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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday 29 January 2019
An anniversary gig from a great band. Their first album was wonderful, ballsy, arrogant and irreverent... just what you want from a rock 'n' roll band. Who cared that with each track you could tell what band had been on the band's turntable at the time.
Unfortunately, these incontestable darlings of Britpop stalled when it came to the release of their second album, a massive five years after the first. In the fickle world of pop things had moved on and Justine and crew were darlings no more.
01. How He Wrote Elastica Man
04. Mad Dog
05. Line Up
08. A Love Like Ours
09. Car Song
10. Your Arse, My Place
11. Waking Up
12. My Sex
13. 1 2 X U
Sunday 27 January 2019
Cafe de Paris, London
27th January 2005
It's difficult to locate anniversary gigs in the month of January, it seems that musicians go to ground after autumn tours, writing perhaps? Anyway, Hugh did venture out on this day 14 years ago to play a radio gig for Capital Gold. Here's the full broadcast in great quality!
02. Leave Me Alone
03. Nice ‘N’ Sleazy
04. Black Hair, Black Eyes, Black Suit
05. Beauty On The Beach
08. Hanging Around
09. Under Her Spell
10. I Don’t Mind
11. No More Heroes
12. Golden Brown
13. Ola Cadiz
14. Nerves Of Steel
15. Goodbye Toulouse
Meant to post this last night but got myself absorbed in a documentary on cave art! A gig from a long time ago!
02. Down in the Sewer
03. Just Like Nothing on Earth
04. Second Coming
05. Non Stop
06. The Man They Love to Hate
07. Who Wants the World
08. Baroque Bordello
09. Golden Brown
10. How to Find True Love and Happiness in the Present Day
11. Thrown Away
13. Let Me Introduce You to the Family
15. The Raven
16. Nuclear Device
Wednesday 23 January 2019
And those 'Special Guests'..... I give you The Lurkers!
Artwork: See Buzzcocks file of the same date.
02. I'm On Heat
03. I Don't Need To Tell Her
04. Then I Kissed Her
05. Ready And Loaded
06. Come And Reminisce
09. I'll Go Sane
10. Too Late To Change
11. New Guitar In Town
12. Freak Show
13. Go Ahead Punk
14. Ain't Got A Clue
16. Little Ole Wine Drinker, Me
Here's an anniversary gig celebrating its tenth birthday. A memento of a great tour featuring to genuinely original bands, both proper British first wave legends. And of course another tribute to Pete. Take a look at that set list and consider what a poet he was!
01. Fast Cars
02. No Reply
03. You Tear Me Up
04. Get On Our Own
05. Love Battery
07. I Don't Mind
08. Fiction Romance
10. I Need
11. Moving Away From The Pulsebeat
12. Real World
13. Ever Fallen In Love...?
14. Operators Manual
16. Just Lust
17. Sixteen Again
18. Walking Distance
19. Love Is Lies
20. Nothing Left
22. Late For The Train
23. Encore Break
01. Orgasm Addict
02. Whatever Happened To?
03. What Do I Get?
04. Oh Shit
05. Love You More
06. Noise Annoys
09. Harmony In My Head
Monday 21 January 2019
This was one of the last, if not the last full gig played by The Purple Helmets .
As mentioned earlier, in the 16 months since their previous engagement at the Marquee, the club had moved a few hundred meters to a new location. Details of this gig are very sketchy in my mind, although looking back on photos of friends at the event it can be guaranteed that at least an hour or two had been endured pre-gig in The Tottenham.
Two things have stayed in my mind from this gig. Gunta and I (now an item since shortly after the first Marquee gig) were in the foyer, close to the doors onto the street, when Dave sauntered in clutching his bag of mysteries. Greetings were exchanged before a rather inebriated Gunta suggested that The Helmets could play in her Ealing bedsit. Dave, then spent the next five minutes explaining in Greenfield-esque detail, the logistical and technical reasons why this wouldn’t be possible!
The only other recollection I have if of my introducing Gunta to JJ. They shook hands as JJ waited expecting her to say something, but alas no words were forthcoming! Such was the extent of his gallic charm over her at the time!
And that was it for me. The Purple Helmets were a brief musical deviation for band and fans alike. The intimacy of those few gigs offered many of us a chance to interact with the band in a way that had not been possible for a long time, which was great. Perhaps more importantly for me, at this time enduring friendships (not to mention a marriage!) were formed which are reinforced periodically in the pubs of London (happily not The Tottenham)!
Gunta and I at The Marquee (Charing Cross Road) 9th October 1989.
I have another couple of photos from that second gig that feature the nucleus of my Stranglers atom at the time. The whereabouts of some I am aware of, others not.
High kicking with the best of them
London Hippodrome 27th November 1988)
One such benefit was organised by The Friends of John McCarthy as ’32 Not Out’ which planned to mark his 32nd birthday in what was well into his second year of captivity. The powerhouse behind The Friends of John McCarthy campaign was his then fiancé, Jill Morrell whose presence was very much in evidence at this prestige West End event at The Hippodrome in Leicester Square.
I do not recall much of the journey to the venue, but I’ll second guess that a couple of pints were sunk in the infernal Tottenham before heading south down Charing Cross Road. To the rear of the venue, across the way from the Hippodrome’s stage door, there was a patch of green and the weather being fine for November we plonked ourselves down and waited to see who passed by.
The first ‘face’ to appear was The Beat’s Rankin’ Roger, who was then as now charming. Well known to be a big fan of The Clash, Roger was intrigued to know what it was that bought a handful of punks to the unlikely setting of The Hippodrome discotheque for the night. Roger chatted to us, just killing time himself before the show, for about half an hour. Shortly after a few words were also exchanged with Steve Nieve, Elvis Costello’s keyboard player in The Attractions.
Thankfully for the travellers from beyond London, the planned stage times were more conducive to getting home so by eight we were inside the venue and what a shocking place it was too. With mirror balls and chrome in abundance, the stage and dancefloor were a homage to the ‘80s nightclub culture…. an entirely alien world to most of us. Just ghastly!
Prior to the start of the entertainment, there was the job of carrying forth the key message concerning the ongoing absence of friends and loved ones who were languishing, hidden in the dessert, as we walked self-consciously beneath a constellation of the mirror balls creation. This was why we were here after all…… The press were strongly represented as party goers were invited to be photographed and filmed in a cage of a type likely to house John McCarthy. In front of the cameras also was Jill Morrell, instantly recognisable as a result of the TV media interest around the on-going hostage situation and the concerted efforts of The Friends of John McCarthy campaign to rally public support to demand a resolution. I was quite smitten by her I remember (I was 19 and it was an older woman thing I suppose!).
Compereing duties for the evening’s entertainment were taken up by The Oblivion Boys, a.k.a. Stephen Frost and Mark Arden, who were at the time seen fairly regularly on TV be it on Saturday Night Live or fronting ads for bad lager. I do not recall the running order on the night, suffice to say that Rankin’ Roger and Lynville Golding (if I remember correctly) played a handful of 2 Tone classics whilst Squeeze frontmen Chris Difford and Glen Tilbrook ran through some of their superb back-catalogue.
Perhaps JJ can shed some light on just how it was that The Purple Helmets found themselves on this benefit billing. Their appearance certainly caused some raised eyebrows amongst an audience clearly more inclined towards a white wine spritzer with Vandross than a Stella with Greenfield.
Given the event, the set was not surprisingly shortened to eight songs. Ever adaptable to unfamiliar situations, the small Stranglers throng took control and commenced bouncing up and down and off each other in the accustomed manner. At some stage during the set I took the opportunity to express my enjoyment at closer quarters. The fact that this was a discotheque meant that the stage was only about two feet high, manageable even for a non-athlete such as myself!
They say every picture tells a story and this may be true for this one. The dedication written by Dave on the back of the set list reads ‘2 Ade & his split trousers. All the best, Dave Greenfield’ which may go some way to explaining the grimace on my face and the smirk on the bass players.
John McCarthy was finally delivered from his captivity in August 1991 after five years in the hands of his kidnappers. I like to think that Jill Morrell and I had some part in this outcome (her perhaps more so!).
Sunday 20 January 2019
Arranged as a private party for subscribers to ‘Strangled’ magazine this was my one and only gig at one of the most famous rock venues in the world. Shortly after this gig, The Marquee Club (which in it’s present location had played host to The Who, Hendrix and Bowie etc etc) upped sticks and moved to a larger premises in nearby Charing Cross Road.
Supporting The Helmets on this occasion were JJ’s Belgian mates Polyphonic Size.
JJ on stage with Polyphonic Size.
At some point prior to their set, I met the girl who would in time become my wife.
The gig was energetic and as I said in the Astoria post this was a unique opportunity for me to get up front and personal with musical heroes. In fact the band were far more accessible at The Marquee as the photograph below shows. Taken by Melody Maker lensman (but never published) I can be seen attempting to poke Burnel's eye out!
Such was the effect of the heat that one was minded to take a sojourn on the front of the stage.
From where the view was perhaps unorthodox!
'Stick my fingers right up your nose!'
This was the first opportunity to see the band in what for me was to be something of a pivotal gig. Three of us made the journey up from my hometown of Burgess Hill (incidentally scene of a very damp, low key date on the 2000 ‘Alone and Acoustic’ tour, a gig I am sure JJ would rather forget, if he has not done so already!). My travelling companions on the day were Adam McCready (an old school friend and a Damned fanatic to boot) and Steve Tyas (with whom I was reunited through the back pages of Strangled after meeting at the Reading Festival appearance the previous August).
Taking the tube from Victoria into the centre of town, a search for a cash point took us round the back of the Centre Point building at the junction of Tottenham Court Road and Charing Cross Road. It was here that our paths crossed with another group of people who, judging by their attire, were in the area for the very same reasons as us. Amongst this group was Owen Carne, with whom I became friends then and to this day.
As fans started to congregate, we took ourselves off to ‘The Tottenham’, a pub whose facia boasted that it was in fact ‘The Only Pub In Oxford Street’. Of ‘The Tottenham’ even though logic says this must be the case, I would say that it is also the worst pub in Oxford Street and yet in the years to come, it became a regular gathering point for Stranglers related events (I suspect that the pub’s proximity to the Dominion Theatre where the band played five consecutive dates on the Aural Sculpture tour is the likely reason it was used).
This was going to be a late one as the doors to The Astoria were not due to open until 11pm. And so it was that we had the chance to make the most of the available licencing hours. This of course meant that the majority of the audience that night were perhaps less ‘clear thinking’ than perhaps they would be for a normal gig. Either way it seemingly gave the venue security (let’s call them ‘Bouncers’ here) all the excuses they needed in order to apply their heavy discipline with impunity. The violence at the hands of the bouncers is my enduring memory of this gig, both before and during the Helmet’s set. A succession of punters were manhandled down the steps to the right of the stage to be delivered into the hands of more bouncers who delivered further blows before ejecting the bruised ‘miscreants’ through a rear door and onto the street. A similar fate almost befell Steve Tyas. In the gents toilet (also down those same stairs) Steve has emptied a soap dispenser to respike his hair (those were the days!) and on leaving the loo, a wobble must have caught one of the bouncers eyes. Apparently reading this to be a sign of imminent trouble, a wide-eyed, soapy Steve was picked up (we were all young and skinny then) and hurled through the back door. I am not brave so I can only assume that it was dutch courage, I started to argue with the bouncer to get Steve back into the venue… and somehow it worked.
Nerves were a bit frayed by the time the band eventually came on at about one in the morning. However, tiredness and the early onset of a hangover were swept away with the opening bars of Sam The Sham’s ‘Wooly Bully’. ‘We are The Purple Helmets… coming from our hearts into your heads’ announced Alex Gifford. The set was great, it being, with one exception, a track by track run through of the recently released ‘Ride Again’ album, with an additional ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ thrown in for good measure.
It is worth pointing out here that whilst I was familiar with some of the songs, many of them were completely new to me (after all I was just 19 and most of the bands of the sixties were as obscure to me as the Stranglers should have been to my own teenage son, were it not for an intensive programme of indoctrination followed from an early age!). The Who and The Kinks? Yes, yes. But The Nashville Teens and Them?
After about an hour the evening’s (or rather morning’s) entertainment came to an end and with no possibility of getting back to Sussex we headed around to the stage door in the hope of having a word or two. Sometime later, JJ and Dave emerged and duly signed autographs for the gaggle of ardent or stranded fans (both in my case) still loitering by the exit. This was the first time that I had met any of The Stranglers and at the time it was an immense thing. I recall at the time I was struggling with the bass line to a song, ‘Strange Little Girl’ it was (how so you say, but I was never any good!). JJ gave it some thought, then fingered out the notes on his forearm. This was really something for me, a personalised, albeit brief, bass lesson from Jean Jacques Burnel no less!
JJ at the Astoria stage door.
Sadly, the music press of the following week were less complementary about the lads efforts!
Well, you can't win 'em all!
‘More deadly than the doodlebug, more awesome than the atom bomb itself…. Ladies and Gentlemen, The Purple Helmets!’
It was almost a case of blink and you missed them. If you lived too far from London it is all the more likely that you would indeed have missed them. The pulse of The Purple Helmets throbbed with vigour for a couple of short years, in which time they only played a glandful of gigs in the London environs, plus some brief appearances in France.
The Stranglers had toured heavily throughout 1985, 1986 and into 1987 playing dates all over Europe and in the US and Australia. The Stranglers were overdue for a break.
To a fan like myself, 18 in 1987 and only recently for the first time in possession of some disposable income (thanks to my weekends spent mopping up blood as a domestic hand in my local A&E department), this band hiatus, whilst deserved, was quite frankly a major disappointment for me. I had some money, independence and was raring to go, but The Stranglers had gone to ground.
I did what I could in 1988. Tickets were bought for a planned AIDS benefit at Wembley Arena in where the band was to play alongside The Communards, amongst others. As a result of bad promotion, this gig was pulled and although JJ responded to my written moan by putting myself and Steve Tyas on the guest list for the band’s gig in Berlin the following month, the logistics of getting to a gig in the Middle of East Germany ruled the offer out. Dusseldorf and Milton Keynes followed, but two dates were a poor substitute for a tour.
So how exactly was this Stranglers shaped hole in my life to be filled, enter the form of The Purple Helmets (on reading that line back it sounds wrong in every way!).
The Purple Helmets brought together JJ, Dave, well known Stranglers associates, Alex Gifford and John Ellis with Tears For Fears drummer Manny Elias completing the line up. If the SIS press release for their album ‘Ride Again’ is to be believed, The Purple Helmets were true rock survivors having completed the traditional Beat group apprenticeship of amphetamine fuelled nights in the clubs of Northern Germany before burning out on the West Coast of America on a breaker of alcohol and Class A substances. But old rockers never die and the lure of the boards brought these five men back together in 1988 to do it all over again. As promotion it read well….. but as to its authenticity, well I had my doubts!
In truth The Helmets first stepped out in Rennes in late 1986, but then went to ground again until 1988 when starved Stranglers fans had the first opportunity to see them play dates in London.
I noticed on the Forum last week that there was a mention of a Purple Helmets radio session that the band did in 1989 and that got me thinking about the Helmets generally and where they fitted in the overall history of The Stranglers. As a consequence the next half dozen or so posts will focus on JJ and Dave's pet project of the late '80's.
Saturday 12 January 2019
Always a pleasure to catch up with Nick, Guy and Arturo. 999 have been a musical mainstay of my life for over 30 years now. Tonight as we entered the upstairs part of the Waterfront venue I spied Nick to my right setting up the merchandise stand. Initially, he was a bit huffy, but that was because someone had spilt their pint across the table that he was laying stuff out on. The other members picked us out and said hi as we moved towards the stage. That evening my nose was something of a talking point as two days before I had collided with a glass door in a Prague hotel that had left me with a deep horseshoe-shaped cut across the bridge of my nose. What an idiot!
First up were The Vibrators of which Eddie is the only original member. Now performing as a three piece, the line-up included guitarist Nigel Bennett, on loan from The Members. In recognition of this we were treated to a rendition of the timeless ‘Sound of the Suburbs’. The set was a mixture of old and new of which I have to say I was only familiar with the old, ‘Judy Says (Knock You In The Head)’, ‘Baby Baby’, ‘Automatic Lover’ and my favourite song, ‘Disco in Moscow’. Whilst I have seen them on numerous occasions in pubs and at punk festivals they have never really grabbed me, nevertheless they delivered their set with energy and passion, something that I would say is not so easy to do in front of a quiet, midweek Norwich audience.
Eddie of The Vibrators behind the kit
Mo and Eddie.
And so to 999. For a man who has been in rock 'n' roll for as long as Nick Cash has... he was with Ian Dury (Kilburn and the Highroads) back in '72, he carries out his duties with 999 with remarkable zest and energy. Often dismissed as scene band-wagoners (an unfair accusation in my opinion) it is undeniable that they wrote some songs that are classics of the punk genre...... 'Emergency', 'Nasty Nasty', 'I'm Alive' and of course the irrepressible 'Homicide' and they were all belted out on the night. I tell you when I get smacked in the face with the sponge of Nick's microphone for a response to 'Feelin' Alight with the Crew' I feel right at home! Wonderful stuff.
A Lurker in out midst.
Arturo and Mo.
Mo, Guy and Gunta.
Nick and Mo.
Here's a recent bootleg that appeared on the Forums a week or so ago. Since the link to it via the Forum has expired I am more than happy to give it a permanent home on Aural Sculptors. I very nearly went to this. A great night with a very European flavour...... something sadly lacking these days!
Thanks as ever to Eric!
Thursday 10 January 2019
Wednesday 9 January 2019
Here's a good quality recording from the 1993 tour which featured Tim Bruce who was sitting in on drums for an incapacitated Jet.
03. Someone Like You
04. English Towns
05. Gain Entry To Your Soul
06. Old Codger
07. Southern Mountains
08. So Uncool
09. All Roads Lead To Rome
10. Was It You?
11. Time To Die
12. Toiler On The Sea
13. This God Is Mine
14. I Feel Like A Wog
15. 96 Tears
17. All Day And All Of The Night
18. Sugar Bullets
21. Strange Little Girl
22. Hanging Around
24. No More Heroes
Tuesday 8 January 2019
From Ruts DC HQ:
'In A Rut' was released 40 years today on People Unite Records 11 January 1979.
An independent release picked up by John Peel, which then lead to the band performing live sessions for him on his legendary U.K radio 1 show - The Ruts were formed in 1977 but this was their first release and set them on their historic path.
To mark this special event they're going to do a live stream, play a few acoustic songs and talk about this legendary single release.
More details to follow.
Here is a BBC Radio 1 session from 1992 that I stumbled upon whilst trying (in vain) to bring some order to my junk yard hard drives! The files are arranged as separated music tracks and a file of the whole show as broadcast with band interviews. Thanks to the sharer as always!
MP3 (as received): https://we.tl/t-NdqUQm7ssj
02. Sugar Bullets
03. Strange Little Girl
04. Never See
05. Full Show with Interview.