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.

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Sunday 8 November 2020

The Doomed Royal College of Arts London 19th October 1978 and Sounds Interview


They may be one of the most enduring bands to have emerged from 1976's foetid punk rock womb, but never let it be said that that longevity implied any king of stability within.... few bands, with the exception of the fall can boast more musicians passing through its turbulent ranks!

At this stage in 1978, Rat had already left once before becoming a White Cat that was certainly devoid of nine lives. Like-wise Captain had enjoyed an even shorter reign in King and Dave was briefly one of the Doctors of Madness. Each of these post Damned Mk I ventures were doomed to failure, so why not come together once gain as a unified Doomed!

At this gig at the Royal College of Arts in London, bass duties were fulfilled by Henry Badowski but earlier in the summer Lemmy had filled in and a month later Algy Ward appeared.

The Doomed themselves were a fleeting incarnation of their more famous parent outfil as within a year, The Damned proper would again be on our TV and radios with material from the mighty 'Machine Gun Etiquette'. 

Thanks to Barry Hutchinson for the audio.

MP3 (as recieved):


01. Teenage Dream
02. Second Time Around
03. Problem Child
04. Burglar
05. Ballroom Blitz
06. Looking At You
07. Help
08. Stab Yor Back
09. Antipope
10. New Rose
11. Jet Boy Jet Girl
12. Stretcher Case
13. Neat Neat Neat

The band were the subject of an in-depth piece in Sounds on 14th October 1978 when the Rat and Captain were interviewed in Captain's Croydon bedroom and at a gig at Bones Club in Reading (27th September 1978).

The high pitched whine coming from the back room of the modest terraced house in SE25 is the sound of Captain Sensible earning a few bob. The Cap’s hunched over the hast of half a dozen little gold coloured trophies mounted on little wooden blocks. The kind a local darts team such as the one which
includes the Captain's milkman get for their efforts when they top their local league. The trophies couldn't be less extravagant - there's nothing on them to indicate what, when or where, just the recipient's names on the base, is all. The Captain is, to be absolutely honest, no master engraver, the lettering is no copperplate. He does enjoy his work though; once the trophies are done, Cap moves on to his guitar, drilling his moniker on the instrument no less than three times.

But what can a poor boy do?

What can a poor boy do when he's just received a Giro cheque from his local Social Security office made out for the colossal figure of - wait for it £0.05. Fivepence. "And I'm supposed to live on that for a week!" says Cap incredulously. He says he'll frame it and who can blame him? It's the kind of thing you read about in the papers, an ultimate absurdity delivered in an envelope with a ninepenny stamp on it and at who can be bothered to calculate what cost in manpower? The lunatics have taken over the asylum alright. With a vengeance.

Captain Sensible and Rat Scabies sit, sipping beers and chatting, in a scene of almost total devastation - a couple of rickety chairs, a battered cupboard , walls covered in graffiti and a 'carpet' underfoot made of crumpled cigarette packs, empty beer bottles, raggedy bits of newspaper and disgarded rags. This surprisingly odourless squalor isn’t as you might quite understandably assume some seedy clublet's excuse for a dressing room. The graffiti on the walls - boldest of which is the solitary foot high 'KING' scrawled at shoulder height across one wall - and the little pile of Bunty comics by the window give the game away: this is The Captain's own bedroom, upstairs in that same Croydon household. Captain Sensible, known to the DHSS as Mr. R. I. Burns, is the lead guitarist for The Doomed. He previously led a combo name of King, now reduced to mere writing on the wall. Rat Scabies (a drummer)
is also with The Doomed. As 'Chris Miller' he was the focus of White Cats, now extinct.

These two gents were, of course, half of The Damned. You remember The Damned? I do, and fondly. And - irrespective of ' what some anonymous snide Teazers compiler (a reference to part of a weekly with No More Energy, ho, ha, har) might have suggested recently - I missed The Damned when they were gone.

And so did they, in the end. Captain Sensible's King was the shortest-lived of the intermediate liaisons. They did a week's residency at Le Gibus in Paris ("It was, er, funny" - Capt. Sensible) and a John Peel session before collapsing. Rat's White Cats lasted longer - two gigs outside London, maybe a score in the burgh itself - "Every toilet in London," says Scabies, pulling a face. Two squibs, in a nutshell. It was, both survivors agree, largely a question of personnel.

"The trouble is," says Rat, "you can't find people to match our personalities.

"And I think that made it the strongest band live, as well. The Damned at their peak - not as it was towards the end - but at their peak, I don't think there was anyone in the world that could have touched
it." Mr. Scabies is far less enthusiastic about his own White Cats. He's still - with the assistance of Jake Riviera, incidentally, this 'good deed' hopefully chalking up a positive point or two for that gent's recently besmirched character - extricating himself from a sticky management deal, meanwhile hoping
to prevent the issue of an EP of White Cats material of which he's not particularly proud and by means of which his former guvnor is hoping to recoup some of his investment in the WC's. The Captain is no less tearful on behalf of King, having retained the only other worthwhile segment of that ensemble in the form of Doomed bassist Henry Badowski.

The fourth and final segment is, of course, Dave Vanian, dormant since his brief and ultimately fruitless
sojourn with Doctors Of Madness. Vanian can't be with us tonight unfortunately, but according to Rat, Dave was the last to agree to the new coalition, his mind having finally been made up following the one-off reunion at London's Electric Ballroom a few weeks back.

By a novelistic turn of events this morning's music papers have brought the news that Tanz Der Youth have just joined White Cats and King in the state of ' not-isness'. And this same morning, Rat says, he got a phone-call from Brian James wishing him and the rest of The Doomed luck on their tour. And, no silly, he didn't ask for his old gig back. Nor, it would seem, is his presence desperately needed. Personal differences aside - "The fights were public knowledge," says ' Ratty', sidetracking to recall an incident
when the band kicked him out of the van some three hundred miles from London, blind drunk in pouring rain at three AM. "Next day I went to Stiff, called them a load of tossers and we went off to the next gig.” But personal differences aside (shut up this time, you verbose little git), did they miss Brian’s writing?

"Well, I miss his first album writing," says Scabies, going on to express his disappointment at what he considers a decline in the quality of the material on 'Music For Pleasure.'

Cap blames the studio just as much: "Everything was so clean, y'know?" He pulls'a face, "Terrible. "

The next question springs to the lips instantly. I've seen Captain Sensible play guitar a couple of times
in the past, once alongside various Pink Fairies (well, kind of 'alongside' - I remember him lying on his back most of the time) and other time or times I forget specific details of, but it was during a particularly intense period of what I'll politely refer to as 'sabotage' of other people's gigs, meaning The Cap would jump onstage, grab the nearest available instrument and proceed to bring things to a shambolic, not to mention earbending finale. These things in mind, I wonder quite innocently if he's been, um, practising.

And put my foot slap bang in the middle of the Naughty Fido, so to speak. Indignation is headlined on my venerable subject's face. He's been playing guitar for years.

Evidence is forthcoming. Cap reaches into a chest of drawers and removes an album of snapshots of
himself in various ensembles, with various lengths of hair. He passes me the handbill for his first public
performance. On Sunday February 13, 1972 at The Brigstock Arms, Brigstock Rd., Thornton Heath, SY there appeared one Ray Burns 'Impersonating a Dalek'. The concert was, says the quaintly worded, even more quaintly spelt handbill, 'rock 'n' roll . .. heavy rock . .. hippy music '. And sure enough, Ray Burns is credited as part of Hero Dunford's Wild Bunch 'A Group who only practiced once for this outrageous  concert some overwhelming, heavy, rock 'n ' roll bass guitar tactics far our Hero Dumford ... ' And you thought it all started with The Damned! Two other combos are listed. Captn. S., was not in Corpse ('They're dead-beats from the public mortuary a Lunkhead nutty concert you just can't afford to miss. ') but he was in Genetic Breakdown: 'Croydon's funkiest Rock 'n' roll band the only group that will be illuminated by Strobe Lighting. '

Captain Sensible aka Mr. ,R. I. Burns, ex-King,ex-Damned, ex-Genetic Breakdown, ex-Hero Dunford's Wild Bunch, is next sighted in a not quite so grubby little room in Reading, alongside Rat Scabies, Dave Vanian and Henry Badowski, all of whom also have a number of ex-credits. This time it really is a dressing room. Precise location - Bones' Club, so-called  because the alcove-pitted basement where The Doomed are playing their first tour date just happens to be a former mortuary. Hm, Vanian looks unusually pink this evening - probably that purple shirt he's wearing. Actually, and to be totally serious, young Dave looks very good indeed, very sleek compared to Scabies and Sensible, who could both donate a few pounds to a needy Biafrian or teit and be better for the trade.

In the dressing room there are posters to be defaced: The Lurkers LP cover art gets a new prong on its
sign-post (upwards) indicating CROYDON; Kris and Rita's gauze-smooth glycerined portraits are given identical beards and the annotation 'We both need Gillette'; a Hawkwind manifesto earns a terse 'For hippies', whilst the leapi'ng figure of Wilko on the Solid Senders poster earns two graffitos: a word balloon including the immortal expression 'That's it - I'm not going on!' whilst the space under the guitar-slinger's airborne pedal extremities is embellished with 'Wobbler', this last surrounded by a
halo of footless exclamation marks such as cartoonists use to indicate heat, pain, throbbings and the like. The next defacement is of a more personal nature. Suddenly there's a tangle of arms and legs in the corner. Squeaks from new boy Henry as a purple pen goes into action. Guffaws from Vanian, Scabies and Sensible as they pummel the unfortunate into submission.

Henry does not look himself. Henry has a small purple moustache and several spots. Henry has purple hair falling across his forehead towards his right eye. Henry rubs his face in vain. Henry doesn't seem to enjoy looking like Mr. Hitler of Third Reich fame. Poor Henry!

The Damned -'Featuring Rat Scabies, Johny Sensible, Dave Vanian' according to Bones' hand-lettered poster are on at twelve. Johny Sensible provides the introductory music in the shape of four '45's he's
brought up from his personal collection. There's 'Father Dear Father Christmas' by Patrick Cargill,
'Benny's Theme' (concerning Benny of 'Crossroads', no less) and a couple of hot Rolf Harris sides.

The Main Event rattle through fourteen songs, some old, some very old and some new. From their
former repertoire we're treated to 'Problem Child', " New Rose', 'Stretcher Case', 'Help!', 'Stab Your
Back' and 'Ni Ni Ni' (that's what it said on the list, honest). 'Teenage Dream', 'Antipope' (written when
the first one snuffed it – the 'laughing' Papa's still alive this evening), Rat's 'Burgular' (Scabies' spelling, no arguments) 'Second Time Around' are the new ones and they're all better than even this biased listener might have hoped for. Also there's 'Jet Boy, Jet Girl' as Cap-covered and the, uh, oldies. MC5's 'Lookin' At You' is rendered with considerable aplomb, so is Sweet's 'Ballroom Blitz'. The version of P. Floyd's 'Arnold Layne' is so abysmal it should be taken out and shot immediately. Or rehearsed

True that the end of the set was hamstrung considerably when the Captain's pleas for a replacement
guitar went ignored, forcing him to continue on something like three and a half strings and that, despite
recourse to flaming cymbals 'just like the old days' Rat wasn't as energetic as he can be, but it was a very enjoyable bash for all that. It was certainly a lot better than some of  the early Damned gigs it's been my pleasure to have witnessed. The thing of it is, the Doomed do give a shit. It was strange to hear parts of the after-gig dissection (including the couple of faults mentioned above) though. For a moment it was as if they were growing up. 

The Doomed ape The Damned. L to R: Scabies, Sensible, Vanian and Henry Badowski.

I always thought the best part of growing up was the throwing up, didn't you? Henry had the last laugh. "I'm glad Captain blew it," he quarter-Polacked mischievously. "I was terrified it was gonna be me." He probably blew it the next night. I wonder if his moustache has washed off yet?

Interview by Giovani Dadomo.

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