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

Tuesday 30 August 2011

Madness at Blickling Hall 30th July 2011

Not a usual gig for me this one. Rather, this was for the benefit of my daughter who has stated that Madness were her favourite band. When the alternative could be Justin Beiber, I can live with Madness. I had previously seen them with Ian Dury on their second Madstock outing in the early '90s, but a festival environment (so good for the kids) and a support from Neville Staple convinced us to make the effort.

About 12 miles out of Norwich the first challenge was to negociate our way around the appauling one way system in that city. We have got lost on each and every occasion in this attempt, but the one time I attempted to ask for directions, the accent of my would be guide was so thick that I could only thank her and leave none the wiser!

Eventually reaching the stately pile that is Bickling Hall, I was very pissed off to be charged £5 in order to park up in a field half a mile from the stage. Given the remote location of the venue it was not as though there was a choice in the matter! 3,000+ cars sounds at £5 each sounds like a good scam to me!

It being Ramona's day we got her a One Step Beyond shirt and a fez. Add to this a carton of chow mein and we had a recipe for a very happy young lady!

We caught last of the first support, a band called Missing Andy. They were a new name to me, but known to Rudi (I understand that they won one of the ubiquitous TV talent shows). Despite all that I thought they were quite good, perhaps a hybrid of The Streets and the Jam.

Next on the bill was the irrepressible Neville Staple. Now at this point I was rather concerned that having seen the Specials recently, this time around there was a risk that Nev could come across as a bit of a Specials tribute act. In the event, this proved not to be the case, with both he and his band being on top form. What was alarming was the occasions when he slipped into a cockney accent, unusual for someone with such a strong Cov accent!

Neville Staple
Blickling Hall 30th July 2011
So then, Madness. I was always a bit of a fan (singles were affordable to someone on a pocket money budget and Madness are one of our greatest singles bands) and I did enjoy the gig, especially when they played, It Must Be Love, it being Ramona's favourite song. They were however uncharacteristically sloppy in some points of the set. Moreover, Madness have always struck me as a band with menace, maybe it's a gang mentality (much like the Stranglers I suppose) but that edge seeps into their audience and their were quite a few fights here and there. I must say that this was the drunkest audience I have seen since an '80s Pogues crowd! Rather worrying given the aforementioned 3,000 cars in the next field!

Overall verdict, a great day out, confirmation of how lucky we were with the music that we had in the late '70s/early '80s and a good warm up for the handful of Specials gigs I'm going in September and November.

Ruuude boys!!

Monday 29 August 2011

The Nashville Rooms West Kensington London 3rd September 1978 (Secret pub gig played as 'The Old Codgers')

Hugh, Dave and Fee Waybill (The Tubes)
Straighten Out
Nashville Rooms 3rd September 1978

Sorry folks, another deviation from the master plan. Still no apologies for this one. And here's something that I won't be doing very often i.e. uploading a recording that I know to be available elsewhere (but I do have the original uploaders blessing to do so).

Recently, an excellent historical piece appeared on the official site documenting recollections of a handful of 'secret' London pub gigs in the spring and autumn of 1978. These shows were necessarily played under pseudonyms as a blanket GLC inforced ban on the band prevented them playing under their own name in the capital. If you haven't checked out the article yet..... why not! It's here.

On the back of the article here's a cleaned up version of the only known recording from this period (many thanks to Dom Pilgrim for his work on this one). The show was notable for the inclusion of material from Black & White and an extremely rare outing for Sverige (Sweden sung in Swedish).

I may be wrong, but this brief return to pub gigs was the last the band were to make with Hugh with the exception of the 1983 gig at The Verulam Arms in Watford.


1. Grip
2. I Feel Like a Wog
3. Go Buddy Go
4. Sverige
5. Ugly
6. Princess of the Streets
7. Peaches
8. Nice 'n' Sleazy
9. Plug for Battersea Park Support
10. Do You Wanna?/Death & Night & Blood
11. Something Better Change
12. Bitching (Aborted)
13. Straighten Out
14. Bitching
15. Down in the Sewer
16. 5 Minutes

Full artwork here:

Also in connection with the pub gigs article, I found another couple of pictures from the Duke of Lancaster pub gig of 14th February 1978.

Hugh and a Fan
Duke of Lancaster, New Barnet
14th February 1978

Mr Cornwell
Duke of Lancaster, New Barnet
14th February 1978

The Audience
Duke of Lancaster, New Barnet
14th February 1978

Wetlands NYC 27th March 1997

Jet Black
Wetlands NYC 27th March 1997

Here's a recording, a bit tinny, but clear, from the US leg of the Written in Red tour.



01. Valley Of The Birds
02. Golden Boy
03. Straighten Out
04. Money
05. In Heaven She Walks
06. Nice And Sleazy
07. Always The Sun
08. Daddy's Riding The Range
09. Golden Brown
10. Sinister
11. Miss You
12. I Feel Like A Wog
13. Silver Into Blue
14. Thrown Away
15. Bring On The Nubiles
16. Let Me Introduce You To The Family
17. Duchess
18. Hanging Around
19. No More Heroes
20. Summer In The City

I ask you, 'Summer in the City'!? A great 60's track from the Lovin' Spoonful, but a Stranglers set closer... well it didn't work for me.

Top Secret Fanzine

Running from the mid 80's to the early 90's 'Top Secret' was a DIY fanzine put together by fans down in West Sussex. This labour of love, not bettered in terms of Mk I coverage until the appearance of the Burning Up Times pdfs (available from Gary Kent's website here). As stated in the flyer above, the thinking behind 'Top Secret' was to provide coverage of key Stranglers related events (such as the tours) in between publications of Strangled. In this period, perhaps as a consequence of numerous changes to the Strangled editorial staff, the frequency with which Strangled was published became rather sporadic. Moreover, landing on the mat only every 3-4 months, Strangled was inevitably out of date and no where near meaty enough to cover the band's activities in this productive period.

The 'Top Secret' coverage was comprehensive, well put together with a high level of fan contribution.

Here's a scanned copy, 'borrowed' from the Burning Up Times forums (, apart from the official site, the most important Stranglers site on the web.

I would love to see a CD-ROM of all the issues of 'Top Secret'. Now that would be worth a tenner of anyone's money!

Monday 22 August 2011

The Purple Helmets (and the SIS Party at the Marquee)

I don't mind a good side project. True, any such extracurricular activity fuels the fires of speculation as to the impending demise of the parent band, but JJ and Hugh had branched out away from The Stranglers on numerous occasions, even in the early years of the band's career. The Purple Helmets therefore did not give too much cause for concern.

The emergence on the live circuit of The Purple Helmets (active between 1986 and 1989 from memory) was perfectly well timed, filling as they did a gap in The Stranglers related music scene when the band were having one of their quiet periods.

Drawing their material from the work of the sixties R&B bands that JJ was influenced by, the Helmets offered great tunes and a chance to see two members (no pun intended) play in intimate venues at that time not accessible to The Stranglers.

The band line up was as follows:

J.J. Burnel: bass, vocals
Manny Elias: drums
John Ellis: lead guitar, vocals
Alex Gifford: lead vocals, saxophone, guitar
Dave Greenfield: keyboards, guitar, vocals

Here's what their press release had to say about them.

SIS Press Release

The Helmets released only two albums, 'Ride Again'

Released in 1988

Wooly Bully
Over Under Sideways Down
Don't Bring Me Down
We Gotta Get Out of This Place
Baby Please Don't Go
Can't Explain
Whatcha Gonna Do About It

Keep on Running
All Day and All of the Night
Louie Louie
Tobacco Road
I Wanna Be your Man
Hip-Hug Her
Not Fade Away
I'm a Man

Released in 1989

Brand New Cadillac
I'm Crying
She's Not There
First I Look At The Purse
Get Yourself Home
Oh Pretty Woman
Don't You Like What I Do
Under The Sun
Baby Let Me Take You Home
Sha La Lee
Everything's Alright

The Purple Helmets have a great significance for me since it was at an SIS party at the Wardour Street Marquee that I first met the girl that is now my wife. This was back in the summer of 1988.

That night as the ticket above indicates, The band played alongside long time MIB associates Polyphonic Size from Belgium.

The night was seering hot, the famous club being rather small. As a consequence unfit blokes like me had to rest on stage occasionally!

Adrian's nose courtesy of Owen Carne

The band were great that night and many the evening was a gathering of friends, many of whom are doing exactly the same kind of thing more than 20 years later. The appeal of The Stranglers is nothing if not enduring!

JJ Burnel with The Purple Helmets
24th June 1988
(courtesy of Owen Carne)

In the late 80's the British music press still had a fleeting interst in what members of the band were upto. This photo, taken by a photographer from Melody Maker, again showcases my nose to full effect!

As mentioned earlier in this post, my wife Gunta and I met on this evening....

Adrian & Gunta Marquee Club
24th June 1988

Others enjoyed the event!

Jim Rand - where the hell are you? Get in touch!

More to follow on the Helmets but for now I'll call it a day as I have a 6am flight to Berlin tomorrow.

Johnnie Walker Session BBC Radio 2 27th May 1995


Here's a short radio session

1. Interview 1
2. Face
3. Golden Boy (Studio)
4. Interview 2
5. Lucky Finger

L'Ubu Rennes France 17th October 1995

Again I have a bit of a drought for this period of the band's career.

This is the only gig that I have.



1. Intro
2. Genetix
3. Grip
4. Golden Boy
5. Straighten Out
6. Always The Sun
7. Nice "N" Sleazy
8. Lies And Deception
9. Northwinds
10. Paradise Row
11. Still Life
12. Golden Brown
13. Laughing At The Rain
14. Sinister
15. Let Me Introduce You To The Family
16. All Day And All Of The Night
17. Duchess
18. Nuclear Device
19. Something Better Change
20. English Towns
21. No More Heroes

R&B Custom Show Penrich UK 30th July 1994

JJ Burnel Beach Pop Festival Holland
2nd July 1994

Here's the only recording from 1994 presently on my shelf, but as luck would have it, the sound quality is not too bad.


  1. Time To Die
  2. Sometimes
  3. She Gave It All
  4. Still Life
  5. Northwinds
  6. Always The Sun
  7. Money
  8. Paradise Row
  9. Gain Entry To Your Soul
  10. Face
  11. Southern Mountains
  12. Sinister
  13. Duchess
  14. All Day And All Of The Night
  15. English Towns
  16. Brainbox
  17. Tank
  18. No More Heroes
  19. Nice"N"Sleazy
  20. 96 Tears
  21. Hanging Around
No artwork is available for this one yet.

Saturday 20 August 2011

The Art of Stephen Beaumont

From the early '80s, the pages of Strangled were often graced with the excellent illustrative penwork of Stephen Beaumont.

Stephen's usually black and white work accompanied a wide range of topics related to the band (of course), as well as politics, Mishima, Indian Thug cults etc. Some of these characatures featured on the merchandise of the day, T-shirts, posters and lest we forget boxer shorts!

The the right of the blog I have collected most, but not quite all of Stephen's work, as it appeared in the pages of Strangled.

Sunday 14 August 2011

The Dome Brighton UK 16th February 1993

Here's one from early '93, recorded in my near to home town. A good sounding recording.



1. Time To Die
2. Toiler On The Sea
3. Something Better Change
4. Five Minutes (Cut)
5. Never See
6. Southern Mountains
7. North Winds
8. Thrown Away
9. 96 Tears
10. Mumble Jumble
11. This Town
12. Burning Up Time
13. English Towns
14. Ugly

1. Brainbox
2. London Lady
3. All Day And All Of The Night
4. Sugar Bullets
5. Tank
6. Always The Sun
7. Hanging Around
8. Duchess
9. Uptown
10. No More Heroes

Full artwork in zip file

Thursday 11 August 2011

The Newtown Neurotics - The Square Harlow 23rd July 2011

At the time of the miner's strike in 1984 I was 15 year old. In the same year the Provisional IRA detonated a bomb in the Grand Hotel in Brighton, home to the Tory party for the duration of their annual conference at the Brighton Centre. As a Sussex schoolboy at the time, it was pretty heady and exiting stuff. I was extremely jealous of another pupil that I knew, who at the time was in the middle of a week of work experience at The Evening Argus (the daily evening paper for the Brighton area) who suprisingly was taken along to witness the reporting of the biggest news story of the day.

This was the background against which I started getting into music that was much more overtly political. Don't get me wrong, for me like many others, a big part of my political eduction came from Spitting Image! But, really that's a serious point as back then due to that programme I was familiar with the cabinet and the Shadow Cabinet, whereas now I would struggle to tell you the names in the former. With familiarity (as well as contempt!) came interest in what these people were saying.

Crass had just honoured their intention to split in 1984 and in their wake were a collection of similar anarcho bands. The marvellous thing about the anarcho scene was that the records were so cheap at a time when an album would cost as much as a CD today (prices for CDs/DVDs has dropped a great deal in the past few years). The term 'Pay no more than...' was the order of the day. Many such bands played the Richmond Hotel in Brighton which was great, but I could only take aboard so much of that particular political message.

It was the 'Aggitate, Educate and Organise' message conveyed by the likes of Billy Bragg, The Newtown Neurotics and ranting poet Atilla the Stockbroker that struck a more powerful chord in me. They played in Brighton too. Luckily, I missed the Neurotics and Atilla gig at the Richmond with right wing skins from Crawley caused chaos. However, I did see them early the following year and several times after that up to their final gig at the Fulham Greyhound in 1988.

Since 2006 they have sporadically done dates, but over time the line up has changed and now guitarist and vocalist Steve Drewitt is the sole original member. As much as I loved them, the idea of seeing them with only one original member backed by hired hands was a real turn-off. Nevertheless, a couple of weeks ago a gig at The Square was billed as a celebtration of the debut album 'Beggars Can Be Choosers' with lighting done by the ex-Clash lighting engineer. I have to admit, that I saw nothing astounding in the lights, but to hear those songs again so many years on was fantastic. As is the case with The Specials, 30 years on, the songs are still spot on and sadly all to relevant to the political and economic situation Britain finds itself in in 2011 (check out 'Suzi', dealing with love over the CB radio airwaves and riots! ... it's a classic). On the night, the gig was nazi-free and people dispersed after a rousing chorus of 'Kick Out the Tories'.

Here's a pre-reformation short set that the band played in 2004 as part of a celebration of the Stortbeat scene of the late 70's/early 80's... short but sweet!

The Neurotics The Square Harlow 8th November 2004

1. Licencing Hours
2. Hypercrite
3. You Said No
4. When the Oil Runs Out
5. Blitzkrieg Bop

Wednesday 10 August 2011

National Ballroom Kilburn London 11th October 1992

This is one of about a dozen of the MkII gigs that I did attend. Earlier in the year, Gunta and I had moved into a flat just off Kilburn High Road, literally a two minute walk from the National. The novelty of seeing the Stranglers so close to home overcame my misgivings about where the band were heading at that time and we went along. I do not think that I made it through to the end of this gig, bailing out at the encore!

See what you think. Any comments should be constructive, the who is better, who is best debate ran it's course many years ago! For my part, at this point the entire dynamic of the band had changed in a much more dramatic way than the shift from a 4 piece to a 5 piece outfit (remember the band had gone out on the 10 tour as a 5 piece).... something else was happening here.

Dom P's remastered version!



  1. Time To Die
  2. Toiler On The Sea
  3. Sometimes
  4. I Feel Like A Wog
  5. The Raven
  6. Strange Little Girl
  7. 96 Tears
  8. Someone Like You
  9. Always The Sun
  10. Heaven Or Hell
  11. Laughing At The Rain

  1. Never See
  2. Hanging Around
  3. London Lady
  4. All Day And All Of The Night
  5. Sugar Bullets
  6. Tank
  7. Something Better Change
  8. No More Heroes
  9. Duchess
  10. Go Buddy Go

Thursday 4 August 2011

King Tut's Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow 3rd March 1991

A tester for the new line up, a first time in Glasgow. Stranglers gigs in Glasgow had a special meaning for the band over the years and the city had a reputation as being a Stranglers 'stronghold'. As such how would Glasgow react to the change? Listening to this good quality recording I think they pulled it off.



1. No More Heroes
2. Threatened
3. Something Better Change
4. Sometimes
5. Never To Look Back
6. Someone Like You
7. Heaven Or Hell
8. Always The Sun
9. 96 Tears
10. Brainbox
11. I Feel Like A Wog
12. Uptown
13. Hanging Around
14. Toiler On The Sea
15. Down In The Sewer
16. London Lady

Full artwork here:

My Wilderness Years - MkII/MkIII

My opinions on the necessary changes in the bands line up are already well known to many and I do not intend to bore you with them here.

It is enough to say that from 1991 to 2006 my interest in what the current line-ups of the band were up to seriously waned to the extent where our paths only crossed on those rare occasions where The Stranglers shared the bill with some other band I intended to see.

Nevertheless, continue they did, and for some this was a great period in the band's long career. I respect that opinion and for my part I must acknowledge, that, but for the input of Paul, the band may well have unplugged many years ago. So cheers Paul Roberts.

It is for this reason that whilst I will upload as much stuff as I can from this period, there are gaps. No doubt, holes in the chronology can be plugged from other sources.

The World Must Prepare Itself to Herald the Advent of a New Sculpture - Enter Paul Roberts

One of the first indications that Hugh's replacement had been found appeared in the UK music press in November 1990, a mere three months after the departure. The article though, sadly, did not give much away!

Sounds 17th November 1990

Strangled may have broken the news first to the subscribers (I can't recall), but as far as the wider world was concerned the band maintained radio silence until January of the following year when one Paul Roberts was revealed to be the man with the task of filling Hugh Cornwell's very large monkey boots. Joining him, on guitar duties, was long term Stranglers associate (ex-Purple Helmets and ex-JJ's ill-fated Euroband).

Sounds 26th January 1991

First impressions were based only on a picture, so limited to...... long hair!? Now, dodgy barnets we knew and understood (see Hugh Cornwell in the late '80s and Dave Greenfield in... er.. 1974 to mid 2000s!!) but even so concerns were raised.

Still, the acid test would always be a live show and my first opportunity to see them was at The Old Trout in Windsor (the first live gig in the UK, but the third for the new line up, having played two nights in Athens a couple of days earlier). This warm up plan was no doubt in preparation for some of the flak that the band could receive on a UK stage (and it did come to some extent).

A quick look at the bootleg shows that at this point the band had already introduced 4 new songs into the set (including the single Heaven & Hell). On the night I was quite impressed, the versions of the old material were played with a sensitivity and there was none of the flamboyance that would become a feature of some of the shows that followed. Really though, I think that what I liked most about it was the lack of brass! This was back to basics stuff for the band.

At the time I was quoted in a magazine (could have been a fanzine) and said some encouraging things about the new line up. Unfortunately, I think that these were the last nice things I said about the band for another good many years!

That's the back of my pre-male pattern balding head second from the right.
The Old Trout, Windsor 25th February 1991