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

Thursday 31 October 2019

'999' Album Review New Musical Express 11th March 1978

999 The Vortex 30th August 1977

Again perhaps the earliest surviving live recording of the band (outside band members and early associates at least). Interestingly, seven of the songs in this 42 year old recording, from the '77 London punk club second only to The Roxy, still appear in the set to this day. Testament to their enduring quality! A clear indication of the fact that this is early in the band's career is that no less than three songs are played twice over the course of a 40 minute set!


01. Nasty Nasty
02. Pick It Up
03. Hit Me
04. Quite Disappointing
05. Jam Me Up
06. My Street Stinks
07. Emergency
08. I’m Alive
09. No Pity
10. Chicane Destination
11. My Street Stinks
12. Nobody Knows
13. Nasty Nasty
14. I’m Alive

Dates that preceded the Vortex appearance were printed in the 30th July issue of Sounds.

Chas de Whalley on 999 in Sounds 30th July 1977

This is the earliest feature on the band that I have and I suspect it would have been one of the first that they had done for a major national UK music paper as opposed to DIY fanzines. A part of the interview focuses on the Southall Crew, a group of diehard followers some of which the band have stayed in contact with over the years.

‘Southall’s Burning!!’ Sounds 30th July 1977

Nick Cash, 999’s diminutive front man, had to resort to the old heave-ho last week at the Nashville. Quarter to ten on a Monday evening, with West London’s premier rock venue packed to the rafters, there were still a hundred odd kids queuing vainly outside. Cash had to push and shove his way through the unruly crowd before he could get in to play.

He fell through the swing doors and straight into the arms of the two part-time security men who were already so phased by the pandemonium they looked about ready to lay out the first thing that moved. Indeed had it not been for the timely intervention of the Nashville promoter, the shy, sensitive and decidedly non-violent Mr Cash might well have woken up in the hospital with two black eyes and a bent nose. A victim of his own success.

The word is out about 999, you see, and after a bare three months of turning the Hope and Anchor into a sauna bath and supporting such as The Saints and The Vibrators, 999 are proving the biggest draw at the Nashville since the Jam played there in the Spring.

And on the night when the above all took place 999 were half way through a four week residency and were coming on strong. Those locked outside missed a real cherry.

They missed: One of the best pop groups to emerge in years. One that is destined to take its place with the best like the Clash, the Damned and the Stranglers and every other ‘Now’ band that’s hit the charts. One that might, conceivably, be bigger than the Sex Pistols. A Pop group in that long tradition of great pop groups that include the Stones, the Who, the Kinks, Thin Lizzy and more.

They missed: A band that turned in a tremendously rich ‘n’ raw performance. 999 came on in a blur of complete confidence as the black clad singer swept his telecaster round to his back and screamed ‘Emergency Emergency’ in a high falsetto. They were a tight skein of pure electricity as their peroxide blond guitarist bled raw power from his volume control and kicked high into the air. 999 became a tight rhythm machine driven by a bass and drummer who knew not just how to take the straights, but when and where to drift through the corners too.

And if that wasn’t galling enough for the kids in the queue, they missed a brace of good songs too. With good hooks. Good rhythms and good words.

Good hooks: Like ‘Nasty Nasty’ with its big shout chorus working against the beat of the bass to create more of that pure Pop tension, long the stock-in-trade of everybody from Gary US Bonds and the early Tamla crew to Gary Glitter and the Clash.

Good rhythms: Like the timeless, high energized Kinks riff which kicked ‘Emergency’ into panic or the Ramones roar that powered ‘My Street Stinks’.

Good words: In intelligent, free-thinking songs like ‘Chicane Direction’ (sic) and ‘I’m Alive’. Lyrics making keen and often witty observations upon the facts of life in the sweltering seventies.

And, probably worst of all, those still out in the street missed a real party too. Pogoers paradise as half the audience joined 999 on stage and sang along with the choruses.

Backstage at Dingwalls the following evening, eight thirty on the dial and still three hours before gig time, the atmosphere is a lot calmer. In fact the Sounds vibe counter registers only slightly more than zero.

Drummer Pablo Labritain is busy mending his stage jacket, a ragged khaki affair, set off with three brass front door numbers tacked on the chest. Stapling yellow paper triangles in a flash down the lapel he chatters away to a tall, lean heavy character named Foxy who has a face that matches his name and paper clips all over his bleached and battered denim coat. Lead guitarist Guy Daze snoozes in the corner. The air in here is mighty sleepy.

It’s a little better outside. Bass player Jon Watson sticks his grown-out skinhead around the door and complains that it’s all really quiet out at the bar.

‘Dingwalls is always like this’, mutters Cash, putting down the guitar he was tuning with a fork.

It’s too up-market for Foxy’s taste too. From Southall, a heavy area of west London, Foxy is one of 999’s hardcore fans. Like his mate Colin he goes to all the gigs and is readily accepted as a vital part of the whole 999 operation. Much like the Stranglers and their Finchley Boys, 999 are proud possessors of a bunch of fans who – like and American football team and their cheerleaders – can always be relied upon to roll out the red carpet and the good vibes and crank up the atmosphere.

Foxy is proud of his mates and proud of his fave band.  Totally and innocently committed to both 999 and the Punk cause, he hints that he and the rest of the Southall boys needed to do…er… a little policing at the Nashville the night before. Just to keep things on the level.

‘With all that violent stuff you read about in the papers, people expect that kids like us are going to make trouble, y’know’ he says in a sharp Cockney drawl. ‘But what’s the point of that? We want to avoid all that, y’know. If there’s trouble it would only mean that 999 would get banned and we’re the last people that want that to happen. We want to be able to see ‘em everywhere.’

Nick cash holds these lads holds these lads in such high esteem he would willingly allow them to speak on his behalf.

‘I don’t really know what we are about,’ he tells me. ‘I think we’re just a modern dance band. You talk to someone like Foxy and he’ll be able to tell you much more than I can.’

‘Some guy from Time magazine asked the Southall boys why they liked 999 and the other New Wave bands and they said ‘Cos they’re just like us on stage’.

It’s a sentiment that Pablo Labritain savours with relish. One of the many drummers who passed through the Clash’s audition stables before he joined 999, Pablo is the street kid of the band, the most overtly political of the lot. He wrote the lyrics to ‘Chicane Destination’ a song that takes a long hard look at today’s society and is worried by what it sees. Nevertheless, he too insists that 999 get up on stage to entertain. They don’t preach. There’s no special message.

‘Mind you’ he adds after a little consideration, ‘It does depend on what you mean by message’. Everybody expresses some sort of message on stage just by being themselves.’

‘And you can’t tell anybody anything really’, Guy Daze chips in. ‘It’s much better to make people think about things than to tell ‘em’.

That’s 999’s plan of attack. Pablo reckons it’s more about observation than suggestion. And Nick Cash agrees.

‘One of the songs that’ll be on our first single (due out pop-pickers, next month on the Labritain label – W.) is called ‘I’m Alive’. It’s just about our immediate situation and we’re just saying what we see. We’re not passing any comments or judgments on it.’

Cash played guitar for a short time with the founding father of safety pin rock Ian Drury (sic) in Kilburn and the High Roads. He admits some dissatisfaction with his past but he doesn’t seek to hide it.

‘I just had to unlearn a lot’ is his only comment.

Nevertheless the faintest of parallels is discernible between then and now, for 999 are fired by a Kilburn-like streak of dry, almost black wit in both their music and their lyrics.  Sometimes you might just swear that their tongues were in their cheeks and a vague, but nonetheless amusing air of satire hangs around 999’s set.  It adds depth and perspective to their already colourful musical character.

And it’s that character which is already pulling 999 through and will keep them at the top when many of the currently successful New Wave outfits have gone under. They’re still holding down day jobs. Cramming in rehearsals whenever they can. They all agree that they are yet only half as together as they should be and they look forward with barely concealed excitement to the day when they can afford a four hundred percent commitment and really achieve something.

Nick Cash reckons he’s done some good already though . He was interviewed by the London Evening News last week and asked how much he earned in his job as a postal clerk. ‘That caused quite a fuss ‘cos, apparently I’m being paid well below the average. The union picked up on it, so I reckon I’ve done something for all the other people doing the same job. I’ve brought their problems out into the light.’

Chas de Whalley.

Feelin' Alright With The Crew! - 999 Week (Or So ) Starts Here!

Right now, 999 are touring in the United States for the first time in a long while. I cannot over-emphasise how important this band have been to me over the years, not least in the early to mid-90’s when they successfully filled a large Stranglers shaped void in my life. Formed in December 1976, I first got to see them at The Richmond Hotel in Brighton in 1987 at the age of 18. By that time original bass player Jon Watson had departed and bass duties were carried out by Danny Palmer, whose tenure in the band was relatively short before he too was replaced by Lurker, Arturo Bassick. Some commentators labelled 999 as bandwagoners but that is rather unfair in my opinion. Vocalist and guitarist, Nick Cash under his real name of Keith Lucas had played lead guitar in Kilburn and the High Roads, with his former tutor, Ian Dury. The Kilburns played a curious high energy mix of jazz and blues spliced with a fair amount of music hall. There unique sound appealed to many young Londoners, with many a band who were soon to form the first wave of punk bands in the capital citing the Kilburns are an influence. Ian Dury had aspirations of bigger things and Kilburn and the High Roads played their final gig at Walthamstow Assembly Hall on 17th June 1976, supported by The Stranglers and Sex Pistols no less. So without a band and certainly well aware of the musical sea change that was then occurring in London Nick formed 48 Hours (a name inspired by The Clash – 999’s drummer, Pablo LaBritain, being a school friend of Joe Strummer, had played, albeit briefly, in the earliest incarnation of The Clash). And whilst we are on the subject of The Clash, over in West London a youngish man who went by the name of Woody Mellor was in a quandary. Should he leave his current R&B pub rock band the 101’ers and throw his lot in with a couple of rock ‘n’ roll chancers who would go on to be The Clash. I see certain parallels in Keith and Woody’s stories and yet The Clash would become, in some people’s eyes, the most important band to ever plug a guitar into an amp, whilst 999 were to be viewed as opportunists jumping on the bandwagon the new punk thing.

I would categorically say that 999 were firmly in the first wave of the punk rock movement. They played as early as April 1977 at the legendary Covent Garden punk dive, The Roxy, first as 48 hours and then as 999. The band’s first vinyl was released in the summer of ’77 (just 4 months behind The Clash!) and as with Buzzcocks it was on their own label ‘LaBritain Records’).

Very importantly for me at least, to the best of my knowledge, whilst their contemporaries crashed and burned, some once, others many times over, 999 have a continuous history right back to late ’76.

They maintained my belief in music when all things tuneful sounded bleak.

Thanks to Nick, Guy, Pablo, Jon, Ed, Danny Arturo and Stuart.... this week I will mostly be posting 999!

Sunday 27 October 2019

At the Grave of Lt. Colonel Montgomery Cuninghame Commanding Officer of 11th Royal Scots Fusiliers (1941-1944)

Lieutenant Colonel A.W. H. J. Montgomery Cuninghame
Manvieu Military Cemetery
September 2019

On a recent return trip to Normandy, we had reason to visit the Manvieu Military Cemetery for here lay the remains of a mate’s Grandfather and we had promised him that we would lay an RBL cross and photograph the headstone for him. With this promise honoured I took off on a customary amble amongst the headstones looking at the distribution of Regimental insignia that distinguish the otherwise uniform Portland stone headstones from each other. Given my Grandfather’s military service I have become rather adept at spotting from some distance those headstones that bear the Staffordshire knot or the somewhat compressed grenade of the Royal Scots Fusiliers (RSF).

Within the confines of the Manvieu Cemetery there are to be found several seems of RSF headstones and this really came as no surprise as the cemetery is located in the village of Cheux which lies approximately five kilometers from Fontenay-le-Pesnil. It was here in the last week of June that the 11th Battalion RSF, as part of the 49th (West Riding) Division (otherwise known as the ‘Polar Bears’, participated in ‘Operation Martlet’ which was intended to capture Rauray and Noyers Bocage to the South East of Caen, thereby protecting the right flank of VIII Corps who were about to launch the better known ‘Operation Epsom’. ‘Marlet’  pitched the Polar Bears against the armour of the Panzer Lehr Division and 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend, not to mention the fanaticism of their Panzergrenadiers! The fighting was bitter and was reflected in the casualty tallies on both sides.

The name on one grave jumped out at me, that of Lieutenant Colonel A.W. H. J. Montgomery Cuninghame, Commanding Officer of the 11th Battalion.

The Battalion’s War Diary for July 1944 records the circumstances of his death.

In the first days of July, the Battalion was engaged in regular artillery exchanges with the Germans, so called ‘stonks’ in army parlance. Late on 2nd July orders were received to establish a strong defensive position in the Fontenay area whilst enemy positions continued to be shelled. At 6.30 pm on 3rd July, the Division’s medium artillery registered on enemy occupied targets forward of the ‘C’ Company positions and as such they were to withdraw. However, in the planning, insufficient time had been allowed for digging in at the new position. Without slit trenches for cover, the men were left lying out in the open when the German artillery replied to the British bombardment. Resulting casualties were high in number. At 7.15 pm Lieutenant Colonel A.W. H. J. Montgomery Cuninghame was talking to the Officer in Command of ‘C’ Company when he was hit in the left shoulder and chest by a mortar splinter. The War Diary reported that ‘He died within half an hour at the RAP, apparently not in great pain but unable to breathe. His death came as a great shock to the whole Battalion, whom he had led with such force, determination and lion-hearted in the attack on Fontenay on 25th June, when his conduct was an inspiration to all.

At 3 pm on 4th July ‘Lt. Col Cuninghame was buried at the Calvary’. This was the site of the initial interment of all men of the Battalion who fell in the area of Juvigny and Fontenil-le-Pesnil’. The fallen soldiers were later reburied in the permanent CWGC Cemeteries in the surrounding areas.

'The Calvary'

‘Pioneer platoon made a coffin on which were placed his flag, belt and headdress’  (I think that this is transcribed correctly!). ‘As the Battalion was still engaged with the enemy, few were able to attend. Approximately 7 Officers and 40 OR’s of the Battalion attended and six officers attended as bearers’.
In his book ‘An’ It’s Called A Tam O’Shanter’ Fusilier Ken West described the forceful character of Lt. Col Montgomery Cuninghame, otherwise known as ‘Big Monty’.

‘As the name ‘Big Monty’ might imply, Lt.-Col. Montgomery-Cunningham was an awesome figure. Well over six feet tall and built like a giant, he was a forceful and thrusting leader of the Battalion.
He had been in command from the day that the 11th Battalion RSF had been formed in the small county of Rutland back in 1941, and had been the inspiration behind the training of this new unit which was now, three years later, a fighting battalion of the Polar Bear Division.

Of course, some of the methods he had formulated to attain the present discipline and dedication to the job in hand, had not always met with the instant approval of the rank and file.

Tales of Big Monty were being retold to those of us who had recently become members of the battalion as we huddled under any sort of cover from the incessant rain on this Saturday morning, the first day of July.

Back in the British Isles, Big Monty’s constant companions were his huge thumb-stick and his ever faithful dog Bruce. Both had played a part in his disciplinary application.

We heard how the large black dog would lay at the feet of his master as he conducted the daily CO’s orders. Many an unfortunate miscreant vowed that he had been sentenced by the dog and not by the CO, for on some occasions the CO would look at the dog and say “What shall we do with this laddie, eh Bruce?” then depending on how many times the dog wagged his tail, the fusilier would be given one day’s confined to barracks per wag.

Bruce himself was not spared his master’s wrath, for on the occasions when he cocked his leg against a signboard or happened to foul the pathway, he would be wheeled in on CO’s orders and given terms of CB, and would be tethered to the leg of the table in the guardroom for the requisite number of days. Revenge was thereby meted out by sly prods and flicks of the toe-end of an army boot belonging to some fusilier who had at some time patted the Colonel’s dog.

However, since the arrival of the Battalion on the twelfth of June on the invasion beaches, Big Monty had led them with courage and with complete disregard for his own safety. He had died as he set out to visit us at the wood. He was later awarded a posthumous DSO (Distinguished Service Order)’.

Here in the tranquil surroundings of the Manvieu Military Cemetery, the Commanding Offiecer lies flanked by two ordinary Fusiliers as here like in all of the other CWGC sites no consideration is given to rank and position within these extraordinary spaces.

Fallen Soldiers of 11th Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers
Manvieu Military Cemetery
September 2019

1991 Four Track Demo Chipping Norton Studios

Another from The Rat Zone Collection and a new beginning for the band. Originally issued as a 7" bootleg single.


Manchester Apollo 27th October 1986

Another anniversary gig, this time from the first leg of the 'Dreamtime' tour. And looking back at the set, well you have to admit that it is pretty good. 'Down In The Sewer' had the long run out, 'La Folie' was in there as well as 'Spain', one of the superior tracks on 'Aural Sculpture'. Of the 'Dreamtour' I was always surprised at some of the omissions when it came to playing the album live, why not 'Dreamtime' and 'You'll Always Reap What You Sow'... they would have been far better choices than 'Big In America' (not appearing here), the weakest cut on the album and featured in other gigs on this two leg tour).



01. No More Heroes
02. Was It You?
03. Down In The Sewer
04. Nice In Nice
05. Punch And Judy
06. Souls
07. Always The Sun
08. La Folie
09. Strange Little Girl
10. Nice "N" Sleazy
11. Who Wants The World?
12. Duchess
13. Bring On The Nubiles
14. Shakin' Like A Leaf
15. Uptown
16. Tank
17. Toiler On The Sea
18. Spain
19. Peaches

Saturday 26 October 2019

British Summer Time Festival Hyde Park London 1st July 2017

Old school meets new school punk in the centre of London as part of the annual British Summertime Festival in Hyde Park. Not my kind of gig at all..... for one my bladder control does not lend itself to crowds of 50,000 plus and pissing in people's pockets is I believe frowned upon these days!


01. Intro
02. 5 Minutes
03. (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)
04. Nice 'N' Sleazy
05. Relentless
06. Golden Brown
07. Peaches
08. Bear Cage
09. Hanging Around
10. Something Better Change
11. Duchess
12. No More Heroes

TV Smith Captain Sensible's Birthday Party 24th April 2014

The great and the good and some of The Damned's closest friends over the years came together in North London a few year's ago to celebrate with the captain as he became eligible for his bus pass.

TV Smith was one.


01. Only One Flavour
02. No Time To Be 21
03. Expensive Being Poor
04. Immortal Rich
05. In The Arms Of My Enemy
06. Lion And The Lamb
07. Gary Gilmore's Eyes
08. Bored Teenagers
09. One Chord Wonders

Anti-Nowhere League The Great British Alternative Music Festival Skegness 4th October 2019

Many thanks to PontiacB for this recording of the League from earlier in the month. Great gig!



01. We Are The League
02. Snowman
03. Can't Stand Rock 'N' Roll
04. I Hate People
05. Get Ready
06. Nowhere Man
07. Wet Dream
08. Branded
09. Good As It Gets
10. Medication
11.So What
12.Fucked Up & Wasted
13. Pig Iron
14. God Bless Alcohol
15. (We Will Not) Remember You
16. Woman
17. Let The Country Feed You

RESTORED LINK - The Undertones Irving Plaza, New York, 18th June 1980

By request, a great Undertones gig from New York - here.

Ole Man River's New Orleans 26th October 1980

So here we have another anniversary gig but to redress the balance of the Liverpool recording, in my opinion this is a must have! And it have had the Dom P treatment too.


01. Intro
02. Toiler On The Sea
03. I Feel Like A Wog
04. Bring On The Nubile
05. Duchess
06. Hanging Around
07. Baroque Bordello
08. Down In The Sewer
09. Who Wants The World?
10. Hallow To Our Men
11. Threatened
12. Tank
13. Nuclear Device
14. Encore Break
15. The Raven

Liverpool Academy 26th October 2008

Liverpool Academy
26th October 2008

An birthday gig but one for those that were there perhaps. This is a partial set and whilst the audio quality is quite good the editing leaves something to be desired. 

01. (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)
02. 5 Minutes
03. Peaches
04. Nice 'N' Sleazy
05. The Spectre Of Love
06. Skin Deep
07. No Mercy
08. Always The Sun
09. Strange Little Girl
10. Golden Brown
11. The Raven
12. Thrown Away
13. Hanging Around
14. Something Better Change
15. No More Heroes

RESTORED LINK - Angelic Upstarts In Concert BBC Radio 1 22nd September 1979

By request, The Upstarts 'In Concert' radio broadcast from 22nd September 1979 - here.

Friday 25 October 2019

The Complete 10 Demos Archives 1989

'Tonight Matthew I'm gonna be....'

Thanks as ever to Eric and The Rat Zone for this definitive demo collection.

Sunday 20 October 2019

Sham 69 The Great British Alternative Music Festival Skegness 5th October 2019

And another from Skegness.... you don't see fo meny Sham recordings around and this is great! Thanks again to PontiacB!



02.What Have We Got
03.Tear Gas Eyes
04.I Don't Wanna
05.Ulster Boy
06.Rip Off
07.Bastille Cake (Leave Me Alone)
08.No Entry
09.Borstal Breakout
10.That's Life
11.One Faith (Give A Dog A Bone)
13.Questions and Answers
14.White Riot
15.If The Kids Are United
16.Encore Break
17.Angels With Dirty Faces
18.Hersham Boys
19.Hurry Up Harry

The Undertones The Great British Alternative Music Festival Skegness 5th October 2019

'Hope you're having a great Saturday.... this can only make it better..... the Tom Robinson Band!'

Brilliant set from The 'Tones! Many thanks to PontiacB for this one.... Cheers!!



01. Intro
02. Jimmy Jimmy
03. Jump Boys
04. I Gotta Getta
05. Family Entertainment
06. Tearproof
07. I Know A Girl
08. It's Going To Happen
09. Here Comes The Summer
10. When Saturday Comes
11. Girls That Don't Talk
12. Male Model
13. True Confessions
14. Teenage Kicks
15. Billy's Third
16. Thrill Me
17. You've Got My Number (Why Don't You Use It?)
18. Wednesday Week
19. Girls Don't Like It
20. (She's A) Runaround
21. Listening In
22. Get Over You
23. My Perfect Cousin

Hey Ho! Let's Go! To The Butlins Bop!

'Fresh' from this years 'Rebellion Festival' I must have been a glutton for punishment to agree to spending the first weekend of October in the Butlin's Holiday Camp some 7 miles outside of sunny Skegness. Actually it was my daughter who persuaded me that I had to go. You see she turned 18 that weekend and she knew that she had me somewhat over a barrel.... what her Ladyship wanted that weekend, her Ladyship would get! In truth it was a great weekend but it reinforced an important lesson once again.... I cannot stay up later than an 18 year old!! And what is more I shouldn't actually try to! With great friends and bands that I have been following for 30 years what more could you want other than sleep.

Friday night was a solid nod to the UK '82 scene with headline sets from two of the big hitters of that time, The Adicts and The Anti-Nowhere League. For me, this was the second time that I had seen The Adicts in a 24 hour period having been at their Islington gig the night before.

The Adicts

The ultimate showmen for me. Monkey and crew must be the largest stakeholders in each and every West Coast jokeshop.... and he is such a messy boy! Original members, Kid and Pete Dee, along with the aforementioned Monkey are ably assisted by a couple of excellent German musicians and together they make a great good time noise between them. And what tunes they have from the explosive opener of 'Joker In The Pack' to the head clearing 'Vive La Revolution'.

At the finale of The Adicts' set their crew release a dozen or so oversize beach balls into the crowd to accompany the band's rendition of the long established Liverpool FC anthem, 'You'll Never Walk Alone'. Much juvenile fun is had belting these things around as the band shift into Eric and Ernie's 'Bring Me Sunshine' which brings the show to a close. To my great embarrassment, upon heading towards the bar amidst the final settling snowstorm of Adicts' confetti, I accidentally side swiped a descending beach ball straight into the face of a wheelchair bound punk who was unseen to my left! Belated apologies should you read this.

The Anti-Nowhere League 

Now I haven't seen the League for many years now and I was unsure as to whether they would be playing this weekend's bill given the recent misfortune that befell Animal when he was glassed in the throat in his hometown of Tunbridge Wells. However, he was indeed here and apart from a less than complimentary reference to his Kent assailant, nothing appeared to be amiss and the League delivered a great set of 'We Are The League' classics supplemented with the likes of 'For You', 'Fucked Up & Wasted' and 'Let The Country Feed You' and of course, that legend of the early '80's classroom..... 'So What'. Great to see them again and good to see Animal back on stage doing what he does best.

'Let The Country Feed You'

A few beers after the League saw Day One draw to a close... for me at least.... Mo and Laura had other ideas and after acting as good Samaritans leading some lost revelers to their chalet.... it is impossible not to get lost in that place where everywhere looks identical, no more so than in the dark. Eventually they returned at 6.30 in the morning after having partied in the chalet of 'Hung Like Henratty'!

'So What'

Pete Bentham & The Dinner Ladies

As winners of the 2018 Introducing Stage popular vote, Pete Bentham & The Dinner Ladies were able to open the day's proceeding on one of the main stages on Day Two. Hailing from Liverpool with their self declared 'Kitchencore' sound, they delivered a punchy set at this unearthly time of day (at least in terms of your average rock 'n' roller!). The set was great and the band played the audience well. Personally, Pete reminded me of a very much more personable version of Mark E. Smith!

Tom Robinson Band

I do not own anything by Tom Robinson or TRB. I know some of the singles but that’s about it. Nevertheless, I was keen to see at least a part of their set early on Saturday afternoon. Older musicians than most of their contemporaries they eschewed the safety pins and ripped clothing, for many the uniform of 1977 punk. In their song writing however they were the original political punk band and my goodness was Tom Robinson angry. It was for this reason that I was so very keen to see them. Tom was the only original member, Dolphin Taylor was not behind the kit and I know that Danny Kustow died earlier this year, but they were regardless a very tight unit. Whilst I watched them they played ‘Grey Cortina’ and ‘Winter of ‘79’, both from the ‘Power in the Darkness’ album of 1978 along with ‘Too Good to be True’. Tom looked to be in rude health as he approaches his milestone 70th birthday. Good to see such a significant band, another ticked of the punk band bucket list.

The Undertones

I was lucky to have left Tom and his band when I did. Had I stayed for another song or two it is highly unlikely that I would have made it into the venue where The Undertones were playing. Shortly after I got through the door a strict one out one in system was introduced.

The band seemed unphased when the compare introduced them as the ‘Tome Robinson Band!’. Well in rock ‘n’ roll terms it was pretty early. They launched into their set with an exuberant ‘Jimmy Jimmy’. Watching The Undertones play is like getting a great big punk hug! It is nigh on impossible not to sing along whilst grinning like an idiot as this troupe of middle aged men from Derry regale a middle aged audience with hormone heavy tales of triumph or disaster, be it in relation to getting the girl, losing the girl or getting their hands on popular confectionery! Paul Loone expressed his discombobulation at being on stage at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. ‘He would normally be in the bookies’ said bassist Michael Bradley.

What a collection of songs they have in their arsenal. Forget ‘Teenage Kicks’ and ‘My Perfect Cousin’, formidable though they are, a typical Undertones set quickly brings the listener to the realisation that they were one of our great singles bands….. ‘You've Got My Number (Why Don't You Use It?)’, ‘Get Over You’, ‘Wednesday Week’….. well you get my drift. With ‘Teenage Kicks’ cropping up mid set it was with ‘My Perfect Cousin’ that they closed a fantastic set, a song that contains the most masterful lyric of the punk era…..

‘His mother bought him a synthesizer
Got the Human League into advise her
Now he's making lots of noise
Playing along with the art school boys’

Peter and the Test Tube Babies

What is there to say about the Test Tubes? They have been consistent since 1978, one of the few bands not to have broken up. It’s funny to think that compared to my mates I saw them first time relatively late (they were our local band). It was 50p to get into a Sunday lunchtime gig at Brighton’s Richmond Hotel back in 1985. Then it was the original line up of Peter, Derek, Trapper and Ogs. These days it is just Peter and Del who continue with the band but the songs still hold up….. none better than ‘The Jinx’ from their greatest album, 1983’s ‘The Mating Sounds of South American Frogs’. The only downside to their set was that I was hit on the back and the back of the head by about a pint and a half of cider. I’m not getting shirty about it or anything….. if someone wants to part with £4.50 for a pint only to launch it at a band on stage minutes later, well that’s down to their own intellect and bank balance I suppose.

Sham 69

Like him or loath him, Jimmy Pursey won’t go away. Few characters in punk, other than John Lydon, have the ability to divide opinion in the way that Jim does. Is he a rabble rouser who inadvertently gave the far right a home in the late ‘70’s or is he a well-intentioned individual who happens to view the world through a rather simplistic lens? In my view he fits the latter description but either way I have always loved Sham’s material. It is not up there with the likes of ‘White Man in Hammersmith Palais’ or ‘Down in a Tube Station at Midnight’ but Sham’s songs have a different appeal altogether.

I first saw Sham back in 1992 (I think) at the Marquee.... it was pretty dreadful as I recall, it was during the time that they had keyboards on stage! The gig was in no way memorable as all I can remember is Jimmy ruffling the heads of two very young skinheads wearing Skrewdriver T-shirts and telling them to grow their hair. I have seen Mensi engage with a punter in a Skrewdriver shirt at an Upstarts gig.... let's just say that his approach was more robust! I saw them too at a 'Holidays in the Smoke' gig around the mid to late '90s. I have no idea what Mr Pursey had done on that day but half of the audience were baying for his blood. However, in this latest incarnation with three quarters of the classic line up now restored with Dave Tregunna back on bass they are a very different band to what they were in the '90s.

Again, as with The Undertones, its easy to forget the popular appeal that Sham had over the last two years of the 1970's. The band cropped up with fair regularity on Top of the Pops taking their cock-er-nee antics in to the nation's front rooms on a Thursday evening, causing Mums and Dads (mostly the Dads) to roll their eyes and tut! Those great singles, 'Angels With Dirty Faces', 'Hersham Boys', 'Questions and Answers' and of course 'Hurry Up Harry' are all in there prompting a raucous sing-a-long! The set opens too with a nod to the bands early days with 'I Don't Wanna' and 'Ulster Boy' from 1977. However, it is not all nostalgia as a couple newer songs feature, 'Tear Gas Eyes' and 'Bastille Cake' both of which were received well.


Always great to see 999 although quite why they are on at 12.15 on a Sunday lunch time is baffling. Here you have an original first wave punk band, veterans of The Roxy and The Vortex for Heaven's sake! They should be way up the billing in my opinion.

They are one of only a handful of the original punk bands who kept on going through thick and thin. As Nick Cash is always at pains to point out.... 'It's all about the music!'. And 999, much like the UK Subs, live by that statement and it's a commitment that has earned them a very loyal following. So, despite the very un-rock 'n' roll stage time I was very glad to see a good turnout for the lads. They played a great set and I am very much looking forward to the release of their new album, now late in the mixing stage.

After the gig I had a chat with Guy and Nick, who was manning the merch stage. I love 999's take on merchandise..... you never know what there will be on account of the band sticking to the original DIY ethic...... find a random shirt screen print a logo on it and knock it out. Brilliant!

The Angelic Upstarts

This was the second set of the weekend for The Upstarts as they had filled in for the AWOL Bad Manners the day before. These days an Upstarts gig falls something between a Working Man's Club turn and a full on punk gig. Mensi provides the banter and the band periodically jump in when he decides to do a song. I loved his anectodote about his punk initiation seeing 999 first (at this point Guy Days of 999 was watching the bands set from the wings) and then The Clash on the 'White Riot' tour.... can't recall where he said but it was a student gig, so I am guessing at Newcastle University (20th May 1977). Mensi, then a young coal miner, turned up with a load of colliery mates and went to pay for admission to the gig. The guy on the door explained that this was a student only gig so did he have an N.U.S. card (contrast with the recently upped post of The Stranglers at the University of Surrey in 1978 (here). Mensi responded 'I've got an N.U.M. card'. 'Look' says he 'We'd prefer to pay to get in, but we're going in'. On a second refusal our Mensi took matters in had with regards to gaining access to the gig.... launching a plant pot through a plate glass window which he and a handful of fellow miners stepped to go and see The Clash!

As for The Upstarts this afternoon, well they were brilliant as usual!

The Stranglers

Photo: Owen Carne

Given the issues that some folk had with venue access the previous day I decided to encamp in the venue that The Stranglers were due to play in, unfortunately this meant that I missed The Lurkers. But on this occasion, I didn't get to see much of the MIB either. Twice, a couple of people on the barrier crushed the daughters arm as she was holding the barrier to steady herself. This resulted in me getting her out of the venue on two occasions! When she went back in for the third time I decided that I couldn't be arsed to battle through the crowd anymore and I settled for another (at this point unneeded pint). So there's not much to be said about that one!

Nevertheless, Mo was pleased to see her pink framed moonface in one of the crew's photos from the stage.

'Where's Wally?'

The Cockney Rejects

After the hassle with The Stranglers and this being the culmination of what had been a great weekend, I dragged my somewhat drunken arse from the bar in order to see The Cockney Rejects. The situation in the venue was much better that it had been in Blackpool where the unbearable heat inside the gig meant that I only saw two songs before having to leave.

Tonight, once again The Rejects gave it their all with a great set (this time we saw it all)..... most of which I can't remember very well! :). But anyway here's a picture instead.

Well done to Butlin's as Skegness and to all behind the organisation of the 2019 Great British Alternative Music Festival for a full weekend of great bands at a great price!

Tuesday 15 October 2019

'Rock Goes To College' University of Surrey 11th October 1978

JJ and Hugh
'Rock Goes To College' Soundcheck
11th October 1978

What better time to introduce the remastered version of the infamous and incendiary gig that was to form part of the BBC's 'Rock Goes To College' series. A couple of day's ago the 'Surrey Advertiser' which serves the Guildford area, home of the University, published online a series of photographs, previously unseen, of the soundcheck prior to the gig that evening.

The photographs show the band in a seemingly relaxed mood, especially JJ who in one shot is engaged in conversation with a BBC sound man. There is no indication that the gig would turn into a confrontation between the band and the students/Student Union and sully in a big time the relationship between the band and the powerful BBC.

The calm before the storm.

I think that the band these days would freely admit that this episode did not represent their best career move. In that bygone analogue era, before YouTube, Netflicks and the like, television was king, but there was not much of it... just 3 channels in 1978. What music programming there was was key to commercial success. And the biggest key was held by the BBC's 'Top of the Pops'. Never mind the phoniness of it all (mimed vocals, plastic cymbals etc.), being watched my millions of record hungry teenagers every week, the programme was a surefire gateway to success.... 'A Stock Market' for your Hi-Fi' as The Rezillos once said. The Stranglers however has already fallen foul of the producers of after an incident in another group's dressing room involving the bass player!

A contemporary music press response to the Guildford incident was reported the following week in the 'Jaws' gossip section of 'Sounds'.



The Stranglers continued their lemming-like rush towards commercial oblivion last week when they walked out of the telerecording of the Beeb’s ‘Rock Goes To College’ at Surrey University in Guildford after just 15 minutes of their show.

Hugh Cornwell and Jean Jacques Burnel spent the greater part of their brief set berating their student audience as ‘elitist’ in language that can be best described as ‘street credible’. When the audience took umbrage to this tirade of abuse the band stormed offstage. Jet Black pausing just long enough to perform a mini-tribute to Keith Moon on his drum kit.

The students union has condemned the band and notified the college rock circuit of the dangers of hiring these academic deviationists. 

The Beeb for its part abandoned the show and closed yet another television door on the band. There’s now scarcely a slot open for the boys on the box as they’ve already blotted their copy book (not to mention their dressing room) on ‘Top of the Pops’. Any producer must now consider them as a ‘high risk investment’ as far as programming is concerned.

So where does that leave the new wave band that can outsell virtually all its contemporaries in the record shops but can’t or won’t get through to a mass audience and can’t even lure its own fans in sufficient quantities to judge from the low turn-out at their Battersea bash?

Hell bent on self-destruction, that’s where. Not only are the band shouting at their audiences, they’re also bickering with their management. Cornwell and Burnel are working on solo albums (Burnel’s already finished his) and optimism about the band’s future is pretty hard to find around their camp at the moment.

Burnel’s reported as saying of their Guildford escapade: ‘I suppose it’s commercial suicide’. Suicide is le mot juste. Just a few weeks ago Burnel was saying gleefully that nobody was big enough to break up The Stranglers. He’s right, they can do it themselves'.

Of course history tells us that the band's capacity for self harm was some way off it's peak back in October 1978. In the 2 years that followed, a stretch for Hugh in Pentonville, a very real possibility of a career busting prison term in Nice, management problems and an escalating association with 'Class A' substances brought the band to the brink of implosion. Forget theories of the malevolent influence of The Men In Black, the forces causing these problems were much closer to home in the form of the band members themselves.

But what was bad for the band was ultimately good for the fan as in early 1978 The Stranglers left the primal roar of 'Rattus' and 'Heroes' behind as they began to charter darker, colder waters, both as a band and as solo artists. Take a look at the discography and I defy you to acknowledge that the period of 1978 to 1980 was the creative zenith of the band...... so in that respect, lets hear it for aggro, drugs and chokey!

Here then is the Rat Zone remaster of that Guilford gig in its short, but magnificent, entirety.