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, 4 April 2020

Master-Minding The Militant Roadshow - RAR On The Road New Musical Express 31st March 1979

Clockwise from the top: The audience at West Runton Pavilion (20th March 1979), Irate Kate (RAR Offices), The Ruts, Red Saunders and Syd Shelton, Misty in Roots.

With just one more working day to go -until the kick-off of Rock Against Racism's most ambitious venture to date the 90-odd band, month-long Militant Entertainment tour - RAR's cramped North London headquarters is on red alert.

Bouncy RAR staffer Irate Kate (who's nothing of the sort) is putting the finishing touches to booking hotels for all concerned – no mean task when you consider she has had to arrange accommodation for several hundred people in a bewildering variety of 40-strong entourages.

The four-bands-a-night line-up is completely changed every fourth night, and no two line-ups are the
same, as a different local band is brought in each night to augment each block of three bands.

"There have been some difficulties booking 40 people into one hotel. If a hotel objects to having us, they object 'cause it's a bunch of pop groups," she says with characteristic good nature.

'''We don't say RAR are coming to beat up the NF in your town," she adds, smiling.

The thought of Kate beating up anybody is difficult to imagine. She's a friendly, wholesome looking 19-year-old who's "supposed to be doing my A-levels". Instead she's the mainstay of the RAR office. Until October she ran the office on her own, but a growth in RAR's activities has meant that two others have given up their day-time jobs to not only hold the RAR fort to make sure that the 100 or so letters RAR receive a day are answered, eventually, and that the worldwide orders for RAR badges, T-shirts, stickers and posters are dealt with as promptly as possible.

RAR receive mail from lands as varied as Japan and Scandinavia. Of late there's been a marked upsurge in communiques from America which RAR put down to The Clash's recent tour.

And that's only half the work-load, for RAR's primary function, other than to rid the isle of rancid racism, is to put on gigs. Since their inception nigh on three years ago they have staged over
800 gigs, but the current tour, involving the kind of logistics that would give even an experienced
promoter a headache, is by far the most significant project.

"A tour like this will put us on the map," opines John Dennis, who along with Wayne is the other full-time RAR office worker. He adds matter-of-factly : " This is just the start of RAR in rock terms."

A former adventure playground leader, Dennis is the only one of the crew wedged into RAR's office this Thursday afternoon who comes close to fulfilling any preconceived notions people may have about RAR being "a bunch of earnest politicos".

Tall and thin, with striking angular features, he has the air of a consumptive romantic poet.

Neither he nor his two colleagues are remotely punky. There isn't a leather jacket between them, let
alone a pair of bondage strides. Of late this trio have been working a 13 hour day seven days a week to ensure that all goes off according to plan on the tour.

Also present is RAR initiator Red Saunders - a garrulous gent of Falstaffian girth, a trifle 'paranoid' and fond of using left wing slogans - and three 'temporary helpers'. There are two girls, one who types out copy for the latest edition of Temporary Hoarding, read aloud by Red, and Jane (I think) whose job it is to enter mail order sales of RAR 'product' (badges, posters, T-shirts) into an accounts book.

There is also Alan, a disarmingly callow-looking member of Her Majesty's Armed Forces who's set for his first-ever tour of Northern Ireland. He deals with the out-going mail.

In the last five months sales of RAR 'product' have amounted to £7,300.

"The sales go up and down," Jane tells me. "Obviously they increase after a carnival, but the maximum is about £6-700 a week."

To get any more accurate picture of the finances is impossible without further investigation into the organisation's out-goings. Certainly the rent of the office is not high - £5 a week – and neither is the amount spent on staff wages.

Until three weeks ago Kate, John and Wayne were paid a pittance, but this was increased three-fold to a figure in the region of what the ambulance drivers were being paid before their strike.

Red's contribution to the RAR effort is entirely voluntary, although temporary helpers are paid expenses. 'We want to avoid the martyr syndrome," explains Kate. At present they have a solicitor engaged in doing the work which is necessary for RAR to become an official tax company.

The bulk of the organisation's income comes from the sale of their fortunately ubiquitous badge. Little money is made from gigs.

"What money we do make," says Kate, "is always used to finance the next gig."

Right now they have around £1000 in their bank account which is kept at the Co-op, as much for geographical convenience as for reasons of ideology.

This, as Red is eager to point out, doesn't just sit there. And RAR are hoping to save up enough money to buy permanent premises. They've got their eyes on a building in Finsbury Park which they hope could double as a dispatch office and as a record shop. Kate, perhaps a little naively, also sees it as a place where fans could hang out before going to the Rainbow.

RAR have occupied their current office for the past two months. Since their inception they've worked from a variety of locations in the metropolis, starting out at Red's photographic studio.

The Militant Entertainment tour is, to put it mildly, a strain on the RAR finances. So much so that Kate's father magnanimously agreed to stand as guarantor for a £750 overdraft. Similarly other monies have been borrowed from friends and supporters.

No donations to any political parties are made from RAR's funds, the money instead going to keep the wheels turning and to further the cause.

"It doesn't all get put in a bag and put on the 8.15 to Prague," says Red caustically.

One other source of income that in Red's words is "something of a red herring" is the question of RAR membership. For a £1 it is possible to actually join for life and RAR estimate that 3,500 supporters have done just that.

Apart from life membership one gets a 'free' badge and reduced admission to RAR gigs. But, they point out, most 'kids' can't afford to layout a quid on life membership, and instead just purchase a badge or a sticker.

This question of membership is being raised at RAR's July conference . It seems that one can belong to the organisation without forking out the necessary green one, as is illustrated by the fact that Leeds RAR has some 500 members each of whom is entitled to badges etc and admission to gigs at concession rates.

One other feature of the organisation that needs to be dealt with is Temporary Hoarding. Apparently this isn't produced from the North London base. All contributors, who include John Dennis, work for it for free, and one potential source of revenue RAR refuse to milk on political grounds is selling advertising space to record companies.

They are currently trying to find a major distributor for Hoarding, but so far have found that all the major publishers they've approached have refused to touch it because they're afraid it would attract too many libels. Penguin Books are, however, interested in publishing a Temporpry Hoarding book and a deal is currently being negotiated.

An atmosphere of thriving chaos reigns this Thursday afternoon in the RAR office. The clutter is such that it's almost impossible to walk unimpeded around the four jammed-together desks that occupy most of the space. Lord only knows how Jane's three-month old baby manages to sleep through the cacophony of work. As Red opines: "You have to have an incredible sense of humour to work for us."

FIVE days later and Militant Entertainment has reached its third stop, a tiny village on the Norfolk coast called West Runton - a generous spit from the better-known seaside resort of Cromer, renowned for its crab .

The gig is The Pavilion, a prefabricated building whose one concession to rock culture is a dire sub-Roger Dean mural behind the stage. Despite its seeming unsuitability for rock and roll these days the West Runton Pavilion is Norfolk's leading rock venue. And a glance at the upcoming attractions proves that whoever runs the place knows his business.

With Cambridge and Leicester under their belts respectively RAR are in fairly good spirits, though tired and in John Dennis's case (he is in charge of finance) a little harrassed. The only casualty so far is Wayne's black eye.

Wayne had intervened to –restore the peace after one of RAR's security men became overzealous outside Leicester Poly the previous night (Monday), only to be mistaken for a bouncer himself which
in some thug's eyes was enough justification to take a smack at him.

On the road RAR have an eight-man, sorry, person team, and throughout the tour are relying extensively on the local RAR groups.

"We're fortunate in that we only have to deal with the bureauocracy, says Wayne referring to the London office's role in the shindig. It does seem, however, that HQ has taken all the major decisions regarding the tour.

Given that the priority was to play towns where the National Front plans to stand a candidate at the imminent General Election, the local RAR groups suggested potential venues and dates, as well as selecting which local band should play, after which Wayne did a personal reconnaissance of all the venues to confirm their suitability.

Though each 'official' has a definite role to play in the tour (Red Saunders for instance, is the tour's Master Of Ceremonies, a role which he clearly relishes)  no-one ultimately in charge of the operation.

"We're a collective," emphasised Saunders. And obviously in the best spirit of collectivisation no-one shirks at doing a stint on the RAR stall; The Gang Of Four's maverick drummer was even helping out.

As for the choice of bands, this, says Kate, was "deeply debated" by the committee, Wayne and John actually dealing with the bookings. Despite the excellence of the bill there does seem to be an absence of 'name' acts.

Says John : "We wanted to get away from the bands we knew could draw."

Wayne echoes his colleague : " We've deliberately gone for smaller bands. It's very much in the RAR tradition. We were among the first to book Generation X, Tom Robinson and Stiff Little Fingers. We started out booking those bands." And John again : " We're there to support new bands and they're there to support us."

Nevertheless, attempts to contact some 'name' acts like Public Image Limited, The Clash, and X Ray Spex - and even John Cooper Clarke - with a view to playing the tour proved difficult. RAR were particularly miffed at  The Members' attitude towards doing Militant Entertainment since they had, after all, given The Members their first London gig .

RAR, though, are inclined to blame those who surround these bands, rather than the individual musicians themselves. They do say that getting in touch with Joe Strummer isn't as easy as it was; The Clash apparently couldn't do the tour because of their difficulties with Bernard Rhodes. Kate, for one, would have liked Ian Dury on the tour.

Perhaps I'm being over-jaundiced, but it does seem in at least some cases that bands only play RAR gigs because there's something in it for them. On the other hand there is RAR's attitude, a somewhat egotistical one at that goes along the lines of " It's not The Clash playing such and such a place, it's RAR playing . .. "

John Dennis brings up the fact that Elton John said in last year's marathon NME interview that he would like to do an RAR gig . "It's like him too," he says with an utter lack of conviction. He explains that he prefers to book punk and reggae bands because that's how RAR started and it's these acts which RAR feel a lot in common with.

"We've grown with new wave," he says.

Surely Elton playing a gig would do more for the movement than, say, Misty or whoever in terms of publicity alone. Or is RAR afraid at having some of the thunder stolen from them? Perhaps I'm being
churlish ...

How about  the claims of inefficency that have been made by some bands playing RAR gigs?  "We're an organisation of rock fans who're doing it ourselves. When you look at the rock scene there aren't many organisations trying to help consumers," says John. "So there are going to be mistakes."

" It's true we're not efficient," says another of the collective. "And we're proud of it."

Originally the idea was for the bands to play for expenses only, but this was scotched in favour of splitting the profit four ways – 25 per cent to each of the three 'headlining bands' (the billing alternates so that each of the three bands gets to top the bill) and 25 per cent to RAR - where and when money was made on the gate.

I forgot to ask what, if anything the local group gets out of it, other than exposure.

No-one in the RAR set-up expects the tour to make money; to break even is all they're hoping for.

"If we were to look at it economically we wouldn't have looked at it at all: ' explains John. One sop for the band is that where-ever possible the entourage will stay at decent hotels. "We can't shit on the bands in both ways," is how Wayne puts it. "If they're not going to get any money then the least we can do is to give them a hotel room with a bathroom."

Last night the entourage, and it included everyone, stayed in the comfort of Leicester's Post House Hotel.

This far into the tour it's impossible to see how things are going to work out financially, but with money made at Cambridge and lost at Leicester things are working out pretty much as expected.

"The bigger gigs, like Leeds should subsidise the smaller ones like Newport," says Wayne. And no-one is expecting to make money in the wilds of Norfolk on a Tuesday night.

To cut costs universities and polytechnics are letting RAR have the use of their halls entirely free. Star Hire, the PA company, have agreed to work for 30 per cent less than their usual fee. Consequently they're working with a crew of three instead of their normal six-man operation.

''I'm so tired I can hardly talk straight," one of them told me. "Four bands playing in four hours is a very tight schedule. It's like a first night every night."

Star Hire work a great deal with reggae acts, and have received several threatening calls-from people claiming to represent the NF. Moreover a Mightly Sparrow gig at the Rainbow in December, where Star Hire were working, had to be called off after a bomb hoax believed to be the work of the NF.

With so small a crew the RAR team is doubling as roadies. To add further to the collective effort, two Eastern Counties bus drivers have agreed to drive two double-decker busloads of fans the 20 miles or so from Norwich for free. Shame their employees couldn't be as generous. The Norwich branch of RAR have had to hire the buses at £90 apiece.

Brace yourself North Norfolk, London punks are decending (or a couple of 'em at least)

On the final night of the Gang Of Four, Misty, The Ruts line-up, The Ruts are topping. Second on, Gang Of Four (local outfit The-Pain Killers opened - unfortunately I missed them) are given the kind of reception usually reserved for the closing act. The Pavilion is far from full, but the audience seem more than willing to make up in energy for the lack of numbers.

Halfway through the evening RAR are convinced they stand to lose at least £200 on the night, but despite this and the prospect of a six-hour drive back to London their spirits rise - Red's aided by more than the odd beer - as the music culminates in a truely devastating performance from The Ruts.

More than one record company A&R man was spotted the previous night at Leicester and A&R
person/producer MuffWinwood is sniffing out tonight's action. If he isn't impressed by The Ruts then his ears should be removed just as soon as he can fix up an appointment.

Malcolm Owen and Paul Fox
West Runton Pavilion 20th March 1979

Following hard (and I mean HARD) on the heels of the too sanguine Misty (no malice intended, but if this is what ganja does for you, forget it). The Ruts start the way they go on – with enough energy to fuel the entire Concorde fleet.

They slip with awesome ease from what can perhaps be best described as psychedelic punk (shades of Hendrix) to the kind of reggae that ought to have Misty wincing into their Rasta nosh. As the Gang of Four are about to tie the knot with EMI or CBS, The Ruts are apparently about to sign with Virgin: Mark thee, The Ruts will be enormous.

Malcom slays Segs! Red Saunders looks on amused
West Runton Pavilion 20th March 1979

Actually Misty just about aquitted themselves in the all-bands-together encore. Jamming on a reggae chant of 'Rock Against Racism', they lead what seems like half the entire audience through a genuinely moving number, so full of good vibes I'm surprised that John and Yoko didn’t materialise in a bag singing the 'Give Peace A Chance' refrain'.

"Peace and Love", intoned one of Misty's singers. What with Red Saunders giving the audience and it must be said nearly falling on his butt in the process...... one of those "The only way this is possible is because of you the people out there" raps, I was reminded of similar so-called 'hippy' beanos.

All the more a shame then, that one lout had to disgrace himself on his way out of the building by
assaulting the kid selling the Socialist Worker's Party's Rebel mag.

Evidently the message hadn't got through to everyone.

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Angelic Upstarts Moonlight Club West Hamstead 12th March 1979

Here's a short early Upstarts set from West Hamstead's Moonlight Club in March 1979.


01. Police Oppression
02. I'm An Upstart!
03. The Young Ones
04. Do Anything
05. Leave Me Alone
06. We Are The People
07. Student Power
08. Never Again

Angelic Upstarts Sounds Interview 1st April 1978

Probably one of the first national press interviews with the Upstarts from UK music weekly 'Sounds' from almost exactly 41 years ago!

Who Killed Liddle?" On stage a tall young man wearing a police hat, white shirt, trousers and jackboots is down on his hands and knees. Necks crane to see what's happening.

"Who killed Liddle?" He is eyeball to eyeball with a pig's head which sits there obscene and inert
apart from the slight scum of blood oozing out on to the boards. 

"Police killed Liddle Towers'" 

And the Angelic Upstarts erupt.

'Questions are unanswered/Policemen scared to talk/ Perhaps they're hiding something/Will our message get across/ Please tell me why I did he die/ Tell me now/Tell me how. '
The Liddle Towers case has gradually got under the skin of North-East People, particularly those who see his death as an extreme example of what can and does happen to them.

Probably you know the background: more than two years ago on leaving a club in Chester-Ie-Street, Co. Durham, Mr Towers was arrested by a group of policemen for being drunk and disorderly and at some stage, either then or in the cells, suffered injuries from which he later died; the inquest jury brought in the staggering verdict of 'justifiable homicide' which seemingly rendered any minor felon liable to summary execution; since then the Home Secretary has repeatedly refused to clarify the affair by means of a public enquiry.

The Upstarts are not exploiting that situation. Rather they recognise it, know its realities deep in their bones. As Decca Wade their drummer puts it, they have all lived for 20 years and never even made it to the bottom rung of the ladder yet. He, Mensi and Mond, the guitarist, grew up together on the Brockley Whinns estate, South Shields (bassist Steve is a 'wetback' from across the Tyne in north Shields). It's hard.

Talking with them at length when they played South Shields Bolingbroke Hall and the Whitley Bay Rex Hotel kept on making me think about our Rock-Racism features (Sounds, last week). In an area with few coloured people th Upstarts and their generation have been weaned on social deprivation and poverty. Change the colour of their skins and you'd call it a ghetto. Which just proves that colour is irrelevant and racism an evil deception and deflection from the issues that matter in improving the lot of all peoples.

'To seek out an identity /You alienate society' ('Upstarts'). 

Decca: Steve's posh y'naa but where we come from they've got mudguards on the Hoover. They  built a youth club on the estate. Why, aa wouldn't say it's a dive but Jacques Cousteau is the bouncer."

The blues say 'Bin down since I began to crawl.' Born punks like the Upstarts have been hitting back since they could lift a hand in protest. Not winning though. Not yet. So they've always been in trouble.

Memories of their gang's failures as delinquents crease them up with mirth now - the thought of all that posing as hard men and 'pros' which some of their mates still do as they strut down the corridor to the cells yet again.

Mensi: "We've got 43 car thefts and 96 traffic offences between us (guffaws)."

Decca: "Dee ye remember those lads that tried to break into Martin's Bank by braying in the front door with a brick (chuckles)?" .

Mensi: "And when ye got done for nicking that big copper boiler ... it weighs a ton and they got 20 dole wallahs together to roll it along to where they can cut it up. Dead inconspicuous like. The polliss find Decca and a couple of other lads with saws and ask who helped them shift it. 'Naybody' they say. 'Ye must be bloody bionic,' say the cops (collapses in a heap)."

Decca: "Aye. Aa threw Domestos over the vicar once, y'naa."

Gullible Soundsman: "Good Grief!"

Decca: "They done me for bleach of the priest (groans)."

The average reaction in these grim urban settings is to let the bastards grind you down. Pulped people feel no pain. So far the Upstarts have not yielded though the band is probably the first constructive outlet they've found.

Where frustration ruled they begged or borrowed motorbikes and crazy-rode them over the pit heaps. Two fingers to the shapeless, shifting enemy they all detested - authority.

They hated school but when they got out what else was on offer?

Mensi: "They stuck a youth club down on the estate and then thought they' d solved our problems forever more. But who runs it? A polliss. He waint let people in with safety pins in their clothes."

Decca put in a good word for the man because he'd helped him paint a couple of P A columns of  doubtful origin for the club .

'So you're the youth leader / You're the man in charge of this place / You're the leader / You're  the one with double face I Try to stop them breakin windows / Keep the kids off the street / It don't matter how you do it / You're the sort that lands on your feet' - ('Youth Leader') 

It's almost surprising that since they left school at 16 on the whole the Upstarts haven't been 'dole
wallahs'. They all went into heavy industry. Decca served his time as a 'burner' in the shipyards and Mond is still there as an electrician ("I've got to. There's £8 a week to pay in fines for my motoring offences.").

Mensi was an apprentice down Westee pit for three years before quitting because he couldn't stand the shift work and the wet conditions any more (the coal face is a mile or so out under the North Sea - "I saw three men dead in my time down there"). Steve still works as a builder's labourer an mentions casually that he owns two cars ("I'm rough, but they're rougher than me, that's why they take the piss." Mensi: "The singer rolled on his back and groaned 'Every band's got its Glen Matlock to    bear.' ").

I think they should write the first(?) punk work songs. But for the moment other subjects are more
immediate because when they formed the band they gave a focus to the opposition they had been
aware of all their lives.

Mensi and Mond, inspired by the Buzzcocks' 'Spiral Scratch' EP, founded the Upstarts last summer. Their first gig was arranged for the Civic Hall in neighbouring Jarrow. At the first whisper of 'punk' a councillor objected but was overruled.

However, the worst fears were realized when the audience, people who shared the Upstarts’ frustrations surely, threw everything I sight at the band as if they were the enemy. Roadie Skin Brown was hit on the head by a table and had seven stitches in the cut. The bass player and drummer quit on the spot.

Mensi wrote this:

‘Everywhere you go it always seems the same / Small town small minds never seem to change / Quick to condem you / Always out of hand / Stranger in a strange world / Stranger in their land’ (‘Small Town Small Minds’)

‘They rebuilt the band but it didn’t get any easier. When they hired the Bolingbroke Hall the residents of the street got up a petition against it which, again to their credit, the council turned down.

Mensi was attacked in the street by an old woman outraged by his Swastika armband: “She set about me with her umbrella. Ah tried to tell her it didn’t mean anything, we only do it to annoy people but she wouldn't listen. So ah ran away. Never moved so fast."

On the other hand a leader of the local branch of the National Front was seen down at the police station, complaining about the Upstarts abusing them: 'Facism kills' is scrawled across the front of Mensi's shirt and on their backdrop there's a 'Smash The Front' .

To me that is one way they should clean up their act. The confusion is not only provocative but damaging. The fact is they oppose the Front and it's too delicate an issue for ambiguity, whether artistic or sheer bloodyminded. While defining their opposition they also need to let their potential supporters know exactly where they stand.

Their chaotic 'progress' continued through to another near riot at the Londonderry pub in Sunderland. Mond: "They loved the way we played but they took it on themselves to beat us up afterwards. "

This is about where a remarkable character called Keith Bell came into their lives. He is 32, shortish but built like Gibraltar, and describes himself as 'gangster (retired)' . The boys dragged him along to see the Damned and the Dead Boys and he was startled to find that punk was his music. He agreed to look after the Upstarts until someone suitable who knew the biz came along and he's been doing a formidable job of it ever since.

Keith is acknowledged as one of the hardest men in Shields. The first time I met him he produced a police handbill with pictures of the areas 'heavies' and guided me round it. "He was mine .. . that one I bit his thumb off in a fight . . . and that's me.”

Obviously he can be the baddest of bad news. His reputation alone preserves order at the Upstarts gigs now but it would be ridiculous for me to swathe his activities in the blanket glow of romantic
admiration for the outlaw. Yet he also has a sort of honesty and openness that commands respect
aside from his physical presence.

I have a feeling that he sees himself a dozen years ago in lads like Mensi. Not that he's approaching the job in the spirit of a priest or a social worker – his main ethical principle he sums up as "beating the system" and he means to see that the Upstarts do that by the only route available to them, music (and record deals, fame and fortune are a kind of victory on its own terms over a system designed to forever crush those at the bottom of the pyramid, even though it's for a few individuals and the structure is unchanged). 

Mensi says that he has been stopped in his car eight times in two months and ordered to present hispapers at the cop shop. The sum total of offences was one faulty rear light: "They had a party at the police club that night. The lad who got me was promoted to sergeant."

Then they played at the Talk Of The Town (Shields that is), Mensi got a bit carried away and flashed his butt at a heckler. They seemed to go down well but a couple of days later they heard that the club owners had been warned about a possible prosecution which could cost them their licence if a similar act were presented again .

‘I just can 't take much more of this oppression/ I'm goin of my head and it's causin a depression/ Why can 't I go out for a walk/ Why can 't \i sit down and have a talk/ They 're asking me how and they're asking me why / Have you ever seen grown men cry ?' - ('Police Oppression ')

Mensi wanted to know what was going on, asked for an interview with the chief, Superintendent Leach, and got it. Mensi reckoned "He was a kind enough bloke" and their conversation had its entertaining side. The Supt. Was curious about how the Upstarts came by their police hats. He also mentioned that in the small hours earlier that week while proceeding in a homeward direction he had to brake violently to avoid an object lying on a zebra crossing which, on closer examination, proved to be a somewhat festering pig's head. The Supt. had a shrewd idea of how it got there.

But the serious business was that Supt. Leach had a report from two of his officers about possible
breaches of the laws against obscenity and incitement to violence (specifically through 'Liddle Towers', 'Police Oppression' and the kicking suffered by the pig, the symbolism of which was not lost on them). Mensi understood that the venues would be prosecuted rather than the band but basically took it that they were being warned off.

I checked with the Supt. who did indeed seem an affable sort and he was shocked at the suggestion.

"I explained the law to them," he said. All the difference in the world eh? "I pointed out that the act they performed could be offensive to public decency or that it could be taken to incite people to
violence against a member of the police. "

He said the bum-baring was his main concern though that was a one-off gesture of irritation by Mensi. He held that "Everyone is entitled to their own opinions", including on the Liddle Towers
case, but agreed that the possible incitement prosecution could be taken as a form of artistic censorship. He said it was the courts not him who decided on guilt but he agreed it would be his
whether or not to prosecute.

Supt. Leach was amiable to Mensi and amiable to me. A polite family man. I’m sure he believed he
hadn't been so rude as to 'warn off' the Upstarts yet how else can it be taken? If a theatre was leant on like this there would be hell to pay - after all that's Art, middle-class, grant-aided. But perhaps instinct has sussed where the more flesh and- blood threat comes from.

Of course the Upstarts will not yield. At current gigs the pig is likely to get the treatment with an axe borrowed from a gent called Mad Willie. But it's dubious whether any more promoters in Shields will risk having them.

As if that weren't enough to cope with, Decca had been thrown out of his home by his mother: "Aa've got nay money because someone shopped me to the dole about the band. But get no money from the band either! Anyway she was fed up and she came for me with a poker. My doctor' advised me never to get hit with a poker so aa left."

Keith offered him a bed for the night and grouched about how they were always spoiling his evenings coming round with their problems. They joked about him being the all time unlikeliest mother-figure.

Then Decca said what it all meant to him: "Aa'm five foot six sitting here and Aa'm six foot tall when Aa get on stage. The best time to play is when Aa'm mad."

Some days after I'd finished writing this feature and wondered whether I'd ended up glorifying what I detest - violence - I got a phone call from Mensi. He said they had been due to play at the Lees Club, Sunderland, that night but that at 5.30 that morning the licencee had been woken by police and given much the same warning-off/explanation of the law received earlier by the proprietors of the Talk Of The Town, South Shields.

The gig was cancelled and other Sunderland clubs have become suddenly chary of the Upstarts. The Lees Club management have refused to comment. Likewise the Northumbria police as to whether this incident did occur, and whether the Upstarts are being systematically banned from all licenced premises in the area.

Meanwhile the Upstarts booked themselves another gig at the 'dry' Bolingborke Hall. And they cut their single, 'Police Oppression/Who Killed Liddle Towers', at a local studio - 500 copies ordered
because that's all they can afford.

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

David Bowie - Berlin.... Soundz Decadent BBC Radio 2 Documentary


David Bowie, some people hate him, but most, if not love him (and many do including myself) cannot but appreciate the catalytic influence he had over British (and American) music over an incredible five decades. Arguably, and to my mind it is a strong argument, the case can be made that without the existence of Bowie punk would never have happened. Aside from Bowie himself, two American 'punk pioneers' in the form of Lou Reed and especially Iggy Pop drew inspiration from the man.

The music of David Bowie is so diverse, more so than any other artist that comes to mind. It doesn't follow that diversity of styles is an inevitable consequence of a long career.... I mean, look at The Rolling Stones! But the Bowie back catalogue has something of everything from the whimsical Newley-esque ditties of the sixties to the impeccable glam of Ziggy in the seventies, through to American soul, the avant-guarde electronica of the Berlin era, new-romantisism..... and then into the '90's and he was even doing drum and bass stuff.

For me David Bowie's most interesting period, including some of, but not all of, his finest material was the time that he spent in Berlin. In the years, 1974-1976, the man declared himself to be the 'Thin White Duke'..... this in reality was a rather grand title for a man losing touch with reality with a helping hand from copious amounts of cocaine and other chemical friends. Cadaverous to the extreme in appearance and living with the paranoia that comes with serious drug misuse.... Bowie was in real danger of becoming Aladdin Sane!

So it was time to retreat and where better to do so than that place behind the Iron Curtain, the former inter-war decadence capital of Old Europe.... Berlin. What better place to get clean. So off David went to do just that with his mate Iggy Pop..... WHAT!!!!! Hiding away in an effort to get clean in the company of Iggy!!! Bloody hell the man must have been off his rocker!

'Iggy, did you write down the engine's number?'

Nevertheless, for both men, this East German sabbatical was to lead to the creation of music that then as indeed now is critically acclaimed.

For Bowie a trio of albums was the product of this intensely creative period:

  • Heroes (1977)
  • Low (1978)
  • Lodger (1979)

Of these three, the 1977 and 1978 offerings are masterpieces. I love 'Hunky Dory' no doubt about that, but 'Low' is just sublime. In this time Bowie was soaking up the atmosphere of Berlin and the wider Germany like a sponge. This was instrumental in bringing a distinctive European flavour into British music in the early 1980's. David wholeheartedly embraced this new European music that was the stock in trade of bands like Kraftwerk. Indeed, Kraftwerk were singled out for special attention on '77's 'Heroes' album which features the track 'V2-Schneider', a nod to Florian Schneider, one of the two founding members of Kraftwerk. Schneider was clearly listening as the Dusseldorf-based quartet returned the compliment that same year on their ground breaking 'Trans Europe Express' album, the title track of which name checks both Dave and Ig in the form of an encounter in the band's home town. And let's not forget  the reference to David's own rail themed album of the previous year 'Station to Station'. What a bunch of trainspotters eh!

'From station to station, back to Dusseldorf City
Meet Iggy Pop and David Bowie....
Trans-Europe Express'

This documentary tells the story of this incredible period just a few years prior to Bowie's most successful album, '1983's 'Let's Dance'. A commercial high, yet creative low, but hey, that's just my opinion. Give me 'She's Got Medals' any day of the week!

'My Way' - The Sid Vicious Story BBC Radio 2 Documentary

Just a thought. In these days of self-isolation, a music based documentary or two may help to alleviate the heavy burden of cabin fever!

Here's one from BBC radio about Sidney and his short 'Live Fast, Die Young' life.


Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Cobra Lounge Chicago 7th and 8th June 2013

Here's something from the Stateside leg of the 'Giants' tour. The band played two nights at Chicago's Cobra Lounge and here we have the full gig from the first night (7th June) and a handful of tracks, including a couple omitted from the previous night's set from the second night (8th June).

MP3 (as recieved):

7th June:
8th June:


7th June 2013

01. Toiler On The Sea
02. Goodbye Toulouse
03. (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)
04. Norfolk Coast
05. Nuclear Device (The Wizard Of Aus)
06. Freedom Is Insane
07. Mercury Rising
08. Peaches
09. Relentless
10. Golden Brown
11. Skin Deep
12. Always The Sun
13. Walk On By
14. Burning Up Time
15. Nice ‘N’ Sleazy
16. Hey! (Rise Of The Robots)
17. Who Wants The World?
18. Time Was Once On My Side
19. Duchess
20. No More Heroes (Intro)
21. No More Heroes
22. Hanging Around

8th June 2013

01. (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)
02. Golden Brown
03. A Soldier’s Diary
04. Unbroken
05. No More Heroes

Peter and the Test Tube Babies Butlins Skegness 10th October 2019

And here's another from the 'The Great British Alternative Music Festival', this time from Skegness. Peter and the Test Tube Babies, my local punk band. I was at the front for this with my daughter..... her choice! As the band came on I was hit on the back with a full pint (..... here I am certain that it was alcohol rather than piss because it was below room temperature!). It doesn't particularly bother me, but does make me wonder who in this day and age can afford to pay club prices for beer only to launch at the stage!

Good to see a couple more tracks from 'Soberphobia' in the set..... a great album from my teenage years!



01. Moped Lads
02. Run Like Hell
03. The Jinx
04. Never Made It
05. My Unlucky Day
06. Every Second Counts
07. In Yer Face
08. Up Yer Bum
09. Spirit of Keith Moon
10. None of Your Fucking Business
11. Keys To The City
12. Keep Britain Untidy
13. You Shake My World
14. I'm A Maniac
15. Banned From the Pubs
16. Blown Out Again