Aural Sculptors - The Stranglers Live 1976 to the Present
Welcome to Aural Sculptors, a blog aimed at bringing the music of The Stranglers to as wide an audience as possible. Whilst all of the various members of the band that have passed through the ranks since 1974 are accomplished studio musicians, it is on stage where the band have for me had their biggest impact.
As a collector of their live recordings for many years I want to share some of the better quality material with other fans. By selecting the higher quality recordings I hope to present The Stranglers in the best possible light for the benefit of those less familiar with their material than the hardcore fan.
Needless to say, this site will steer well clear of any officially released material. As well as live gigs, I will post demos, radio interviews and anything else that I feel may be of interest.
In addition, occasionally I will post material by other bands, related or otherwise, that mean a lot to me.
Your comments and/or contributions are most welcome. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday 29 November 2020
Saturday 28 November 2020
Friday 27 November 2020
Thursday 26 November 2020
This particular gig was a welcome surprise. The Damned headlined, but as I recall, no support was announced so it was a real surprise to see Charlie and Alvin on stage (Knox wasn't present).
The band, a long -standing UK Subs spin-off really brought Alvin and Charlie together with Knox from The Vibrators... well Charlie had to have something to do on the one weekend of the year when the UK Subs were not on tour!
Essentially a bit more rootsy rock 'n' roll, the Urban Dogs gave the Harp an excuse to wield his harp! So here they were this week four years ago promoting a new album 'Attack'.
01. Wanna World
02. Dancing On The Head Of Snakes
03. I Cant Stand It
04. War Baby
05. Limo Life
06. Sidewalk Baby
07. Pawn Shop Special
08. New Barbarians
10. Brand New Cadillac
12. Rock-N-Roll Nurse Going To My Head
13. I Wanna Be Your Dog
Wednesday 25 November 2020
I loved it at the time. 'Anthem' was Toyah's 1981 album with two of the biggest hits of the year, 'It's A Mystery' and 'I Want To Be Free'. As mentioned elsewhere on this site I saw the band in 1982. Before 'Anthem' I had 'Sheep farming in Barnet' which is a far more interesting proposition, and for those that still do appreciate a bit of Toyah, an album just about to be released as a 40th anniversary deluxe reissue.... and it does look lavish.
Tuesday 24 November 2020
More of this particular band in the coming days, but I just wanted to get his up on the site today of all days. Just look at the set. Marvellous!
The Sisters of Mercy The Black October Tour (Top Rank Brighton 22nd October 1984 and Manchester University 13th October 1984)
Black, Black, It's All Gone Black!
There are elements of The Sisters of Mercy I quite like. Certainly, 'First And Last And Always' is a great album, as is 'Gift' by The Sisterhood (an Andrew Eldritch spin-off featuring songs originally intended for the second Sisters of Mercy album). 'Floodland' again was a really strong album that saw the band having mainstream success with Eldritch joined by ex-Gun Club member and Mrs Vanian, Patricia Morrison. Nevertheless, I always struggled with taking them seriously, for sure no one could take them as seriously as them did themselves! Even Bauhaus occasionally revealed a glimmer of humour!
I never saw them, but I recall that mates were at the Brighton gig included here.
This posts includes two sets from 1984's 'Black October' tour, the main set from Brighton's Top Rank (minus the encore) and the encore only from Manchester University recorded a week or so before.
Monday 23 November 2020
Now this is getting exiting, we have reached 'R' which means that pub reopening is within sight!!
Sunday 22 November 2020
And the final set in the trio.... with Duelling Banjos!
And the following night in Brugge/Bruges.
So the last recording posted was an acoustic, sorry make that aquostic, gig and indeed, as alluded to, The Stranglers tried their hand at a similar approach. 2007 was a very busy year for the band with much of their energies put into promotion in Europe, of the many gigs played that year, only a handful of summer dates and the November 'Rattus Revisited' were played in the UK. As well as busy, the shows were varied with the usual electric sets in the first half of the year to the aforementioned Rattus anniversary shows in the autumn and an 'unplugged' tour of the Lowlands squeezed in on either side.
I guess the decision to play such a tour on the continent was deliberate. The laid back style of an acoustic tour tends to go down better in Europe. It would appear that the band's European fan base are more accepting of this approach than is the case in the huge halls the band play in the UK. The fact that those halls crammed with pissed people (and here I would include my good self) wanting to go mental to 'Go Buddy Go' also sits awkwardly with the acoustic set style. That said, listen carefully to this gig and it is clear that there was a travelling band of likewise pissed up Brits (who shall remain nameless) in attendance!
I did some of the dates in 2011 and I must say the shows were very enjoyable giving the band a chance to play songs that don't particularly benefit from being blasted out of an O2 PA system.
OK hands up, I have exercised a degree of poetic licence here. 'Q' is a difficult one, I have nothing by Queen and Quiet Riot or the Quire Boys are not my thing at all. And so I give you Quo. Now before you recoil in horror, pause for one second, this is not the normal denim and leather fodder that the band had been churning out for decades, for this is an acoustic set..... quite a few old bands have tried it I understand! With this different take on that familiar sound it is clear that much of the material is pretty good and well written..... oh and 'Pictures of Matchstick' is a classic of the psychadelic era!
I saw Status Quo once, well that said I stood and watched them for 15 minutes at Reading Festival in 1987, just to be able to say that I had seen them. We returned to the test for more alcohol and laughed as they were still cranking out the hits 2 hours later.
It's funny, but they have the reputation that all their songs sound the same, but years ago at a local pub quiz there was an intros round with you guessed it, 20 Quo intros. We scored 20/20 and all the titles were indeed different.
Saturday 21 November 2020
Well 'P' is an easy option and I was presented with many choices to upload. Nevertheless, I plumped for something more obscure ad no doubt challenging to some. But this is a broad minded site and can and indeed does contain material that is sometimes rather tenuously linked to the band. This recording is a case in point. The 'band' are Propellerheads, an electronic paring of Will White and Alex Gifford. Now Alex as you know had an association with the band that lasted several years, originally contributing sax to the brass section that played on the Aural Sculpture tour, after which he took to lead vocals in Dave and JJ's side project The Purple Helmets.
And a Happy Birthday to this one from The Playhouse Theatre in Edinburgh, 39 years ago tomorrow tonight!
Friday 20 November 2020
Thursday 19 November 2020
The Stranglers may have dictated the way I dressed back in the '80's but this band informed my thoughts on politics (dictated being the wrong word here). I have for sure said it on this site before that it was Spitting Image (the first incarnation) and the Miner's Strike that hammered home the message into my 16 year old brain that politics matter. Whether you like politicians and the wily ways of those same politicians or not, they make decisions that affect your lives for good or bad. No one can afford to let our political leaders ride roughshod over the things that are important in our lives.... and that is true whether you are coming from the perspective of the left or right.
The Newtown Neurotics come/came from Harlow in Essex, the town where I have worked for 18 of the last 26 years. These days they only play a handful of gigs a year. Things have moved on, sadly bass player Colin died a few years ago, drummer Simon lives in Brighton, so its just Steve that can be seen on occasion in Harlow Town in his distinctive shades.
Back in the late summer of '88, The Neurotics (by that time) had released their final album, the brilliant 'Is Your Washroom Breeding Bolsheviks?', but by that time the end was in sight. Colin Dredd left the band for health reasons leaving the band with just a handful of gigs left to play before they called time.
I was lucky enough to see a couple of those swansong gigs, an anti-fascist gig at the Electric Ballroom as well as the last gig at the Fulham Greyhound on 29th October 1988. That gig was amazing, but this is the one that I really would have wanted to be at. The farewell to Harlow on 10th September 1988 with a marathon 37 song set.
Here the venue is as important as the band. The Square was an oasis in an otherwise drab new town, and I am not running Harlow down here it's just that that venue was so very special to musicians and punters alike. The land is owned by the NHS and time was called on the contract several years ago. The venue stood vacant for a year or so before being demolished. The plot has subsequently been fenced off for almost three years now... to what end? If no plans existed for the land at the time of the enforced closure why on earth could it not have been allowed to stay open! Rant over.
Anyway, here is what must be one of the best Neurotics gigs ever.
Wednesday 18 November 2020
I was just 10 years old in 1979, just discovering music off my own back.... no older brothers or sisters to point me in the right direction.... I made all my musical mistakes entirely on my own!
One thing that sticks in the mind from that time is the appearance of monochrome check.... not only that but these strange anthropomorphic 'M's that were cropping up on walls, school bags and exercise books. This was the start of the Madness. And what was not to love about that sound, the energy, the excitement of it all. My Grandfather went into Rounder Records in Burgess Hill, West Sussex to get me 'One Step Beyond' bless him.... what with him being a Bing Crosby fan and all!
Here's a piece that appeared in the 24th November 1979 in Sounds, just a couple of weeks after returning from their first US tour (see The Whisky post).
Reading through this interview as I transcribed it, I have to say that of all the 2 Tone bands Madness appeared to have been the least vocal about the dodgy right wing following that were drawn to them all.
SOD THIS for a game of soldiers. Stuffed on Stiff's Freddie Freeman victuals I may be but if they think for one micro-second I'm standing here turning blue ... 8.45 last Monday eventide - when any sensible soul would be beside the TV side clocking 'Porridge' - and the portals of Edinburgh Tiffany's are chocabloc with chilly billies sardining it about in their scarves and winter weazels, bursting guts, toes and patience to get in out of the COLD and getting nowhere fast.
Edinburgh, it would seem, has been earmarked by some chinless Thatcherite wunderkind as guineapigsville in some fiendish mass freezing experiment (see Home Office form 2785 K, 'Ongoing Human Existence In Sub-Arctic Temperature Situations' and quite frankly brass monkies and mouldy taters don't come into it, pal. This frozzled lot make Adam Adamant on ice look like John Bindon on Mustique.
In front of me Stiff's tame scot Andy Murray attempts to clear a path by handing freebie Rachel Sweet singles to the old Bill and almost gets nicked for his pains. Time for a few porky pies: "Scuse me mate I'm the bassist," claims photographer Virulently Turbulent inexplicably, and suddenly the crowd makes like Moses and the Red Sea leaving us free to whistle past the Bill smack into the interior mass warmth of the assembled Edinburgh hoi-polloi, thawing out and marking time till . . .
Welcome to the 2- tone tour! The greatest show on earth (for the moment) bop until you drop to non-stop music from your current chart faves, tailormade for livelies! Multitudinous moments of the many magic kind as you move to the groove for a mere £1.75. M'dear we're robbing ourselves so roll-up, roll-up – if we get six months you won't wanna do three of 'em. Going once, going twice, going, uh uh, three times.
SPECIALS, Selecter and Madness are the name of tonight's game, the sound of '79 (with just a sprinkling of noticeable exceptions) in the skanking shape of the 2-Tone souped-up ska sparkle that's meriily moonstomping the charts and selling out the nation's Polys, Top Ranks and Tiffanys via thecurrent mammoth 'taking it to the people'tour.
My brief for today's roaming in the gloaming exclusively concerns Madness and a feature of the Big One variety. Tuesday morning's BRMB chart shows their first Stiff single 'One Step Beyond' skyrocketing up 29 places for a brief respite on the back of those two little ducks, all the 2' s, 22. This is their second Top Thirty hit this year, yet four months ago ago few people outside of their mums had even heard of them.
Tipped a wink by a Sham fan called Carol and cuddly Paul Cook, I caught them when July was just under starter's orders and I must admit they didn't impress me as much as either the Specials or the Selecter did first time round. They had some good numbers sure, but with lyrics lost et al, they did seem, in restrospect, maybe just a couple of steps beyond good pub rockers.
Similarly the debut 2-Tone single 'The Prince' was good but not as good as either its Special predecessor or Selecter successor, although the b-side cover of Prince Buster's golden oldie 'Madness', from which they took their name, hinted of greatness. Fact is it wasn't till the release of their debut album at the end of October that I was thoroughly convinced about the band.
'One Step Beyond . . :, the album, finally put them in a proper perspective, illustrating firmly their joint parentage - the sixties ska of Prince Buster and the Cockney vignettes of Ian Dury, whose abracadabra I'm particularly partial to.
The slower numbers in the set suddenly began to register. Like for example bassist Mark Bedford's 'Mummy's Boy' with its jokey, jerky foundation for excellent Duryesque lines like 'Once went out with a London girl/ Dirty weekend in a hotel/ Broke it off when she got shirty / She was 12/ He was 30 ..’
Even better was vocalist Suggsy and guitarist Chrissy Boy's 'In The Middle Of The Night' which in typical 'New Boots' style sketches the outlandish character of an underwear tealeaf called George: 'Nice man, George, newsagent on the corner/Not very rich but never any poorer/ Jaunty old George, a happy 63/ Not very tall but healthier than me/ He whistles timeless tunes as he saunters down the street! Springs in his legs and elastic in his feet/ But in the middle of the night he steals thru your garden / Gives your hosiery a fright but doesn 't say pardon/ As soft as a breeze with an armful of underwear/On his hands and knees , dreams about the knicker scare.’ George's double life finally comes intothe open however: 'Nice man George, newsagent on the corner/ He was closed today, maybe gone to mow the lawn /Had to go further down the road to get the Currant Bun / Hello isn't that George on page one? . . . But he has gone away, gone to stay with some mates/ He got the papers early and saw his own face . ..'
Saxophonist Lee Thompson's borstalbroaching tale 'Land Of Hope And Glory' has a similar Dury-esque flavour, leading our office cynic to the conclusion that "Dury wouldn't record another 'New Boots And Panties' so Stiff got some one who would."
The album is much more than that however, for me capturing the essence of teenage working class London: a bluebeat base from too many Saturday nights beneath plastic palm trees mixed with breezy love songs and Cockney character sketches, the whole lot embellished by their striving after the Nutty Sound (cue usual 'sounds of fairgrounds' allusion).
They haven't quite caught that yet musically, though they're breathing down its neck with the cheery wurlitzer bounce of their budding, yakety sax looney tune instrumentals, and visually Chas Smash sums up the whole concept with his nifty nutty dance and multiple shouts:
'HEY YOU! DON'T WATCH THAT WATCH THIS! CHIPMUNKS ARE GO! ONE STEP BEYOND! THAT HEAVY HEAVY MONSTER SOUND, THE NUTTIEST SOUND AROUND' et al.
Chas's kid sibling Brendan (Mickey sends his love), who's working on tour as product salesman and patience tester is also a keen supplier of nutty phrases, viz 'I've had a touch', 'Over and out', ' Kamikazi' , and 'On the case' . Brendan's joined on the band's travelling periphery by manager John 'Tintin' Hasler, roadies Chalky and Toks (Drummer Woody: "If Toks pushes you backwards you know that Chalky ‘ill be kneeling behind ya") and usually a fan away team - Totts and Whets, not to mention Lyndsay, Wandsworth Harry (who apparently still owes Chalky 12 Quid) and the fabled Prince Nutty. (At this point I'd like to mention my uncle Bern simply cos he's never had a namecheck in Sounds either.) THE BAND proper are Lee 'Kix' Thompson (saxes, some vocals, falling off chairs, walking socks, crew cut shades and 'burns); Chris 'Chrissy Boy' Foreman (guitar, Barry Sheene lookalike, family man); Mike 'Monsieur Barso' Barson (ivories, shades, infant moustache); Dan 'Woody Woods' Woodgate (drums, vegetarian, Mo dette); Mark ' Bedders' Bedford (bass, smiles, uh, bass) ; and Graham ' Suggsy' McPherson (vocals, vodkas, Leveller exposes) .
The band ,come from the Camden Town area of London, not that far a hike from St Mary-Ie-Bow's in Cheapside. Explaining the influences, one of their earliest musical activities was following the Kilburns in the wee years of this decade, Lee especially becoming great mates with the Grand Old Raspberry and 'is 'umper Fred 'Spider' Rowe. The bluebeat bite came via Lee, Suggsy, Chrissy and Chas's private collections. For Suggsy and Chas it was an important sideline to being skins which they were for years before the '78 skin explosion (Suggsy: "When Sham come along I grew me hair"). Chas developed his unusual dance routine while pissing about to 'liquidator' (never complete to my mind without the 'Skin'ead' chants as punctuation) .
What we're really talking about is a group of teenagers, some mates, some mates of mates getting into music and eventually putting their own band together. Mike Barson could play the joanna and he taught Chrissy guitar. In '76 they formed the first phase of the Invaders (aka North London Invaders) with , Lee on sax, Chas attempting to play bass, manager John Hasler then on drums and various people including Hasler as vocalist.
Their musical approach was similar then, if less successful, and they stabilised their line-up last year, changing the moniker at the Music Machine this January for the much more concise and definitive Madness. Progressing through pubs like the Dublin Castle and the Grop And Wanchor they were naturally intrigued by media reports about the Specials. Extended feelers on both sides resulted in valuable support dates and contacts at a time when hacks were hotting up on the whole affair.
Thenceforth: a feature in Sounds in July, 2-Tone one-off single in August, Stiff signing in September (three weeks after playing Stiff supremo Dave Robinson's gay 'n' hearty), debut album in October and the start of this titanic tour.
SEPTEMBER, October, No wonder I'm here, battling with barmaids who've never heard of light 'n' lagers and hiding my pens so I can forget about taking notes and just soak up the show. And no I ain't gonna get into the who outplayed who bit; suffice to say none of 'em are third class tickets, an Madness in particular have tightened up (reggae pun) almost beyond belief and are currently a more than fair investment for your LSD.
Ironically the most moving moment of the night was the final encore after the Specials' sparkling performance which featured all three bands and several fans on that 'Skinhead Moonstomp' - Chrissy tried to get me up for vocals but, sob, I lost me Aristotle. (Call yerself a man - Indignant Ed.)
Puritanical viragos will be pleased to learn that there was a noteable absence of both River Ouse and oedipus rex (booze and sex. - Ed's translation) back at the hotel so most people just hit the hay. Brekkers next morning was hectic what with Selecter Desmond hollering for bacon sarnies and Special Neville dishing out the insults ala 'BLOODCLAAT, MONKEYMAN'. Soon the hotel foyer was like Casey's Court too with poor old Andy Murray flying around like a blue-arsed fly, tugging lumps out of his barnet, trying to organise his troops for photos with Turbulent and then, ta ra, the serious interview ..
‘FUCK ART LET’S DANCE’ is the Madness slogan and the band themselves don’t put much store on the jaw and are keen to' leave out any socio-jamjar ramifications but any Madness feature would be incomplete without some discussion of their sometimes heavy skin following, including a hefty slab of BMers, who recently got out of order bottling Orchestral Manoeuvres off stage at the
Electric Ballroom. In return Madness fans got indescriminately attacked by tooled up 'anti-fascists' at Hatfield Poly on this tour .. .
"Now personally I hate all this BM business," says Suggsy, "but a lot of the kids get taken in by it. When I was 13 all the kids used to go down Brick Lane and it's easy to get pulled along by it which is why I don't turn round and say 'Kill 'em all' . They're just ordinary kids being like their mates, and the BM thing gives them a sense of identity. It don't mean a lot to most of them outside of that.
"The way I see it if they're all dancing to black music that means more than shouting at 'em or slicing 'up up. Personally I'm more worried about violence at our gigs . .. "
Chas: "If they fuck around at our gigs we don't wanna know. They're out."
Suggsy: "They fight all the time so we say just don't do it at the gigs ... better don't do it at all."
Chas: "There was these three kids who we'd banned 'cos they'd caused trouble at gigs and the other day they asked if it was alright if they came back and promised to behave. Cos they do care y'know."
Suggsy: "Yeah, like at Dingwalls it was the skins who went around stopping all the trouble."
Woodsy: "One thing you can never do is generalise about skinheads, and when the audience get dancing there's nothing else on their minds ‘cept enjoying themselves. But we get all kinds at our gigs, not just skins."
I MANAGED to extract plans out of 'em: a quick five dates in kharzies in the States this month, back to
rehearse new numbers - they've got four in the pipeline - then a headline UK tour, go into studios in March, and hopefully put out a second album in April. Busy boys, eh?
Then they said some nice things about Stiff, left another cryptic message for Mr Bentley ('We warned him but we still beat him to it - though he's probably still in with a bit of a chance . .. he better watch Spider though, he reckons he's gonna come with us. Says its more of a laugh') and were spirited away on the coach for Aberdeen .
I remember watching them nutty train through the revolving doors, sinking back on the bar stool and thinking how the perfect metaphor for Madness would be a couple of comprehensive kids bunking off school one May day and dodging fares down to Margate, spending the whole day pissing about in Dreamland, pulling birds, pigging down chips and getting legless….
That probably just about sums the nutty spirit up.
And here we have Camden Town's Magnificent 7 performing on their first tour of the US. I would love to have seen them at this time.... preferably in the Dublin Castle with Guinness in hand.
Monday 16 November 2020
Sunday 15 November 2020
To deviate from the music for a moment. I meant to post this on here last Wednesday at the same time that I posted it on a couple of Facebook pages, but overlooked to do so.
The story concerns the death of a soldier of The Great War. He lived his adult life before sailing for France not a two minute walk from my front door. If the urge takes you please take a look on one of my other sites.
The knives were out for The Stranglers in late 1981 with the release of the band's sixth studio album. Some of the writing from these detractors is lazy and the attention to detail is somewhat lacking.... mistakes I have left in. For example NME's Barry Hoskyns goes to the trouble a penning a detailed panning of the album but then goes on to describe the title track as 'a sad lament sung in Cornwell’s most deadpan tone'.... leave the French to the French one perhaps Barry?
Presented below are reviews from three of the big four UK music weeklies, New Musical Express, Sounds and Record Mirror (any one have a review from Melody Maker?). Also are included is the review from the more teen orientated Smash Hits and one local press review lifted from Jet's press scrapbooks.
An unexpected pleasure. The band have dropped their bully boy tone and replaced it with a delicacy and lightness of touch that I thought I'd never hear from the hectoring meninblack. The title, which refers to the whole madness of human life, is a strict guide to the record's contents -love, the family and the mental warps they can produce. For once, a sharp intelligence has been wrapped around the Stranglers' loudly held opinions.
(8 out of 10)
From the opening Farfisa beat of Non Stop to the final notes of the title track, La Folie is a classic.
And it’s only February.
The Stranglers have found you don’t need to throw everything plus the kitchen sink into an arrangement to make effective statements.
There’s an economy of style I first noticed on Duchess and the mood is closer to solo Lou Reed at times to the Doors, who were always a strong influence.
If you love Golden Brown, the hit single, that recalls Dave Brubeck and Gerry Marsden in one shot, then you’ll be pleased to hear that every track is equally matchless.
I noted in particular how Hugh Cornwell’s solo sneaks up from behind and makes use of a guitar tone most musicaians would dismiss as old fashioned. Dave Greenfield is, of course, superb on keyboards, but the power of the Stranglers would not be the same without Jean-Jacques Burnel and Jet Black. I’ve a feeling that only The Jam will stand any chance of topping this disc before next January.
Saturday 14 November 2020
Another 'La Folie' tour set from Bristol.
Today I received a significant upgrade of this did from Dom P. Cheers. Also included in this version is 'Hallow To Our Men' from the sound check.
UPGRADE FLAC: https://we.tl/t-AjFmjyik57
What a mixed bag this event was. It looks like the promoter has made some effort somewhere to present some logic to the programme, the more rabble rousing bands appearing on the opening night..... but the Rich Kids opening for David Essex!?
Artwork (by Manu Gomez): https://we.tl/t-KKcK9olfUx