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 adrianandrews1@sky.com.


Sunday, 19 December 2021

Birmingham Odeon 2nd February 1983

 


Poor track splitting on my part... London Lady is indeed there and follows 'Duchess'! Artwork has been updated.

OK, thanks to DomP I have a new copy of this Feline gig (my copy degraded somehow). This sounds very good to my ears, I don't know whether Dom has tinkered with this one or not. Hugh is on fine form on this evening winding up the good resident's of the city of Birmingham. The track listing that I had my old version included 'London Lady' between 'Duchess' and 'Tank' which I think is correct as it correlates with the tracks in an old copy of Colin Mace's list. Other than that it is complete. Cheers DomP!

FLAC: https://we.tl/t-6MQvbE1e1u

Artwork: https://we.tl/t-1kiJYS32Fg

01. Intro
02. Nuclear Device
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/London Lady
08. Tank
09. Genetix

The Stranglers Are Again Cover Stars Of The Latest Issue Of Vive Le Rock

In true Stranglers' fashion the band have come through one of their worst periods of their long career (and things don't get much worse than losing a founder member of the band to COVID-19) with their heads held high and their reputation as one of Britain's finest and most enduring bands intact. 'Dark Matters' topped the magazine's Festive 50 as the best album of 2021. If I believed in the afterlife it would be nice to think that Dave Greenfield would raise a glass of whatever's on the optics up there to acknowledge a job well done!

Saturday, 11 December 2021

Basil Brush - I’m Gonna Dream This Christmas (That It’s 1979!)

 


Best Christmas song for 30 years!! Basil Brush knows... don't argue! I love that creature. Boom! Boom!

Friday, 10 December 2021

RIP Thomas Mensforth (Mensi) of The Angelic Upstarts

 

Very saddened tonight to hear that Mensi of The Upstarts has succumbed to COVID. How terribly sad for a devoted father of a young family. 

The first time that I met Mensi would have been a brief encounter when we demonstrated against the annual march by the National Front just on Remembrance Sunday, just an hour or two after the real deal,to lay wreaths at the Cenotaph in Whitehall to commemorate those that that fell in the struggle against nazism and fascism.... all the while holding aloft swastikas..... I mean, I ask you!?

Before the early afternoon ended with an adrenaline filled game of cat and mouse with officers of the Metropolitan Police, I walked past Mensi in the crowd,. I said 'Hi Mensi', to which he replied 'Awreet son' without his steely gaze ever deviating from the street corner from which we knew that the NF column would first appear. Total commitment.

I first saw the Upstarts live at about the same time, 1988, Marquee, supported by Blaggers ITA and Atilla. As I remember Max Splodge was carried off his drum stool and the stage in a comatose condition. Mensi was in his element with the crowd, would not leave the stage until the management pulled the plug on him. 

On another occasion I saw The Upstarts at the Garage in Islington I think and someone passed Mensi in a Skewdriver shirt. Bad mistake, the young nazi acolyte ended up shirtless.

Sleep well big man, you were an inspiration.

Sunday, 5 December 2021

Vive Le Rock Awards 27th March 2019

 


As part of this disastrous renovation that we have embarked upon I have been trying to consolidate my bootleg recordings as I am a bit disorganised in that respect. In doing so I stumbled across this gem which I had forgotten that I even had. Apologies to the kind soul that sent it to me as I can't remember the source.

It's a great little recording of a short set that was culmination of for me and Gunta a highly emotionally charged night. There were the highs, a chance to see The Rich Kids for the first and probably only time, and clearly The Stranglers playing after receiving the best band of 2019 award and the lows... we lost Pete Shelley the previous December (Pauline Murray paid great tribute to him) and just a week or so previously The Beat's Ranking Roger succumbed to cancer. Regular visitors to this site will be aware that I hold 2 Tone very dear and The Beat were a very important band for me.

WAV: https://we.tl/t-WWBIMzD0Le

Sleeve: https://we.tl/t-Y12aj3LdP4

01. Intro and Award Presentation
02. 5 Minutes
03. Tank
04. Unbroken
05. This Song
06. (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)
07. No More Heroes

Dave at the Vive Le Rock Awards
O2 Academy Islington
27th March 2019


Born Toulouse

 As I write this I should be at the front of The Stranglers at the Bikini club in Toulouse. To hell with it, as one of the first few gigs that I could have attended in the last 18 months and more I may even have worn a bikini to mark the significance of the occasion!!

However, it wasn't to be thanks to that little spiky bastard ball in its new omicron guise. The costs of the required PCR testing instantly doubled the cost of the trip which coupled with issues spiraling out of control at home on an extensive home renovation resulted in me bailing out of a long anticipated trip to France.

I do however have a recording of one of the gigs already with more to come. But as ever, these will not be posted until the French leg of the tour is done and dusted.

Back in the game.

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

Whatever happened to... all the sessions?

 Here's one to ponder. With new product to promote, why have there been no radio sessions? Clearly the 1970's feuding with BBC over past misdemeanors is a distant aspect of the band's history. JJ in particular has been interviewed on numerous occasions which is great, but it is all talk and no music.

The Damned on the other hand have been well catered for by BBC 6 Music with a session to promote the 'Evil Spirits' album and a Christmas gig no less.

You've got to love a radio session as it is by no means unusual for a session track to be superior to the version that the band spent weeks creating in a plush studio.

I may write to 'Points of View'!


Brixton Academy 24th February 1990

 


In the process of consolidating my CD collection I checked the status of this one on the Aural Sculptors site and noted that it had only previously been shared in MP3 format. So here then is the lossless version complete with slimline revamped artwork. 

The date was rescheduled from an earlier planned date in late 1989. As I recall this was down to delays with finishing of the '10' album. I think that it was this date that went ahead in preference to an anti-poll tax meeting at Brixton Town Hall. I guess the Metropolitan Police were wary of the fact that there was a potential ready made, 4,000 strong mob in the immediate vicinity that could be problematic in the event that the meeting became ugly. As I recall Hugh made reference to this fact from the stage on the night.

FLAC: https://we.tl/t-7nT9dfb7My

Artwork: https://we.tl/t-lEIDhFrJ7l

01. Shah Shah A Go Go
02. I Feel Like A Wog
03. Straighten Out
04. Shakin’ Like A Leaf
05. 96 Tears
06. Someone Like You
07. Sweet Smell Of Success
08. Always The Sun
09. Ships That Pass In The Night
10. Peaches
11. Where I Live
12. School Mam
13. Let’s Celebrate
14. Tank

01. Uptown
02. Was It You?
03. Down In The Sewer
04. Golden Brown
05. Walk On By
06. Strange Little Girl
07. All Day & All Of The Night
08. (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)
09. Nuclear Device
10. The Raven
11. Duchess
12. Punch & Judy

Tuesday, 5 October 2021

The Specials BBC Radio Theatre 29th September 2021 (Steve Lamacq BBC 6 Music)

 


My God, do I need The Specials in my life right now. I tend to shy away from politics on this site, but recent events, fuel shortages, sparse goods on supermarket shelves and to cap it all the nausiating greed driven skullduggery of the mega rich and their creative, loop hole savvy accountants revealed in the 'Pandora's Box' papers is almost enough to make me want to don my revolutionary cap and man the barricades! The good news is that The Specials are feeling it too!


There, they said it!

Promoting their new album the band appeared on Steve Lamacq's BBC 6 Music show last week with a mix of old songs and new songs showcased from the 'Protest Songs 1924-2012' album. The Specials always had an eye for he cover and they retain that skill to this day. 

FLAC: https://we.tl/t-msBn0bJeD4

Artwork: https://we.tl/t-kdLPVIdZRC

01. Interview
02. Introduction – Steve Lamacq
03. Do Nothing
04. Freedom Highway
05. Everybody Knows
06. Stereotype
07. Ain't Gonna Let Nobody
08. Listening Wind
09. A Message To You Rudy


 

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Dark Matters - The Press Reacts

 


Well it has been a long time coming and we all know the tragic circumstances that plagued its late stage gestation. The fact that the album is tied in with the last major tour that the band will do, the poignancy of the material with respect to the loss of Dave Greenfield, now recognised quite rightly as a British musician whose virtuosity has placed him among the ranks of the greatest rock musicians of all time, has heightened the media's interest in the album. 'Dark Matters' has had the most coverage of any album probably since 'Black & White'!

For my part I am still absorbing the tracks and my opinion, for all that it is worth, will be shared in the coming days. In the meantime here are some of the music press's online reactions to this their 18th studio album.

Uncut Magazine 10th September 2021

Nick Hasted

Death puts the Men in Black in sombre, elegiac mood.

3.5/5

Even punk didn’t want The Stranglers: the movement for damaged outcasts drew the line at these Surrey brutes, seen as too thuggish, ancient, sexist and straight. Before that, pub-rockers too thought themselves above this glowering crew, with their corduroy-wearing biochemistry graduate singer, 37-year-old jazz drummer with a taste for home-brewing, a brooding bassist ever itching to use his karate skills, and a hippie keyboardist whose unfashionable solos inspired flashbacks of the verboten Doors, though he expressed a preference for Yes. Such faces certainly didn’t fit Malcolm McLaren’s Situationist programme, leaving them as uncomprehending rock press pariahs, blindly lashing out at their tormentors.

Photo: Ccolin Hawkins

This violence climaxed when bassist and karate master JJ Burnel punched main singer-songwriter Hugh Cornwell through a wall in 1990, hastening his swift exit from the band. Today’s Stranglers are the result of a long and dogged climb back, after Burnel fought through his own gloomy indifference to reassert control over the drifting group, Baz Warne, guitarist since 2000, became bullish co-singer too, and Norfolk Coast (2004), their fifth album since entering the post-Cornwell doldrums, showed intent finally worthy of their past, combining rumbling attack, a ruggedly English sensibility and a measure of introspection.

And yet the blows keep coming. Their once terrifying drummer and founder, Jet Black, retired in 2015 with enough health problems to give Python’s Black Knight pause. Like Don Corleone near The Godfather’s end, he no longer runs things, but still offers wise counsel. So when Dave Greenfield, their jazzy, proggy keyboardist, died from Covid-19 on May 3, 2020, it was Black who told the last original Strangler standing, Burnel, to press on.

The band’s 18th album, Dark Matters, was largely finished before Greenfield died, when lockdown windows allowed Warne to visit Burnel’s French home, and was completed remotely. After the snarling insensitivity that once defined The Stranglers, it’s reflective and poignant. Even if you strip away the late touches acknowledging Greenfield’s loss, the mood is suddenly grave and inevitably valedictory. “We’re a bunch of old guys now,” Burnel agrees, “and I wanted our music to reflect that.”

Greenfield might have generally been the quietest member of the band, but when they started to play, it was him, head bowed at the keyboard, who always set the mood, his fairground swirl energising the others. So it still is on Dark Matters, as the opener Water sees his playing surge and then explode into a mighty Stranglers riff, Warne’s guitar and the keyboard then trading slashing blows. In an album that took nine years to cohere, Burnel’s lyric, with water a metaphor for the Arab Spring’s thirst for democracy, sounds sadly stranded in history.

And If You Should See Dave… is the most notable posthumous addition, with Burnel considering “things that should have been said, eternal regrets”; “This is where your solo would go”, he adds, the lush music arranged around that gaping absence. “Innocence has left this house, to wander among the stars”, begins Burnel’s other new lyric, on If Something’s Gonna Kill Me (It Might As Well Be Love), showing Greenfield’s almost sanctified Strangler status, somehow stood apart from their bruising battles. “Our glory’s far behind us”, Burnel acknowledges, “and I miss ya”.

The Sunderland snap of Warne’s vocal bites down with relish on This Song, a co-write with Mathew Seamarks that imagines burying feelings for a sundered relationship with manic completeness. The Stranglers’ bracing, unapologetic bile rises here. Payday, too, rains contempt on callous leaders with a nod to the history-steeped lyrics of No More Heroes: “Alexander was never the same after he speared his old companion/It led to Ptolemy and Cleopatra…”

But it’s Burnel’s husky, burnt-out ballad voice that defines Dark Matters. The Lines counts life’s cost in the face in the mirror, Greenfield’s honky-tonk organ shadowing a country strum. Down is a sunken elegy sung to Spanish guitar, ’til hopes rise again like the sun. Breathe is the best and last song here, beginning as a ’60s pop chanson. Greenfield’s synths dance above its final minutes, the keyboardist both in a world of his own and with his bandmates one last time, until the only sound left is a transmission signal, blinking out, leaving the survivors in limbo. If wouldn’t be the worst way for a last Stranglers album to close.

Louder Than War 11th August 2021

John Robb

9/10 for The Stranglers first release for a decade, the aptly titled Dark Matters, is a masterpiece to get lost in and a tribute to their late and great keyboard wizard Dave Greenfield. The album sees the band embrace all the nooks and crannies and styles of their fascinating journey in a late career flourish – a genuine highlight that ranks with those classic and game changing first 5 albums.

Famine, plague, death, destruction and the end of the world…since the last Stranglers album, Giants, was released ten years ago. It’s not been easy on the world stage or the band’s tight inner circle but The Stranglers finally deliver their 18th album fittingly named Dark Matters. It’s been a long time since we heard any new material and the album has been overshadowed by the death of core band member Dave Greenfield and his genius keys, and the final retirement of the great Jet Black but the record has been worth the wait. It’s an eclectic and fitting testament to the keyboard wizard and a great late period document of this idiosyncratic band.  

Somehow, despite everything, The Stranglers have delivered one of the finest moments in their bizarre career. Either as an act of closure or the beginning of a final chapter, Dark Matters, bookends their unlikely sojourn and is kinda like a grown up Rattus. It retains all the dark melodic inventiveness and distinctive sound of that most classic of debuts from 1977 that reflected the sewer like survival of mid seventies London but has been upgraded decades later into an album that is full of an emotional introspection as well as a well worn and well earned wisdom with an added dystopian twist and embrace of everything that life chucks at you. There is also a genuine sensitivity and emotional clout that may have been hidden away in the older stuff but always lurked somewhere just beyond their charismatic bravado and was explained in this very open interview by JJ Burnel with John Robb a couple of months ago. 

Of course the death of Dave Greenfield hangs heavy over the album musically and thematically but he was around long enough to play on eight out of the eleven tracks. Fittingly some of his career best keyboard runs are on the album which is a fitting epitaph to his genius. From the opening track, ‘Water’, Dave’s brilliance is underlined. The tracks classic keyboard runs show that his dexterity and sense of texture and melody were as strong as ever. The keyboard lines and bubbling runs are at his trademark best. He made this kind of stuff feel effortless – it’s the real signifier of just how good he was that his classic style pours out of the tracks like it was totally natural. The complexity and originality of his playing is often overlooked because its so perfect for the song and at the band’s best it was the crucial texture that made them stand out and allowed all the instruments space to serve the songs.

One of the keys to the band was that no note was ever wasted by Dave or his comrades and the constituent sounds of each instrument was rich and textured whilst playing its own lead lines. Dark Matters is full of this classic Stranglers technique.  The opening ‘Water’ sets this stall. The track has been in the band’s set for some time and the recorded version is honed to perfection as it weaves its watery way building and twisting and turning. The liquid metaphor runs through the lyrics that deal in the future wars caused by the water running out – classic Stranglers reportage like from The Raven period which this track could easily be from. A few decades in and a smart band understands what made them great and plays with those themes and reinvents them in new shapes. Nature themes and the power of the elements have always been at the Stranglers core painting sonic pictures out of the sensual power of the elements. That’s what Water does as reflects its subject matter in that classic old school lysergic way of the band – painting pictures in your head musically and mystically. It sounds like water and is a liquid slice of punk prog with danceable powerful and yet strange time structures dealt with by Jim Macaulay  – the comparatively young buck drummer who has really stepped into Jet Black’s shoes and will make the old codger guffaw with pride at his taking up of the mantle. The track sets the album’s stall and embraces the prog epic stylings of The Raven period – the rising bass lines and bubbling keyboard magic, the driving yet off kilter song structures and the lyrics that look at the big picture sung by JJ channeling a rich James Douglas Morrison croon. 

Team Stranglers are on fine form – this is no tribute band and very much an ongoing creative concern. The album is restless with this creativity and explores all the band’s nuances and classic textures. The classic clipped JJ bass sound is back to the fore threading the tracks together (like all old school Stranglers fans I look to the bass sound to see if the band is on top of its game – it’s one of the classic sounds in British rock) and Baz Warne is on fine form all over the album which his bluesy guitar lines swerving from melodic to quirky and his vocals maintaining the balance between belligerent and sensitive.  

The album comes in all shapes and sizes and the earlier clutch of tracks released to the public only give part of the story with their melodic introspection. There is plenty of old school tough gnarl on the record like on the second track that rasps in with the rat pack mentality of the Rattus period.   This Song sounds so Stranglers it’s hard to believe that it’s actually a cover brought in by album producer Louie, who once produced a band called The Disciples of Spess who had a tune called, This Song Will Get Me Over You which still lurks on Spotify. 

One Stranglerfied it’s become classic riot period Stranglers and full of grinding bass, driving drums and a huge chorus snarled and cajoled by Baz Warne as he works his way around yet more classic Dave keys. The playing on the track is faultless and like the rest of the album, the musicianship is on another level. All the band’s classic hallmarks are back unlike the fallow nineties period when they seemed to lose confidence in their own sound. Since the 2004 Norfolk Coast album its been a journey of rediscovery as the band woke from their nineties slumbers.

Dark Matters is full of classic twists and turns as the band make sense of their own eclectic nature. Already released and very well received, the touching lament ‘And If You Should See Dave’ is a touching JJ paean to their fallen brother in arms and contours up his spectral presence that hangs over the album. The tracks introspective musings and glorious chord changes are reminiscent of classic sixties French pop and it’s a heartfelt touching moment that even leaves a space for the played keyboard solo which you can imagine in your head. 

If Something Is Going To Kill Me (It Might As Well Be Love) is soaked in the romantic side of the band that initially emerged in the Feline/Dreamtime period. Those autumnal baroque and lush melodies were even hinted at even in the early days on their own Princess Of The Streets or their cover of Walk On By or and it’s that song’s writer Burt Bacharach that is the key here with his classic, timeless sense of crooning melody dripping from the track which also features a Chet Baker style trumpet break at the end as well as nicely off kilter keyboard as the main chassis.  

There is so much diversity on the record as the band explore all their nuances. The Stranglers were never really playing by the rules – they were out of step even in a time when being out of step was au fait. The Stranglers have always prided themselves on their range of styles, their restless creative range has always been the core to their experience and Dark Matters further explores this making the early promotion of the record tricky. Just how do you choose a defining single from an album as far ranging as this? Even at their thrilling belligerent gonzoid peak there was always something else about the Stranglers. The late period band further explore these styles trying to make sense of who and what they are. 

If the previous two tracks are the sensitive melodic Stranglers they are not the sound of the whole album – fear not doc marten wearing older fans there is plenty of snarling Stranglers here like on No Mans Land which, like Payday a couple of tracks further down the album are full of plenty of snarling action, fast running bass, scratching scrapping guitars and guttural vocals with the vowels bent out of shape and killer hooky choruses – classic Strings. Both tracks also have killer bass lines with Payday having one of those classic Burnel Baroque Bordello style 4 string workouts as Baz delivers an unlikely vocal about Alexander the Great and Greek classics! Both songs also great old school Stranglers intros. 

The introspective sparse acoustic confessional of The Lines deals succinctly with ageing The Lines and Down is a lush melodic affair and a sumptuous mournful ballad dealing with the black dog of depression. The atmospheric The Last Man On The Moon is a bass driven epic with added classic Stranglers and already a live favourite with its driving bass line and film score vocal harmonies. 

There is also the welcome return of the moody soundscapes and almost film-score wide open spaces on the album’s two climactic cinematic tracks that close the album and sound like nothing else the band have done. White Stallion has a 4 to the floor disco kick drum, a driving bass intro, a pummelling post punk groove, a choir, berserk strings and an off kilter melody. It’s glacial in its ambition as it warns about the rise of China and the unstable geopolitics of the 21st century whilst sounding like Hans Zimmer on steroids. This is a dystopian film score and it really works in its bonkers brilliance. Breathe sees off the album with a quirky and atmospheric of jazzy soundscape that drips with a perfumed sensuality that sinuously builds into a triumphant and climactic ending even with its introspective nature. 

The perfectly named Dark Matters could be the band’s last statement and there would be logic in that. It could also be a launching pad to a new era – there are plenty of enticing angles left to explore and plenty of creative powder kegs left. Being this inventive this deep in a career curve is unexpected even after the bold statements of the Norfolk Coast, Suite XVI and Giants albums that put the band back in business. Dark Matter  is bigger, bolder, more eclectic and wider in scope. It somehow sounds both idiosyncratic and modern. Ironically for an album that deals with the ghosts of the past it is also surging forward and shows that daring to explore your own creative obsessions is the only way forward.

Classic Rock Magazine 14th September 2021

Johnny Sharp

The Stranglers: Dark Matter and the death of Dave Greenfield.

Forty-four years on from their first hit and almost 10 since their last album, The Stranglers have weathered storms and return with a new record dedicated to late keyboard player Dave Greenfield.

Photo: Ccolin Hawkins

There have been times recently when it’s seemed as if the whole world of music had gone into slow motion – if not suspended animation. Shows and festivals cancelled en masse, albums and tours postponed and then postponed again… But the gestation of The Stranglers’ new album, Dark Matters, has made those timelines look like mere blips by comparison. 

If we point out that opening track Water was written as a contemporary response to the 2011 Arab Spring (when anti-government protests and uprisings took place in much of the Arab world) that gives you an idea of when the songs began to take shape. Some other ideas have even earlier origins. 

“We’ve got a hard and fast rule,” frontman Baz Warne says, “whereby nothing ever gets thrown away.” 

Hence ideas that first emerged even before The Stranglers’ last studio album, 2012’s Giants, have slowly been firmed up into a spiky, eclectic set that shows how the grouchy rumble of the classic Stranglers sound has long-since diversified. Maybe that was inevitable, given that two cornerstones of that sound are now no longer in place. 

The elder statesman of the group, drummer Jet Black took a dignified bow out of the band as an active member in 2015, and the declining health of the now 82-year-old prevents him from having an active working role in the band. He’s still part of the set-up “in a consultancy role”, to use Warne’s words, but his robust playing is absent from Dark Matters, the band’s eighteenth and latest studio album. 

Thankfully, keyboard player Dave Greenfield did contribute, putting his distinctive sound on eight of the album’s 11 tracks. Then the band were dealt another, more heart-breaking blow when Greenfield passed away in April 2020, after he caught COVID-19 while in hospital with heart problems. With the band’s Final Full UK Tour already postponed due to the pandemic, the question inevitably arose: is this the end for The Stranglers?

When Classic Rock talks to bassist and founder member Jean-Jacques Burnel in southern France, where he now lives, he pauses for thought before addressing this understandably emotional subject. 

“Well it was the same as when Hugh [Cornwell, guitarist/singer] left the band over thirty years ago,” says Burnel, his gentle Home Counties tones reflecting the fact that while he has French parentage he was born and bred in London and Surrey. “I thought: ‘Well, that’s it,’ you know? The others talked me into keeping it going. But then you can’t replace a guy like Dave. 

"I mean, there are people who play just as well as Dave, because he’s got disciples. But my first thought was: ‘Well, okay, let’s finish what we started [the album] and that’s it, really.’ 

“But I spoke to various people, and we had all these shows on sale, and they were still selling. I’m thinking: ‘What the fuck? Don’t they know that Dave has gone?’ And they do know that Dave is gone. I said to our agent: ‘So what the fuck is this all about?’ He said: ‘I think they want to hear the music.’ 

“The Stranglers isn’t really about personalities any more, I don’t think. It’s just about a certain musical imprint that has been around for quite a while now.”

Nonetheless, there’s no doubt as to which Stranglers personality their recent single was about. And If You Should See Dave… is one of several songs on the new album to touch on issues of ageing, relationships and mortality. But, unsurprisingly, given the context, it’s the most moving. 

It’s a faintly ghostly meditation, built around shards of sun-dappled surf guitar, chiming bells and Burnel’s whispering vocal, which admits the powerful feelings that so many of us experience when we lose someone close: ‘How does it feel to be left in mid-conversation, no less / And things that should have been said, now left as eternal regrets?’ And yet at the same time there are touches of affectionate humour there as he sings: ‘No one told him I was waiting with a glass at the bar… see you at the bar?’ 

Towards the end he then admits: ‘It would be nice to say hello, this is where your solo would go.’ Hence the “conscious decision” not to have keyboards on the track (which topped the iTunes download chart briefly in May). 

The video for And If You Should See Dave… pays further visual tribute to the song’s subject: a girl, with a keyboard propped in the back seat of her car, roams around Los Angeles, crossing paths with such curiosities as a rat (norvegicus, we presume) crawling across the pavement, and signs referring to ‘The Men In Black’, passing venues such as the Whisky A Go Go and the Regent Theatre, where The Stranglers played several notable shows, the latter being the scene of their last US performance with Greenfield. 

“I honestly think he would have loved the song,” Warne says of Greenfield. “Because he loved that West Coast American sound, which is kind of the vibe it has. His wife also loved it. When we saw the video it was lump-in-the-throat time.”

And so the surviving Stranglers consists of Burnel, the sole remaining founder member, and Warne, the guitarist who took over as vocalist in 2006 but who has been with the band since 2000, along with drummer Jim Macaulay, who co-wrote several songs on the new album. 

Anyone concerned that Burnel’s days as a thrusting bass monster might also be numbered can at least be reassured by the fact that he’s a famously fit individual, who as well as being a keen motorbike fan teaches karate, and achieved his Seventh Dan in Japan six years ago. 

“This vehicle I inhabit, it’s taken me round the block a few times,” he says. “So I have to keep it serviced much more often than it used to. And I mustn’t abuse it as much as I used to! But I’m pretty fit for a bloke my age, yeah. I can do fifty to seventy push-ups at one go, I’ll do a few hundred crunches on a daily basis. And I’ll try and lift my motorcycle up if it drops.” 

Even people in peak condition aren’t immune to the coronavirus, though. Back in May, when trying to meet up with his bandmates for the first time in 16 months, while en route to Calais Burnel was told that his PCR covid test had come back positive. He had to return home. Given that Burnel is 69, well inside the generations that are more at risk from the virus, he was perhaps fortunate not to suffer any symptoms, and talks of the episode with a faint air of puzzlement. 

“I had no symptoms, but then you think, shit, maybe I’ve still been spreading it about. But then everyone I had been in contact with in the week before, they all had to test and they were all negative. So maybe mine was a false positive?” 

He finally made it across the Channel to the UK in June, and plans to be involved in promotional activities for the album here, as well as touring with the band from January.

These days, of course, The Stranglers have reached a stage of their career where they don’t need to prove a great deal, but there’s a broad range of songs on Dark Matters that manage to retain trademark elements of their sound, not least Greenfield’s keyboard runs on songs such as Water, with its pounding tribute to the Arab Spring protesters, and Payday, which echoes the band’s 1977 hit No More Heroes in its gutsy combination of Burnel’s inimitable bass churn, freewheeling organ and Warne’s malevolent vocal attack. 

Elsewhere, the beautifully poignant Lines has just an acoustic guitar accompanying Burnel tracing his own ageing process as he whispers: ‘There’s triumph and disgrace in the lines on my face’, while the piano lament Down is laced by Warne’s Spanish guitar. While there are mellow moments on the record, though, they’re offset by its fair share of gnarly rage. 

The staccato jerkpunk of No-Man’s Land, for example, takes dead-eyed aim at a selfie-obsessed culture, sneering: ‘Stop thinking of yourselves for a minute,’ (in a lyric written by drummer Macaulay), and Payday accuses society of becoming ‘bisted and Twitter’. 

Burnel endorses these sentiments. “It’s slightly pointed towards people who seem to want to believe any conspiracy theory going,” he says. “And a lot of that is spread by social media. Such as refusing to be vaccinated because you believe the government is trying to plant a chip in you or something. It’s quite a selfish thing. We’ve become so self-important that we have to share the minutiae of our lives with the fucking world. 

"Why? I’m not on any of these [social media channels]. I’ve had too many years of being criticised, and it’s just toxic. And I think we’ve collectively created a monster. I don’t see too many positives in it. You can call me an old c**t to my face, and I really don’t care, but I find it’s a distraction from real life.”

These sorts of lyrics reflect a band who, while having voiced some pretty boorish sentiments, have always been unafraid to experiment and to make social comment. 

“I think the British press, especially music press, always really wanted the rockers to be either rock'n'roll animals, or arty and intelligent,” says Burnel. “But you can never combine the two. But I always thought we did.” 

Although Jet Black is still an honorary band member, Macaulay has been drumming with the band for nine years, while Baz Warne has been a Strangler for 21, first as guitarist, now as singer – a considerably longer tenure than original Stranglers frontman Hugh Cornwell. But that doesn’t stop some people from considering that anything but the classic line-up is an inferior facsimile. Including Cornwell, who in 2018 said that since he left the band in 1990 their songs “have been sequestered by a bogus version of the group with only two original members”. 

Burnel laughs when he is reminded of this. “We’re more successful than ever now, and he isn’t, so I think it’s a bit of sour grapes on his part. I mean, after all, it’s a bit hypocritical for a bloke who, if he does two sets, will play one set of Stranglers stuff. 

“I think he’s quite bitter,” Burnel continues. “We did this movie, for instance, a few years ago, and he won’t give permission for it to be released. That’s a shame, because the only person slagged off in it is me – by Hugh!”

The current Stranglers line-up has sounded pretty formidable in recent years, and Baz Warne for one, insists that this is now a band “champing at the bit” to get back out and play, and he hints strongly that The Final Full Tour won’t mean the end of The Stranglers as a live act. 

“We didn’t want to do another twenty-, thirty-date tour of the UK,” says Burnel. “We’ve done it almost every year for so long, and although it’s enjoyable it really does tire you out.” 

“It was all publicised and all arranged before Dave passed away,” says Warne. “And once the dust settled and we were even able to speak about it – because we didn’t want to talk about it for months, you know – we decided, well, we should honour the dates. And once we announced we would do that, the response, the love and respect we received, was quite overwhelming. I do recall sitting with moist eyes, reading some of the things people had said: ‘You’ve got to do it.’ ‘You must do it.’” 

As for what comes next, Burnel isn’t looking too far ahead. “I’ve always said we think of every album as if it’s our last,” he says. “So you invest yourselves entirely in it. If we started thinking about the next thing, we wouldn’t give ourselves a hundred per cent to this. But I’m writing. I don’t have creative diarrhoea, but I do write regularly.” 

One thing in no doubt, though, is that The Stranglers’ next live show is going to be an emotional occasion. 

“When these shows do happen, they’re going to be highly charged,” Warne says. “I can’t even begin to tell you how it’ll feel. And then after that, who knows?”







Wednesday, 1 September 2021

The Stranglers - The Guardian 31st August 2021

As many of you may have seen, there was a very well written piece in the UK’s Guardian newspaper on the band. Rising above the usual fayre that fills the column inches of most mainstream articles on The Stranglers i.e. a focus on violence and misogyny, Dave Simpson turns his attention to the longevity and musicality of the band both then and now as in reflective mood they discuss ‘Dark Materials’ and the loss of Dave.

As to the mysterious tattooed fan… one can only wonder who that could be….

‘We were called heretics and ostracised’; The Stranglers on fights, drugs and finally growing up.

Dave Simpson.

 

Punk’s dada surrealists … the Stranglers at the Nashville Rooms, London, in 1977. Photograph: Ray Stevenson/REX/Shutterstock

They brawled with the Sex Pistols, gaffer-taped a journalist to the Eiffel Tower and got thrown out of Sweden twice. Now, for their 18th album and final tour, the punks seem to be maturing at last.

As Jean-Jacques Burnel drily admits, the Stranglers had “a bad reputation for quite a while”. During the punk years, their many outrages ranged from being escorted out of Sweden by police with machine-guns (twice) to gaffer-taping a music journalist to the Eiffel Tower, 400ft up, upside down, without his trousers. However, the singer and bass player says the biggest outcry actually came when they got themselves a keyboard player.

“It was seen as sacrilege,” he laughs, recalling this supposed affront to the ramshackle garage punk ethos. “And worse than that – he had a synthesiser. We were called heretics and ostracised. Nobody wanted anything to to do with us. But look what happened a couple of years later: synth pop!”

By then, Dave Greenfield’s glorious baroque playing was all over the charts. Before his death from Covid in May last year, the keyboard wizard had spent 45 years in the Stranglers, appearing on 23 top 40 singles and 17 top 40 albums as they established themselves as one of Britain’s most enduring bands. Next month, some of his final recordings will appear on the band’s 18th album, Dark Matters, which Burnel calls “our first genuinely grownup album”. The album contains untypical, beautifully raw ruminations on depression, ageing and mortality. Most of it was put together after Greenfield’s death, a process that singer-guitarist Baz Warne, a genial and open Wearsider, found cathartic. “We opened up a huge well of emotion,” says the 57-year-old.

As the band’s original singer Hugh Cornwell tweeted last year, the keyboard player made “the difference between the Stranglers and every other punk band”. Fans grew to adore Greenfield’s rakish blend of eccentricity and proficiency that meant he could reel off a sublime solo with one hand while sipping Cognac with the other. “We always knew Dave was special, but we didn’t realise how special,” smiles Burnel, a karate-toned 69, over Zoom from their West Country studio. “They’ve got a name for it now. Very high-functioning autistic.”

 

Cognac-sipping solos … Dave Greenfield. Photograph: Ian Dickson/REX/Shutterstock

This condition – undiagnosed for years and never made public – left Greenfield endearingly awkward in social situations. Warne remembers an incident where the keyboard player had worn a flying jacket to a wedding, leading a tipsy guest to joke: “Where’s ya fuckin’ Spitfire?” Warne says: “Dave went, ‘I don’t have a Spitfire and I’ve never been in one, but I do have a friend who has one and we could go up in it if you like.’ And then he went into a classic detailed answer that went on for ages and left the whole bar incredulous. Bless him, he had no idea what they were laughing at.”

Burnel remembers Greenfield as a gentle soul who was rarely involved in their punk-era ruckuses, when being ostracised left them with “a siege mentality”. He goes on: “It was the Stranglers against everyone else, but the only time I saw Dave violent – well, almost violent – was when he had [Sex Pistols frontman] John Lydon up against a Transit outside the club Dingwalls, when we faced off against members of the Ramones, the Clash and the Sex Pistols. But even then, he just sort of held him.”

Meanwhile, Greenfield’s condition gave him a highly idiosyncratic approach to making music. “He couldn’t improvise,” says Burnel, “and if we wanted any last-minute changes to the setlist, he’d just freak out.” However, Greenfield’s devotion to creativity was such that he thought nothing of taking three days to learn the electronic pattern on the song Genetix, note by note. “He ‘programmed’ himself,” smiles Burnel. “People thought it was a sequencer. It was a human being.”

The Stranglers’ notorious capers have often overshadowed what an adventurous and inventive band they were. Jazz singer George Melly, who sang on their track Old Codger, called them “punk’s dada surrealists”. Greenfield was playing a vocoder as early as 1978, while other experiments ranged from looping bass drums to slowing rhythms down to half speed. After Burnel and Cornwell made the unusual “creative decision” to take heroin for a year, the band’s increasing musical strangeness culminated in The Gospel According to the Meninblack, a semi-electronic concept album about alien visitations.

Such behaviour was too much for one producer, Martin Rushent, whose remit was to create hit singles, such as the thrilling No More Heroes. “He just said, ‘I can’t be doing with this’ and walked out,” says Burnel. “We just carried on. We were kids in a candy store. It was the start of digital technology and we had a keyboard player who could outplay anyone. Fantastic.”

Burnel at a Stranglers gig in Paris in 2019. Photograph: David Wolff-Patrick/Getty Images

Greenfield came up with the music for their most famous song, 1982’s Golden Brown, a harpsichord piece in 6/8 waltz time, which lyricist Cornwell later said was about both heroin and a girl. When the record company rejected it, the band invoked a contractual clause to make them put it out. “They released it at Christmas, expecting it to be drowned in a tsunami of Christmas singles,” Burnel recalls with relish. “After it was a hit all over the world, they asked for ‘another Golden Brown’. So we gave them a seven-minute song in French.” This was La Folie, which made allusions to Japanese necrophiliac murderer and cannibal Issei Sagawa. It charted at No 47.

When Cornwell left in 1990 and everyone wrote them off, it was Greenfield, with founder drummer Jet Black, who persuaded Burnel to carry on. “I’d started writing more by then,” he says. “I’d always looked up to Hugh, because he was older and smarter than me. But all the voices telling him ‘You’re the star, you don’t need the band’ had pissed me off. We weren’t short of motivation.”

Warne watched all this from afar at home in Sunderland. He was a childhood fan who was “Bonnie Baz” in Wearside punks Toy Dolls before joining the Stranglers in 2000. It has not always been easy. “The week after joining, I was singing to troops in Kosovo, a war zone,” he says. “I had hair and a waistline before I joined the Stranglers.” Not that there haven’t been highs, such as “an unforgettable day at Glastonbury in 2010, when we played to 80,000 people – apparently more than U2.”

Burnel adds: “The funny thing is, Glastonbury never wanted to put us on. We weren’t exactly banned, but Michael Eavis doesn’t like us and refused to put us on for 30 years.” What changed? “Well, here in the West Country, the Stranglers play second fiddle to the real Gods, the Wurzels,” he says, referring to the jokey Somerset folkies who sing about cider and combine harvesters. “Eavis loves them and wanted to book them, but our manager manages them as well.” The two men laugh. “So I think we had some leverage.”

‘Bless him’ … Greenfield on right with the band in 1978. Photograph: Sheila Rock/REX/Shutterstock

Today, Burnel is the only original Strangler remaining in the lineup. Drummer Black, 82, last played with them in 2015. He had a stroke last year but has become a “talisman”, urging: “Don’t stop! Don’t get sloppy!’” By 2019, Greenfield was becoming weaker. “We’d been doing 50 to 60 gigs a year, around the globe, and we didn’t want to kill him,” says Burnel. So they announced a “final full tour” for autumn 2020, postponed because of the pandemic.

“Dave was 70, so he was put in quarantine,” Warne recalls. “He said, ‘I don’t know how I’ll cope.’ I told him to chill out, but I was desperately worried. The band had been his life for 45 years. He’d always needed something to focus on, so I was worried what sitting at home would do to him.” In the event, Greenfield died during a long stay in hospital for heart surgery. “He was already very poorly,” Burnel sighs. “Covid was the last nail in his coffin.”

Much of Dark Matters was put together remotely. “Finding these fragments that Dave had left us felt exciting,” Warne explains. “We got permission from his widow, which was important, then we realised we needed to pour it out.”

The band will assess the future once they’ve been through the “emotional wringer” of the tour. But, for now, they want to honour the rearranged dates, with a Greenfield “disciple” playing his parts. The first single on the album is a sublime tribute called And If You Should See Dave. It was recorded without keyboards, but contains the poignant line: “This is where your solo should go.” The line has struck a chord with fans. “One guy’s getting it tattooed on his arm,” says Warne. “Dave left a lot of love.”

Dark Matters is out on 10 September. The Final Full Tour reaches the UK at Lincoln Engine Shed on 25 January.




Monday, 30 August 2021

Hugh Cornwell Stone Valley Festival South III 14th August 2021

 


I am once again indebted to Chatts99 for sharing a real, genuine gig from 2021!!!

Here is Mr Cornwell at the Stone Valley Festival South that finally took place at Great Amwell in Hertfordshire. Really should have attended this one but my mother turned 80 on that day so priorities kicked in. Oh well, I an sure it won't be too long before I get back into the gigging swing of things.

FLAC (24 bit): https://we.tl/t-WuZcwVG0Q9

Artwork: https://we.tl/t-lJLlL05KNn

01. Intro/Nice ‘N’ Sleazy
02. Pure Evel
03. 5 Minutes
04. I Want One Of Those
05. Duchess
06. Bilko
07. Strange Little Girl
08. Monster
09. Thrown Away
10. Mothra
11. Skin Deep
12. The Most Beautiful Girl In Hollywood
13. Goodbye Toulouse
14. Bad Vibrations
15. No More Heroes

Interruption to Normal Service - An Explanation

Regular visitors to this site may have noticed that activity on Aural Sculptors has dipped of late. This is due to i) preparations to return Mo to Manchester so she can resume her Fine Art degree after an enforced 10 month return to the family seat, ii) my son returning home after completion of his MSc, iii) selling my mother-in-laws flat so that she can relocate to Cumbria and iv) preparation for some major home improvements that will see builders in the house for the next two months! This last task has been the most laborious. A collection of approximately 4,000 CDs needs to be rehoused from their current location. For the bootlegs (about 50% of the collection) this entails reprinting of artwork and transfer from jewel cases to plastic wallets in order to reduce the shelf space required for storage (I know it could all be on a hard drive, but I am a bit old fashioned!). This is very time consuming and tedious to say the least, but normal service will resume shortly.

Thanks for your patience!

Tuesday, 3 August 2021

The Damned Harlow Town Park 1st August 1987

 

Back when The Damned were riding a wave of commercial success and mainstream appeal they played a free, open air gig in Harlow Town Park, Essex. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in the area for some years yet so I wasn’t there. Nevertheless, it was an interesting time to be a Damned fan. After several years in the wilderness, managerless and without a recording contract for a time, it came as something of a surprise I suspect to the band and fans alike that hey bounced back with an album that was a tour de force, ‘Phantasmagoria’. It was an album that dismissed all doubt (if any doubt remained by 1985) that The Damned were a group of highly accomplished musicians rather than that cartoon band of punk’s first wave. Dark and brooding, it was apparently a regular listen for JJ on the tour bus. One can only wonder what his thoughts were, having at around the same time produced ‘Aural Sculpture’, a rather patchy and lacklustre album when put head to head with ‘Phantasmagoria’.

The Damned capitalised on the album’s success with the release in early 1986 of a cover of Barry Ryan’s ‘Eloise’, a song that they made their own to the extent that Ryan went on record to say that he preferred it over his own version! It provided The Damned with their biggest hit to date. Later in the year the band’s seventh studio album was released. In a similar vein as its predecessor to my mind at least it lacks some of the intricacy and mood of ‘Phantasmagoria’. Having said that ‘Anything’ does feature some great tracks, ‘In Dulce Decorum’, ‘The Portrait’ and ‘The Girl Goes Down’. Once again, their choice of a cover was spot on with Love’s ‘Alone Again Or’. 





Wednesday, 28 July 2021

Buzzcocks Brixton Academy London 9th December 1989

 


Like the 'Go For It Again' reunion of the last line up of Stiff Little Fingers in December 1987, the announcement that the classic line-up of Buzzcocks (Shelley, Diggle, Garvey and Maher) would be 'Telling Friends' on tour in the UK in December 1989 was like a gift out of the blue for a 20 year old punk desperately trying to catch up as best he could. In truth, perhaps the announcement was not so much out of the blue. As I seem to recall, some months prior, Steve Diggle's band 'Flag Of Convenience' (FOC) mysteriously appended 'Buzzcocks' to their gig ads in the music press, becoming 'Buzzcocks FOC'. At this point the rumour grapevine started to vibrate.

I was at this particular gig and it certainly did not disappoint, the bands talent shone though despite the passage of eight years apart. The same can be said of the line-up's performance at 2012's 'Front To Back' gigs where punk's Fab Four stole the show, despite an even greater gap of 20 plus years!


FLAC: https://we.tl/t-3gniXnM7Sc


01. I Don't Know What to Do With My Life
02. I Don't Mind
03. Love You More
04. Promises
05. Why She's a Girl From the Chainstore
06. Autonomy
07. Nothing Left
08. Moving Away From the Pulsebeat
09. Noise Annoys
10. You Say You Don't Love Me
11. E.S.P.
12. Late for the Train
13. Why Can't I Touch It?
14. Everybody's Happy Nowadays
15. Harmony in My Head
16. What Do You Know?
17. What Do I Get?
18. Fast Cars
19. Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've)
20. I Believe
21. Oh Shit!
22. Orgasm Addict
23. Boredom


Ever Fallen In Love - The Lost Buzzcocks Tapes

 


I have just finished reading this gem of a book. Compiled from taped interviews conducted with Pete Shelley by his friend Louise Shelley (no relation) about ten years ago, this book forms a delightful and very comprehensive account of Buzzcocks in their first incarnation... straight from the memory banks of the man in the centre of that particular punk storm.

It is the clarity of Pete's recollection of nearly every aspect of band life from touring to recording back to touring that is extraordinary. Dates, events, people, it's all there in place. I have no idea if whether he was one for keeping diaries and such, but  the detail of his recall will undoubtedly offer much, even to the band's most ardent fans. Ask a Strangler about events that occurred 40 plus years ago and the chances are the memories will be vague in many instances and it is not as if it was the drugs that make the difference. Buzzcocks too gained a reputation for excessive chemical abuse at the point where they were living the life of rock 'n' roll excess to the fullest extent. 

Each track that the band recorded is discussed within these pages. These discussions about song construction and the technical tricks that the band employed to such great effect in the pre-digital age has given me an even greater respect for those songs that already mean the world to me and have been a staple in my life for 35 years or so. 

I have heard them referred to as Manchester's Fab Four and it is easy to understand why. Their brand of pop is every bit as vital as that produced by that other Fab Four over Liverpool way. The quality of the writing and musicianship is wholly comparable, but as Pete Shelley explains, punk gave them the freedom to turn the familiar themes of The Beatles material on its head. For example, whereas The Beatles rejoiced in the confident certainty that yes, 'She Loves You', Pete and the boys lamented youthful insecurity and the paranoia of rejection with 'You Say You Don't Love Me'. The Beatles comparison can also be extended to the all important band/producer/engineer relationship. First there was John, Paul, Ringo and George and George, then along came Pete, John, Steve, Steve and Martin. Martin Rushent being in terms of studio innovation to Buzzcocks what George Martin was to The Beatles.

Everyone knows that Pete's brand of love song rarely has that 'happy ever after' vibe running through the lyrics! Reading through this track by track breakdown (no pun intended) you could become quite disillusioned and cynical towards the human condition yourself, but listen to those songs, so bright and sharp, from 'Breakdown' to 'Are Everything' and you must forgive the man completely!

As well as the band's peerless lyricism and musicality, it was the visual element of the band and the attention that they lavished on it that made them stand out amongst the punk throng as effectively as they did. If not so much a contributor to their success it did wonders for their appeal.

Apparently, when asked to comment upon Buzzcocks sartorial look, Joe Strummer declared 'Orphans!' And there is probably some harsh justification in that, but whilst they eschewed the 'Heavy Manners' stencilling favoured by Joe's boys, Buzzcocks' approach to their 'brand' style was far more coordinated and largely down to the artistic talents of Malcolm Garrett. Garrett was a graphic design student at Manchester Polytechnic between 1975 and 1978, a classic case of 'being in the right place at the right time'! In collaboration with Malcolm, the band were able to control the visual impact of Buzzcocks across the board. The creative freedoms afforded to the band by United Artists's Andrew Lauder and his team must be mentioned at this point and all credit to their belief in their artistes. Stage wear, record sleeves and music press ads were all paid meticulous attention and the overall canon of work in this respect is just stunning. From the Mondrian inspired shirts to the geometric typesetting of the singles sleeves.... it all worked and it screams 'Buzzcocks!!' (probably in a rather camp, Northern voice). It was punk, not in the narrow sense of the music alone, but from the perspective of a different way of thinking.... the way of thinking that has reverberated across four subsequent decades in the form of art, writing, film-making, fashion and yes, music. 

Even when the band were cracking under the pressures of fame and the drudgery of life on the road with drink and drugs in constant supply, the quality of Buzzcocks product never waivered. The music changed for sure, bright, quick fire pop being replaced by darker, introspective material that reflected those late career pressures that the band were experiencing, not to mention the acid intake.

Thanks Pete (and Louise) for bringing to Buzzcocks fans such a valuable tome to add to the punk bookshelves!



Sunday, 25 July 2021

NASA Reykjavic 3rd March 2007

 


So here we have a great quality radio broadcast from the band's appearance in Reykjavic on the European leg of the Suite XVI tour. The only downside to this recording is that the hosting DJ insists on talking aplenty throughout the set... a little understood but not uncommon blight upon many European radio broadcasts. Any idea why they do it that way? Answers on a postcard.

FLAC: https://we.tl/t-iN9MPxfaq1

Artwork: https://we.tl/t-ZWBaOIKRLe

01. DJ
02. 5 Minutes
03. (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)
04. Spectre Of Love
05. Nice ‘N’ Sleazy
06. DJ
07. Death & Night & Blood
08. Unbroken
09. Peaches
10. DJ
11. Always The Sun
12. Golden Brown
13. I Hate You
14. DJ
15. Lost Control
16. Sommat Outanowt
17. Walk On By
18. Relentless
19. DJ

01. Burning Up Time
02. All Day & All Of The Night
03. Duchess
04. London Lady
05. DJ
06. Nuclear Device
07. Dagenham Dave
08. Hanging Around
09. No More Heroes

Saturday, 24 July 2021

The Damned Carling Academy Islington 8th May 2005

 

Another 2005 vintage gig, this time from The Damned. Listening to this again the other day I was surprised by a mystery track in the set…. a song called ‘Magic Potion’. Looking back over the collection it became apparent that this cover appeared in the band’s set for a while. An obscure British psychedelic rock band by the name of ‘The Open Mind’ released the original in August 1969. They weren’t overly prolific releasing one album under the name. I have always found that The Damned have long had the knack of dredging up obscure and not so obscure songs to cover that suit them so well, from White Rabbit to Eloise. 

FLAC: https://we.tl/t-WUMhhnpaX4

Artwork: https://we.tl/t-UwXcspfHGP

01. Intro
02. Street Of Dreams
03. Second Time Around
04. I Just Can’t Be Happy Today
05. Democracy
06. Neat Neat Neat
07. History Of The World
08. Captain Speaks
09. Antipope
10. Ignite
11. Alone Again Or
12. Absinthe
13. Plan 9 Channel 7
14. Magic Potion
15. Captain Speaks
16. Neverland
17. New Rose
18. Eloise
19. Encore Break

01. Captain/Monty Muck About
02. Jet Boy Jet Girl
03. Looking At You
04. Encore Break
05. Smash It Up
06. Outro

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Killing Joke Barfly Camden 21st August 2005

Killing Joke to play a ‘secret’ gig in a 200 capacity Camden boozer. It doesn’t get much better than that. I am happy to report that Jaz looked terrifying in his white face pain as he lead the band through and incredible career spanning set. I recall standing around a table next to Gaye Black (Advert). ‘Peaches’ came onto the jukebox and she said to ne ‘Oh they're playing your song’ looking at my ‘Down In The Sewer’ T-shirt. What a gig!


FLAC: https://we.tl/t-DhHpPBXnqv

Sleeve: https://we.tl/t-SEwTQ2mJue



Tuesday, 20 July 2021

It’s a black & white thing right? - 2 Tone At The Herbert Coventry July 2021

Young 2 Tone fans

When Coventry won the honour of being 2021’s ‘City of Culture’ the one thought at the forefront of my mind was how was 2 Tone going to be represented in the forthcoming celebrations? Whilst not wanting to down play Coventry’s other attractions and achievements (naked Mercian royals, voyeurs, jet engines and cars aplenty, for me the greatest gift that this city gave to the world was 2 Tone. And it was indeed a global gift. Whilst the label and the associated scene burned with great intensity it was short lived. Nevertheless, the legacy of 2 Tone has endured. The music of that initial crop of bands that were signed to the label inspired a new generation of musicians across the Atlantic to produce similar music in the punk/ska mold that was the brainchild of Jerry Dammers some 40 years ago!

 

Forget the fools who declare that music should be free of politics. Political issues have found a home in music and verse for hundreds of years. Just think of the prevalence of the protest song within the folk tradition. In recent years Live Aid raised millions for famine relief where governments had failed, Artists Against Apartheid (again with the critical involvement of a General Dammers) were instrumental (no pun intended) in bringing about the release of Nelson Mandela, David Hasselhof did his thing atop of the Berlin wall in the moments before it fell. Each of these examples, with the possible exception of the last are testament to the potency of the combined influence of music and politics.

 

Gunta and I travelled to Coventry to meet friends for food and football in Fargo village. Prior to meeting we did the cathedrals and such, but the cultural focus of the day was a planned visit to the ‘2 Tone Lives & Legacies’ exhibition at the Herbert Gallery and Museum. I think that this is the most comprehensive and in depth gathering of 2 Tone thought and memorabilia collected under one roof to date. Much of the stuff was already familiar to me, the posters and the iconic photos by Chalkie Davies taken at the Canal Basin that features on the first two Specials’ albums.

 

What was new and exciting were the contributions from Jerry’s own collection that documented the earliest days of the Coventry Automatics/The Specials. Perhaps MrDammers is something of a hoarder, if that is so, that is the fan’s gain. The exhibition contains some remarkable items from his archives such as a sheet of paper on which he experimented with different ideas for the band’s logo. Another sheet of doodles tested out possible images for the band. Such exhibits give the viewer an insight in to how meticulously Dammers plotted out his vision to dominate the British music charts with the 2 Tone roster of bands.

 






The other highlight of the exhibition is the work of John ‘Teflon’ Sims, one time in-house graphic designer at Chrysalis and hey collaborator with Jerry Dammers when it came to realizing the look of 2 Tone. It was John who took Jerry’s idea and created ‘Walt Jabsco’, the most famous rude boy of them all and the labels iconic logo. It was Walt and the chequerboard design that spread like a monochrome virus that infected school exercise books, school bags and badges on blazers across the country between 1979 and 1981. Whilst the finished artworks are stark and stunning, I do prefer the cut and paste mock ups that John has loaned to the museum. Such methods were the tools available to the graphic designer in the pre-digital age. These items are every bit as beautiful as the finished pieces that went on to become gig posters and record sleeves. Last seen at a pop-up exhibition hosted by John in Margate, after a Specials date there in 2011, these works-in-progress are my favourites. I badgered him then that these images that break down the creative process should be in an ‘Art of 2 Tone’ book…..my 2 Tone related bookshelf needs it!Pretty please Teflon!





The Specials lament the fate of the UK on the banks of the River Thames Summer 1981.


Saturday, 19 June 2021

Joe Strummer & The Latino Rockabilly War Band Milton Keynes Bowl 18th June 1988

 

I meant to post this yesterday on its birthday... never mind eh?

The Amnesty Festival of Youth, a strange title to adopt... when you cast your eye over the line up. But what a weekend it was. Our first attempt to get to Milton Keynes was aborted when a mate's clapped out car clapped out about mid way between Burgess Hill and Milton Keynes, but get there we did all be it on the following day. 

The Class of '77 were well represented on the bill with The Stranglers and The Damned headlining on the Saturday and Sunday respectively, Mr Strummer played a set on each of the two days and Mr Jones and Mr Letts were present with their Big Audio Dynamite set up. Unfortunately, unlike at Joe's last gig at Acton Town Hall, there was to be no Mick Jones joining his old comrade on stage to rattle off a few Clash tunes (I guess feelings may have still been a little raw... this was only 5 years after Mick had been booted out of the band). But Clash songs there were and since I never saw The Clash I consider myself lucky to have seen Joe perform those songs, not once but twice.


FLAC: https://we.tl/t-ASRAXU5Rmx

Artwork: https://we.tl/t-tIZv6hwEjH

01. Intro
02. Police On My Back
03. Her Sister’s Name
04. Junco Partner
05. Nothin’ ‘Bout  Nothin’
06. Love Kills
07. Police And Thieves
08. Love Of The Common People
09. Ubangi Stomp
10. Brand New Cadillac
11. London Calling
12. Armagideon Time
13. Trash City
14. I Fought The Law


European Festivals 2012 DVD

 


Here's a compilation from the collection of several incomplete sets from televised European Festivals that took place between 2011 and 2012. Great quality and fully authored.

Disc image: https://we.tl/t-z2VDcXGOf7

Sleeve: https://we.tl/t-oF8PFZjA4t

Isle of Wight Festival, Newport, UK 21st June 2012

01. Peaches
02. Golden Brown
03. Time Was Once On My Side
04. Always The Sun
06. Boom Boom
07. Lost Control
08. No More Heroes

Rock Im Park, Nurnberg, Germany 1st June 2012

01. Always The Sun
02. Hanging Around

Rock Am Ring, Eifel, Germany 2nd June 2012

01. Golden Brown
02. All Day & All Of The Night

F.I.B., Benecassim, Castellon, Spain 15th July 2011

01. 5 Minutes
02. (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)
03. Something Better Change
04. Peaches
05. Golden Brown

Thursday, 17 June 2021

Replicas - A Machine Rock Classic

 

I have read recently on some Numan fan facebook pages heated discussion about the virtues or lack of virtues of the 'Intruder' album. Interesting stuff and completely understandable. To like everything an artist has done over such a long career is in my opinion a near impossibility. For my part I stopped buying Numan's albums after 'Metal Rhythm' and only picked up on him again with the release of the back to form 'Sacrifice'. 

However, in 'Replicas' I think that we have an album that all fans, old and new can be aligned on. As Tubeway Army's breakthrough album it has withstood the test of time and remains a classic album of the post-punk era (that is not to say that it is 'post punk'). 

I find 'Tubeway Army' or the 'Blue Album' difficult to separate from 'Replicas', the former being the awkward teenage brother of 'Replicas', its 20-something, ever so slightly more worldly older sibling. The dystopian bleakness of 'Tubeway Army' is carried through onto the next album, minus young Gary's obsession with  knocking one out left, right and centre across the tracks of the band's debut!

As much as I love 'Tubeway Army' on  their second album Gary appears to have a firmer hand on the synthesiser reins. Some of the electronic sounds on 'TA' sound rather clumsy when compared to the more measured electronic creations that followed, from the fairly minimalist 'Replicas' to the phenomenal wall of sound that made 'Are 'Friends' Electric? such ground breaking tracks.

One thing that I love about the album is that, for me, it is one of the most evocative albums in my rather large collection. In this sense I mean that when I hear the opening bars of say 'It Must have Been Years' I am not just thrust into the grimy lamp lit bedroom of Numan's imagination, I am propelled back to my own teenage bedroom, the one with a 5 foot Tubeway Army logo painted on the wall. That room wasn't quite as bleak as the one in the parallel universe of 'Replicas' (although as it was a badly built, badly insulated dormer extension to my parent's bungalow, it was only a rather pungent smelling oil radiator that melted the ice that formed up on the inside of the single pane windows!).

'Replicas' was a powerful statement of intent from the soon to be 'solo' Numan and great things followed in the form of 'The Pleasure Principle'. As a huge fan of Tubeway Army, the 1983/1984 period were about as good as it got, with the earlier release of the first two singles plus 'We Are So Fragile' on a 12" compilation followed by the more exiting red and blue compilations that contained genuinely unheard material... including three additional tracks dating back to the 'Replicas' related sessions, 'Only A Downstat', 'We Have A Technical' and 'The Crazies'. I have to say though that for the teenager, finally developing a profound appreciation of punk.... albeit 6 or 7 years after the event, it was the release of 'The Plan' that topped it all. Maybe a topic for another thread, but whilst Numan had thrown in much of 'Tubeway Army', the first two singles and select material from 'The Plan' into his sets over the 28 years I would love to see a pre-Replicas Tubeway Army mini-tour!

I often wonder about the success of the album, Tubeway Army and Gary in general at this time. As he is always at great pains to point out, this 'electronic pioneer' tag is something of a misnomer... as certainly Ultravox were doing something similar '76/'77, as were Kraftwerk earlier still.... and will a considerable degree of commercial success. Again from the horses's mouth it was the happy coincidence that Beggars ploughed additional money into the novel format of the picture disc that clinched the bubbling under spot for Tubeway Army over Simple Minds (sorry Mr Kerr.... I dunno why but I have always had an irrational aversion to Simple Minds....). A TOTP appearance propelled new bands directly into the front rooms of the young record buying public at prime time on a Thursday evening. A band like Ultravox never had that opportunity during John Foxx's tenure. Couple the exposure afforded by a TOTP tea time appearance with the appeal of a pop star coming across as someone rather leftfield as Numan certainly did on that first appearance and you have a potent potential spell for success.

Here is a positive review of 'Replicas' from the 21st April 1979 edition of Record Mirror, a supportive branch of the UK music press, at least in the first couple of years.


Sadly Numan's live performance career stalled not just once after the Wembley 'retirement' but also for the 'punk' Tubeway Army following a bloody evening with The Skids in Acton. For these reasons, 'Replicas' was never toured in it's own right, the first UK major headline tour embracing both of his 1979 No. 1 albums. As a result, fewer 'Replicas' tracks received a contemporary airing than would normally be the case for your average album/tour.... album/tour band. 

The good news was that this touring anomaly was at last addressed in 2008 when Numan finally felt comfortable enough with his then level of revitalised success to allow him to revisit past glories.

To this end another 'Replicas 2008' gig will be posted in the next couple of days.