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, 22 January 2013

The 2 Tone Trail and 2 Tone Central

2 Tone Trail Plaque at The Lanch

A couple of weeks ago I posted a grumpy old man piece concerning my dissatisfaction with the likely fate of English Heritage's blue plaque scheme. In doing so I was reminded of a very specific example of how such a scheme has been put to such good effect for the benefit of the local area.

I am referring to the 2 Tone Trail through Coventry. Some years ago, local aficionados had an inspired idea of how to give the musical revolution that was 2 tone the prominence that it deserves in the city of its inception. Thus was born the '2 Tone Trail' put together by Pete Chambers. The book traces a path through Coventry city centre and some of it's outlying areas, highlighting many of the places of special relevance to the 2 tone story. With the help of local commercial sponsors and the musicians themselves, these key locations were gradually marked with the ska equivalent of the blue plaque (which by my reckoning are far more stylish than the English Heritage versions!).

I purchased both editions of the book (the later edition is pictured which was updated and expanded when the thing that many dared not even consider happened - The Specials reunion) and took a copy with me on a planned trip to Coventry with the kids in tow.

On this occasion we did not do the trail, the purpose of this visit being to trace a more personal Coventry trail relevant to my wife, Gunta, who was born in the city and lived there before decamping to London in the mid-80's. This trail then took us to Bishops Ullathorne School, Colina Close an the Marina Fish Bar in Willenhall. There were nevertheless, occasions when the personal and published tours crossed paths, notably in the Dog & Trumpet and the Butts Technical College.

I just wanted to mention that I was interested to see a part of Coventry that I had never seen during many visits in the late '80's, the Canal Basin. So, Gunta led the way over the inner Ring Road to one of the most unlikely of places to have stamped its mark on British popular culture.

                                                 Adrian at The Canal Basin Entrance

Historically, the Basin goes back to the 18th century when noted canal engineer James Brindley (commemorated in bronze and overlooking his site plans for the foreseeable future) was commissioned to build at the head of Coventry canal. This stretch of water linked with other waterways in the Midlands that together formed the transport infrastructure to make our Industrial Revolution possible. Most of the buildings from the industrial age are long gone, but the area is still industrious. Now the coal sheds have been replaced by newer business concerns as artisans have now taken up residence in the Basin.

Mr Brindley Meets Miss Ramona Andrews

Back in 1979, the area was run down and neglected and for that reason perhaps, a perfect setting to photograph a band who were all about documenting the industrial decline that was a feature of so many cities in Britain in the mid to late '70's. It was a decline that was to accelerate as Margaret Thatcher's new politics got the upper hand from '79 into the first years of the 1980's.

It was in Canal Basin that the iconic shots that graced the covers of both 'Specials' and 'More Specials' were taken. The shot that formed the front of the first album was edited in order to achieve the desired sixties look to the sleeve artwork. However on the rear of the second album, the Canal Basin clearly forms the backdrop to the group shot..... real 'Boys From The Blackstuff' scenery!


..... Now

The site is one of several where 2 tone fans, canal boat enthusiasts, ramblers and joggers alike are reminded subtly of the area's musical significance by the presence of one of the aforementioned stylish plaques.

Roddy and Horace at the Canal Basin Unveiling

So this is my point..... in a small way, the existence of these plaques have (with the undoubted very concerted efforts of those who pressed so hard to make them happen) generated a very specific interest in Coventry and a real sense if visible pride in what was achieved over 30 years ago now. Google the 2 Tone Trail and see how much media interest there has been in the project. Brilliant! And at what cost..... peanuts I am sure in comparison with the lasting benefit they will bring to the city.

To end up I also wanted to also mention the 2 Tone Central Cafe, which houses a museum dedicated to the scene. This was closed when we arrived, but the staff very kindly opened it up for our benefit. Look it up should you pass through Coventry any time soon.

From Left to Right: Rudi, Big Horace & Ramona

I Want... I Want,,, I Want!!

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