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 26 November 2019

Kick Out! The Newtown Neurotics Story

Ticket booked! A culmination of 35 years of listening to this great band...... it's just sad to see that the inequalities of the mid-80's were never resolved...... if anything the gulf is wider than before.

This band, the Miners Strike and Spitting Image, in that order, served as my early political education.

We have a momentous political event on the immediate horizon. I don't care which way you vote (he bravely lied :)).... just don't waste the opportunity!

Last Word On The London Calling......2

Just sayin'......

Last Word On The London Calling......1

As I sit and write these posts a fabric version of Pennie Smith's pensionable piece stares down at me from our stairwell. Some years ago, early doors in her experimentation with various stitching techniques she has ago at London Calling.

The Palladium New York 20th and 21st September 1979

London Clanging!
The frame before the fame
Pennie Smith September 1979

Ok folks, here's one to debate..... and just for the record I don't really know the answer. Two great supporters of this site have passed on to me recordings of the two nights that The Clash played in late September 1979 at The Palladium in New York.

One purports to be the rarer recording of the 20th September date.

At the conclusion of 'White Riot' the clang of an instrument possibly hitting the floor two or three times is heard. 

Wikipedia backs up the fact that the shot was taken on 20th September.

The other recording is from the following night, 21st September which is claimed from several sources to be the night that Paul Simenon did such a disservice to his Fender Precision bass. If I listen to this version there is a noise again at the end of 'White Riot', but I can hear less violence being done (which may also be due to tape fade). 

Several other sources indicate that it was on 21st that Pauly had his tantrum.

Having listened to both recordings my money is on 20th September as being the night of his meltdown (in line with one donors claim and that of Wikipedia). My reasoning being that having seen the bass a couple of weeks ago and being familiar with the robustness of the Precision that level of damage was not achieved in one blow.

And so I leave it to you, the jury to decide.

London Calling 40th Anniversary - The Exhibition

The Andrews' family had planned a day out in London last Saturday and by happy coincidence the long awaited London Calling 40th Anniversary opened the day before.

The originally intended purpose of the visit was to buy Docs (Daughter Mo now has a part-time job in one of there shops... which works very well for a DM fixated family! There was also the International Sewing....... exhibition in the Farringdon area..... which I have to say was very good and one of Gunta's passions.

It was funny watching people arriving at the  The Museum of London. There seemed to be a high proportion of 50-something, grey haired men, of a somewhat geezer-ish nature with teenage children in tow converging on the site! Hey, I was one and it was good to see.

Ma and Pa

Toyah daughter

A few year's ago, a Clash pop-up shop appeared in Berwick street in Soho. I planned to go and was in the area at 10 am. However, the shop didn't open until noon, which under normal circumstances would not have been a problem but I was returning from a gig after no sleep so I gave up. A feature of that exhibition was Paul Simenon's broken bass (of course it was!).

This time I did get to see the goods!

That bass!

Other interesting pieces in the collection were the contemporary hand written lyrics of many of the songs that appeared on the album.

'Death Or Glory' lyrics in Joe's hand

Paul's 'Guns of Brixton'

Cartoonist Ray Lowery's draft of the iconic front cover

Finally, one of Joe Strummer's guitars

Get yourselves down to the Museum of London at London wall.... it's welll worth an hour of anyone's time.

Tuesday 19 November 2019

London Calling at 40!

Next month sees the passing of another significant punk Ruby anniversary. 14th December marks the 40th anniversary of the UK release of ‘London Calling’, the third studio album offering from The Clash, hailed by the majority as their finest and by some, the finest ‘punk’ album of all time. Rolling Stone went even further, declaring it to be the greatest album of the entire 1980’s decade (the album was released in America in January 1980). From a personal perspective, I still prefer the rawness and anger that comes through on the first album (even if it does sound as tinny as hell), but even so I do recognise the quality of the material and appreciate the vast progression that the album makes from ‘Give ‘Em Enough Rope’.

The Clash took a risk in that they released ‘London Calling’ as a double album, a musical concept more closely associated with the ‘dinosaur’ rock bands that new bands such as The Clash and their contemporaries scorned as overindulgent, pampered has-beens who’s time was up. To follow in such sauropod footsteps just three years after punks ‘Year Zero’ was quite courageous, but the material was good enough to carry their new and varied sound across four sides of vinyl. Of course, the idea was pushed too far when the follow-up ‘Sandinista!’ was released twelve months later as a triple album. Even the most die-hard fans of the band that I know will freely admit that this was pure overindulgence on the part of The Clash!

Melody Maker
8th December 1979

The Clash however were used to courting negative press for their actions ever since they signed to major label CBS, flying in the face of punk’s sworn underground, DIY ethic. Nevertheless, The Clash rode that particular storm and by 1979 had become something of a regular gigging rock band following the tried and tested album/tour routine (in fairness to The Clash the same was true for many of the other survivors of The Summer of Hate). Joe Strummer seemed to recognise this contradiction in the band when he penned the lyrics to one of ‘London Callings’ finest cuts, ‘Death or Glory’.

‘And every gimmick hungry yob digging gold from rock 'n' roll
Grabs the mike to tell us he'll die before he's sold
But I believe in this and it's been tested by research
He who fucks nuns will later join the church’.

According to Nicky ‘Topper’ Headon, the key to the runaway success of the album was that, unlike the first two albums (where the creative process only started once the band entered the studio), so much ground work was done on ‘London Calling’ in advance of planned studio time.

Melody Maker
8th December 1979

Despite The Clash's earlier proclamations of being ‘so bored with the USA’, the band were at this time enjoying considerable success in America. In many ways this was achieved on the back of the ‘Give ‘Em Enough Rope’ album which was produced in a manner intended to appeal to the ear of the Stateside music consumer. This in turn lead to an American tour with its associated endless hours of arrow straight driving between cities that afforded the bands principal songwriters, Messers Strummer and Jones, ample time to craft songs  for the next album.

Joe Strummer at the piano
December 1979

Now pause for a second to consider the musical environment that existed in the UK at the very end of the 1970’s. The punk flame had burned with incredible intensity a maximum of 18 months, the Pistols had gone as had many of the first wave bands. Those that remained had to change to survive, none more so than The Clash. By now competent with their respective instruments (although in that respect Joe, Mick and Topper had something of a lead over Paul), The Clash had an added advantage in that the diverse musical tastes held across the band provided them with a huge range of possibilities. Were a fellow music fan to take the time to flick through the combined record collections of these four musicians, he or she would surely describe the results as eclectic ..... reggae of course, check by jowl with 1950’s rock ‘n’ roll, itself in bed with jazz! A real hotch-potch of 19 songs that somehow melded together to produce a coherent album! 

London Calling..... Rudie Can’t Fail (a big one in our household (Son is called Rudi!))...... Lost In The Supermarket..... Spanish Bombs.... The Right Profile.... Guns of Brixton... classics one and all!

To the old gezzers and she-geezers that occasionally take the time to read some of my ramblings, I urge you to take the time this coming weekend to dust down the vinyl and give ‘London Calling’ a birthday blast whilst raising a beer to a ground-breaking album.

Just ask Elvis!

Monday 18 November 2019

The Ruts The Gigant Apeldoorn Holland 18th January 1980

This weekend Ruts DC played their first convention-style weekend ...... and believe me I was gutted that I couldn't be there. Nut the band were on my mind so here is a nice sounding recording of the band in Europe at The Gigant in the Dutch town of Apeldoorn.

Many thanks to Dom for replacing my damaged copy with something far superior sound-wise!


01. Savage Circle
02. Something That I Said
03. I Ain't Sophisticated
04. S.U.S
05. Demolition Dancing
06. Backbiter
07. Out Of Order
08. Jah War
09. Criminal Mind
10. Babylon's Burning
11. Dope For Guns
12. Staring At The Rude Boys
13. H-Eyes
14. In A Rut
15. You're Just A
16. It Was Gold
17. Society
18. Love Song
19. Human Punk

Friday 15 November 2019

Shepherds Bush Empire 15th November 2008

This night 11 years ago!



01. Intro
02. (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)
03. Five Minutes
04. Peaches
05. Nice ‘N’ Sleazy
06. Spectre Of Love
07. Skin Deep
08. No Mercy
09. Always The Sun
10. Strange Little Girl
11. Golden Brown
12. The Raven
13. Thrown Away

01. Walk On By
02. Hanging Around
03. Straighten Out
04. Big Thing Coming
05. All Day And All Of The Night
06. Duchess
07. Tank
08. Nuclear Device
09. Something Better Change
10. No More Heroes

Wednesday 13 November 2019

The Ruts - The Crack 40th Anniversary Weekender

Really gutted that I cannot be there this weekend. Have a blast folks!

The Damned The Odeon Edinburgh 13th November 1981

On this night in 1981, The Damned Friday the 13th EP was unleashed.... and what a fine slab of vinyl it was and still is, featuring as it does the wonderful tribute to the late Malcolm Owen, 'The Limit Club' with its intro so reminiscent of the 'World in Action' theme.... you have to be 50 plus to know that one!

Enjoy a slice of The Damned at their peak.


01. Intro
02. Lively Arts
03. Wait For The Blackout
04. Disco Man
05. Billy Bad Breaks
06. I Just Can't Be Happy Today
07. Plan 9 Channel 7
08. Dr.Jekyll & Mr.Hyde
09. Fan Club
10. Noise Noise Noise
11. The Limit Club
12. Love Song
13. Neat Neat Neat
14. Drum Solo
15. New Rose
16. Smash It Up 1 & 2
17. Citadel
18. Looking At You
19. Melody Lee
20. Love Song
21. Ballroom Blitz
22. Outside Gig

Keystone Berkeley California 13th November 1980

Nice sounding remaster of a partial gig from 'The Who Wants The World?' US tour.

Whilst the quality is good, some of the playing suffers, particularly Dave's as the band had all their gear nicked some weeks before in New York and so they were using unfamiliar hired equipment.


01. Toiler On The Sea
02. Duchess
03. Baroque Bordello
04. Hanging Around
05. Down In The Sewer
06. Who Wants The World?
07. Threatened
08. Just Like Nothing On Earth
09. Tank
10. Nuclear Device
11. Dead Loss Angeles
12. The Raven

Saturday 9 November 2019

Sex Pistols Brixton Academy London 9th November 2007



01. Intro
02. Pretty Vacant
03. Seventeen
04. No Feelings
05. New York
06. Did You No Wrong
07. Liar
08. Holidays In The Sun
09. Submission
10. Stepping Stone
11. No Fun
12. Problems
13. God Save The Queen
14. E.M.I.
15. Anarchy In The UK
16. Bodies

Sex Pistols Brixton Academy London 8th November 2007

Ah... Johnny. A character that truly divides opinion. Years ago, I viewed him as something akin to a national treasure, a man with a keen observational eye for the issues that we have in this country. With both of his bands he moved the boundaries (I have to admit here that I always preferred PiL to the Pistols). Two of my greatest gigs are PiL gigs (Brixton Academy in May 1986 and Heaven in April 2012), but the Sex Pistols were great too on the one occasion I did see them in Finsbury Park in 1996. On each of those occasions, there was something about him (and the musicians that he was playing with), but his most recent outings in front of cameras have been rather depressing..... his views on Trump and a very embarrassing showdown with Marky Ramone on a US broadcast in which a panel discussed punk.

This trio of gigs though were good ones with his first band on top form.



01. Intro
02. Pretty Vacant
03. Seventeen
04. No Feelings
05. New York
06. Did You No Wrong
07. Liar
08. Holidays In The Sun
09. Submission
10. Stepping Stone
11. No Fun
12. Problems
13. God Save The Queen
14. E.M.I.
15. Bodies
16. Anarchy In The UK
17. Baghdad Was A Gas

'Stranglers Deny Split' ..... (in 1978!) New Musical Express 23rd September 1978

Following on from the recent Surrey University post here's a piece that appeared a couple of weeks earlier with talk of a split.

Gig Review - Village Bowl Bournemouth 27th October 1977 (Melody Maker 5th November 1977)

A rarity, a favourable review! From one of several of God's Waiting Rooms on the South Coast this review from the 'No More Heroes' tour makes mention of the fact that The band were tired. This was 24 hours after JJ and Jet had been thrown into a police cell in Brighton after the gig at the Top Rank..... so hardly surprising really!

City Hall Hull 9th November 2008

An anniversary gig from the 2008 tour with a good sound.


01. Intro
02. (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)
03. 5 Minutes
04. Peaches
05. Nice ‘N’ Sleazy
06. Spectre Of Love
07. Skin Deep
08. No Mercy
09. Always The Sun
10. Strange Little Girl
11. Golden Brown
12. The Raven
13. Thrown Away
14. Walk On By

01. Hanging Around
02. Straighten Out
03. Big Thing Coming
04. All Day & All Of The Night
05. Duchess
06. Tank
07. Encore Break
08. Nuclear Device
09. Something Better Change
10. Encore Break
11. No More Heroes

Friday 8 November 2019

999 Week Concludes..... Here's the Band In New York Just Two Weeks Ago

To bring things right up to date, here's a great recording of 999 in New York (great to see them doing a tour of the States again!).

Many thanks to wstevena for this gem!



01. Boys In The Gang
0.  Inside Out
03. Hit Me
04. Feelin' Alright With The Crew
05. Let's Face It
06. Lie Lie Lie
07. Rael Rean
08. Subterfuge
09. Titanic (My Over Reaction)
10. Li'l Red Riding Hood
11. Really Like You
12. Biggest Prize in Sport
13. No Pity
14. Last Breath
15. Don't You Know I Need You
16. Emergency
17. Nasty Nasty
18. Homicide
19. My Street Stinks
20. Boiler
21. English Wipeout
22. I'm Alive


I quite enjoyed trawling through the archives of 999 material. Some people loved them, some people hated them. But they are still playing and from what I can see they are still hugely appreciated. From a personal perspective, they have never let me down since I first saw them, aged 18, at The Richmond Hotel in Brighton. Happy days.

Cheers are due to:

Nick Cash
Guy Days
Pablo Labritain
Jon Watson
Ed Case
Danny Palmer


Arturo Bassick!

999 Interview conducted at The Swan in Fulham London on 20th November 1993


N: Nick Cash
P: Pablo LaBritain
AB: Arturo Bassick
E: Ed Case
A: Adrian Andrews
G: Gunta Andrews
O: Owen Carne

A: Since forming on Late ’76, the line-up has been fairly stable except for a period in 1978 when Ed Case stood in for you. What happened?
N: Show ‘em Pablo.
P: I had an accident coming back from Sweden. This bone was very badly smashed, the elbow was up here somewhere. Taken to hospital, they set it and trapped the nerve in the set….. I was paralysed for a year. Came back, next gig was at the Waterloo pub.
A: Wellington.
P: Yeah. Anyway, that’s what happened, it’s one of those things, a trapped nerve. At one time they (the band) thought I wasn’t coming back.
A: Yeah, ‘cos I read this thing again about paralysis.
P: Well it was to an extent.
A:  Does it still have any affect now?
P: What playing?
A: Yeah.
N: Do you get any pain Pablo?
P: No, not pain. It’s a bit weak, it’s week. With paralysis all your muscles, but I had electrical treatment for that. It’s alright now though.
N: That’s the only reason he wasn’t in it though.
A: Ed Case did some of the tracks on ‘The Biggest Prize in Sort’ didn’t he?
N: Yeah, that’s right. I can’t remember which ones he did. I don’t think even he could!
A: Some of the people that read ‘Strangled’ aren’t gonna know who 999 are, some will some won’t, but….
N: Quite a lot of them will.
A: Yeah sure. For some though, the first encounter with 999 would be from footage Vienna (that was included as an extra on the S.I.S. released ‘Battersea Power’ video), that sees you legging it around the airport.  How did  that come about?
N: Well what happened was that we were playing a gig in Vienna with The Stranglers, one of those classical auditoriums. Anyway, there was something wrong with the electricity and the manager of The Stranglers said that we couldn’t play because there wasn’t enough power for the lights and the PA. But, we said that we wanted to play because we’re advertised to play and there’s a few people who wanna come and see us. But they said you can’t play, so we said we won’t use any lights and a very small part of the PA….. we can’t possibly blow it up! They said, you can’t play, end of story, So when the concert finished I felt very upset because some people had come to see us, yeah, a lot more people had come to see The Stranglers, but a few people had come to see us. So, out in the foyer, as the people were coming out, I decided to play to people. I just had a small amplifier and I played and got a very good reception from it y’know and they filmed it and it was on TV and the TV Company were very interested in this phenomenon, which is more like playing a punk rock gig than a normal concert, do you know what I mean? And so I decided to do it all over Austria, y’know.  I just felt like doing it, it had such a good result and it’s a good way of promoting a record.

I used to have big drinking contests with Hugh Cornwell and one night we had a drink and he said ‘Are you gonna do it tomorrow?’ I said ‘Yeah, I’m gonna do it at the airport’ an’ all this sort of thing and I went out and did it at the airport. We used to go up to the police. Has it got police in it somewhere?
O: Yeah.
N: I’ve never seen it, is it good? Anyway, people would interview Jean and Hugh y’know and they’d say ‘Well, what do you think of this thing and they’d say it’s fantastic, we love it, great, because they didn’t mind what you did, they were alright. We got on with them very well really, but the roadies, they really hated it that we were being upstarts about the whole thing. They wanted to beat me up, but I think that Jean Jacques said they mustn’t!
A: The Finchley’s were out there weren’t they?
O: Dennis (Marks) was there.
N: He was alright, Dennis, it was a few of the other roadcrew that were hired hands, ‘cos The Finchley Boys understood it all. We all used to drink in the bar with them afterwards.
A: Whilst on the subject of the The Finchley Boys, Readers of ‘Strangled’ will be familiar with their story and a meeting of minds in the Torrington pub in November 1976. 999 had the Southall Crew, what was their story?
N; It just sort of happened the same way I suppose. Well, they came from there, Southall, there were a lot of them from there. There’s a couple here tonight y’know. There’s one called Colin Coles. You can mention his name and another one who’s coming tonight called Billy Bollocks, they all had names!
A: What was the strength of the Southall Crew?
N: It was very strong y’know. Well it used to fill up the Nashville Rooms. People used to come from Bristol and say (affects Bristolian accent) ‘Oh, I come from the Southall Crew!’.
A: You had a lot of trouble to start with when it came to Radio 1 as far as airplay was concerned, particularly with the singles ‘Nasty Nasty’ and ‘Homicide’.
N: Mmm, that’s right.
A: What effect do you thing that had, firstly in the short term and then in the long term to the fortunes of the band?
N: Well, it was pretty disastrous for us because we got ‘Top of the Pops’ right , and they said, the BBC, that you’ve got to send up the lyrics. They looked at them and said there’s no way you’re gonna appear on TV. They sort of read about us, we were in The Sun and all that sort of thing y’know…. Accused us of all sorts of things we didn’t do and they just went ‘Shock! Horror! Punk Rock! Too Violent!’ . But it was all anti-violence. I turned round to the BBC and said ‘Look, last night you showed ‘Homicide in the Bronx’ with Kojak and people are getting shot in that…. It’s ridiculous’. But they wouldn’t listen to me. All of the Establishment became terrified of what this music was doing to people and all the rest of it, y’know. So you got banned and people wouldn’t speak to you when you went to do a radio interview! It went Top 40 (Homicide), but without the ban it could’ve passed over into the mainstream.
A: The thing about ‘Homicide’ is that it is the band’s anthem. Had it got onto ‘Top of the Pops’, which at that time was such a powerful vehicle, then 999 could have stepped into….
N: It was still a big hit for us though and a big hit around the world, an underground hit. I mean, I even went to play over in Denmark last year and there was like a load of other bands, Die Toten Hosen, Nirvana, David Byrne of Talking Heads and I went out there in front of 250,000 people and played ‘Homicide’ and it went down really well, they knew it!
A: For 999, art has always been important, the whole visual thing, from the artwork to the stage.
N: It’s that thing of theatre, when the music’s good and the people are right, then you act in a certain way or I can act in a certain way and it comes out in the expressions an’ that.
A: The first album, ‘999’, had its launch in an art gallery (as did The Stranglers’ ‘Aural Sculpture’ six years later).
N: That’s right.
A: And the whole art aspect of the band was very well received.
N: Yeah, that’s right, we did an exhibition. The record company said to us ‘We’ll hand over loads of money to launch the album and we’ll have a big party, go to a posh restaurant, invite some journalists and get drunk on Bollinger’. But we said ‘No, no! let’s put on an exhibition, let’s get a few people down here, people from bands,,, Knox was there, Deborah Harry, Chris Stein, Paul Simenon and a couple of fans did some paintings that were put up and it was like saying here’s another aspect to the musicianship, as musicians up to that point had always been people with expensive cars, who took drugs and flew around in jets. We were rebelling against all of that as were The Stranglers.
A: As far as I’m concerned, the raffle ticket logo is one of the most striking images of the time and on the early sleeves, the clothing and shoes were a far cry from what your contemporaries were wearing.
N: Well, y’see, I always dressed quite well. Before 999 I was in a band called ‘Kilburn and The Highroads’…. We used to go down to Malcolm McLaren’s shop, ‘Let It Rock’, before it became ‘Sex’ and we used to order our suits from down there, long before the Sex Pistols came onto the scene and we used to tell him what we liked. He had great access, Malcolm, to all sorts of things and clothing from Jamaica and shoes from Italy and stuff like that, so we used to be able to go down there with record company advances and get what we wanted y’see. Ian Dury was making up boxer’s silk dressing gowns and things, so we had a great wardrobe in that band. Everyone had a different taste, in fact I saw some photographs of it the other day and it was like fantastic, the clothes were just fantastic  and we used to get people like Glen Matlock and Johnny Rotten at our gigs and they used to like what was going on. Y’know we had an artschool background, Ian Dury and myself.

A: Did you study under Ian Dury?
N: He used to teach me, he was my tutor. So I’d always been into that clothes thing. In the Kilburns what we really tried to do was to marry a hard jazz with Eddie Cochran. We wanted something really rough, wild and English. In a way I think, y’know, that stuff was more of a forerunner of punk than anything else.
A: You weren’t on ‘Handsome’ though were you?
N: I was on that yeah.
A: We’re you in the cover photo?
N: Yeah I was on that, I play on that. I play on ‘New Boots and Panties’ as well.
A: Really? As Keith Lucas?
N: That’s right. I don’t mind talking about it now. What happened was, I used to mind because I fell out badly with Ian and I don’t really have anything to do with him now y’know, but that’s a different story. But the thing about it was that at the time we’d built up quite a following with Kilburn & The Highroads, having done a lot of gigs and I felt that it was wrong to go out as Keith Lucas ex- Kilburn & The Highroads, and pull in people that way. So I changed my name to Nick Cash and we went out as 999 as something completely new so that people wouldn’t dome from the Kilburn & The Highroads gigs for us to get a start. I said ‘OK, I’m making  a clean break, this is what I  am doing , fuck that, that’s over’, it’s a way of getting out of that and it also meant that Guy, Pablo and Jon at the time wouldn’t have to hang on to my coat-tails, y’know, to be associated with that has-been who’s trying to do it all over again. It was a good noble thing to do I think.
A: Continuing on the Kilburn’s theme, to my mind 999 have always been an R’n’B band, a souped up R’n’B band rather than a punk band, what do you think?
N: Mmm…
Unknown: Surprise!
(Enter Ed Case)
N: We were just talking about you actually.
E: Oh! Fucking hell I’ll leave!
N: Where’s you wife?
E: At home in the warm.
N: The last time I saw you, I wet down to see ‘Buddy’ didn’t I? And then you wenyt on a great big holiday.
E: A week in Cornwall!
N: Was that all it was? I feel good about this guy really, he was a right bloody you he was. He used to smash everything up, didn’t yer!
E: Yeah, a few more and I’ll be on my way tonight!
AB: I saw both you (Ed) and Pablo play at the Marquee.
A: That was playing alternate nights wan’t it?
AB: Yeah, a week at the Marquee .
A: Having prized out of you that you were in Kilburn & The Highroads, that takes me back to my point that basically 999 have their roots in R&B. Would you agree?
N: No! (laughter). Arthur says we’re R’n’B.
AB: There’s a lot of tinges of R’n’B, but that’s more in the bass lines.
A: It’s fucking R’nB!
N: Is that a bad thing or what. I mean….
AB: We suffered on the plantation, that’s what it was eh Nick?
(Arturo makes a move to leave)
N: Stay there Arthur.
AB: Why?
A: ‘Cos you’ve got the bottle of wine (laughs)
N: No, ‘cos you know about R’n’B….. I don’t.
AB: So says blind, one-eyed, homesick Nick Cash! (laughs)
A: Talking about R’n’B, that brings me onto the whole pub scene. You’re here in The Swan now, which is the closest you’ve had recently to a regular London venue. Now how does it feel to play pubs again after playing places like the Marquee and The Astoria?
N: Awful, ‘cos at bigger venues you get much more to drink and more food (laughs), more audience and er, more money, but you’ve got to come back to these places because there’s nowhere else to play.
A: You mean you don’t like playing pubs?
N: I don’t mind it.
A: I mean personally.
N: I’ll play anywhere, you know just get on with it,
AB: Nick starts singing when the fridge door opens (gales of laughter). That’s right Nick, you don’t care where you play, you’ll always give your best won’t ya!
N: I’ll always’s give my best, yeah! They’ve enticed me down here tonight with a few sausage rolls!
A: I like seeing 999 here because you don’t need a second mortgage to buy a pint.
N: Yeah, that’s true.
AB: The Marquee’s a shit venue! Anyway, all bands start in a pub, The Clash started in a pub. The journalistic notion of ‘They’re a pub band, they’re going nowhere’ is crap!
N: Adrian, I started in a pub, Pub Rock is alright. No, it’s good if you can go back tp playing pubs. I mean the thing about us Adrian, is that we say we’re sort of like blues people or something like that and we can go out and still enjoy the music. In pubs it’s just not so much of a hype really, it just means something to a lot of people.
AB: There’s no hype no Nick, none at all.
N: It’s just by word of mouth. If Arthur goes down to a gig and gives out a few flyers, more people come.
AB: There’s not many gigs to promote now.
A: You used to play the Marquee, now venues have a big problem haven’t they. Why, is that the pay to play thing?
N: Yes, that’s very much a problem.
AB: Places like the Marquee have a ridiculous thing where the first £500-£600 goes to the club before you’re percentage starts. And you can have 300-400 people at the Marquee and walk out with no money y’know. Whereas, we can play somewhere like here, you get a PA for £70 and 100% of the door. That’s why we play here and people like it because it’s pub prices.
N: Don’t say that otherwise all musicians will be down here!
AB: We just want enough money to fuel our kebab habits!
A: I saw Chelsea play at the Marquee earlier this year and Gene October was talking about the PA costs and the club’s cut and so on.
AB: He was ranting that there were not enough Swedish boys on his rider!
G: Can we print that!?
N: He said that as a Lurker.
AB: He don’t care, we always have a little joke about it. We left him on the boat, when we came back from Cologne a couple of months ago, with no passport, no jacket ‘cos he didn’t come down to the van when we had to get off the boat and we knew that he was poking the purser’s porthole. So we left him where he  was!
G: At the recent gig at Fontwell Racecourse your introduction to ‘(There is no glory in) Mary’s Story you said that it was a tribute to a friend. Can you tell us some more?
N: There was a girl we used to know and she was a punk type person. Her name wasn’t really Mary, we had to change it in case her family heard the song, and she lived on the streets of London and she died out there, y’know what I mean, it was a very hard sort of thing. She did a lot of drugs and stuff and we just decided to write a song to her. We always try to write songs that mean something to us and y’know. Like that homeless thing, we did another song about that called ‘Inside Out’ and we wrote that some many, many years ago and that was taking a look at homelessness then – when did that album come out ’83 or something?
A: No, ’79.
N: Was it ’79? Well we were looking at the problem then.
O: And now Phil Collins is doing it 14 years later.
N: Yeah!
A: You’ve had great difficulties getting a contract I know and for somebody with a back-catalogue such as 999’s why have you had that problem?
N: Well, my sister is an advertising executive and she went to EMI the other day and there was one of our CDs on the table and she just happened to be closing this big deal and she said to the guy ‘Hey I know those guys’, he said ‘Oh, yeah, how?’. She said ‘That’s my brother actually, any chance of doing a new album for them?’. He replied  ‘No, no we’ll stick to the back-catalogue, we can sell loads of those because all these 40 year olds are swapping their vinyl collections for CD, so we’ll put that out on CD…. We wouldn’t touch them with a barge pole now!’.  She said, ‘Why not, they’re really good and they are still playing a lot of places, maybe if you stuck some money into some good music that’s gonna last longer than what’s currently in vogue …… y’know have you ever thought of sticking with something! Muddy Waters is still on your books and 99 pull audiences of the same size in the States.’
A; That’s some good support!
N: I saw Muddy waters in New York not long before he died and I recognized this thing, something in the music, music that lasts. As I watched his performance, I thought yeah, we do a bit of that and whereas we were talking about the fashion thing, important as it is and I would never deny that, its still what’s in the music that counts. Now we’ve made this new album (‘You Us It’) and you can speak to our fans who like the early stuff and they say there’s something of the first album there and I think that’s because we’ve been out, played all these gigs and spoken to loads of kids and we’ve lived these experiences and that is our life. We know there’s no bullshit being told to our management company or anything else and we made this record totally on our own without anyone coming down to the studio and saying try to make it like this or like that …. And that’s why it turned out so good.
A: The CD release of 999’s last studio album, ‘Face to Face’  in 1985, which unlike ‘The Early Stuff’ CD is no reflection of 999’s live set or anything must have seemed like a kick in the teeth bearing in mind the reluctance of EMI to entertain the idea of a new contract.
N: Honestly Adrian, you get those things, those are cheap shots. Now I don’t mind bits and pieces being re-released here and there because in that way 999’s music gets to be heard by more people and our audience grows.
A: A deal has now come through from Anagram.
N: Anagram, which is Cherry Red, yeah.
A: Is this for one album or can we expect a more steady output from now on?
N: It’s for one album, which is usually the case, unless you’re Phil Collins. But I’m already working on the next one.
A: So you see this as a long term thing?
N: Oh yeah.
A: The album is a big departure, it’s a bloody fast album and it’s far more in tune with your live performance that anything else. As you said earlier, it’s more like a follow up to ‘999’ or ‘Separates’ than your more recent studio output. ‘13th Floor Madness’, I dunno what you think about that album, but I have to be in a certain mood to listen to that album.
N: Yeah, well it wasn’t a very good album was it! It was after…. We were forced into doing it by the record company and we got a bit dissipated. You see, Guy’s a very good guitarist and musician and he can play that sort of soul stuff. Songs like ‘Book of Love’ were really quite good songs and they showed that influence but many classic mistakes were made, like girl backing singers, mistakes you make on an arsehole album.
A: So it’s not something that your particularly proud of?
N: Not proud of it now I listen to it.
A: How about ‘Face to Face’ (1985)?
N: Well, it was a very sad time for us as we had just left Albion, we tried to make an album on our own and the bloke managing us, it didn’t work out with him. So we went down to the studio and tried to make an album. But I put that album on for the first time in ages the other day and then put the new album on next to it and it’s much better, better atmosphere, better in all respects. The end of the road with Jon Watson, that’s what ‘Face to Face’ was. He did that album with his mate in a certain way and it didn’t work out because 999 was more of a collective thing with us just going mad together and making mad sounds. Now we’ve been back on the road for a few years which has enabled us to come up with an album which is similar in quality to the first album.
A: Was that by design?
N: No, it just came out that way as it should happen with music and now we’re playing some of the songs live and they’re standing up well with older songs like ‘Homicide’.
A: On the new album still…
N: Yeah
A: ‘Signed Dangerous of Hollywood’ asks us to ‘Remember Sharon’ that’s Sharon Tate I take it.
N: I think so, it’s one of Guy’s songs. You see we’ve played in Hollywood a lot so we’ve got a right to sing about it. That’s a song about how stupid and violent the whole place is really.
A: One of the most worrying songs on the album as far as I am concerned is ‘Bye Bye England’, all about the gradual Americanisation of this country.
N: It’s all very tongue in cheek that one.
A: As a song it very much emphasizes the Englishness of the band. Now, having established that you have a big audience in the States and Continental Europe, you’re not gonna clear off are you?
N: No! What happened Adrian was that when punk started you used to get people saying ‘You’ve gone to America! You’re selling out’. The Clash said they’d never go to America, as an English phenomena you’ve gotta stay here. So we went to our fans and said well, they’ve offered us a tour of America and they said ‘Bloody hell, go!’ so we went. And we’d go again if we could and we will. When we went there, what we found that there were a lot of young kids who came to see us, knew the music and who felt the same as we did. We used to look at the clothes they used to wear and we used to speak to them about the problems they had and said Hey! Look its really great to come to America and swap ideas and feel the same and understand that people are as frustrated in this country as they are in our country, but people can change things and look forward to better things. There is hope in young people you know. Here its been smashed down again, but when you’ve got freedom of movement and freedom of ideas and a cultural thing at a young level, its’s good to go there. I mean you’re in a band, what are you supposed to do, say something down a microphone or go out and play your music that the kids get off on then decide they wanna go for it and do something similar. And we went everywhere, y’know, Yugoslavia, all sorts of places that bands never go to and we’ve played and we’ve always gone on stage thinking ‘Thank God these people are here’.
G: Have you ever played Russia?
N: No, we were offered to do Russia and we were gonna do it and then the tanks went in. But we’ll do anywhere, we wanna play the whole world. I mean, hopefully, we’re gonna go to Japan this year for the first time and we really wanna do it ‘cos when we get to these places we always seem to connect with the right people who know what they’re coming to see and have a great time.
A: America’s been a very good thing for you but it turned a bit sour in 1980 with the whole ‘Slam’ thing. What was the story there?
N: Yeah, we got accused of inciting people to murder, Adrian (laughs).
G: You!

N: Yeah, me personally by the LA Times, because the kids came down to our concert and they used to slam dance and jump off the stage and stuff. Here they used to pogo and that’s what they used to do over there, but I never saw anyone badly hurt. To all the people we played to, I think that a couple of people got a few loose teeth , no more. But specifically, they said that two of the kids who were at the concert went out three weeks after we were there and stabbed a chauffer and stole his money on Sunset Strip ad as they were 999 fans it came back on us. Anyway, back here it got onto the front page of The Sun, ‘999 Slam War’ and ‘Punks Murder on Streets’, so The Sun decided to do an interview with us and we did it in Soho Square and all this is true and they said you’re really violent and people will kill in your name and we replied, we just play music, come down and see us and you decide. They said, well can’t you be sick for us or go and beat up that old lady over there. The Sun will make the news and invent the story around it to sell their paper. I wrote to the LA Times and told them that we were anti-violence and anti-racist and they had no right to censor us because this is what the kids want. In fact, 999 were slagged off for everything and yet we played some concerts over there and raised money because we saw how bad things were in downtown LA and donated money, not a massive amount bearing in mind that we were just a poor English band, but enough to open gymnasiums during the long school holidays, so that the kids could go down there and listen to a bit of music and do some sport and that went unnoticed. But, the Mayor of Los Angeles, Tom Bradley, heard about this small English band who did this and he declared a ‘999 Day’, seriously, and we’re now members of the City of LA and there’s a plaque on my wall to that effect.

G: You mention that 999 have an anti-racist stance, do you think that you yourselves and other bands should get together and make some kind of stand. We’ve noticed increasing numbers of neo-nazis turning up to see punk bands and causing trouble .
N: Controlling your audience is sometimes a difficult thing, but we always stop playing if we see a fight, he culprits and say ‘We’re here for the music!’ To which everyone says ‘Yeah!!’ making them look like arseholes! Also we would have those people thrown out. Luckily, the technique of singling out trouble makers for verbal abuse to make them feel small has always worked for us and since the music is anti-violence and anti-racist our gigs don’t get used as platforms for these people. Generally, we have a great empathy with our audiences where ever we go and trouble isn’t an issue.

999 Lyceum Ballroom London 8th August 1982

I was very happy to stumble over this one recently as I have not seen many 999 bootlegs post 1981. This one is especially interest as not only is it of excellent quality, but the set is very adventurous. The '13th Floor Madness' album was on the horizon. Indeed, 'Arabesque' and 'Custer's Last Stand' feature, but also 'Obsessed' and 'Wild Sun', along with the song 'Blaze of Noon' which to the best of my knowledge has only ever appeared on the 1984 'Identity Parade' compilation album. The last four songs mentioned had a loose Wild West theme running through them..... missing is the single 'Indian Reservation'!.

It is noteworthy to say that whilst in the studio 999 were about to make a big departure in sound, on stage they knew what their audiences wanted, then as now.



01. Inside Out
02. Let's Face It
03. Obsessed
04. Arabesque
05. Boys in the Gang
06. Custer's Last Stand
07. Feelin' Alright with the Crew
08. Blaze of Noon
09. Don't You Know I Need You
10. Titanic Reaction
11. English Wipeout
12. Emergency
13. Nasty Nasty
14. Homicide
15. Wild Sun
16. My Street Stinks
17. I'm Alive

999 There May Be Trouble Ahead!

As the recent post concerning a review of 999 at the Lyceum in 1981 indicates, the band were still a big draw at home at that point. The fact that they attracted a mixture of older punks along with the mohawked brigade that I would associate more with the UK '82 scene is interesting.

'Concrete' was a mixed album for me. 'Obsessed' was a one off, 'Little Red Riding Hood' was tongue in cheek and 'Fortune Teller' for all its brilliance was a cover from way back in 1962 by Benny Spellman. To my ears, only 'Don't You Know I Need You' retains that early sound of the band. For the record  though 'Little Red Riding Hood' and 'Don't You Know I Need You' remain as staples in the set to this day.

1982/83 was a real watershed for the band. Punk was a dirty word. Those that still wanted a fix of that 1977 adrenaline rush could find it in the rawer punk offerings of those banks identified with the aforementioned UK '82, scene (The Anti-Nowhere League, The Adicts, Peter and The Test Tube Babies etc) or the UK hardcore scene (Discharge, Mau Maus) and failing that the Anarcho scene (Crass, Conflict, Subhumans..... the list goes on).

The early '80's were undoubtedly difficult times for the survivors of the first and second wave of punk and the new wave. As the music industry grappled back the control that they momentarily lost, the charts were once again populated (with a few exceptions) with bands who's eyes were as much focused on the bottom line as on their instruments. Our 'Sniffin' Glue' heroes (not that there were any heroes you understand) struggled to adapt to this ghastly musical sea change. Many bands did their utmost to produce material that would appeal to the new audience and many fell by the wayside.

In 1983, 999 released their fifth studio album, '13th Floor Madness'. Whilst the album undoubtedly showcases the high level of musical ability within the band, on listening to this album, which I do rarely, it is extremely difficult to hear 999 in there. Of course there is Nick Cash's distinctive vocal in there (albeit very toned down) but the essence of the band is buried under layers of keyboards, brass, Spanish guitar and general guitar work of a kind that I would associate more with Nile Rogers than Guy Days! Unfortunately, I do not possess a contemporary review of the album but I can only imagine how  '13th Floor Madness' was received by music critics who, with a few exceptions, had not said much in 999's favour since the heady days of 1977 and 1978.

999 in 1983 (writing courtesy of S.I.S. editorial staff, this photo was used in an issue of 'Strangled')

The final word on '13th Floor Madness' I'll leave to Nick from 1993:

'You see, Guy’s a very good guitarist and musician and he can play that sort of soul stuff. Songs like ‘Book of Love’ were really quite good songs and they showed that influence but many classic mistakes were made, like girl backing singers, mistakes you make on an arsehole album'.