaching, only a small number of the bands’ songs addressed the subject of racism. There really was no need to preach, just the fact that each of the bands (with the exception of Madness) featured both black and white musicians in their line ups. That had not really happened before, at least not to the same extent. Rather than focusing on a political agenda, the 2 Tone material dealt with the everyday trials and tribulations of growing up in Britain’s cities in the late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s.

‘Dance Craze’ captures the 2 Tone bands in their prime. Both the film and the associated soundtrack brilliantly convey the energy and passion of these bands and through that the politics finds a voice. These live recordings are in my opinion a far better reflection of what 2 Tone was all about that the studio albums (brilliant though they are). So, that leads me to ask, why has the film been ignored for 43 years! For some reason, the film did not get an official release until 1989 on VHS video. Since that time all of the band’s albums (sorry Bodysnatchers) have received the deluxe reissue treatment, so as an official release on the 2 Tone label, why was ‘Dance Craze’ overlooked. I do not have the answer to that but I can say that the issue has been addressed with a stunning release (expanded CDs, triple vinyl, T shirts and tote bags, not forgetting of course the DVD/BluRay edit of the film itself).
The man entrusted to turn Joe Massot’s film concept into reality was film maker Joe Dunton. Massot and Dunton has first worked together in the late sixties and both men trusted each other’s abilities. Dunton was interviewed in the 100th issue of ‘Vive Le Rock’ magazine and from that it became apparent to me for the first time just how much technical care and attention had been lavished on this cinematic project. I am no techie, but understood the fact that the decision was taken to shoot the film on 35 mm film as this can be blown up nicely to 70 mm for the big screen. It was always intended that ‘Dance Craze’ was a production to be viewed on the big screen. In fact there was no other option at that time, since at the time of its release (February 1981) home video was still in its infancy and only available at a cost that was well beyond the means of the largest proportion of its intended young audience. The other innovation was the use of the ‘Steadicam’ camera, very useful when cameramen and their subjects are in constant and frenetic movement on overcrowded stages! The film is shot both from the audience and the stage which further serves to break down barriers. The overall effect is that of a joyous communion….

‘Buster, he sold the heat with a rock-steady beat’….

To mark the release of the restored film, screenings and Q&A's were hosted across the country. I am still kicking myself that I missed the London screening. It was a gathering of 2 Tone royalty make no mistake!

Rhoda (The Bodysnatchers), Pauline (The Selecter), Jerry (The Specials), Buster (Bad Manners), Neville (The Specials), Sugary, Woody, Lee (Madness).
BFI IMAX, London.

Promo for the rerelease (2023).
What will follow are first a couple of contemporary reviews of the film/soundtrack and then six posts, one for each of the ‘Dance Craze’ bands performing at around (give or take a few months) the time when the film was recorded or released.

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