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

Saturday, 29 February 2020

Suite XVI Radio Promos 2006

Here's a handful of radio promos that the band did to promote the Suite XVI album back in 2006.


01. Radio Wales 14th August 2006
02. The Album Show 25th September 2006
03. Talk Sport 27th September 2006
04. The Janice Long Show 8th September 2006

La Mutualite Paris 28th February 1983

It's tricky to find anniversary gigs in a leap year but not to worry, here is a slightly belated one from yesterday. Another brilliant addition from The Rat Zone Collection. Cheers!


Friday, 28 February 2020

Dominion Theatre 28th February 1985

And another birthday gig for you good people.


01. Intro
02. Something Better Change
03. Nuclear Device
04. Uptown
05. Dead Ringer
06. No Mercy
07. Souls
08. Nice ‘N’ Sleazy
09. Let Me Down Easy
10. Midnight Summer Dream
11. European Female
12. Golden Brown

01. Strange Little Girl
02. Peaches
03. Death & Night & Blood
04. Threatened
05. Punch & Judy
06. Hanging Around
07. I Feel Like A Wog
08. Down In The Sewer
09. Nubiles (Cocktail Version)
10. Toiler On The Sea

O2 Academy Glasgow 28th February 2014

Ruby tour from Glasgow on this night in 2014.



Sunday, 23 February 2020

Brian James on New Rose and the Vive Le Rock pioneer award - The Observer 23rd February 2020

Brian James talks about New Rose and the Vive Le Rock Pioneer award (The Observer 23rd February 2020).

The Pogues McGonagles Dublin 1st March 1985

I don't think that I've posted anything from the Pogues before, and yet their first three albums are punk/folk classics. Sadly, I missed them in 1985, first seeing them around the time of 'If I Should Fall from Grace with God'. What a force they were, absolutely brilliant live.... at a time before the drink and drugs reduced Shane to a shadow of his former self.

Here's a soundboard recording from Dublin in '85.



01. Greenland Whale Fisheries
02. Repeal Of The Licensing Laws
03. Boys From The County Hell
04. Whiskey You're The Devil
05. Transmetropolitan
06. A Pair Of Brown Eyes
07. Dark Streets Of London
08. Streams Of Whiskey
09. Sally MacLennane
10. The Auld Triangle
11. Kitty
12. Dingle Regatta
13. Poor Paddy
14. The Battle Of Brisbane
15. Waxie's Dargle
16. And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda
17. Muirshin Durkin
18. Boys From The County Hell

Charge Top Rank Reading 3rd October 1982

Following on from yesterdays Damned post a great supporter of this site over the years sent me the Charge, that night's support (in fact support for the whole tour) set from the same gig. Cheers!

Other than knowing the band's name I am completely unfamiliar with their stuff but a quick listen reveals a competent band that remind me on certain numbers of Theatre of Hate (maybe the vocal) - a band they also supported in their time.

Some further information on Charge can be found here in a piece written by their drummer on Stu, their singer and guitarist who passed away some years ago. 

01. Can I Go To Heaven Now
02. Illusion Of Fairness
03. Fur Creatures
04. Madman Of The North
05. Luxury
06. Perfection
07. Dancing On Graves
08. No One Knows
09. Sir Hugo
10. Dead For Years
11. Gasman
12. First For A Title
13. Absolution
14. King’s Cross

Saturday, 22 February 2020

The Damned Top Rank Reading 3rd October 1982

A great sounding Damned recording from The Strawberries tour, the time when I think I'd like to have seen them most. This for ma has always been the best line up of the band. A great set for 'Strawberries' fans with no less than 7 songs included from the then new album.



01. Ignite
02. Disco Man
03. Generals
04. I Just Can't Be Happy Today
05. Stranger on the Town
06. Wait For The Blackout
07. Bad Time For Bonzo
08. Curtain Call
09. Dozen Girls
10. Limit Club (Cut)
11. Gun Fury
12. Melody Lee
13. Under The Floor Again
14. Love Song
15. Smash It Up
16. Looking At You
17. Hippy Hippy Shake

Birmingham Odeon 22nd February 1985

Nice audience recording of the band's first night at the Birmingham Odeon on this day in 1985.


01. Something Better Change
02. Nuclear Device (The Wizard Of Aus)
03. Uptown
04. Dead Ringer
05. No Mercy
06. Nice ‘N’ Sleazy
07. Thrown Away
08. Let Me Down Easy
09. Midnight Summer Dream
10. European Female
11. Golden Brown
12. Peaches
13. Death & Night & Blood
14. Threatened
15. Punch & Judy
16. Hanging Around
17. I Feel Like A Wog
18. Down In The Sewer
19. Nubiles (Cocktail Version)
20. The Raven

JJ Burnel Edinburgh 1977

Here's a shot of our bass player that I have never seen before. Taken in Edinburgh in 1977 is features in one of the photobooks ('Teenage Instamatics; Punk Rock, Edinburgh 1977') available from Hanging Around Books.

The only Edinburgh gig that I can see listed is actually in '76 (Tiffany's on 13th December 1976).

Thursday, 20 February 2020

RockPalast Hamburg Germany 20th February 1983

Happy Birthday to this beauty! Ripped from the DVD of a high quality TV broadcast.


01. Aural Sculpture Manifesto
02. Nuclear Device (The Wizard Of Aus)
03. Toiler On The Sea
04. Ships That Pass In The Night
05. It's A Small World
06. Just Like Nothing On Earth
07. No More Heroes
08. Who Wants The World?
09. Never Say Goodbye
10. Baroque Bordello

01. Golden Brown
02. Princess Of The Streets
03. Midnight Summer Dream
04. European Female
05. Tramp
06. The Raven
07. Duchess
08. London Lady
09. Nubiles (Cocktail Version)
10. Genetix

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Bauhaus Civic Hall Guildford 18th October 1982

Those men of Northampton with the razor sharp cheekbones have had a mention today in connection with The Damned's cover of 'Bela Lugosi'. Here they are in their own right in Guildford in 1982.

MP3 (as received):


UK Subs 100 Club London 12th January 2020

The irrepressible UK Subs closed the brilliant annual Resolution Festival this year with a run through their second album 'Brand New Age'. All I can say is that if they revisit all alphabetical albums live that will see Charlie through to his telegram from the Queen!

Thanks as ever to Chatts99 for sharing a great recording!



01. You Can’t Take It
02. Brand New Age
03. Public Servant
04. Warhead
05. Barbie's Dead
06. Organized Crime
07. Rat Race
08. Emotional Blackmail
09. Kicks
10. Teenage
11. Dirty Girls
12. 500cc
13. Bomb Factory
14. You Dont Belong
15. Limo Life
16. Keep On Running
17. Rockers
18. Tomorrows Girls
19. New York State Police
20. Disease
21. Encore-Fragile
22. Riot
23. Party In Paris

Newcastle City Hall 18th February 1985

The boys in the North East 34 years ago tonight.


01. Something Better Change
02. Nuclear Device
03. Uptown
04. Dead Ringer
05. No Mercy
06. Nice ‘N’ Sleazy
07. Thrown Away
08. Let Me Down Easy
09. Midnight Summer Dream
10. European Female
11. Ships That Pass In The Night
12. Golden Brown

01. Peaches
02. Death & Night & Blood
03. Threatened
04. Punch & Judy
05. Hanging Around
06. I Feel Like A Wog
07. Down In The Sewer
08. The Raven

The Damned 'Night of a Thousand Vampires' The London Palladium 28th October 2019

Keeping the vampire theme alive (or should that be undead), here for your listening pleasure is last year's 'Night of a Thousand Vampires', a gothic extravaganza that took place at London's prestigious Palladium Theatre on the West End of town. It featured 'The Circus of Horrors' and 'The Damned'. Billed to be something out of the ordinary, the whole band partook of the Halloween/vampire theme. Even Dave Vanian joined in!

Highlights of the night included 'Nasty', surely one of the greatest single releases from the band (and certainly the one with the best video accompaniment, courtesy of the BBC's 'The Young Ones' series), a cover of the Bauhaus classic 'Bela Lugosi' and a rendition of the new song, the aptly titled 'Black is the Night'.

I did once read back in the day that there existed some needle between Pete Murphy and Dave Vanian on account of the latter believing that the former had purloined his persona. Vampires eh?

Many thanks to the donor for sharing these files. Much appreciated!

MP3 (as received):


01. Wait for the Blackout
02. Plan 9 Channel 7
03. Grimly Fiendish
04. Standing on the Edge of Tomorrow
05. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
06. Shadow of Love
07. Absinthe
08. Under the Floor Again
09. Nasty
10. I Just Can't Be Happy Today
11. 13th Floor Vendetta
12. Eloise
13. Curtain Call
14. Tightrope Walk
15. The Dog
16. Neat Neat Neat/Bela Lugosi
17. New Rose
18. Love Song
19. People Are Strange
20. Smash It Up (Part 1 & 2)
21. Black Is the Night

Saturday, 15 February 2020

Seibukodo Kyoto Japan 15th February 1979



Nosferatu - The Tour?

All of the press pieces announcing the imminent arrival of 'Nosferatu' went on to state that live dates were in the planning stage. Like the film of the soundtrack the tour was never to be.

Just imagine how good it could have been. A series of dates in authentic Victorian theatres.... perhaps ex-music halls across the land (assuming that the authorities would have allowed a Strangler to cross the thresholds of such venues) in which the tragedy of 'Nosferatu' was played out on stage. Guests could have abounded...... Dury, Devo, Underwood....

'Night of a 1000 vampires' 40 years before it crossed The Damned's minds!

So what happened.... did JJ take his mate aside to deliver some words of warning based on his own experiences of a solo tour earlier in the same year? Is anyone able to shed any light on the why's and the wherefore's of this non-event?

Nosferatu Live - Don't Get Your Hopes Up!

'Nosferatu' was a brilliant commercial flop. Never toured and rather shied away from by Hugh for the last 15 to 20 years (although recently 'Irate Catepillar' has crawled back on to the stage as part of the 'Monster' tour set). To hear anything from the 'Nosferatu' album you have to go back to the late '90's/very early 2000's, to a time when Hugh was still distancing himself from Stranglers material in order to build credibility as a solo artist who was not reliant on former glories. In more recent years those early solo tracks have made way for more accessible Stranglers songs.... something that I understand and yet regret.

He has never played much from that wonderful album..... The most definitive collection of 'Nosfertau' live material appears on the officially released Mayday album (Live in Manchester 1999) - four songs (including 'White Room').


01. Irate Caterpillar (Mean Fiddler London 11th November 2004)
02. Wired (Debut Acoustic Show)
03. Mothra (Victoria Inn Derby 1997)
04. Wired (The Mercury Lounge New York 17th March 1999)
05. Mothra (The Mercury Lounge New York 17th March 1999)

Hugh Cornwell and Robert Williams Nosferatu Outtakes

Probably as a result of the seat of the pants recording methods used and limited studio opportunities that existed throughout the Nosferatu recording process, there was not much left on the cutting room floor when all was done. The only other complete track to emerge from these sessions was called 'Grinding The Gears' which found its way onto Robert's solo album 'Late One Night'.

Here's what appears to have been left....



01. White Room
02. Big Bug
03. Irate Caterpillar

Hugh Cornwell Interview New Musical Express 3rd November 1979

To the best of my knowledge, the extensive UA promotional campaign launched for the 'Nosferatu' album was not accompanied by significant column inches in the press. Of the established UK music weeklies only the New Musical Express carried a feature on the album (or at least that is the only one that I have - happy to be corrected).

In late October 1979 shortly prior to the album hitting the record shop racks journalist Nick Kent interviewed Hugh about his collaboration with Robert Williams. In an increasingly spikey conversation something can be gleaned as to how this album came into being. Being one of the few contemporary pieces on the album it is valuable, but it could have been better if Cornwell and Kent hadn't spent much of the time sparring with each other.

Fair enough, Hugh wanted to talk about their new album and not The Stranglers whilst Nick Kent continued to bring his other band into he discussion. Hugh for his part kept up The Stranglers versus the press front and an opportunity was lost. Sadly towards the end of the piece Ken got personal and the whole thing turned into a tirade against The Stranglers.

Nevertheless it is what it is as they say.... so read on.


Hugh ‘Crypt-ic’ Cornwell gets fangs in perspective viv-a vis the latest solo Stranglers concept album, ‘Nosferatu’. Nick Kent jams as Van Helsing the vampire hunter.

It’s not far from the trashy confines of Carnaby Street to the desolation of James Street, the seedy side of Covent Garden which houses the offices of Alan Edwards, PR to The Stranglers, Blondie, Squeeze, Motorhead, Generation X and many others.

At literally ten minutes notice, I am to be found heading for this locale on Wednesday lunchtime to interview Mr Edwards’ oldest and newest client, Hugh Cornwell, who has come up to London from Portsmouth expressly to talk to NME. (The reason for my sudden enlistment into the job? The scribe initially detailed has been detained for the day in hospital, where his infanticipating wife is due to let nature and the stork take their course. So…).

I arrive to find that Cornwell is absent. It transpires that he is out having his rough-hewn mid-30’s rugby-teacher-gone-to-seed visual photographed by the incomparable Pennie Smith – an absence which gives me an opportunity to grab a quick listen to today’s item of discussion, ‘Nosferatu’ Cornwell’s new album which hitherto I have only heard by chance one night at a mutual friend’s house.

It’s a tricky aural extravaganza to gauge the full strength of when using a mere portable cassette player. The mix gives a disorienating slant to the albums dynamics, depth and texture, the instruments often appear to float in some odd limbo. Certainly, it’s a fair old departure from Cornwell’s more orthodox heathen thrust when he harnesses his resources to The Stranglers.

One vital reason for this is that, where the latter are propelled by Jet Black’s meat and potatoes drumming, here Cornwell has collaborated with Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band percussionist Robert Williams, not merely usurping his idiosyncratic trap-trouncing, but also placing his talents right in the centre of ‘Nosferatu’s’ creative processes.

Indeed, although ‘Nosferatu’ will probably be branded by the media as Cornwell’s solo album, the outer cover declares the album strictly a dual creation, in no uncertain terms. The pair stand together, both names in bold – “Hugh Cornwell and Robert Williams in ‘Nosferatu’.”

As Cornwell later explains, they met whilst Beefheart’s current band was playing three nights in San Francisco. The Strangler, a fervent Beefheart admirer (he nominates ‘Clear Spot’ as his favourite B.Fart album, explaining that ‘Trout Mask Replica’ “has so much going for it that I’m still discovering new things”), went backstage and “found Robert to be the most forceful personality, the one with the strongest sense of direction. Also we quickly found that we were into many of the same things.”

Among other appealingly morbid perversities that proliferate on the album, Cornwell and Williams chose primarily to use the character Nosferatu, a gnarled old vampire type doomed to a living death: an evil, macabre blood-sucking existence, so pathetic that one feels genuinely sorry for the poor old ghoul.

The character dates back to Egyptian mythology – his doomy four syllable moniker translated as “spirit of darkness/evil” or “cloak of death” or some such suitably grim handle. Indeed one could go into an intoxicatingly lengthy description of the original vampire himself, but literature is abundantly available for those wishing to sample the full force of this monstrous apparition.

More to the point, two films have been made using the old bloke’s name, a 1920’s Expressionist masterpiece directed by Murnau and made in suitably gothic black and white with no sound, that grabbed Cornwell who, when he viewed it early last year, “visualised it as an amazing vehicle for emotional music”.

Williams evidently felt the same, and the two set to work last summer, writing and recording together as a basic unit with “friends” who were around who, according to Cornwell, “could add things, say, or fill in the odd hole with their interpretation”.

The project was completed six months ago and is currently on the vinyl release starting blocks.
But again we begin to get ahead of ourselves. As his quotes are starting to appear, so one should at least acknowledge that yea, exactly after 40 minutes have elapsed Hugh Cornwell arrives.

Expecting a somewhat more outwardly more aggressive character, I’m pleasantly surprised to receive an instant impression of the man as a fairly civil chap. That relentless bullyboy vocal he adopts for singing is absent from his speaking voice, which suggest previous associations with colleges of further education. Certainly he in no respect resembles a rock star, what with his second hand demob suit and open necked white shirt, topped off by features that rarely ease up from their naturally taut bone structure.

The final embellishment – a small goatee as thick as a paint-brush but greased to stand at a point – is typically Beefheartian …

At first hand-shake, he is amenable courteous enough and comparatively soft-spoken, thus temporarily undermining all prior visions I had of The Stranglers – or at least Cornwell – treating journalists with total disdain.

This cosiness is however almost instantaneously destroyed, when Cornwell leaves the PR office to walk next door to his management office. Wondering if he intends to do the interview in there, I follow. Cornwell, seeing me sauntering into the room, turns distinctly chilly.

“The journalists’ room is in there” he states curtly, as though he were telling a dog where his kennel is.

The incident, minor enough at the time, in retrospect ties in perfectly with Cornwell’s view on the media. Journalists, in The Stranglers’ terms, are basically inferior lags to the superior warrior-like self-acclaimed artists the band so obviously consider themselves to be. We journalists are at best useful, at worst intolerable – and if we are intolerable, then a bloated egomaniac thug like JJ Burnel sees no moral issue in brazenly using his black belt karate training to beat up a critic like Jon Savage of Sounds, who dared put his name to a criticism of whatever The Stranglers’ latest product was at the time.

No, The Stranglers are a law unto themselves, and in that respect they remind me a lot of Led Zeppelin.

Call one ‘new wave’, call the other ‘heavy metal’, but both groups are out on their own, armed for combat in a ‘dog eat dog’ business. Both groups have a reputation for being ‘heavy’ outfits who despise outside criticism, because they foolhardily believe themselves to be the best judges of their work and other opinions, unless virtually sycophantic, are redundant.

Now, just as Jimmy Page still troops out every so often to give the odd interview – purely for promotional reasons usually – so Hugh Cornwell has chosen to talk to yours truly or anyone else from the music papers... but strictly about the ‘Nosferatu’ album.

And nothing else. He’ll talk about how “when we started recording, it was really terrifying music we were making. I mean we were really frightening ourselves with the music that was coming out. Then it was levelled out into becoming almost a soundtrack... a soundtrack for a film that could never be made.”

And he’ll tell me that the whole album was recorded in 22 days  - “10 days at one stretch, then 12 at another,” in LA.

But that’s yer lot. Despite the proximity of ‘Raven’ to the top of the album charts, not a word will he vouchsafe on the subject of his day job – The Stranglers.

So OK, let’s do the business on ‘Nosferatu’. This bit’s for Hugh’s scrapbook.

The songs were written by Cornwell/Williams, apart from Cream’s ‘White Room’ – given a radically claustrophobic arrangement (it fits into the album concept by dint of the white room representing Nosferatu’s hide-out from the daylight) and one number involving a composer’s contribution from Devo’s Mothersbaugh brothers. Two songs feature one ‘Duncan Poundcake’ : ‘Puppets’ and ‘Wrong Way Round’, for my tastes the albums strangest cut, with Dury delivering a chillingly raucous ‘Little Egypt’ freak-show owner’s harangue.

Although a final view-point has yet to be reached, ‘Nosferatu’ strikes me as an intriguing, ambitious equal-parts success and failure. It strives for diversity and wholeness at the same instant. But whilst Cornwell and Williams’ experiments often call for unorthodox arrangements that capture the alienation and claustrophobia of being trapped in a form at once repellent and almost comically pathetic, Cornwell’s voice – a drone that is neither effectively disembodied nor catatonic – often can’t carry it off. Certainly Dury’s cameo whacks the point home with a vengeance.

Meanwhile Cornwell, obviously pleased with the creation, talks about how one song – ‘Losers in a Lost Land’ – was written with Williams “by post”, the two potentially diverse sections (Cornwell’s bass patterns and Willams’ percussive effects) created 2,000 miles apart but in perfect synch with each other.

“We produced each other. Robert would be behind the console whilst I was laying down my tracks and vice versa when he was laying down his percussion, snatches of synthesiser, and other bits.
“He even wrote the lyrics to ‘Nosferatu’ itself. That was to be an instrumental.”

Elsewhere the Mothersbaugh brothers appear on one track, the collaborative work entitled ‘Rhythmic Itch’, whilst Ian Underwood, best known for his multi-talented instrumental expertise showcased most strongly on Frank Zappa’s ‘Uncle Meat’ and ‘Hot Rats’, appears on one or two cuts.

“It’s reached a point where I feel this record is sounding like another crummy solo album with ‘starstudded’ guests”, mutters Cornwell, disgruntled.

I disagree, and he seems mildly appeased at my contention that names like Robert Williams and Ian Underwood aren’t exactly in the same mould as yer super session stars like Ronnie Wood and Ringo Starr, for which we can all be thankful. Still, Cornwell’s paranoia about star-spotting leads him to deny quite adamantly that any such personage as Ian Dury appears on the record. “Duncan Poundcake is on the album. Not Ian Dury. Get that right.”

Cornwell looks back on the album’s making.

“It was almost like Robert and I being schoolboys again and going in and experimenting. Very quickly we ended living a sort of quasi-vampiric existence. Sleeping all day, recording all night and making sure we got home just before dawn.”

In the midst of what can only be described as blithe reminiscences on Cornwell’s part about his work with Robert Williams in Los Angeles, I am suddenly reminded that this is the same man who on ‘raven’ wrote a song entitled ‘Dead Loss Angeles’.

“Yeah well, when you check the inside of the sleeve of ‘Nosferatu’ you’ll see I’ve written ‘Recorded in Undead Los Angeles’. I wrote those lyrics as an indictment against the fact that that on one level Los Angeles stands for everything crass and dumb and sick in American society. It’s the very epitome of all that crap.”

Hugh joins the queue for the bloodbank. Pic: Pennie Smith

He expounds on his own particular vision of Nosferatu, based primarily on the ‘20s film as opposed to the recent re-make of Nosferatu by German wunderkind Werner Herzog.

“He’s a desperate man – very, very desperate. But he’s got something a lot of people crave and that’s immortality. But the irony is that he doesn’t want it. He’s very pathetic really. No-one realised that in fact he’s a very, very sad man.

“All the songs on side one are portions or episodes, say, of an imaginary film Robert and I made about him. The first track has him hurrying, desperate to get home because it’s close to daylight. Then with ‘Losers’ (Cornwell’s favourite cut) he’s back in the crypt, pondering his miserable existence. Then in ‘White Room’ he recalls his past and how he got into this state in the first place. The fourth track, ‘Irate Caterpillar’ is him confronting technology – this immortal ghoul in this industrial complex where he sees a crane and thinks that it’s giant caterpillar out to destroy him. Then the side ends with the Mothersbaugh’s ‘Rhythmic Itch’ which is just a totally objective viewpoint on the basic theme right.”

The second side consists primarily of Cornwell’s studies in aspects of perversity.

“It fascinates me. Perversity is a part of everyone, because all humans are imperfect and those imperfections create perversities, right. It’s so logical to me. Everything I do is logical. It comes from studying science – chemistry - at college, see. I don't like going off at tangents. There's never any point to tangents."

The latter remark harks back to a reference I'd made to The Stranglers' work. To him, that's a "tangent" as far as this conversation is concerned.

At first though, Cornwell consents to answer a few perfunctory questions on the subject of the band he still adamantly declares to be the main source point of his creative output. The dreadful live album! ‘X Certs', he states with blunt candor, "would've been much much better, if we'd mixed it. Instead, (Martin) Rushent mixed it. That's why it's so bad.

"We're never going to use a producer again. What the fuck for? Producers are just shitty little parasites. Period. All they're good for is telling jokes. And we know better jokes than any of 'em!"

I ask Cornwell if the six-month delay of 'Nosferatu' was irksome and whether it was dictated by a need for new Stranglers product. Cornwell feigns mild indifference but declares firmly: "Not at all. In fact, the six-month break has helped Robert and I to really come to terms with the project, to sharpen a few things up, get it in perspective."

OK then, let's go for some serious issues, Mr Cornwell. I mean, here you are recalling with great affection the making of an album with Robert Williams, a musician most unlike any of The Stranglers. And, God knows, the album sounds very different from anything The Stranglers have done, particularly 'Raven' . ..

"So? ... " Cornwell is getting peeved.

Well, did you feel that you needed to make 'Nosferatu' due, perhaps, to The Stranglers going through a lean period? You know, going through the motions?

"What do you mean by 'going through the motions'? Do you mean 'crapping'? We crap all the time. Every day, in fact (laughs)."

Cornwell is peeved. This journalist is going above his station. Doesn't he know that he, Cornwell, only wants to talk about his album? But tell me, Hugh, can you explain the human chemistry involved in the four members of The Stranglers?


But you talk in great depth about how you worked with Robert Williams. OK, so how do you work-with someone like Jean Jacques Burnel?

Cornwell has to stop this here and now. ''I'm not going to answer that. Like, how would you feel if some journalist asked you about your emotional relationship with your girlfriend?"

Well, it would depend on the context. A more realistic parallel would be someone asking me how I get on with fellow writers on the paper I work for: I'd certainly answer that.

"I don't see the parallel," mutters Cornwell.

"And I'm not going to talk to the press about emotional relationships I experience! The Stranglers are alive and very well and they are still the group that I commit most of my energies towards. OK? Now I came here to talk about this" (points to 'Nosferatu' cassette)
"and nothing else."

Get the picture? Cornwell wants a nice slice of publicity for his collaborative off-shoot record - nothing more. I'm just the stooge who's around to ask nice bland questions and pass on the relevant platitudes.

Yet again however I return to The Stranglers/'Nosferatu' dichotomy, and Cornwell at least attempts to make a distinction between the two.

"The band is my professional career. It's a very vital part of my life, a very good way of getting across certain things. 'Nosferatu' - which I'm very, very proud of - is like, almost a hobby, what I did on my holidays."

But earlier you were talking almost ecstatically about how you and Robert Williams worked so well together OK, so right now you're tied to different bands, you've got commitments - but if Williams phoned up and said: "Listen, I'm leaving Beefheart, let's work together full-time," would you take his

" No (pause). No, because however great it was working with Robert, there was a concept there, there was a kind of spontaneity we shared for one great period of time that in 22 days created 'Nosferatu'. That doesn't mean it'll gel like that automatically a second time. Maybe it might, maybe not."

In the six months since 'Nosferatu', have you thought up any new ideas with theme that could take off like that did?

"I've had ideas, yeah. I get ideas for songs, write them down in five minutes and then lose the piece of paper I wrote them on. There's always something up there. It's more a case of actually getting into the studio, getting in with the right chemistry and doing it. Otherwise all those ideas are nothing more than scraps of paper. Which I lose more often than not." He laughs to himself.

Two final culminative verbal exchanges occur, leaving me half-bemused and half-amused by Cornwell.

A stray remark from Cornwell about how, unlike the artistic maverick of a rock composer that he is, I as a writer am always prey to all kinds of censorship and hob-goblin sub-editors out to twist the meaning of what I've written, gets me well pissed-off. Taking the statement to be tantamount to calling me a hack, l enlighten Cornwell on certain facts – in particular that I am a freelance writer and my primary concern is that my pieces, give or take the odd verbose sentence, remain in the state in which they were first conceived and penned.

"You're lucky then," mutters Cornwell. " 'Cos almost everyone else gets their articles cut to shit." .

No more, I counter, than people like yourselves. Bands have producers and big record-companies calling the shots on them. You're evidently successful so your company lets you go on with what you want to do. But if you weren't successful, your bollocks would probably be in hock. God knows, I've seen more bands totally compromised than journalists.

Cornwell mutters words of disbelief. The Stranglers, after all, are warriors. Journalists are just voyeurs to him.

The hilarious thing is that many of The Stranglers' song lyrics are just fifth-rate puerile sneering attempts at some kind of journalistic overview on 'current issues', weighed down by a rock-slide of splenetic bilge and tossed out with a sneer, a boot-boy swagger and a total absence of humanity.

A simple question about The Stranglers' future plans makes Cornwell turn downright rude. "I'm not telling you! I Want to keep you guessing," he retorts in what I presume he considers to be a mischievous tone of voice.

You want to keep me guessing? Listen, mate, do you think I really give a toss what you do next? Two years ago, you were doing a Roundhouse concert against Mick Jagger, because he said you were "dreadful" or some such belittling adjective. Now you're sounding just like him!

“Well, I just want to keep you on your toes!"

Hugh, old son, I'm afraid to tell you but I frankly don't give a fart in a tunnel about your future projects, because, give or take a couple of new riffs, it'll be the same-old-same-old in a new wrapping; music for people who're trying to learn how to sneer with sincerity.

Back to the crypt, old son. Dawn's coming up and the light's too fierce for your transparent superciliousness.

The Coming of the Undead - Nosferatu Unleashed

5th May 1979 Melody Maker

Cornwell’s Solo

Hugh Cornwell, shortly to join his fellow Stranglers for their headline appearance at the Loch Lomond Festival at the end of May , is putting the finishing touches to his debut solo album.

The record, “Nosferatu” was named after the first Dracula movie and is planned for release in June.

Cornwell has just returned from America’s West Coast where he has been recording the album with a number of players, including former Mother of Invention Ian Underwood, and Captain Beefheart’s drummer Robert Williams.

5th May 1979 Record Mirror

Strangler Hugh Gets Drac

Strangler Hugh Cornwell releases his first solo album in July.

‘Nosferatu’ was inspired by the very first Dracula movie of the same name, made in Germany in 1922. Hugh has just returned from America’s West Coast, where he has been putting the finishing touches on the album.

The album features Ian Underwood on keyboards and Captain Beefheart’s drummer, Robert Williams, on drums. Cornwell is also expected to a solo tour but no dates are as yet available.

13th October 1979 Record Mirror

Hugh Cornwell of The Stranglers has a solo album out soon. Young Hughie always wanted to make music that would frighten people and so, as an extra effort to have us dashing to the loo in fear, he’s called the album ‘Nosferatu’. Like the undead, for all you hicks who haven’t been glued to Film ’79. At least with a title like that the photos of Hugh’s rugged face will fit in perfectly.

13th October 1979 Melody Maker

Cornwell’s date with horror

Hugh Cornwell’s first solo album called “Nosferatu” after the German silent horror classic, is now set for November 9 release by UA.

Written and produced in collaboration with Beefheart drummer Robert Williams, it reputably features members of Devo on some tracks, like the Mothersbaugh written “Rhythmic Itch”, and the Mothers’ Ian Underwood plays sax on “Wired”. The other tracks are “Fear”, “Big Bug”, “Irate Catapillar” and “Puppets”.

The album is preceded by Cornwell’s version of Cream’s “White Room”, released as a single on October 26. The guitarist is currently touring with The Stranglers, but as yet has no plans for solo gigs.

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Nosferatu (Un)Reflected in Art!

The 'Nosferatu' collaboration was launched in November with a promotional campaign equal in intensity to previous Stranglers albums. Multiple full page ads were featured in each of the main UK weekly music papers (at great cost).

Each ad featured very atmospheric shots of Hugh with elements of Victorian horror thrown in. The shaving shots were vampire specific in that the reflection of a vampire in a shaving mirror would be somewhat problematic!

This campaign would have indeed set back United Artists a pretty penny. A lavish campaign was also enjoyed by JJ for the 'Freddie Laker' and 'Euroman Coming' release. Whether this was due to their continued belief in The Stranglers or an insurance policy against the much mooted band split, I leave to you.

Nosferatu - A Modern Gothic Masterpiece

Not only was 1979 arguably the greatest and most eclectic year for British music, it was also the most prolific year in terms of activity emanating from within The Stranglers' camp. Amidst circulating rumours of the band's imminent demise, The Stranglers, Hugh and JJ released no less than four albums in that 12 month period as well as a significant clutch of singles. These albums too were very different animals! The live album 'X-Certs' effectively dropped the curtain on The Stranglers, the punk band, whilst 'The Raven' unveiled a much more melodic side to the band's character, an album on which the two principal vocalists sang the material rather than bellowed it through inferior equipment. However, like 'Feline that was to follow, 'The Raven' derailed a few fans of the band at the time and yet with the passage of years, it is 'The Raven' that is cited by many as being the pinnacle of their long career! But producing a career best was not enough for these men.

Jean-Jacques flew the flag for Europe with 'Euroman Cometh', an experimental work that nodded to the earlier direction of Kraftwerk and the Kraut rock scene. A troubled tour and poor reviews all round rather took the wind out of our gallic hero's sails and he took himself away to lick his wounds. But once again, some 41 years after its release the album is looked upon very favourably, a real stand out post-punk statement. In fact last year's 'Wonky Bus 7', a near annual fan based jaunt to Europe, revived the 'Euroman' theme on it's tour shirt, in part to mark its Ruby anniversary and in (most) part a deliberate ploy to wind up Brexiteers! Oh the fun of it all!

But what of Hugh. Along with Captain Beefheart's drummer, Robert Williams, he had put together a soundtrack for an unmade film. In fact the film had been made a couple of times, but not by Hugh and Robert. That film was Nosferatu, a classic of the silent era that laid down the blue print for the horror film genre. The original version, released in Germany in 1922 was directed by F.W. Murnau and started German actor Max Schreck as the genuinely terrifying Count Orlock. The plot is a very thinly disguised adaptation of Dracula (which would not come to the screen for another nine years (1931)), so much so that the wife of the late Bram Stoker sued the producers of Nosferatu. Of these two closely related films, Nosferatu is far more atmospheric and cinematographically sophisticated than the somewhat hammy Dracula (an early 'talkie' for which Hungarian born lead, Bela Lugosi, had to learn his lines phonetically due to his limited command of English at that time). As is the case with Dracula, Nosferatu has been given the modern make-over and in fact a new version was in the cinema in 1979.

The album sleeve (pictured above), a grainy and moody still from the 1922 original version of the film, showing Orlock in a boat approaching his newly acquired abode in the fictional German town of Wisborg, visually sets the tone of the album..... dark and claustrophobic.

Back in 1978, after a Stranglers' US tour, Hugh took in a couple of gigs by Captain Beefheart's Magic Band in San Francisco where he fell in with drummer Robert Williams.

Something in the relationship clicked and Hugh asked Robert whether he would be interested in a musical collaboration. Luckily for us Mr Williams concurred and recording sessions commenced in 'Undead' Los Angeles (a veiled apology for the band's snipe at the city that appears as 'Dead Loss Angeles' On 'The Raven') on 26th December 1978. According to Hugh the bulk of the material was laid down in a period of 22 days, one in a stretch of 10 days with a second session of 12 days. Some of the studio time was given over by Lindsey Buckingham who was recording with Fleetwood Mac in this period..... they took a break and the darkness moved in. Additional material and mixing was carried out in London.

Like method actors, the two musicians adopted a working schedule of which any self-respecting vampire would approve i.e. sleeping during the hours of daylight only to emerge to record at night. Whether or not Hugh bedded down in the damp comfort of London Clay is unrecorded though!

Over the years, it has become apparent that there has been some needle between Mr Cornwell and Mr Williams when it comes to credit in the first instance and royalties in the second. I'll not add to this topic but only add that originally in the spirit of the film soundtrack 'for a film that will never be made' the two musicians appear as equals in both title and prominence on the artwork.... enjoying equal billing on the film poster that never was. One more point, I would also say that the musical contribution of guitar and drum on this album are equally potent!

Neither Hugh or Robert entered the studio with any fixed idea of the tracks that they were intending to lay down. Some riffs and outline ideas were worked up in the studio.

In considering my thoughts on this album I have read some on-line reviews that seem to resonate with a recurring theme of 'too indulgent', 'without melody', 'discordant' and 'off-kilter'. Thinking about it these are my plus points for the album. Robert's sharp and edgy drumming style, in marked contrast with Jet's solid style (once referred to within the pages of 'Strangled' as being akin to 'hammering on a tin roof' by Mr Scabies), coupled with Hugh's strange time signatures and general playing style are the elements that make this album stand out as something different again in the vastly diverse musical environment that existed in 1979.

The album takes off at a frenetic pace with the Williams' penned title track 'Nosferatu' which sees our bald, dentally compromised anti-hero pursued through the streets of pre-dawn London, pursued by early representatives of the capital's law-enforcement agent's ('Peelers'), in a desperate attempt to reach safety prior to the fatal rising of the morning Sun.

'Losers in a Lost Land' concerns the lives of faded actors.... interesting since this is an area of the performing arts that Hugh subsequently dipped his toes in in subsequent years. On a vampire theme, this subject matter could apply very well to cinema's most famous screen vamp, Bela Lugosi, who sadly became something of a one trick pony.... he eventually was reduced to comedy cameos on The Abbott and Costello Show and was ultimately buried in his Dracula cape.

Hugh out-vamps the 'Vampire-in-Chief', Dave Vanian, 1979.

'White Room' is a deeply atmospheric cover of the 'Cream' original and was supposed to represent a sanctuary for Nosferatu. More banally, the original was written about the 'green rooms' of television studios that were invariably painted white that played host to Messers Bruce, Baker and Clapton prior to their numerous TV appearances.

At this point it is necessary I think to point out that whilst Hugh Cornwell and Robert Williams are this leads in this film that never was, there was always going to be a supporting cast and this included on many of the songs Ian Underwood, a very well respected Zappa collaborator who fitted in perfectly with this somewhat left-field project.

'Irate Caterpillar' is a brilliant off-beat piece and one that Hugh has revisited live, most recently on the 'Monster' tour.

Possibly my favourite track on the album is 'Rhythmic Itch' which takes on board the musical and vocal talents of the Mothersbaugh brothers. Mark also contributed to the lyrics which gives the song a distinctly Devo sound albeit with brilliant backdrop of Williams' percussion skills!

'Wired' is one of the more straightforward tracks on the album and perhaps the most immediately accessibly to a Stranglers audience (which may be the reason why it found itself sitting with JJ's 'solo 'Crabs' track on the 'Don't Bring Harry e.p..

'Big Bug' is so dark. Inspired by the progress of Leon Trotsky's armoured train throughout pre-Soviet Russia post 1917 taking the revolutionary message to the Russian front lines. Trotsky's efforts culminated in the signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, a peace treaty signed on March 3, 1918, between the new Bolshevik government of Russia and the Central Powers that ended Russian involvement in the war and allowed Germany to refocus her efforts on defeating the Allies on the Western Front.

'Mothra' takes its inspiration from a fictional Japanese monster of early 1960's.

Another stand out track is 'Wrong Way Round' which conjours up all of the exploitation of the Victorian freak-show. The track's 'Fairground barker', a chap going by the name of Duncan Poundcake' creates a highly authentic scene... as a listener you can almost visualise the bearded lady and the strongman behind him!

The final track is perhaps to my ear is the track that is most evocative of the early Stranglers (if you ignore Robert's closing percussion). Among the vocal choir on the track was one Mick Jones of The Clash.

Critically poorly received upon release for me this album will always be the best of the solo bunch... and don't get me wrong here, the level of the competition is very high! But 'Nosferatu' pips the others to the post for its ambition, bold collaboration, not only between the two main actors but also in the supporting cast. Whilst it may have fallen on deaf or unreceptive ears 40 years ears 40 years ago its a joy to listen to now!

Sunday, 9 February 2020

The Locarno Bristol 9th February 1981 - Upgrade

Here. Thanks as always Dom P!

The Apollo Theatre Glasgow 9th February 1983

Happy birthday to this one. Posted here today in two forms, 24 bit (1.7Gb!) and high quality MP3. The choice is yours but I would recommend that you grab one or the other since Dom P has done a job on this one and it sounds great (a significant upgrade from the version that I had). Thanks Dom!

FLAC (24 bit):


01. Nuclear Device
02. Toiler On The Sea
03. Ships That Pass In The Night
04. It’s A Small World
05. Just Like Nothing On Earth
06. No More Heroes
07. Who Wants The World?
08. Never Say Goodbye
09. Baroque Bordello
10. Golden Brown
11. Princess Of The Streets
12. Midnight Summer Dream
13. European Female
14. Tramp
15. The Raven
16. Duchess
17. London Lady
18. Nubiles (Cocktail Version)
19. Genetix
20. Down In The Sewer

Saturday, 8 February 2020

Was it Really 23 Years Ago!

Realistically, the first time that I could have feasibly have seen the Damned was in 1985, on 'The Big Tour' (Phantasmagoria). The trouble was I had my biology 'O' Level the next day and my parents put their collective foot down. Mates went which pains me still.

I did see them on the 10th Anniversary Tea Party in Finsbury Park the following year and then regularly thereafter until now.

In that time there have been some brilliant gigs, not least the low key(!) bash at the Royal Albert Hall. But for me, the peak that will never be bettered was a 'secret' warm up gig that the band did at The Square in Harlow the day before the 'Smash It Up' all-dayer in Birmingham.

The date of this warm up gig was 8th February 1996.... the 'Alright Jack and The Beanstalk' line up was no more.... Rat was replaced and Captain was back in the fold.... not only that but Paul Gray was on bass duties.

The set on that night, as now, heavy on the Paul era material... which to my ears is as good as it gets.

Just look at how happy and shouty I was on the night.... not to mention more hirsute!

The full gig can be found here.