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

Sunday 31 March 2019

Barnstormer 1649 and The Newtown Neurotics Dublin Castle London 8th March 2019

Partners in Crime, Attila The Stockbroker and Steve Drewett
(Dublin Castle, Camden 8th March 2019).

The first and second week of March were hectic for sure with a work related Eastern European road trip required. This involved five flights over three days. On the Thursday evening when I put my key in the door at midnight I has not particularly savouring the idea of travelling back into London for a gig on the Friday night. But what was on the cards was a rare gig by The Newtown Neurotics no less, supported by Barnstormer 1949, Attila The Stockbroker's medieval folk/punk outfit at one of my favourite London pubs, The Dublin Castle in Camden's Parkway. So, needless to say Gunta and I took the 5.39 from Bishops Stortford gig bound once more.

The Neurotics and Attila have been part of my musical furniture for 36 years now. Three things were responsible for shaping my political view point back in the mid-80's as I approached voting age. These were the miner's strike, The Newtown Neurotics and Spitting Image..... probably in that order. The Neurotics second album 'Repercussions' spoke volumes to me even in the reasonably affluent commuter town of Burgess Hill and had me running for more in the form of the brilliant 'Beggars Can Be Choosers' LP. Now, at that time (as is the case now) Burgess Hill was a very safe Tory seat. My MP back then was Tim Renton, Margaret Thatcher's Chief Whip so when I did first get to vote in the 1987 General Election I could only take comfort in the knowledge that I had cancelled out a Tory vote. I recall nervously going to the Polling Station at St Andrews Church in the town with my mate Adam McCready. At the door we met our first primary school teacher, a Mrs Coveny who was the Conservative Councillor in the ward who said that she hoped that she could rely on the vote of two of her ex-pupils..... well that wasn't going to happen. After the votes were in I remember calculating Adam and I's contribution to the Labour vote in the ward and it was a round number rather than a fraction! Such was the situation in our neck of the woods. So that was the political position in the area but why did the miner's plight mean so much? Let's face it the nearest colliery was in Kent. However, whilst the paternal side of the family were Brighton based the maternal line were from across North Staffordshire and the relatives that I had back then were largely employed either by the North Staffordshire National Coal Board or in a vast array of jobs associated with the pot banks. In the Mid-80's both industries in Staffordshire were feeling the bite of this new way of politics...... so I had an empathy for their precarious situation.

Talking of Stoke (and I know that this post is intended to be about a Neurotics gig.... sorry), another factor that did much to define my personal politics were the words of my much loved Grandmother who I recall saying to me one Sunday evening (probably during Bullseye!)..... 'If ever you voted Tory I'd disown you!', so I haven't (not that I would have anyway!). As a true aside, bizarrely for about five years before her death at 75 she worked in the kitchen of the Burgess Hill Conservative Club. Here, I like to think of her as something akin to a fifth columnist. One one occasion she recalled being caught red-handed forcing a frozen chicken into her shopping bag just as the aforementioned Right Honourable Member Tim Renton entered the kitchen to enquire about his lunch. 'What are you doing there Mrs Heath?' he asked. In her still broad Staffordshire accent she responded 'Bugger off!' and so he did. That story still makes me smile 30 something years later.

So, sorry about that, back to the gig. Attila opened with some poetry/ranting verse before the Barnstormer 1649 band took to the stage. Described by Attila as ‘Roundhead Renaissancecore and Baroque ‘n’ Roll’ I would say that their position in punk is unique. Stories in song of real landmark events in the countries early social history.... the kind of stuff that that prompts you to fill the gaps in your knowledge....... the Diggers were not only on St George's Hill I learned. With an impressive array of instrumentation including faithfully reproduced pieces last seen in the 15th Century (Sausage Bassoon anyone?), my wife Gunta described them 'favourably' as a less attractive version of the now defunct Scandinavian outfit, Katzenjammer!

Barnstormer 1649.

The Neurotics were on in a trice with the more familiar combination of bass, guitar and drums. It is a shame that they do not play so often these days since they are sorely needed. They always provided an important dissenting voice at a time when the country took the mantra of 'Greed is good' to heart. They were a band that powerfully articulated the consequences of the hardline Conservative principals that history now remembers as Thatcherism. And of those consequences, unemployment ('Living with Unemployment'), rapidly rising levels of poverty ('This Fragile Life'), the very real threat of nuclear conflict and a general disengagement of young people in current affairs and politics as well as a certain nihilism ('The Mess' and 'Mindless Violence') many were reflected in tonight's set. Do these themes sound familiar? Thirty years on and it feels that we are back to square one. Reliance on food banks is increasing seemingly at an exponential rate, major conflict seems to be more of a reality than it has for 30 years as Donald, Kim and Vladimir trade insults and on the back of the Brexit process far right factions in the UK have found a new impetus.

The Newtown Neurotics.

Sorry to say that the band's message from the '80's is as valid today as it was then and that is very sad indeed. Fighting times indeed!

How did it go lads.... 'Agitate, Educate and Organise!'

Le Brise Glace Annecy France 31st March 2007

Here's one on it's birthday from he 2007 Spring French tour!



01. Audience
02. Five Minutes
03. Grip
04. Spectre Of Love
05. Nice ‘N’ Sleazy
06. Death And Night And Blood
07. Unbroken
08. Peaches
09. Always The Sun
10. Golden Brown
11. JJ
12. I Hate You
13. Lost Control

01. Summat Outanowt
02. Walk On By
03. Relentless
04. Burning Up Time
05. All Day And All Of The Night
06. Duchess
07. London Lady
08. Audience
09. Audience
10. Nuclear Device
11. Dagenham Dave
12. Hanging Around
13. No More Heroes

Saturday 30 March 2019

Ranking Roger - A Talent Taken Too Soon - Rest In Peace

Last week in Brighton, in the middle of a Stranglers gig, I was passed the awful news that The Beat's Rankin' Roger had died. What a tremendous loss in the year that the UK celebrates the 40th anniversary of the remarkable musical phenomena that was 2 Tone.

Together with The Specials and The Selecter, The Beat spoke out against intolerance in UK society. They shaped the attitudes and politics of a huge swathe of young people, the very same attitudes that are so important as we once again face division and uncertainty in the UK.

We saw The Beat many times, the last time in May 2018 in Hatfield not long before Roger fell ill. One of the most enjoyable occasions was when he invited our two children on stage at the end of a gig in Bishops Stortford. He was so genuinely thrilled that these two people had spent the whole evening skanking along with the band.

Thanks for the music Roger, the country is poorer now that you have left the stage.

A Landmark Hit - 50 Not Out!

Adrian marks a half century enthusiastically with a pint and a packet of Nice 'n' Spicy Nik-Naks!

Well it has been a long time coming, but on the 20th March I hit the big birthday of 50. As the photo above suggests I am not big on parties so the day was spent in a rather low key manner with Gunta and a day off work.

As ex-residents of London Town both of us still love the city and require fairly regular fixes of its vibrancy and atmosphere. I am fascinated by London's 2000 years of history and this was to be a focus of the day. Figuring that it was unwise to spend an entire day in a pub we decided to do one of the walking tours offered by London Walks. One of the walks available on the day was entitled Brunel's London. My association with Brunel started rather tenuously in 1988 when I went to Brunel University. The university had a reputation for good engineering courses (although I opted for chemistry) but that establishment's relationship with Brunel the man never struck me as being particularly strong. True, there were multiple images of the famed engineer in his stove pipe hat in the library and university shop and the rugger buggers would get pissed on a Wednesday night and bellow some semi-intelligible refrain in honour of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, but that was about the extent of the connection. But Brunel was a Londoner himself living in St James' in the West End so I suppose it is fitting to have 'The University of West London' named after him.

I have seen his work in Bristol but was less familiar with the mark that he and his family had made in London. Our three hour tour started at Embankment with a riverbus journey down the Thames and under our first Brunel construction from 1845, the Hungerford Bridge. Here Brunel's original bridge was an architecturally appealing work, in great contrast to the dowdy railway bridge that followed. Post construction, but still in the Victorian era, Sir John Hawkshaw's rail bridge was considered to be the most unsightly bridge to span the river. The modern bridge is still reliant for support on the brick built piers of Brunel's original.

Passing under the iconic Tower Bridge, again unknown to me to owe a considerable debt to the engineering talents of the Brunel dynasty, we motored at greater speed towards the modern wonders of construction at Canary Wharf before alighting on the Isle of Dogs, bankside at Masthouse Terrace. Facing the bitter early spring wind on the Thames walkway we gathered at one of the slipways that were constructed to facilitate the launch of Brunel's last engineering feat, The Great Eastern. The vast dimensions of the ship necessitated a launch sideways i.e. parallel to the course of the river, a fact that presented our top hatted hero a multitude of operational problems. Being approximately six times larger than any other ship that had been built, a conventional prow first launch would have taken out half of Depford on the southern bank.

The Eastern slipway that launched The Great Eastern
(Masthouse Terrace, Isle of Dogs, March 2019).

Just around the corner from the slipway can be seen the workshop in which the steel plates of the hull were produced. It is a rather lovely industrial building don't you think.

Due to the logistical complexities of such a launch it was Brunel's intention that it should be a low key event, but it would appear that word got out and on the day the bankside was thronged with thousands of spectator's eager to witness such a momentous occasion. Brunel's concern's cannot have been allayed when a breaking chain impaled one of those sightseers! The launch ran into difficulties resulting in a delay of some weeks which prompted scathing press reportage of 'Brunel's folly'. Finally, a successful launch was achieved and the ship sailed to Southampton from where she was to embark upon her maiden voyage. Nevertheless, under steam to New York the troubles continued when a boiler exploded killing several stokers. 

All told, the Great Eastern, whilst a triumph of engineering was a bit of a white elephant, a vanity project for Isambard. The ship pointed the way for future shipbuilding and show cased what was/would be possible in the years to come. For example one of the boasts made of the ship was that it could carry sufficient coal to complete a round trip to Australia without the need for refueling at its destination port, but Australia was a coal rich territory so carrying the fuel for the return passage served only to increase operating costs. Ultimately the Great Eastern was broken up and even then the shipping scrap merchant lost money since so many man hours were required to complete the task for such a huge vessel.

Leaving the perishing environs of the Isle of Dogs the party travelled to Rotherhithe and the location of the Brunel Museum which is centered upon the Rotherhithe to Wapping pedestrian tunnel workshop and the adjacent sinking shaft. With a little bit of time-travel permitted we had crossed in a couple of miles from Brunel's last project to his first (in association with his father Marc). In the 1820's when the project was first commissioned access across the Thames was very limited, the bridges that did exist were quite some distance up river. Worker's living on this stretch of the Thames who needed to cross daily were reliant upon ferry boats with limited capacity. 

Marc Brunel embarked upon an audacious and possibly mad solution that would resolve this workforce conundrum..... no less than a tunnel (strictly speaking two tunnels) right under the Thames for pedestrian access. Today we see red when major construction works overrun in terms of time and money... the Rotherhithe tunnel perhaps set the benchmark for this phenomenon. Construction ran years over plan and the building work was stopped and restarted as funds dried up and moreover the project almost cost the life of Britain's most famous engineer.

Marc Brunel ordered that a shaft be sunk from where the boring towards the north bank could commence. Progress was slow but what was so special in the planning of this work was that Brunel had devised a 'shield' which both held back the earth whilst allowing twelve men to work simultaneously at the tunnel face. As progress was made, the shield was moved forward allowing brick layers behind to line the newly dug section of tunnel.

Contemporary illustration showing the principal by which Brunel's shield operated.

This was  the remarkable innovation that makes this particular tunnel world famous and an engineering wonder. The principal of Marc Brunel's shield is still applied to all subterranean tunneling projects nearly two centuries later.

Engineering innovation aside, conditions for the navvies working within the tunnel were pretty atrocious, the atmosphere was wet and fetid (remember that at this time the River Thames was effectively an open sewer). Danger was ever present, at no times more so than on 12th January 1828 when a major inundation of the tunnel occurred. Isambard was at the time in the shield assisting two miners when the water broke through. Initially he was trapped by fallen timber but managed to free himself to make his way back along the tunnel toward the sink shaft. There followed a massive deluge of water such that the wave thrust him upwards within the sink shaft from where he was rescued through a vent some 42 feet above the shaft floor. Six people lost their lives on this occasion.

The interior of the sink shaft showing the vent at the top through which an injured Brunel was dragged on 12th January 1828.

In the 18 years that it took to construct the tunnel, both the engineers involved and the project itself experienced many changes of fortune but finally on 25th March 1843 the first paying customer entered the pedestrian tunnel. In a very Victorian manner, the tunnel became a major tourist attraction, truely a sight that had to be seen and in keeping with the expectations of the elite of Victorian society the sink shaft was spruced up somewhat. Sweeping staircases were built to convey Victorian ladies down to the tunnel entrance.

Descending staircases to the pedestrian tunnels.

Whilst the stairs are long gone their position on the walls can still be seen on the soot begrimed walls of the tunnel as it is today.

Compare with the illustration above and you can see whether the right hand staircase was attached to the shaft wall.

These days access to the tunnels is no longer possible as it forms a part of the East London rail network , but nevertheless it is quite something to think that the Brunel's tunnel is still fulfilling its intended purpose of getting people from one side of the Thames to the other.

Details of the Brunel Museum and the London Walks associated walk can be found on their respective websites.

The Cure Royal Albert Hall London 29th March 2014

Part of the 2014 Teenage Cancer Trust benefit gigs in London, The Cure plated at RAH 5 years ago tonight. I have seen The Cure, as my daughter is a big fan, but they do not really do it for me, beyonda greatest hits set. Certainly 45 song sets are beyond me, but you can't argue that whilst a Cure ticket will set you back a pretty penny they deliver.



Saturday 16 March 2019

RESTORED LINK - UEA Norwich UK 15th March 1987

A functioning link to The Stranglers in Norwich in 1987 can be found here.

FPA Hala Orbita Wroclaw Poland 14th March 2007

I give you The Stranglers out east in Poland in 2007....



01. 5 Minutes
02. Grip
03. Spectre Of Love
04. Nice 'N' Sleazy
05. Death & Night & Blood
06. Unbroken
07. Peaches
08. Always The Sun
09. Golden Brown
10. I Hate You
11. Lost Control
12. Summat Outanowt
13. Walk On By
14. Relentless
15. Burning Up Time
16. All Day And All Of The Night
17. Duchess
18. London Lady

01. Nuclear Device
02. Dagenham Dave
03. Hanging Around
04. No More Heroes

Monday 11 March 2019

Ruts DC The Junction Cambridge 17th February 2019

And the headliner............. Ruts DC!



The Professionals The Junction Cambridge 17th February 2019

Right, so following on from the last post, the good news is that the gigs were recorded by my goog friend Chatts99! Many thanks!

Enjoy a slice of late '70's punk/power pop.



Ruts DC and The Professionals The Junction Cambridge 17th February 2019

The long awaited 40th anniversary tour commemorating the release of the brilliant debut album by The Ruts was upon me at last. No need to deliver a sermon on the virtues of the band…. my thoughts of them are amply communicated across other posts on this site. Suffice to say their flame burned brightly but for a very short period of time, their time in the public eye as a band was ever shorter still at little over a year. Nevertheless, it is no over exaggeration to say that the heat of that flame can still be felt despite the passage of 40 years….. just ask Henry Rollins!

Generally considered to be a second wave punk band, they are one of the few of those ‘later’ bands whose material is of such quality and originality that in my opinion they sit comfortably in the company of those accepted elite bands of 1976 vintage.

Bass player Segs Jennings has always been a fan of The Clash and when I once said that I thought The Ruts were better than Strummer and Co, I am sure he flinched. Perhaps when it came to the primal roar of punk, The Clash may have edged it but I contend that when it came down to a reggae groove the cup went to The Ruts every time. Maybe the influence of their Southall mentors Misty in Roots was a factor, but I think that there is a greater degree of authenticity in The Rut’s reggae influenced material.

But hey, this is not a competition. Tonight it was all about ‘The Crack’. The tour package was exceptionally promising with support coming from The Professionals. Last year they released a highly acclaimed comeback album ‘What In The World’. I for one was very much looking forward to seeing Paul Cook behind the kit.

Unlike much of the tour where the stage times were very early in order to accommodate club nights, tonight’s gig in Cambridge was running along the usual timelines, meaning that a pre-gig pint with Leigh Heggarty in the nearby Earl of Derby was possible. Here he was confronted by fans wishing to have knowledge of his stage gear to the nth degree….. such is the downside of rock ‘n’ roll celebrity I guess! Ha!

Back in the venue, just before the lights dimmed for The Professionals, we took up a position on the barrier (Mo always wants to be right at the front these days) and watched Paul and Co. deliver a sound and tight set of old and new. I have to say that the new material sits well with the likes of ‘Join The Professionals’, ‘Just Another Dream’ and ‘1-2-3’. A highlight of course was a rendition of ‘Silly Thing’ to which I ‘sang’ myself hoarse! One of the finest ‘Pistols’/Professionals moments and a blueprint for the ‘Power Pop’ that came in the wake of punk if you ask me.

Paul Cook (The Professionals)
The Junction Cambridge 17th February 2019.

At this point it is required to mention tonight’s stage backdrop. A huge reproduction of that album sleeve… so unusual for the time when sleeves would typically feature a snarling or surly photo of the band in question.

'The Crack' boasts a crowd scene in oils and is now proudly in the possession of the aforementioned Mr Rollins.

The venue lights dropped once again as an Auntie Pus voiced history of the band in verse…..

Once upon a time, down a long and winding road
That grinned and bared itself for the crack,
The world was staring at the rude boys
And the boys were staring back –
Who you looking at?

Auntie Pus gave way to the familiar wailing of the 1970’s ‘Blues and Twos’ that could only mean one thing….. ‘Babylon’s Burning’.  A tough opener but is you are going to reproduce ‘The Crack’ as it appeared live that’s just the way it’s got to be. And we got it all, a high octane set of songs that were forged in the social furnace that was late '70's Britain. Britain at that time being a country politically torn with the left and right wings of politics being as far apart as they are well.... today. The far right were in the ascendancy with punk gigs being seen as the recruitment ground of the National Front and British Movement. Sadly, we are as close to this situation in 2019 as we have ever been in my lifetime and I hope above all we can pull back from the brink!

Ruts DC
The Junction Cambridge 17th February 2019.

So for 45 minutes we had an exquisite dose of Southall/London as it sounded in 1979 (incidentally as an aside, the best year for British music ever!.... Discuss). I am conscious that I keep on making comparisons with the present day, but I am all too aware that songs like 'Babylon', 'Something That I Said', 'You're Just A..' are as relevant today as they were 40 years ago.

After the full album track list.... including a run through of 'Human Punk' Ruts DC continued the set with the relevant singles and a couple of songs from their post 2011 canon.

Seeing them shortly after coming back together in an interview I sat in on for Vive Le Rock both Segs and Ruffy expressed their concerns that the worst thing that could happen to them musically was that people would view then as a mere Ruts tribute band. Well, 8 years into the reunion, with two brilliant albums of new material under their belts they have nothing to fear in that respect and they could take the time to revel in their past glories just one more time without fear of criticism.

Well done, Leigh, Segs and Ruffy....... Foxy and Malcolm would approve whole-heartedly without a doubt!

Afterwards, Mo and I were thrilled to meet Paul.

Later we went back to have a chat with the boys. It was an absolute pleasure to share their enjoyment of such a successful night... not to mention a share of their beer, which to be honest was quite frankly surplus to requirement at this point of the evening's proceedings!

Until we party again in a Welsh castle..... many thanks to Ruts DC! x