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

Sunday 28 February 2021

Rudimentary Peni Ludwick Hall Welwyn Garden City 28th May 1982


In Herfordshire's Rudimentary Peni, the anarcho scene surely had one of its most original and enigmatic bands. It could be argued that some of the bands were somewhat formulaic in terms of their sound. This could not be said for this three piece, put quite simply, nobody sounded like Rudimentary Peni! Many of the expected elements were in place but delivered in a completely unique style.

Nick Blinko of Rudimentary Peni (1982)

Rudimentary Peni's work stood out then as now (the band have never split up or reformed) additionally on the basis of the artwork that accompanied their records. Produced by the hand of Nick Blinko, in a style grouped under an umbrella of 'Outsider Art', the band's sleeve art was minutely detailed and very disturbing! Art aided and abetted by Blinko's precarious metal health issues.

Rudimentary Peni's second E.P. 'Farce' featuring artwork by singer and guitarist Nick Blinko.

Formed in 1980 the band, consisting of Nick Blinko (Guitar and vocals), Grant Matthews (Bass) and Jon Greville (Drums), released two brilliant E.P.s, the self titles 'Rudimentay Peni' and 'Farce', the latter being produced by Penny Rimbaud and released on Crass records which did much to cement their place within the anarcho musical genre. Their songs were fast, furious and very short, the majority clocking in at under a minute in length! Whilst the songs may indeed have been short they lacked nothing in style and substance, distorted guitar over intricate bass lines with a remarkable vocal.

In between the release of 'Farce' and the band's debut album 'Death Church', Grant was diagnosed with lung cancer, which he survived, but Nick Blinko was also suffering further mental health problems.

In 1989, Rudimentary Peni released 'Cacophony, broadly speaking, a 'concept' album centered on the life and work of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. Since then, Peni have continued to avoid the trappings of playing live opting instead for periodic releases of new material on E.P.s. as and when the desirability to do so was shared by the members of the band. In fact the first new material for a decade. 'The Great War',  is scheduled for a Spring 2021 release.



01. Inside
02. Teenage Time Killer
03. Sacrifice
04. B-Ward
05. Mice Race
06. Blind Dogs
07. Dead Living
08. Zero Again
09. The Gardener
10. Hearse
11. Only Human
12. Media Person
13. Cosmetic Plague
14. Tower Of Strength
15. Dutchmen

Saturday 27 February 2021

Liverpool University 22nd October 1986


Here is the Dreamtime set from the band's gig at Liverpool University accompanied by another glowing review, this time from the pages of Record Mirror, who once upon a time were staunch defenders of the band.

Great picture, bloody lousy review!

Record Mirror (8th November 1986)


After an absence of such length from the touring circuit, it was difficult to know quite what to expect from a Stranglers performance. A capacity of 1,500 turned out to see the former bad lads of punk, but what of the men in black? Well, stopping all the photographers after four numbers, presumably so as not to snap them looking messy, would indicate that they’ve about as much to do with anarchy as Diana Ross these days.

The touring eight-piece Stranglers are as much a conventional ‘rock’ band as any you’re unfortunate enough to find. And the image would have appeared to have changed more than somewhat. The sporting of bowlers by all of the band would seem to imply one of three things; that they want to be the new Madness, that they’ve all recently become TSB shareholders. Or that they’ve all taken day jobs sifting flour for Homepride.

But what of the music? You may well ask, and an open mind is quickly and firmly slammed shut with the combination of interminable nine minute songs, end-of-pier medleys of hits and a sloppy complacency. A complacency which screams out their lack of either regard or interest in their audience.

From the opening blasts of ‘No More Heroes’. To the almost endless meanderings of ‘Always the Sun’, the show is polished, professional and utterly uninteresting. In amongst this display of the flaccid and famous, ‘Strange Little Girl’ stands out as a single moment of true interest.

But, on the whole, what we have here is a flatulent, redundant and out-dated morass of absolutely no interest whatsoever.

Dave Sexton


01. No More Heroes
02. Was It You?
03. Down In The Sewer
04. Nice In Nice
05. Punch And Judy
06. Souls
07. Always The Sun
08. La Folie
09. Strange Little Girl
10. Nice ‘N’ Sleazy
11. Who Wants The World?
12. Big In America
13. Bring On The Nubiles
14. Shakin Like A Leaf
15. Uptown
16. Toiler On The Sea
17. Spain
18. Peaches

Flux of Pink Indians Sir George Robey London 18th October 1982


Here's a really good sounding recording of Flux at the Sir George Robey pub in Finsbury Park, North London on 18th October 1982 with a near complete 'Strive to Survive'/'Neu Smell' set.


01.Is There Anybody There?
02.Sick Butchers
03.Tapioca Sunrise
04.Blinded by Science
05.Some of Us Scream, Some of Us Shout
06.Background of Malfunction
07.Take Heed
08.Charity Hilarity
09.TV Dinners
10.Neu Smell
12.They Lie We Die

Friday 26 February 2021

Steve Ignorant (Crass) Inked


Steve Ignorant linocut 15 cm x 20 cm, hand printed in black ink on premium quality paper. Over printed on A4 with the crass logo and an Action Space gig ad.

UK Subs - Tube Disaster Cover from 2003


Here's a version of The Epileptics/Flux of Pink Indians 'Tube Disaster' by the UK Subs. Back in 2003, the Subs made this available as a free download on their site. Several years ago, I posted it but my link is dead and I can no longer find a link from the Subs. So hear it is again. An excellent version of a punk classic.


All The Arms We Need - Flux of Pink Indians


Another big gun in the combined anarcho-punk artillery (I know possibly not the best analogy by which to contrast these bands!) were Flux of Pink Indians. The core of the band went by a few names, the Licks, The Epileptic Fits through to The Epileptics who released the seminal '1970's' EP.

The Epileptics came from Bishops Stortford in Hertfordshire which also happens to be the town that I have lived in for the past 26 years and so for me as an anarcho fan it is something of a point of pride that I can claim The Epileptics/Flux as something of my own... despite the fact that I arrived in the town 'Two Years Too Late'.... and some!

The local music scene was vibrant in the late '70's/early '80's to the extent that it was possible to create to local label 'Stortbeat' that enabled young punk bands from Bishops Stortford and neighbouring Harlow  to release singles.

In the Triad Centre in town, the Stortbeat bands had a supportive venue and with Crass just down the road in Epping, it could be said that the Herts/Essex area was something of a stronghold for the independent anarcho-punk scene. I like the idea anyway!

I picked up my copy of 'Strive to Survive Causing the Least Suffering Possible' a couple of years after its release and it was and still remains a classic.

Conflict Brunel University Uxbridge 13th September 1985


Anger burned at the end of the Metropolitan Line when Conflict played Brunel University's Student Union in Uxbridge, West London. A great set covering material from the first two albums, 'It's Time to See Who's Who' and 'Increase The Pressure' as well as the singles. 



01.News At Ten introduction
02.From Protest to Resistance
03.To Whom It May Concern
04.Increase the Pressure
05.The Serenade Is Dead
06.The Positive Junk
07.Law and Order
08.The System Maintains
09.Berkshire Cunt
10.The Guilt and the Glory
11.One Nation Under the Bomb
13.Meat Means Murder
14.Tough Shit Mickey
15.Punk Innit
16.As Others See Us
17.Whichever Way You Want It
18.This Is Not Enough
19.Mighty and Superior
21.Neither Is This
23.From Protest to Resistance

King Crass Is Dead... Long Live King Conflict!


It was in the van returning from Wales that members of the band declared an intention to call it a day. This declaration meant that the miner's benefit that they had had just played at the Aberdare Colosseum on 11th July 1984 was the last that Crass would ever play. 

Aberdare Colosseum 11th July 1984

Crass may have been the band that fermented the 'anarcho-punk' movement, a viable branch of punk, but their demise did not signal the death of a scene. The D.I.Y. nature of the anarcho-scene-on-a-shoestring meant that a significant number of bands, venues, promoters, distributers and labels existed in a self-sufficient, self-supporting network.

Critically, with Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government returned to power in the 1983 General Election and British heavy industry fighting for its life, there was still much to rail against.

Despite the 'There is no authority but yourself' ethic that Crass and associated bands espoused, the Crass split did create something of a vacuum, given their prominence and importance. One band in the frame to occupy that space was South East London's Conflict. Inspired by Crass, by 1984 Conflict were well established with their own label (Motarhate) and a roster of like-minded bands.

Ideologically, Conflict were broadly aligned with Crass, which led the latter to take the former somewhat under their wing , at least in the early years of Conflict's existence. However, different approaches in terms of the best way to handle right-wing instigated violence at their gigs saw the more liberal minded Crass distance themselves from Conflict and let's just say their more robust peacekeeping methods.

In March 1985, Conflict released the single 'This is Not Enough', a tremendous racket, obtainable for a mere 49p. Here seemingly Conflict shot themselves in the boot. In trying to out do Papa Crass with the 'Pay No More than 45p' label for their 'Reality Asylum' single.... given inflation.... every copy of 'This is Not Enough' sold at a 2 pence loss..... which only becomes problematic when the single sold.... which it did in the thousands!

The 'Pay No More Than...' pricing strategy adopted by many of the anarcho bands was another draw for a cash-strapped 16 year old trying his best to build up a record collection on a Saturday job wage. Large chunks of Conflict's back catalogue were then acquired from Virgin Records on Brighton's Queen's Road for a relatively low outlay.

The powerhouse singles such as 'The Serenade is Dead' and 'Mighty and Superior' and albums, especially 'Increase The Pressure' got a lot of airplay in this young punk's bedroom, much to the dismay of my parents!

Despite the fact that Conflict played regular gigs at the Richmond (Hotel) in Brighton, I first got to see them at the point that they released 'The Ungovernable Force' album. It was 9th November 1986. 

The Ungovernable Force Tour ad (Sounds October 1986)

By this point in time, Conflict were no strangers to controversy. Two years previously, Conflict were embroiled in a high profile war of words with left wing band, New Model Army, who had signed to E.M.I., the record company of the Establishment and one with known investment links to the arms trade and other interests that did not sit easily with Conflict and many others. The dispute prompted Conflict to release 'Only Stupid Bastards Help E.M.I.' on 'New Army Records', a mail order benefit LP for the 'Riot Defence Fund'.  The title was a take on the 'Only Stupid Bastards Take Heroin' T-shirt worn NMA's Justin Sullivan on Top of The Pops.

Later on, even within the scene, the rumour mill turned relentlessly producing accusations that the band's management of their Mortarhate label was awry in terms of royalty payments to bands connected with the label and sales accountability. Accusations of this nature were aggressively refuted by the band.

Mortarhate postcard (1986)

Beyond the music, regular trouble in and around venues where Conflict played brought them to the attention to the Metropolitan Police (the Police Constabulary responsible for Greater London). This resulted in the band's gigs in the capital regularly being pulled at the 11th hour as the police leaned on venues to cancel. The relationship between the 'Met' and Conflict hit an all time low in the wake of the band's 'Gathering of the 5000' event in Brixton which escalated into a full blown riot that saw 52 arrests and 10 police injured.

Into the 1990's and musically things had shifted a great deal. Dance music was king and Conflict's brand of confrontational issue-driven punk lost its footing to some degree, at least here in the UK. In Colin Jerwood's own words, now was the time to reign thinks in a bit. Activism of the type promoted and practiced by Conflict had by the late '80's become a risky pastime, attracting serious custodial sentencing in the courts. The judiciary were not adverse at that time to make examples of prominent agitators and in such an environment Conflict believed that they also would be squarely in the frame for such treatment. The band were still prolific in recording terms, but, to my ears at least, some of the anger had dissipated somewhat.

Conflict are still playing, the last time I saw them was at Rebellion in 2019. It's funny and it may be down to my own gig damaged ears, but I only recognised a handful of songs in a set that I was very familiar with. A far cry from an 80's Conflict gig. Slow it down boys..... the words mean as much as the music!

Wednesday 24 February 2021

999 WMFU Radio Session 11th April 2003


Here's a radio session that the band did on 2003 as part of a short US tour. 



01. Intro
02. Inside Out
03. Emergency
04. The Biggest Prize In Sport
05. The Boys In The Gang
06. Homicide
07. Gig Plug
08. I’m Alive
09. Outro

Tuesday 23 February 2021

Alkmaar Atlantis 23rd February 1997


Here are the band playing Almaar in the Netherlands on this day in 1997... the Wonky precursor trip.

MP3 (as received):

01. Valley Of The Birds
02. Golden Boy
03. In Heaven She Walks
04. Nice ‘N’ Sleazy
05. In A While
06. Always The Sun
07. Daddy’s Riding The Range
08. Golden Brown
09. Sinister
10. Miss You
11. I Feel Like A Wog
12. I Feel Like A Wog (Cont)
13. Silver Into Blue
14. Thrown Away
15. Thrown Away (Cont)
16. Bring On The Nubile
17. Let Me Introduce You To The Family
18. Duchess
19. Hanging Around
20. No More Heroes
21. Summer In The City

Saturday 20 February 2021

UK Subs Music Machine London 8th August 1980 Live Review (Sounds 8th August 1980)


Here's a review of the Subs at Camden's Music Machine back in 1980 when the band were a hot property. Here Bushell praises the band to the skies on what was Alvin Gibbs' (and Steve Roberts') debut gig as a UK Sub. Showcasing new material from the 'Diminished Responsibility' album, the gig can be found here.

Thursday 18 February 2021

Do They Owe Us A Living? The Anarcho Scene


Back in the early '80's, amongst those with something more than a passing interest in music, the black and white double headed serpent that formed the Crass logo was almost as ubiquitous, but a little way short of the black and white Madness 'M'. However, whilst Madness were a media friendly, hail fellow well met ensemble, Crass certainly were not. 

Within and yet without the punk scene, Crass set a new course for what could be, fiercely independent they sought a means by which the better ideas of the punk train of thought could be harnessed. Records were produced with 'Pay no more than' instructions printed on sleeves that offered affordable product to fans that were suffering under the very same Government policies that the band were railing against. Such stated pricing instructions prevented subsequent mark up by retailers. A master stroke.

Personally, I missed the heyday of Crass and was too young to see the band before they fulfilled their stated intention to split in 1984, but I was aware of them in 1983/1984. 

Formed in 1977, Crass took a year or so to find their feet but with their debut on Small Wonder Records, 'The Feeding of the 5,000' they found a ready audience of people appreciative of their no-nonsense approach to punk. Their stripped down, angry roar pinned down by Penny's military drumming brought things back to what appealed too many in '76/early '77. 

Crass's early material took no prisoners and the old guard of Strummer and Rotten were very much in the band's sights. But then again The Clash of '77 that so inspired Steve Ignorant were a very different proposition to the polished outfit that they had become by 1979.

In the period of '78 to '81 they were a continuous thorn in the side of the music business and the music press, who it appeared either hated them or could not fathom them. However, come 1982, the trivia of the music business took a backseat as Crass became a thorn in the side of The Establishment, which was a far bigger deal for all of the band.

At the beginning of April 1982, under the direction of the military Junta then in power, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, two small islands located several hundred miles from the Argentine coast, the sovereignty of which had long been a mater of contention between Argentina and the UK. Three days after the invasion Margaret Thatcher order that a task force be sent down to the South Atlantic to assert British control over the Falklands and South Georgia. The conflict was concluded with the surrender of the Argentine forces, made up to a large extent of young conscripts, within 10 weeks, but the sacrifice was significant and bloody. 649 Argentine and 255 British soldiers died in the fighting. 

In April 1982, I was 13 and this was the first time in my lifetime that the UK had been involved in a war (Northern Ireland was something rather different to this, at least in terms of how I perceived it) and the images being served up on the evening news throughout those 10 weeks of Spring was truly shocking! As was the nasty, jingoistic reportage served up by the British gutter press, best exemplified by the 'Gotcha' headline that accompanied The Sun newspaper's reporting of the sinking of the Argentine vessel, ARA General Belgrano, on 2nd May with the loss of 323 crew. Misplaced patriotism quickly evaporated just two days later when HMS Sheffield was sunk with the loss of 20 crew, the first of six British vessels lost in the conflict.

Not intending to get bogged down in the details of the war, it is the impression that it made on me that is important here. Crass were equally perturbed by the events of that 1982 Spring, releasing two singles that were highly critical of the role that Margaret Thatcher and her Government in their handling of a diplomatic situation that escalated into a bloody conflict with remarkable rapidity.

At this juncture I would just like to add that I know several veterans of the conflict and and have the greatest respect for what they did and the sacrifices that they made as members of the Armed Forces. But I do think that there is a case to answer as to why it turned out as it did. 

Crass's response was to release two singles, 'Sheep Farming In The Falklands' and 'How Does It Feel To Be The Mother Of A Thousand Dead'.

The latter single was discussed in the House and led to legal action being taken against the band (that was ultimately unsuccessful).

So, back in my world in 1983, in our small school in Lewes, East Sussex, as a one-off as part our twice weekly music lessons, we were invited to share some of our own musical tastes with the wider class. I guess it may have been an end of term thing since every other lesson involved 'appreciation' of various turgid pieces of classical music that were never going to appeal to a teenage boy! (but now appreciated by this near 52 year old!). The teacher was reminiscent of Hyacinth Bucket in her carriage and she manfully (or womanfully) endured during this particular lesson the strains of Bon Scott, Depeche Mode  and yes, probably Madness. My choice was my newly acquired copy of 'Sheep Farming In The Falklands'.....

'Sheep farming in the Falklands, re-arming in the fucklands
Fucking sheep in the homelan.........'

Was just about as far as it got! Were it not for Steve Ignorant's machine gun rapid delivery it wouldn't have even got that far. I was out of the class and directed towards the headmaster's office.

From what I remember of my motives on that day over 40 years ago, I am sure that there was an element of mischief involved, but at the same time the very fact that I was in possession of a Crass record meant that I was starting to form independent opinions of the things that were happening in the world around me. And what a time it was for a political awakening. The Cold War was in one of it's chillier periods, the deployment of Cruise missiles at Greenham Common air base was under dramatic opposition, the IRA were very active in England, most notably with the Harrods bombing of 1983 and the bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton, not 10 miles from me at the time (Burgess Hill) .... and if that wasn't enough, there was the Miner's Strike.

All of this political and industrial turmoil had, for me, in the background a brilliant soundtrack, from Crass, to Billy Bragg to the Neurotics, whose remarkable album 'Repercussions' addressed in song both the Falklands Conflict and The Miner's Strike! 

I saw the Neurotics shortly after the collapse of the Miner's Strike, but was too late for Crass. Nevertheless, the so called anarcho-punk scene did continue after the demise of Crass. And in that sense, Brighton was a good place to be as the Richmond Hotel (now sadly a gastropub I believe) was a regular host for the bands lumped in with that scene. They all played there but I was only lucky enough to see a few, Antisect, Subhumans and Conflict. 

Perhaps more than any of the other bands on the scene it was Conflict who picked up the Crass baton and ran with it. Crass somewhat took Conflict under their wing for a time and certainly for Steve Ignorant they struck a chord, he joined the band for several years. 

I was at the Conflict headed 'Gathering of the 5000' gig at Brixton Academy in April 1987, a well intentioned, but ultimately a nasty, ill-tempered affair that saw a complete ban on Conflict that applied across the UK. I posted on that gig here.

Leaving Sussex in the late 80's and moving to Bishops Stortford in Hertfordshire, via London, I again felt the draw of that anarcho scene, not least because the second most famous band, after Shakatak, to hail from Bishops Stortford are Flux of Pink Indians, formerly The Epileptics, formally The Licks. Moreover, Crass were only a few miles down the road in the Dial House in Epping Forest. The like minded people in the town that I met had all seen Crass and Flux at the Triad Centre in town.... of course they fucking had! The bastards.

Benefit gig for the Triad Centre, Bishops Stortford, 1979.

1980 flyer.

Oh, it was all happening back in the  day in Bishops Stortford, there was also a related record label 'Stortbeat' but that's another story for another day and another post.

Post Crass, the many members have gone on to pursue their own specific interests be it graphic art, poetry, spoken word or a continuation in music. Steve, as previously mentioned, joined the ranks of Conflict for a while before forming the Stratford Mercenaries. Collaboration with Paranoid Visions followed, not to mention a stint as a crew member with the Sea Palling independent Life Boat, before the current and rather good, Slice of Life. Sadly, Steve's 'Ignorant Tour' has been the subject of several COVID-19 related postponements, now out to 2022! But again, it is a tour of Crass material, another potent reminder of that band's influence on the music and politics of a generation!

Love them or loathe them, Crass and the bands that formed part of that particular DIY scene, in the same way that Billy Bragg and The Newtown Neurotics did, engaged youth to take an interest in politics. At the end of the day whether you are left wing, right wing or an anarchist, there is no escaping politics so get involved, for or against, but be never indifferent.

Not Crass, but on theme and I am sure a sentiment that Crass would concur with, The Newtown Neurotics comment on politics in their 'Get Up & Fight' sums it all up rather nicely:

'You say politics are boring, boring and grey
But would you rather see cruise brighten everyone's day?'

Over the next week I will be posting a number of anarcho gigs and articles.

Tuesday 16 February 2021

Magazine The Academy Glasgow 16th February 2009


Another night on the brief Magazine comeback tour. On this night in 2009 they were on stage in Glasgow. I saw them in London on the tour.... I loved them, Gunta hated them. I was amused that for this night only, the leather jackets that I was used to at gigs were replaced by trench coats.... we had crossed over into post punk's manor!

I loved them for the fact that they used Dave Formula's keyboards to create massive sounds that melded punk and prog. Gunta hated the idea of Howard playing chess against himself on stage.... she had a point!

But in the unlikely event that you find yourself on this page and are unfamiliar with the music of Magazine, give 'Real Life' a spin in old money or at least a stream (in the new!). You will not be disappointed I promise you.

01. Intro 
02. The Light Pours Out Of Me
03. Model Worker 
04. The Great Beautician In The Sky / The Honeymoon Killers
05. Because You're Frightened 
06. You Never Knew Me 
07. Rhythm Of Cruelty
08. I Want To Burn Again
09. The Great Man's Secrets
10. A Song From Under The Floorboards

01. Permafrost
02. The Book
03. Twenty Years Ago
04. Definitive Gaze
05. (Band Intros)/Parade
06. Shot By Both Sides
07. Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)
08. Motorcade
09. I Love You You Big Dummy

Monday 15 February 2021

Mountain Studio Demos March 1976


Here is another short selection of early demos when the band are really still trying to find 'their' distinct  sound. In among this fine quartet is the 'Transylvanian Mix' of 'Tomorrow Was (The Hereafter)' with JJ taking the vocal lead.... or is that Bobby (Boris) Burnel!


01. Peaches
02. Down In The Sewer
03. Bitching
04. Tomorrow Was (The Hereafter)

Three Early Demos (Grip/Go Buddy Go/Bitching) Pebble Beach, Worthing 11th and 12th July 1976


Good quality demos from way back when. Can't recall the date and the studio. Anyone?


Artwork: Included in download file

01. (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)
02. Go Buddy Go
03. Bitching

Saturday 13 February 2021

A Moody Burnel France 1983


Not sure whether I have posted this shot on here before.

Bristol Academy 22nd October 2008


The 'Forty Two Forty' tour rolled into Bristol on 22nd October 2008. Not the most enthralling of set I suppose but one perhaps in keeping with the chart success theme of the tour.

JJ Burnel
Bristol Academy 22nd October 2008

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

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

Thursday 11 February 2021

The Numan Who Fell To Earth - Melody Maker Interview 18th October 1980

Talk about a man laid bare. With the UK leg of the 'Teletour' behind him Gary gives a candid interview to Melody Makers Editor-in-Chief, Ray Coleman. The interview is awkward, not surprising given the awkward nature of the interviewee. But clearly, in  Ray Coleman, Numan identified a trustworthy quality that resulted in the former authoring the first Numan biography. It may have been that Melody Maker, always conservative in its opinion towards punk, would be the champion of Gary Numan's take on the music business, over Sounds and New Musical Express! 

On the subject of punk, whilst a huge fan of Numan, I have never really agreed. Of course the accusation of 'sell out' can be directed towards a number of bands, but generally speaking the punk movement was a force of creative good. Aside from some of the greatest music to originate from these shores, punk provided the touch-paper for a veritable explosion in all branches of the creative arts, the seismic shock of what occurred in '76-'78, including Tubeway Army's contribution (of all the punk bands that I would have loved to have seen in the early days.... The Clash, The Jam, Adam and the Ants... Tubeway Army in 1978 are right up there!) changed this country for the better. Music (beyond the three chord constraints of punk, art, theatre and film all benefited from the freedoms that punk realised.

Anyway, back to this interview. Gary expresses some well versed (over the years) opinions and insecurities. Those opinions it has to be said sat very awkwardly side by side with the spirits of punk, new wave and post-punk of those extraordinary years. The music press of the day were more or less willing to accept the rock star dialogue from the likes of Messrs Bolan and Bowie, the rock demi-gods of the pre-punk era. The same stance from the new man Numan after the punk Year Zero was never going to be accepted.

See what you make of this interview, conducted at a pivotal stage in his then short career, retiring from stage performances with a renewed focus on studio albums and the new fangled video.

Melody Maker 18th October 1980

The Numan Who Fell To Earth

That morning, Gary Numan had a blazing row with his girl friend, Debbie. He stormed out of her home near Croydon, slammed the door, strapped himself into his £13,000 Stingray Corvette, and bombed up to Soho for our rendezvous.

He was visibly agitated. No amount of consolation or small talk, which was natural as this was our first meeting, was to divert his obsession for most of the day from that morning bust-up.

"What's happening to me?" he asked eventually. "One minute I reckon I've got complete control of everything, all around me. And the next I go to pieces with this violent temper and I can't handle myself, let alone a relationship.

"I'm really frightened of what I do, what I say, how I deal with people now. Is it the fame, the money, being a star? Sometimes, I feel my whole personality is out of control."

Two days earlier, Numan had made a riveting appearance on the BBC-TV children's Saturday programme, "Swap Shop." Palpably nervous, he fenced with innocent fans on the phone-in section of the show, and went all defensive when one young girl asked the most searing question ever put to him: why did he never smile?

He did, sometimes, he replied hesitantly. But his face hardly moved as he said it.

The programme had dealt also with Gary's threat to retire from concerts now that he had finished a British tour. After his current American visit and a trip to Japan, he was coming off the road for good, he declared. It was no fun. It was not satisfying. Too much aggravation. Anyway, he'd done it. Time to move on. He muttered something about getting into video.

Laughter and fun, it must be said, are easily words discarded when taking on Gary Numan. He’s 22, a failure at school, but perhaps the most brilliantly successful manipulator the opportunistic, wonderful world of pop and rock have experienced.     He’s also a genuine star, a natural who will move on to more creativity if his tortuous, self questioning character allows him to do so before he burns himself out with nervous energy.

His electronic music is uncomfortable, brooding, and morose- but hypnotic. At the dawn of the bleak Eighties he was the perfect acnchot for the thousands of disillusioned young people wanting their fears articulated. He spoke for the New Depression.

Technically and musically, Numan releases simplistic records, but that has always been the case with the best pop music for the masses. He's a Buddy Holly for the Eighties; while Holly used a guitar and dainty love songs, Numan's all-black uniform matches the stark imagery of his message and perfectly catches the mood of today with the emphasis on synthesisers. His fans respond by dressing exactly like him.

If the Beatles spearheaded the optimism if the Sixties, and if Bowie and Bolan played a large part in the Seventies as mentors of the Glam-rock movement, Numan groomed himself to be heir to the throne at the start of the sombre Eighties.

The trouble is - he doesn't want the job.

Spending  a day with Gary Numan  was a daunting prospect. But having tuned into his bizarre sounds three years ago through his haunting record "Cars," and being fascinated with the chance to penetrate that iron and doom-laden facade, it seemed a gamble worth taking.

He suggested a few hours of driving, ending up at Virginia Water where he has just bought a mansion. Numan's white car contrasted vividly that day with his black mood, but he quickly warmed to the problem of talking about himself.

"It's everything to me, this car," he said. "It symbolises everything I ever wanted. Really, it's like me recognizing my own success, being able to drive it. I don't understand why people are so funny about having 'status symbols. This was my first and I love it and I'll be honest with you, I love showing it off.

"And yet," he said as we became ensnared in a Piccadilly Circus traffic jam and taxi drivers stared across at him, "people won't allow me to simply enjoy it. The car arouses people's jealousies. They shout nasty things. But I've developed a bit of a thick skin.

"I can take anything now. If my level of success meant that I'd not be able to drive my car around anywhere, and go' where I choose, I'd stop that level of success. That's not the reason I'm giving up touring, but I want to pack it in before I'm a sort of captive.

"This is a'powerful car. It would not be good for me to be in it if I lost my temper, and I find I lose my temper a lot in London. I hate London. Too much stopping at traffic lights, too many people, too busy and not enough trees.

"For the last couple of years I've been taking flying lessons and, I've done 40 hours down at Blackbushe. It's a problem finding the time to finish off my training. The feeling of flying is marvellous. One day I'll have my own plane and people can call me even more flash . Oh well, at least up there they won't be able to shout rude things across at me."

Numan's driving was fast but safe. His judgment, particularly as he was driving a left-hand drive American motor, was excellent and his concentration was steely. Cars and planes and houses seemed to obsess him. What was he trying to prove with them?

"I'm out to prove to myself and those around me that I'm a success at what I set out to do," he answered frankly. " It's quite simple. I had a plan. I wanted to be rich and famous and be a star and sign autographs and have enough money to be free.

"Now I've done it, and it's time for the next chapter in my life, and that doesn’t include touring. This last tour of this country cost me £100,000. That's a ridiculous amount of money"

" I might be prepared to carry on doing it in the future, even at a smaller loss if I enjoyed it. But who’s going to tell me it' fun? I don't need it and I want other things. Buying the house and that tour have cleaned me out of cash.”

And so, after America and Japan, he would probably pIan a farewell appearance at his beloved Wembley Arena next April, and that would be the end. Nor would he change his mind. What could be more boring than declaring a retirement and then later making a comeback?

The fans, he said, deserved to know properly, and he was telling the truth. Wasn't he, then, seeking a kind of new power as a former star who could use his position in another way for two or three more years?

"No, I don't want that power even if it's there for me to take. Look, I can hardly handle myself, let alone be a leader. Right now, I'm trying to build a proper relationship with my girlfriend so that we can get married and have children, and I'm so worried about my own personalty that that's the next job after the tour.

"Get myself straight - I can't seem to get to grips with whether it's all the rock star thing that's messed me up or whether I was going this way all along."

Time after time, through the day, Gary would return to this worry about himself; we pursued the theme because it seemed important. After all, if this worryand self doubt was at the end of a rock ‘n’ roll rainbow for a meteorite who was cascading to earth at the age of 22, there was something wrong with either him or the star system or both. 

Numan didn’t pretend to have the answers. But the staggering story of his method of reaching his current pinnacle must rank as the most brazenly successful piece of planning which the recording industry has experienced.

We went for a walk in the woods near his home,  and the peaceful  countryside relaxed him sufficiently to reflect and put himself in perspective.

Four years ago, as a Bowie and Bolan worshipper, Gary Numan watched the punk explosion and he mourned the passing of the superstar era.

"No matter how many new bands came up, I saw that every one had a singer or a guitarist the fans latched on to, but nobody behaved like a star.

They were all shouting about their attitudes and they were all saying how they didn't like this and that, but whatever band there was, the fans were desperate for just one person to get hold of. But nobody wanted to act the part.

"Well - I did. I saw the gap and went straight in and worked at it. I came on like a star, didn't say much so the fans could make up their own minds - unlike the punk bands who were all mouth - and it was so obvious to me that I was going to do it.

"I'm not saying this now to sound big-headed, and I'm sure that's how it might sound, but I just planned it. I had this band, Tubeway Army, and we went to the record company like hundreds of other young hopefuls and we got a contract through a bit of luck and the music was, in the early days, based on the guitar sound that was fashionable.

"That was just to get a contract the record companies were signing anything that moved with a guitar. "But when we signed, I decided t change the style to contrast with the other bands, and we concentrated on the synthesiser sound. By now, it, was too late for the record company to drop us. They'd put so much money behind us, I knew they'd have to go along with my music. They didn't like it, but they  put the record out." The record was "Cars."

There was a grand plan, Numan agreed. "There was a desperate need for a solo star, and I also thought it was time for a change from the guitar. Bowie had done sex, Bolan had done the wizard and occult bit, and the rest of Seventies rock history was all good music based on guitar sounds and what was it called, progressive rock. So I had to come up with something that wasn't necessarily based on the guitar and which also pushed me as an individual.

"I decided it was going  to be machines. I thought: 'Right, the Eighties. Machines.' Synthesisers - and as

it happens, I was no good on guitar and the synthesiser was dead easy to play. So I went and learned how to push synthesisers and it was simple.

"I also felt the kids would identify with me if I came on as a kind of sharp seer who said the right things and looked good.

"It was the whole rock star thing, plain and simple, working out a gap in the market and seeing it through. You call it manipulation? I call it a campaign . . . working out what people hadn't got and getting something right for the market. I got it right for a period of time.

"I wanted to be rich and famous and ever since I was 11 years old I dreamed of being a rock 'n' roll star. The only thing I misjudged was not important: I thought people needed someone who was a bit of a prophet, but as it turned out I got famous long before I needed to say anything." 

He allowed himself a half smile of self-satisfaction.

So now, I teased him, having made the strategy work, and before the lifespan of a pop star meant that the public spat him out after chewing him up, he planned to ditch the public first.

Too harsh, said Numan. He had extremely strong views on a rock star's relationship with his audience. The fans had a basic right to say they made him, "but if I hadn't been up there on stage, or in the recording studios in the first place, they couldn't have made me.

"It's a funny way of looking at it, but I don't think they owe me anything and I don't feel l owe them anything. They took me because I decided to offer myself. It was a two-way agreement. I understand what it's like being a fan, because I was one myself.

"I grew up dancing and playing to my heroes as a kid, who were Dave Clark and Hank Marvin. But I don't recall thinking they owed me anything. I took them because they were there."

"You make shopping for a rock star sound like a visit to a supermarket," I said .

"I had my eye on the Eighties," he said crushingly. "I saw this opening in the market and the sound had to be machines."

If all this makes Gary Numan sound like a robot who exploited a situation, that would be only partly true. He's much more vulnerable than his moody public exterior allows, and he says that although he's not sentimental he fights back the tears sometimes.

Because people didn't feel like making the effort to understand his approach to rock, he had suffered jibes of abuse for music, his earring and face make-up, his mere success. 

This had penetrated his iron mask. He didn't want a lot of praise, he said, just recognition for having achieved something, and for giving I good few thousands of fans a bit of pleasure.

Where was the tolerance, he wanted to know? Why were so many people down on him for making it? Even if they didn't like his music, why did they criticise him for what he was, in view of the fact that a lot of people liked him?

That hailstorm of jeering had taken the fun out of making it, for him. "Not long ago, a guy came up to me and said he assumed I would attack the likes of Genesis and Yes because I seemed to him to represent everything those bands weren't. I said no, I had no intention of criticising all those bands.

"I said I wasn't about to have a go at anything that had gone before me because they obviously had something going for them, and it wasn't up to me. It was up to the fans to judge.

"Genesis and Yes and Led Zeppelin must be doing something right if they have all those people going to their concerts and buying all those records. What gave me the right to slag them off just because I was in a different style?

"This guy persists. He says those older bands are ripping people off. They're charging too much for concert tickets, he says, and how come they can afford to live in these great mansions.

"Ah, now we have it. I now see what he's driving at. He's one of those idealists, and I can't stand idealists. You can't be into the rock 'n' roll thing, which is a lot to do with being free and feeling great and having a good time, and be an idealist. Rock 'n roll is a lot to do with live-and-Iet-live. That's where the punk thing was totally wrong. Well, not so much wrong as not sincere.

"Most of the musicians were saying one thing and doing another. I've nothing against the ones who set out to be famous and make a fortune, but why didn't they admit it? The bands that have survived have turned out to be the biggest capitalists the rock world's ever had.

"I looked at all these punk bands saying they didn't want to follow in the ways of those old bands like Genesis and Yes, didn't want to be rich, and I wondered who they thought they were kidding.

"Can anybody from that scene tell me they would rather drive a Mini than this Stingray Corvette? Who wouldn't prefer my house to a little flat somewhere? There are lots of things wrong with fame, which I'm finding out pretty fast, but the benefits like cars and money aren't exactly a hindrance to my life.

"I enjoy hearing the fans scream my name. I enjoy signing autographs and having a good seat in a restaurant and all the pleasures that being well-known bring, and there are quite a lot.

"But now I've come to the end of that part of the story of my life and I know it's got to end because when a tour starts, I can't wait for it to end - even though I'm going to enjoy the concerts."

Still, in a couple of days' time, he was off to America, and flying Concorde. That was something “another dream come true.”

The Numan operation is a family affair. His father, Tony,  was a British Airways transport driver at Heathrow before becoming Gary's manager; "He's taking to it like a duck  to water. It's as if he's been in the music business all his life. He knows exactly when to turn nasty - and believe me, it's a real jungle."

Gary's mother, Beryl, also goes on the road, and takes care of the band's wardrobe. "She has to sign autographs - she's almost as popular as me. I'll have to watch it," said Numan.

Lunch was taken at a Schooner Inn in Virginia Water. A drink? No, just Coke, of which he drank a lot. He had never drunk or smoked, although Debbie had tried to persuade him to try a little champagne - without success.

The waitress, who eventually plucked up courage to ask for his autograph, twice, asked whether he wanted French fries or a jacket potato with his steak. "Chips, please," said Gary. "McDonald's hamburgers are my favourite food, really, although I had a really nice Wimpey the other day," he confided.

"I don't like anything fancy. I have the chance to sit around all night getting stoned out of my head, but for what? I drink what I like, and that's Coke." A night on the town for him often means a visit to Legends, the showbiz restaurant/disco in Mayfair, which is where he met his lady.

The name of that haunt seemed particularly inappropriate to his surprising  decision to surrender his status.

"A legend? I don't think I could ever be that. I never intended even to 'take the Eighties,' let alone be a legend. I remember always wanting to be famous, that's all. I had the talent for putting myself up for something at the right time, and I don't think that makes me a legend.

"I want a life; and even the past few years have made it frightening for me. I hadn't the talent to write the atmospheric songs needed on a guitar, so I went for the synthesiser which doesn't need so much.

"So my only talent musically is as an= arranger of noises. And my second album went to number one! I learned to play piano by watching a man at college it was as simple as that. In the last couple of years I've been learning more about keyboards, but they're just a means to an end for me." He cannot, of course, read music.

Numan was an educationalists nightmare. Born in  Chiswick, West London but brought up mostly in Wraysbury a few miles from Heathrow, Gary Webb was the joker in his class at Ashford Grammar School. He would sit at the back of the room and disrupt lessons  by telling jokes and generally playing up, " making mischief."

"I'm intelligent, " he said modestly. "I was told I had an usually high IQ when I went through a ‘gifted children' survey, and although I haven't got any O-Ievels, I'm quick to pick things up. I was expelled from grammar school.

"I went to Stanwell Secondary School for a year and then to Brooklands College in Weybridge but I didn't put in enough hours to qualify for a second term. I left there just before my 17th birthday.

"They said at grammar school that I was unstable, disturbed or something. I don't know about that, but I do know that I wouldn't recommend to any kid that they don't work at school like I didn't. I chucked away a natural ability to do well - and it's no good saying I made it to fame and fortune in the end. 

"I'm just lucky. I was stupid not to take advantage of myself. Sometimes now, I miss not having worked hard at school" He was self-conscious, for example, about his poor ability to speak grammatically. 

"The child psychologist called it 'star tensions' or something. I don't think it was that, just plain stupid behaviour. I only got the chance to learn properly at that period of my life and I blew it." He left college and drifted through jobs like air conditioning, driving, clerical work - writing as he went, and getting picked on by colleagues for having dyed-hair. 

It all came back, he ventured, to his failure to cope with situations. Right now he wanted to plan some stability in his future - a big house, a wife, children and a determined move into making video films on subjects which inspired him from reading books. But the new, ratty, short-tempered side to his personality was frightening him.

He'd always been on a short fuse, but never this badly and it was affecting his relationship with Debbie.

It infuriated him and yet he couldn't control his frayed edges properly. If he couldn't control himself, how could he enter the next serious phase of his life - and that worry had contributed to the decision to stop touring.

"Also, if I'm going to get married and have children, I don't want them to grow 'up as the son of a rockstar. It's no way for children to live, with people all the time recognising who they are through their father . No child should have to suffer that”  Mine certainly won' t.

"I want to have leisure and enjoy myself."I never wanted to tour, but you have to do so to become a rock 'n' roll star . Having become one, I'm frightened about staying one.

"So I'm stopping." 

His mother thought he was crazy. His father suspected so, too, but took the view that Gary had been right all along so far, so his judgement and timing should be respected.

"It's not the fun I thought it would be and the nasties have spoiled it for me," he said finally. "Put it this way: what I'm doing is like committing suicide before someone kills me."

While Numan is plainly serious about retiring from the stage, he will continue to make albums. "The madness is at the moment that planning records and making them has to be fitted in between tours, as if the record-making is a hobby," he explained: "I want the records to be the thing, that and video."

Had it all happened too early in his life? "No, the fans had to be able to see a person of their age. If I'd left it until now, the right time would have passed, I think. By the time I'm 28, or 30, I want to be out of the limelight , anyway - I'm probably going to be one of those people everybody despises, who goes around in a flashy car and does nothing I'd love that."

But he would, one suspects, be keeping an eye on his royalties. He confessed to "watching the markets" in America on the eve of his tour there,  and was proud of the fact that in Canada they were playing 9,000 seater arenas.

And the age of the Numan audience was maturing. There were now people of his age, dammit, and that was encouraging because he had begun by appealing mostly to the very young.

It was good textbook stuff, we agreed, but growing old with his audience was something he was not equipped to do. He was not sufficiently interested in advancing his music or adapting like, say, Yes or Genesis. He did not like jazz .. so influences from that area were out. Folk music was "too feminine."

Japanese and Indian music interested him and there might be scope in adapting some Eastern sounds into Western rhythms, but who knew? His mind was a whirlpool of problems and the future seemed a long way off.

"I'm not one of those writers or players who write songs that are simply excuses to solo. You can't say it's bad, because so many people like it, but I'm more interested in making a point with a song, fairly quickly.

"The new Yes album is great, by the way. They've changed from their last thing, and they obviously have something fresh in their minds, musically. 'I'm not that musical." For the record, he has about 60 albums, with the emphasis on Bowie/Bolan/Lou Reed and Bebop Deluxe; the newer artists are represented in his collection by Human League, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Simple Minds and Ultravox.

The synthesiser, he insists, is just beginning as an instrument, and would make great strides, just as the guitar took a long time to become electrified.

But he didn't particularly want to be a part of its evolution: "I used it just like I used everything else," he said candidly.  "Whatever you're doing in life, you should use the latest technology. I did that - I have no real love of the synthesiser as an instrument, but I like the noise it makes."

The drive back to London was punctuated by more self-analysis and concern on how he was going to reapproach Debbie. Motoring through Wraybury, Numan reflects on his family and old friends who were pleased to acknowledge his success now but had been sceptical, in his early days, of his dyed hair and whole star trip.

"A lot of people would say you n't do this and you'll never make that, but it was all much simpler to me, and I looked on the thing like a child looks at something. Children come out with the most original things because they have nothing else to ' judge it by . . . I was that child."

Had I been to see Frank Sinatra's recent London concerts, Numan suddenly asked as we drove into Knightsbridge. I  said it was odd to reflect on a creature of the Eighties being even mildly interested in a 64 year old ballad singer from such a different era.

"I'd like to have seen him because he seems to have a lot of style," Gary said simply. But Sinatra sings chiefly songs about love and human encounters, totally removed from the cheerless, dark imagery of Gary Numan and his self-confessed machine music.

His music was  designed to meet a national mood, he said. And this was where we came in.

Popular music at its most powerful always reflects the people, the society, the environment around which it created. Numan got it right in one, at the dawn of 1980, with his elementary, sinister, ethereal synchionisation of daunting haunting keyboard based songs that ingrained themselves into a nation's sub-consciousness. Uncomfortable sounds for a neurotic age, Numan's messages are, whether he aspires. to notoriety, or not in the long term, anthems to mirror our world of computers and calculators and multistory car parks, advanced technology, self-service petrol and two million on the dole.

And then, he got his image right to sell it correctly. He was a loner who rarely smiled, and that was a help.

"FLOWERSl" he said ,quietly as we neared Soho again. "I'll send her some flowers. Always works."

Paradoxically the machine proved human. For that, and his burning determination, for his candour and doggedness, and for a whole lot more which boils down to honesty, it was impossible not to warm to him. He's a speedy child of our time, the kid down the street who had a dream that came true. Before pop got too clever by half, Gary Numan was what it was all about, and for some of us, he still is.

Sunday 7 February 2021

Top of the Pops Video Compilation 1977 - 1990


It's not perfect but I think that it is the complete tally of the band's Top of the Pops appearances between 1977 and 1990. In fact, the sleeve is incorrect as the video includes both 'Golden Brown' appearances.

Disc image:


Saturday 6 February 2021

The Adverts The Greyhound Croydon 26th February 1978

Here then are The Adverts in early set performing  set that includes most of the 'Crossing the Red Sea' album. Not sure what occurs at the end of 'Bombsite Boy', whether there is a fight or whether TV Smith is chastising heavy handed bouncers. He is also less than impressed by the gobbing that the band are subjected to throughout the gig!



01. One Chord Wonders
02. Safety In Numbers
03. Bored Teenagers
04. Male Assault
05. Quickstep
06. Bombsite Boy
07. On The Roof
08. New Day Dawning
09. On Wheels
10. Newboys
11. New Church
12. Gary Gilmore's Eyes
13. Drowning Men
14. No Time To Be 21

Steve Lamacq BBC 6 Music Album of the Week - Crossing the Red Sea with The Adverts - Excerpt


In Steve Lamacq's 6 Music show on 3rd February, 'Crossing the Red Sea with The Adverts' was the featured album of the week. To accompany the full run through of the album (missing here as you should all own a copy - and if you don't, shame on you!) the show featured a 2015 interview with TV Smith of the band who talks of the album, the Roxy and his pre-punk days on the English Riviera.


Poster ad for the band's debut album

Before I had a copy of the album, I persuaded Tim to tape the album for me - I was an impoverished student at the time! This was at a Cheap gig at the Anglers's Retreat in West Drayton.... a long time ago now. Tim reluctantly agreed to do it (possibly because I accosted him in the Gents and he was focussed on having a pee! He moaned that this meant that he would have to listen to it! This was though at a point where he was still struggling to get his band Cheap something of a name, a struggle that was to continue right through to the demise of the band a couple of years later. As such I guess association with past glories was not the way forward and rather unfair on his current band mates.