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.


Saturday, 27 March 2021

The Hexagon Reading 18th March 1990

 


FLAC: https://we.tl/t-STcawz0N2Q

Artwork: https://we.tl/t-p2FTvcxQMe

01. Intro
02. Shah Shah A Go Go
03. I Feel Like A Wog
04. Straighten Out
05. Shakin’ Like A Leaf
06. 96 Tears
07. Someone Like You
08. Sweet Smell Of Success
09. Always The Sun
10. Strange Little Girl
11. Peaches
12. Where I Live
13. School Mam
14. Let’s Celebrate
15. Uptown
16. Tank
17. Was It You?
18. Down In The Sewer
19. Golden Brown
20. No More Heroes
21. Nuclear Device
22. Duchess
23. All Day & All Of The Night
24. Punch & Judy

New Musical Express Interview 24th February 1990

Here is '10' era interview that rather surprised me. Meeting the band in Paris the late NME writer Steven Wells is very complimentary about the band and seemingly really rates the feel of the then new single '96 Tears'. I better knew Steven Wells as Seething Wells, who along with Attila The Stockbroker, was one of the early ranting verse poets in the early 1980's. As this 'alternative' poetry scene was in the main very left leaning politically, I was expecting him to give The Stranglers a far harder time in terms of the historic references that labelled the band as misogynistic and violent.... but there was none of that. Perhaps it was all down to Burnel's death stare maintained throughout the encounter!

SILENCE IS OLDEN

New Musical Express 24th February 1990.


Whoooooo! The Stranglers! Read any and every interview with these SCUM over the last decade and a half and it starts like this.

Aaaaaargh! The Stranglers! Oh dear! They hate journalists! They tied one of us to the Eiffel Tower (true, with gaffa tape but not very high up)! If I ask the wrong question they might get Jean Jacques Burnel to do his karate on me! Oh no!

"What a load of bollocks!" I snort, tossing the Xeroxed sheaf of whinging cowardice into a litter bin on the fashionable but discreet Rue De Charles De Gaulle. Ain't not no way I was going to let a bunch of poncy musicians (hawk! Spit!) frighten ME! I walk into the lobby of the plush Parisian hotel. A lean, puppy faced youth in black leathers slouches at the receptionist's counter. "This is Steven Wells from the NME… " murmurs the press officer respectfully. Jean 'Jack' Burnel raises one perfectly trained eyebrow and then speaks to his mates in French. "Paf! Le cochon a la music press Anglais avec le visage du chien!" (or something like that). His mates all put their hands over their mouths and giggle gallically. 

Then he flexes like whip-cord. He grips my hand and stares me in the eye.

Five seconds later he is still gripping my hand.

Ten seconds later and he is still gripping my hand. Oh no.

I try to pull my hand away and he pulls me closer.

He has a strange, chilling look in his eyes. Does he see me or does he see Sharon Tate? Am I shaking hands with a Dobermann pinscher? The slightest thing can make them go insane and attack - says RSPCA Inspector John Storey. Nice doggy! Trust! Has he been suddenly paralysed by a stroke or is he really going to kill me?

He smiles politely. He says: "Er, WHAT music paper did you say you were from?" 

And then he smiles some more.

And suddenly I realise why every interview with The Stranglers starts the same way. 

SNIFF MY TITS YOU SEXIST BASTARD!

 A harpist gently trills in the background. Indian tea in bone china cups is served by nice young men in silly costumes. This is so civilised. I am having a discussion with Hugh Cornwell about the new Stranglers album and despite the fact that JJ Burnel is studying me from across the table-contemplating the exact angle of impact necessary for his booted foot to remove my head from my shoulders (probably)-I am struck by the sheer incongruity of it all.

I mean these are The STRANGLERS! Surely by now they should have me chained to a rusty pipe in some stinking Paris cellar while they play a blow torch over my testicles and LAUGH!

I ask THE question that EVERYBODY wants to ask The Stranglers- the question that cuts to the very heart of their existence as a musical cypher struggling to retain the marriage of macho and mood music on the very borders of post modernist urbanity.

What's Keith Floyd really like? (For those readers who are so unhip that they ought to be reading another music magazine - Mr Floyd is the punk Fanny Craddock. In the poncy world of cookery show presenters he is a pissed rottweiler in an Andrew Dice Clay jacket driving a souped-up King Tiger battle-tank through a yapping pack of pink poodles. And his theme tune, naturally enough, is The Stranglers' classic 'Peaches ) So what is he really like, Hugh?

"Well you'd have to meet him. He's, ah, affable, vain, uh, very, very sincere and a warm-hearted person who loves attention. Sounds rather like you. The producer of the programme is a BIG Stranglers fan…”

Do you hang out with Keith? 

"Occasionally, but he's a very busy man and he lives right down in Devon so it's a pretty long trek." 

Are you a good cook? "

“I cook, yeah, not bad…”

 Are the band very domesticated these days? 

"Well, uh, what does domesticated mean?"

Are you house trained yet? 

"House trained? Uh, yeah …”

 Do you shit in the tray?

"I think it's quite safe to let any of The Stranglers into your house without any fear of them wetting the carpet huh huh!”

In 1974 The Stranglers bombed around London in a converted ice cream van stealing other people's gigs and acting hard.

"We were the hardest," claims JJ later. "Nobody was harder than us. It seemed to matter at the time. It got stupid though, it got to the stage where I couldn't walk down the street. I knew it was time to get out of London when I walked down a market street and three traders tried to pick a fight with me one after the other ... " 

And the harp goes plink plink and the tea goes sip sip and the most violent sound around us is the servile and slippered tread of the hotel staff nimbly mincing on thick and luscious carpet, serving tea to the stinking English rock aristos and dreaming fondly of guillotines...

UNLEASH THE GREY MUZZLED PIT BULLS!

When punk rock caught up with The Stranglers they decided to become the rudest and the most controversial as well as the hardest- and woe betide any little safety-pinned purist hack who said they were "too old". Their high-pitched whining bass and squealing organ was condemned by the deaf-with-shit-for-brains as a "second rate Doors homage". Bollocks! Bollocks a million times says I! 'Go Buddy Go!' was the anthem for those of us who KNEW that punk rock was really about taking a sulphate and Tetleys cocktail and running screaming around a student New Wave disco. The Stranglers were macho and smelly and obnoxious - masters of the F-You! school of rock n roll naughtiness at a time when Axl Rose was still a Bees Gees fan. So why, apart for Jean, are they being so nice? Are they out to ruin this article or what? 

Alright, so drummer Jet Black- massively impressive in his leather Jacket, black ladies' tights and no trousers, did try to pick a fight with an old lady at the airport who kept on bashing him in the back with her trolley because he'd nicked her place in the queue, but overall The Stranglers are such horribly PLEASANT people. I mean I'm sat here with Hugh and he's so nice and middle class, middle English and mild mannered- the perfect English Gentleman- and I'm thinking, is this really the udder-sniffing slimeball who wrote the hairy foreskinned wank-anthem 'Peaches' ?! 

Hugh sighs ever so slightly whilst he ever so gently removes a stray tea leaf from his of ever so genteel Darjeeling and places it ever so neatly places it ever so neatly on an ever  so spotless white napkin. 

"You are the victim of image," he says in a voice that could charm the knickers off an Etonian third former or the life-savings out of a Coldstream Guards widow. Then he pauses. Has he been too dismissive? Got to see the other chap's point of view, what? 

"Well, I must admit that when I play a gig I do have this certain other thing that takes me over. I have done things when in that state that l have been very ashamed of…”

Hmmmm, like what exactly? 

"Well! I won't go into that! (AAAAAAAAAARGH). But on occasions I have shown very little respect for the people who have paid good money to see us and l am very, very ashamed of myself for that." 

This change that comes over you- is it demonic possession? 

"It could be, I've never thought about that. . ." 

Are you the vessel of Ragay the Music Demon? 

"I could well be ..."

IS THAT A RABID ALSATIAN IN YOUR POCKET OR HAVE YOU GOT AH ERECTION?

They didn’t keep it up, 'Black And White’ (their best album) lacked the ferocity and scrappy dumbness of the classic 'Rattus Norvegicus' and they've become more studied and gentle ever since- wooing mums and dads with cheekily sweet and sombre chart incursions. 

There is a two second organ screech at the beginning of the new single- a cover of? And The Mysterions' garage-punk classic '96 Tears'. The drums and the bass kick in and stay rock solid throughout (what, no nimble bass lines Swells?- Ed). Cornwell's deadpan and cynically bland vocals lend the already nasty lyrics a stunning gravity. It's a single which plays perfectly to The Stranglers' strengths. 

There have been four brilliant pop singles released so far this year. The first is Sinead O'Connor's sublimely off-key 'Nothing Compares 2 U’. The second is Queen B's total trash out 'Red Top Hot Shot Beep Beep Beep'. The third is Faith No More's metal-rap 'Epic'. 

The fourth is '96 Tears'. It's the best thing The Stranglers have recorded since they put 'Go Buddy Go' on the flip of 'Peaches'. No, it's better than that. It's the only original 'punk' band still going bringing 15 years of experience to bear on "getting back to basics". At their best The Stranglers sounded like The Doors with brain damage and better drugs. That's what they sound like here. Only more so. 

The rest of the album's not bad but… Hugh, in the song 'Man Of The Earth’, “sonnet” is rhymed "base your life upon it”, that was your idea was it? 

"That's right, yeah”

Did it come in a flash of inspiration? 

"Yeah, I suppose so. I didn't read it anywhere. They do rhyme though don't they? Good! Hee hee hee!"

'96 Tears' is a very cynical and bitter song. ls that why you've chosen to cover it? 

"Nah. It's got a lot of humour in it, hasn't it? It's very double entendre-  ‘I'll be on top when the sun comes up’ that's very double entendre. I love double entendre and I think it's very clever that."

Um, you've lost me here. Are we talking some sort of sexual innuendo? 

"Of course, yeah! When the line comes up 'I'm going to be on top with you looking up' - I mean how else… what is… how else can you, er, interpret that?" 

Depends what sort of mind you have really. 

"Well if you have a good healthy mind like I have…" 

Would you not agree that you tend to write songs that are not exactly full of sunshine, joy and optimism? 

“Oh! We' re very optimistic people. You're with us-we're not manic depressives are we? There are a lot of things in the world that could depress you if you let them. If you look at it with humour then it helps you bear... it helps you bear thinking about it. 

I look up. JJ still has his eyes locked on my throat.

NEAPOLITAN MASTIFFS AND CARTESIAN DUALISM-A SHORT ESSAY

I sidle up to JJ. Fancy doing a short interview? I point to my tape recorder.

"Nah!" he says "There's no point, we got off on the wrong foot." 

We got off on the wrong foot! You got off on the wrong foot you mean! But he's not persuaded.

At dinner I am sat next to organist Dave Greenfield. Dave is a shy bloke who looks like Max Miller.

Do the people in your village know you're a Strangler? 

"Um, some of them do, in some of the pubs.."

The rest of our conversation is just as interesting and exciting. "He's a really difficult guy to talk to" I later remark to a friend of the band. 

"Not if you come from the planet Venus he's not." says the friend.

Drummer Jet Black (45) is a big breezy sort of bloke with a beard and he is easily my fave Strangler. I am also fascinated by the fact that he is wearing ladies' tights. 

"I got fed up with everyone doing this baggy stuff. It's like the way I was doing blond hair and everyone started doing that so I thought- shit! I've got to look tight! So I went out and bought some ladies' tights…" 

Kind of the principal boy look. I can't imagine you with blond hair. 

"Ooh, yeah, 16 years ago…" 

Were you a sex symbol? 

"Nah! Perhaps some of the band were but I certainly never was." 

What do you think of Stock, Aitken and Waterman? 

"If everybody in Britain had the same foresight and ingenuity and energy as SAW we wouldn't have the economic crisis that we've got now. Probably." 

Have you got enough money to retire if you wanted to? 

"Gor, you've got to be joking! If I had enough money to retire I don't think we'd be doing this!" 

Where's it all gone then? Did you blow it all on a whirlwind of drugs? 

"Nah, such is life. You must know that this is a very expensive thing to keep doing." 

Are you a sexist git? Were you ever a lout, a hooligan, a yob who would gouge an old lady's eyes out with a spanner for thruppence? 

"Well ... there was certainly elements of truth in that image but truth is always stranger than fiction and there was a lot more fiction in it than truth. I mean, we had our moments but most of the outrage was more a figment of the imagination of journalists. We certainly had our moments though!" 

"I'm hard, me"

Did you believe your own hype? 

"At times I think we did. I mean all that stuff about racing across the Queensland border chased by secret police in helicopters firing at us was all made up by some journalist but we never denied it because it was fun. But I DID put a table through a plate glass window once - I was drunk and was really frustrated having spent three days in Spain and everything was closed. That left me with this thug image for life.

Actually I don't mind being seen as a thug because actually it has its finer moments. 

Back in my hotel room I try to unwind by watching a sub-titled movie called Bigfoot. Bigfoot is the abominable snowman of the American rockies. I was ready for bestial carnage, for heads ripped from gunk-spurting torsos, little children torn limb from limb and eaten in full gory Technicolour. It turns out though that Bigfoot is actually a quite nice vegetarian and as cute as heck. His bark is considerably more offensive than his bite.


Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Don't Bring Harry Worth

 

Admittedly, this is probably completely lost on a non-British under 50 audience!

Interview Melody Maker 24th February 1990

 In this interview in the 24th February issue The Stranglers reflect on 15 years in the business from within the confines of the 'Top Of The Pops' studio in London.


Melody Maker 24th February 1990

The Stranglers - Sob Stories

Does Hugh Cornwell still wake up every morning, fling back his crisp sheets and think, 'Wow! Another day!"?

"Oh yeah! I used to go out running every day, but now I have to go on a bike, cos of my back. Very first thing, I go out for a bicycle ride, whatever the weather - rain, snow, sleet, wind, gales, everything. If I can do that, I've achieved something, even if the rest of the day goes completely wrong. I stay healthy. I don't take any drugs, I get plenty of sleep, and I eat well."

The head Strangler fixes me with the gaze of a man who never suffers fools.

"It's good for my mind."



Backstage at "Top Of The Pops", where The Stranglers are waiting to play their bright and breezy new chart hit "96 Tears" to the nation, four men are slumped against a wall. Jean-Jacques Burnel is looking at me, lazily weighing up whether to play let's wind up the joumalist. He decides not to bother for now. Dave Greenfield is fascinated by his book of logic puzzles, Jet Black is busy staring at the floor. And Hugh Cornwell, bent over his unplugged guitar, is recruiting Jean-Jacques' help to try and remember the chord changes to "Something Better Change"; 'Was it an E here, or an E flat?" Slowly, they get there.

You still wouldn't monkey with The Stranglers. Not if you value your teeth. The years haven't been totally kind to them; Dave Greenfield and the portly Jet Black now look like the sort of beefy blokes you'd call in to fix your plumbing. They haven't matured well. But Hugh Cornwell is still lithe, tanned, primed, a perennial alert gleam in his eye. And the chunky Jean-Jacques Burnel, with his roguish sense of fun, his cocky charm, the karate kicks he's practising around my head in the dressing-room .... the only word you can really use to describe Jean Jacques is dangerous. He could go off at any minute.

So The Stranglers, old lags that they are, are back in the charts again. And it's no big deal. "96 Tears", a
cover of an old standard by? And The Mysterions, is a pleasant nothing, a spindly doodle of keyboard drawn over a pounding beat, neutral and inoffensive. And later, pulled into the busy tiny studio to play for the cameras, The Stranglers show themselves as in control as ever. Serenely on top of the chaos around them, they mime effortlessly, look away from the camera, Pout and play like their thoughts are a million miles away.

They carry it off with that eternal air of vague, concealed malice, like the veteran hacks they are. And looking at them, I realise this could be absolutely any year, from 1975 right through to 1990. The Stranglers just never want to go away.

Hugh Cornwell used to be a teacher, back in the distant past, and it shows. He's still got the manner of a
pedagogue. As I grill him about The Stranglers, he's patient, polite and oddly formal, brow knitted, head
tilted on one side. Any slack or lazy inquiry on my part gets a sharp verbal rap on the knuckles. The years have also given him a noble, detached air of dignity.


Despite all this, doesn't he sometimes feel . . . old?

"I feel old all the time! I felt old when I started playing music, when I was 13. The number of life's experiences that I've been subjected to, it's very hard not to feel old the whole time. Life is very hard, you know. Living is a very difficult business. It's a totally random thing, people who think they're in control of their lives are fooling themselves."
 
So do you ever feel The Stranglers are old hat? You ought to jack it in, and go home? Hugh looks not
totally enamoured of this question.

"I've got used to the fact now that we're Punkasaurus Rex, this dinosaur that's still around from those days. But I look around me, and all the other bands from that period are reforming, they jacked it in
when the going got tough but now they're back! This is the period of the Reformation! But they've got bills to pay, you know, that's fine. And I think people have got too much of an airy-fairy idea about pop music.

There's no more validity to what we do, after all, than Kylie Minogue. She enjoys herself, same as we do.

And the strange thing is, y'know, that The Stranglers are in serious danger of becoming hip now. It doesn't bother me, mind. I'd just laugh."
 
We don't want people having a laff and paying their bills though, Hugh. Artists should be out on a limb,
striving, being torn apart ...

'Well, we're commercial artists. Everyone who makes records is doing it to make a living and the idea is to sell copies. I don't know anyone who makes a record hoping that nobody buys it. It's madness. Anyone who says they're doing it for their art is lying."

So you're never trying to touch our hearts?

"You can't do it in the world of records. The very nature of it is that you just sell copies."

Is wealth important to Hugh Cornwell?
 
'Well, what's wealth, that's the question? The meaning of wealth to somebody in a bedsit is different
from the meaning of wealth to me."


Have you got a big house, a gravel path, a big car?
 
"I've got a gravel path, yeah. There's no point in having a big house unless it's full. If it's full of people, it makes sense, but a big house with just one person in it is pointless. What was the other one?"

A big car.

"Yeah, I've got a big car, a big old car. Is that what success is? I dunno. To be honest, I think it's all a con.

Nothing's really important .. . "

Here is Hugh Cornwell talking about punk rock.
 
"The idea that punk swept away all the old dinosaur bands was a romantic thing for the history books. Punk was thought up by about four people: Malcolm Mclaren, Dai Davies, Andrew Logan the artist and
Bernie Rhodes. They all sat around for a couple of evenings in the mid-Seventies and thought, 'Sod all this, let's create something!' And that was it! All that stuff about the voice of rebellion was a load of
rubbish. It was a scam, and luckily it was so original it got its own life."


Did you feel a rebel, or a scamster?

"Actually, I did feel a bit of a scamster, yeah. I didn't know exactly what scam was going on. I wasn't sure what it was, but the fact that it had record companies jumping round like they were on hot coals ... I'm not stupid, I knew that for them all to be caught with their pants down, there was a spectacular scam going on. They're scammers themselves, so it had to be a very clever one."

You weren't angry young men?

"No! We seemed it when we played, because we had this tremendous bitterness and resentment that no one liked us. Then we finally got our own audience, but the resentment transferred into our playing and became a style."

Is punk funny to look back on?

"Oh, it is. Very funny. Very, very funny."

As The Stranglers walk round the "Top Of The Pops" centre, the question they get asked the most, is, 'How many times have you done this?' After some casual contemplation, they settle on 15 times. One for every year. It's got a nice logic. Back in the dressing room, Jean-Jacques Burnel, the restless soul who's always scouting for trouble, is telling me why The Stranglers have never been press darlings.

“It's because we've never been some Trotskyist, militant, one-legged, lesbian, save-the-whale right-on group, and never pretended to be and we're still successful! So all the papers hate us for that."

And Hugh Cornwell is saying how he'd have loved to have been a painter.

"I respect painters because when they have an idea they pick up a pen, or brush, or charcoal and draw on a surface, and it's direct. I painted a lot at school and got A level art grade A with distinction, but couldn't go to art college because I'd taken all the wrong subjects, I'd taken all the sciences. I was screened and they said I had the wrong combination. So I never had a formal training, but I'm pleased now, because having seen classically trained musicians, it just stunts the power of growth."

But education can give you ideas, inspire you with other people's spirit. Reading Yeats or Hopkins can show you how high words can soar. You don't have to be stifled.
 
"But these musicians who go to college and learn Chopin, Debussey, all those different composers, you
put them in a studio and say, 'Play something' and what do they play? They play a set piece, something
somebody else has written! Or if they play their own stuff, it's totally derivative."

Yet when The Stranglers started, you'd heard Elvis, Bill Haley, all rock's history.

"I'm not advocating working in a vacuum. You can't live isolated from music, sure. But when we started, we were fighting a lot of opposition. Everyone we met was against us! We'd never be able to go back and play the same place twice, because we d finish a gig and some guy would come up and say, 'You lot are evil, you're not playing here again!' And all we'd done was play a few songs we'd written!"

And you never felt evil?

'We never felt evil. The most we felt was slightly ... . mischievous."

The mischievous Meninblack's catchy new single, "96 Tears", will be in the Top 40 for five weeks, and won't kick over any statues. Lt may help Hugh Cornwell buy a few barrows of gravel for his gravel path. Like he says, it helps to pay the bills. And it helps him to wake up each morning feeling even better.

What's Hugh Cornwell's greatest fear?

"Playing a concert and nobody turning up."

And his biggest ambition?

"I'm a very ambitious person. I've a load of things I want to do. Some people are frightened of ambition. I'm not. It just means hard work and being a success."

The Stranglers'single "96 Tears" is out now, and a new LP, "Ten “ follows on March 3. The band have just begun their British tour which ends on March 21 .

Sunday, 21 March 2021

Hugh And Hazel At Quite A Party!

 

As reported in the pages of the 15th August 1981 issue of Record Mirror, Hugh Cornwell and Hazel O'Conner were spotted among the guests of a Chrysalis hosted party at the Sanctuary in London's Covent Garden to mark the launch of Debbie Harry's first solo LP. Take a look, that's quite some guest list!

'10' The Critics View

OK so you have had my opinion for what it is worth, but what did the professional music critics make of the album.

Surprisingly, New Musical Express did not pan it and neither did Sounds. However, the most damning review could be found in the pages of the teen publication Smash Hits who one would have been expected expected to be more receptive of the pop sensibilities of The Stranglers in 1990.


Sounds February 1990

THE STRANGLERS
'10'
(Epic 466 4iJ3ICD) ***

THESE ROCK ratti have long since said, "F*** off, mate" to their classic 'Norvegicus' brand boot-boy bass assault and cat molesters' sense of etiquette. Nowadays The Stranglers simply offer a good time wiv no questions asked. Gone is the Strang und Drang, replaced by a ruff tuff breed of pub rock. This is no longer life or death for this crew. It's a job, innit?

JJ and Dave Greenfield have been marking time with The Purple Helmets' goodtime primal rock vibe
and here the rest of the band hop aboard the wagon. Tasty boogie with all the trimmings is the order of the day. Christ, after 'Sweet Smell Of Success' opens the account with some FYC horn honkin', we get 'Someone Like You'. It could quite easily-fit in the Chas 'n' Dave song book. To ensure rub a-club compatibility they follow with an old favourite, ? And The Mysterions' '96 Tears'. A great version, it has to be said.

Undemanding, mildly cantankerous and as laid back as hell,'10' is the sound of four seasoned pros cracking a few tinnies and knocking out a slice of vinyl for God knows what reason. The cash, force of habit? It's often mediocre, but there's something undeniably likeable about '10'. In a rare moment of enthusiasm they even muster the effort for one great song  'Where I Live', which houses the classic Strangs lines, "I got two big balls/ A cap and bat/And I play with them all the time". Roy Thomas Baker
produces. Dead hip is Roy. The Stranglers just don't care.

Roy Wilkinson

Record Mirror 10th March 1990

THE STRANGLERS
‘10’
EPIC

As its title suggests, this is The Stranglers' 10th studio LP, a fact that will make those of us who remember their days before Clint Inspiral Carpet hijacked Dave Greenfield's keyboard sound, feel our age. It all worked out quits in the end, though, as the Inspirals included '96 Tears' in their set long before The Stranglers hit the charts with it.

Sadly, perhaps, it's by far the spunkiest moment on this occasionally flabby collection of pop, soft rock, downright weird and more typical Stranglers' fare. Confusingly the band's own ‘Too Many Teardrops' and 'Someone like You' come a little too close to the current hit for comfort.

'Man Of The Earth' kicks the superior side two off with a more vintage pop roll that betrays the band's cosier lyrical approach, 'Wife & Kids', 'Wicker Chair' etc. Similarly, JJ's 'Where I live' is real rock star relaxation stuff, almost XTC-ish in execution, though a great pop song for all that.

For the weird, check out the fuzzy-headed, almost Plastic Ono Band sounding 'Out Of My Mind' and the funeral march of 'In This Place' complete with inebriated, operatic vocal apparition. On '10' The Stranglers are beginning to show their vinyl age. A great sleeve and a couple of great songs cannot hide the fact that rather than 10, this collection only merits
•• 1/2 Andy Strickland



Smash Hits 21st March 1990

THE STRANGLERS: 10 (Epic)

"10" Is an odd name for an LP isn't it? Why "10"? Is it because there are ten rollicking rawk-a-go-go
tunes on the album? Possibly. Is it because this is the Stranglers' tenth so-called "studio" LP? More than likely. Weeeel ... If "96 Tears" was your kind of thang and drove you delirious with its understated irony
and finger-clicking beat (or something), then "10" will have you wiping away tears of happiness. If, however  you think The Stranglers' "sound" bears a disgraceful resemblance to hoary rock'n'roll stalwarts Status Quo then you know what to do don't you? Go and buy four copies of the Shakey single instead.
(1 ½ out of 10) (there's a guitar solo which is pretty funny)
Miranda Sawyer

'10' 31 Years Down The Road

 

Little did we know it then but on 5th March 1990 The Stranglers would release '10', the band's tenth studio album and this would be the last by the original line up. The album itself had a difficult birth. Its release was originally scheduled for the previous year, but the product as produced by Owen Morris was considered to be too thin and the band entrusted the task of giving it some additional punch to Roy Thomas Baker, a producer who had to date worked with most of the biggest names in rock. It was he who was responsible for the production on Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody', a song that didn't do so badly.

S.I.S. release notification

The album was preceded by the release of a new single, a cover of ? and the Mysterions 1966 garage classic '96 Tears'. Why this particular track I do not know. It may have been a idea that had been bounced around as part of The Purple Helmets' game plan discussions. Alternatively, it may just have been the case that many elements of the original song fell in quite nicely with the band's own musical modus operandi, the song being underpinned by psychedelic keys, bread and butter stuff for Dave Greenfield. Whist far from the sleazy sexual connotations of 'Peaches', the line 'And when the sun comes up, I'll be on top' may have carried a certain saucy postcard appeal for the band too.

In my opinion, the release of yet another cover to herald the album was a poor choice. The last new Stranglers material was 'Shakin' Like A Leaf', that had been released three years earlier in February 1987. This had been followed by the Kinks cover 'All Day And All Of The Night', followed by a reworking of '(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)' as 'Grip '89'. Perhaps this was an indication that all was not rosy in The Stranglers' camp.

The '10' release announcement (Sounds February 1990)

The thing that hit you first and foremost about the album was the sleeve artwork that featured the ten most prominent world leaders of the day (nine political and one religious). As clever and well executed as this idea was, when I looked at the sleeve both then and now, Mike Yarwood comes to mind, moreover it never was entirely clear to me how this parade of world leaders fitted in with the material on the album. As an aside can you imagine the furore that the site of Jet Black 'blacked up' as Joshua Nkomo would provoke were the album to be released today!

As mentioned earlier, the release of '10' was delayed in order to beef up the sound. In this respect I cannot take the band to task, big, over the top production was the thing in the late '80's so what could the band have done really other than to have followed suit in that respect, so I will concentrate on the material.



As was the case with the preceding two albums, 'Aural Sculpture' and 'Dreamtime', some of the track selections from the album sessions were baffling. Below par tracks made the cut whilst some of the strongest material was to be consigned to B-side status. In this regard how was it that such a strong track as 'Instead Of This' was dropped in favour of say 'Let's Celebrate'? Likewise for 'You', although it was always my understanding that this was a casualty from the 'Dreamtime' sessions, despite the fact that it appeared on the '10' reissue (that's one for a fan with a superior encyclopedic nerdy-knowledge to mine).

Generally, musically I feel that with '10' the band did their best to tap into the commercial sound that passed as popular in 1990, jangly guitars and 'house' style keyboards, which I don't think that they ever really pulled off. In fact, the Judge Jules 12" remix of 'The Sweet Smell of Success' is my low point from the Mark 1 era. The album has two very distinct feels to it, possibly due the different hands responsible for penning the songs. Song like 'Let's Celebrate', 'Man Of The Earth' and 'Sweet Smell of Success', up tempo and upbeat, contrast starkly with the more reflective, almost torch-like tracks such as 'In This Place' and 'Never To Look Back' (as well as the aforementioned non-album cut 'Instead Of This'). I think that this contrast paints a musical picture of two men now heading in different (and opposite) directions.


This parting of the ways that can be heard in the grooves of '10' mirrors the musical flavours of the bass player and guitarist's solo albums, 'Un Jour Parfait' and 'Wolf' respectively, both of which are pretty much contemporary with '10'.

Do I hate the album? No is the answer to that one. In my opinion it is the weakest that the four produced but it has its moments. The stand out track is 'Never To Look Back' and that by some considerable distance. 'Where I Live' is a good track and back in the day 'Someone Like You' was a favourite, welcome in the live set. 'Sweet Smell Of Success' looking back on the 'Yuppie' culture that existed in the UK in the mid to late '80's irritates me (as did the Yuppies themselves!).

Please feel free to share your own thoughts on Hugh's Last Stand.

Crass 'Rock On' Interview May 1981

 


In May 1981, Crass members Steve Ignorant and Penny Rimbaud gave a rare (for them) interview for Tommy Vance's 'Rock On' radio show. Here they discuss the Crass in general and the ideas of their then new album 'Penis Envy'.

On this last post on the anarcho theme I will leave the closing words to them.

Over to Steve and Penny....

FLAC: https://we.tl/t-CU5LLv5E60

01. Tommy Vance Introduction
02. The Gasman Cometh
03. Interview Pt. 1
04. Poison In A Pretty Pill
05. Interview Pt. 2
06. Where Next Columbus?
07. Interview Pt. 3
08. Big A Little A
09. Interview Pt. 4
10. Bata Motel

The Art of Crass

 


Music is a powerful medium with the capability of inspiring, provoking, challenging and changing the way that the people who engage with it.

Art is a powerful medium with the capability of inspiring, provoking, challenging and changing the way that the people who engage with it.

Combine the two and the result is more than just the sum of the two parts. The package is whole, a full blown assault on the aural and visual senses.

Some bands are lucky enough to have an artist within their circle who become unofficial, or even official members of the band, such is the importance of their particular contribution to the band's work. The Pistols had Jamie Reid, Buzzcocks had Malcolm Garrett and Linder, Dead Kennedy's had Winston Smith and Crass had Dave King and Gee Vaucher.

Whether these artists turned their hands to the design of logos, record sleeves or stage sets, in each case there work became inextricably linked to 'their' band.

Crass were a very visual band from the all black military stage wear to the printed banners that adorned every venue at which they played, all visual statements of the band's philosophy. The Crass serpent logo is arguably the most iconic band logos of all time, although I grant you that the Rolling Stones tongue is up there as well. Designed by Dave King, the intricate monochrome design is jam packed with meaning. The body of a serpent, or to be more specific, Ouroboros, a two headed creature of Egyptian origin that consumes itself. The fertility based symbolism of the ancient image was redefined to represent the symbols of power around which the serpent was coiled as well as a part of. The Christian cross, the swastika and the elements of the Union Jack, all symbols of immense power. Ultimately, the image of the serpent consuming itself is a representation of these powers destroying themselves.... a scenario that was high up on the Christmas list that was sent out annually from Dial House, Essex.

Dave King in front of his an in-progress version of his masterpiece.


As if Dave King's logo to beat all logos was not enough, the Crass armory additionally had the artistic talent of Gee Vaucher to ensure that Crass grabbed people's attention even without the music.


Her collage approach to artwork leant itself perfectly to the DIY punk ethic promoted by many in the punk scene. For Crass it was just perfect. Gee was a collaborator with Penny Rimbaud from the early'60's but found a real niche when Crass took off from the late 1970's.



Cover of CD release of 'Feeding of the 5000'

Crass were very astute with their visual presentation. The tendency to issue their records in folded sleeves that opened out into large posters meant that bedroom walls throughout the country bore the Crass anti-war message. The sleeve as poster also presented the perfect medium for Gee Vaucher's intricately detailed collage pieces.

The fold-out sleeve in fact became something of a hall mark of subsequent releases by bands that associated with the anarcho punk scene.

The artwork could be playful and humorous such as the reworking of a well known photo of the Pistols:


Which in the hands of Gee became:

Fold-out of the 'Bloody Revolutions' single (1980)

or even (although I am not sure whether this is attributable to Vaucher or not):


Her work had also occasionally cropped up in more mainstream media such as on this Daily Mirror front page reaction to the election of Trump as President of the United States.

Here is a short interview that the on-line music magazine conducted with Gee in October 2020 in which she discusses her artistic style that she applied to the original Crass albums as well as the recently released Crassical Collection reissues:






Saturday, 20 March 2021

Crass Colosseum Aberdare 11th July 1984

 

The circle is almost complete, since it was with Aberdare that this series of posts kicked off. For those who don't like the anarcho scene, hold on we are nearly there. 

The Crass flame burned very brightly, but it quickly burnt itself out! As Steve Ignorant was at pains to explain in his excellent autobiography 'The Rest Is Propaganda', when every gig is a benefit for one worthy cause or another touring comforts are one of the first things to go. Life on the road was a spartan and uncomfortable business. When not playing live there was the mail bag to be dealt with. The members of Crass answered all correspondence personally be it a simple request for a badge or information on dates or in-depth discussions on the band's political viewpoints. Increasingly members of the band became worn down by the pressures of just being Crass. Throw into that mix some serious interest from our Secret Services and the business of being in a band with your mates does tend to lose its sheen!

Crass at the Colosseum Aberdare
11th July 1984

Fittingly their final gig was a Miner's Benefit in the South wales town of Aberdare, where they played with Annie Anxiety and Flux of Pink Indians.


FLAC: https://we.tl/t-OuWLUiNuQd

Artwork: https://we.tl/t-sC8KfafE17

01. Big A Little A
02. Yes Sir, I Will
03. Reality Whitewash
04. Don't Get Caught
05. Mother Earth
06. Neo Fascist Stuff It
07. Smash The Mac
08. Bata Motel
09. Darling
10. Poison In A Pretty Pill
11. Sentiment
12. Nineteen Eighty Bore
13. Yes Sir, I Will
14. Do They Owe Us A Living
15. Banned From The Roxy
16. G’s Song
17. Shaved Women
18. Securicor

Friday, 19 March 2021

Guildford Civic Hall 19th March 1990

 


This was a local gig for me but it was the eve of my 21st birthday and there was to be a family celebration meal to mark this milestone. This was fine, even though it pained both Gunta and I to know that the band were on stage not 30 miles away. Our next fix was to be at Brixton on 21st.

This is a great mixing desk recording from the '10' Tour. Enjoy.

FLAC: https://we.tl/t-bzmLTOOVvi

Artwork: https://we.tl/t-f8YMiw8N18

01. Intro (Meninblack)
02. Shah Shah A Go Go
03. I Feel Like A Wog
04. Straighten Out
05. Shakin’ Like A Leaf
06. 96 Tears
07. Someone Like You
08. Sweet Smell Of Success
09. Always The Sun
10. Strange Little Girl
11. Peaches
12. Where I Live
13. School Mam
14. Let's Celebrate
15. Uptown
16. Tank
17. Was It You?
18. Down In The Sewer
19. Nuclear Device
20. Duchess
21. No More Heroes
22. (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)
23. All Day And All Of The Night
24. Punch And Judy

Beadles About Crass Style No. 2 - Ronnie and Maggie's Pillow Talk (Sounds 28th January 1984)

 


CRASS have been uncovered as the perpetrators of a bogus tape of a telephone 'conversation' between Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.

The tape was originally circulated last summer before the General Election and was claimed to be a recording of a crossed line between the two leaders. Needless to say it is not complimentary to either statesperson.

During the course of the 'conversation' Thatcher replies to Reagan's question about the Belgrano by saying: "Argentina was the invader. Force had to be used now, punishing them as quickly as possible.

And later in a discussion about nuclear strategy Reagan says: "If there is any conflict we shall fire missiles at our allies to see to it that the Soviet Union stays within its borders."

Most newspapers recognised the tape as a fake but the Sunday Times attributed it to KGB propaganda a couple of weeks ago and last Sunday's Observer took considerable delight in tracking the tape back to Crass' HQ in Essex.

Invoking the spirit of one of Reagan's predecessors, George Washington, they explained that the tape had been put together from TV and radio broadcasts overdubbed by telephone noises.

They justified their actions by saying: "We wanted to precipitate a debate on the Falklands and nuclear weapons to damage Mrs Thatcher's position in the election. We also did it because of the appalling way Tam Dalyll (almost the only MP to raise any awkward questions over the Falklands affair) was treated over the Belgrano debate in the House Of Commons.

"We believe that although the tape is a hoax what is said in it is in effect true. We were amused and amazed that the tape had been attributed to the KGB."




Beadles About Crass Style No. 1 - In Sickness and in Health (Sounds 13th June 1981)

 

In the summer of Royal Wedding madness (Charles and Diana, for the younger readers) Crass decided to have a bit of fun, after all fairly tale romance pervaded the very air of Albion in the summer of '81, a charming Prince, a demure princess to be.... what could possibly go wrong?

CRASS MAKE BID FOR NEW ROMANTIC CREDIBILITY SCOOP!: Proving that even recluses have a sense of humour (however devious), Epping Foresters Crass hatched a scheme whereby, just for a laugh, they should approach several romance magazines in the IPC empire to see whether any of them would be interested in putting out a flexi disc called 'Marriage', featuring the talents of young ' American ' songstress Joy de Vivre (sic).

The story goes that Loving magazine, having a bridal issue coming up, took up the offer and placed an ad in the May 30 issue, with Crass partially disguised as C.R .A .S.S. The ad (see above) featured the label of the flexidisc and a blurb written by Loving.

The magazine, not surprisingly, failed to notice the clues to their identity - Creative Recording And Sound Services (CRASS) , and 'A Penny Zenvy production' . 

They approved of the song - sung by Joy in an American accent - and originally wanted to include one disc free with every issue, but CRASS told Loving to wait till orders came in, then they'd supply further discs.

Several hundred orders had been received when the Daily Star rang Loving to inform them that Crass were behind the whole shebang. How the pioneering Star found out is a mythtery .... Loving then rang

C.R.A.S.S ….

LOVING: "Is this flexidisc to be released on an album? "

CRASS: "Yes!"

LOVING: "Are you anything to do with Crass? "

CRASS: " Yes! "

LOVING: "Is the name of the album what I think it is? ('Penis Envy') "

CRASS: "Yes I'm afraid it is!"

Loving groans in horror.

The rogue track is indeed from the forthcoming Crass elpee 'Penis Envy' . Quite why Loving mag approved of the song is unclear – perhaps the tongue-in-creek attack on marriage failed to register. But it's in keeping with the rest of the album, a more feminist statement than previous Crass attacks, with Joy and Eve Libertine providing all the vocals.

They've avoided a major disaster, but Loving are still worried that Crass, who are in control of sending out the flexis to their readers, might choose to despatch Crass propaganda with them. The band deny this and claim only to be sending out the discs - for which they paid for pressing and printing of labels ...

Jaws contacted the Editor of Loving magazine, who had this to say about the sorry affair: "We took the disc from Southern Studios in good faith . As far as we're concerned, the words of the of the song are not acceptable to our readers, but we were misled. We consider this sharp practice. It was a pathetic joke. We feel sorry for them if this is the only way that they can get publicity.”

Loving will not be taking legal action. Crass obviously had a good laugh.



 

Thursday, 18 March 2021

Crass Article (Sounds 20th June 1981)

So, OK it took a little more than a week but I conclude in the next 24 hours something of an anarcho run of posts with some stuff on the main event.... CRASS. Love hem or loathe then in the wider scope of the punk movement they proved to be every bit as critical as the Pistols or The Clah.


So here we are queued up outside the 100 Club, a long line of black leather sprinkled with colour observed with curiosity and feigned amusement by the inhabitants of passing traffic.
Here we are a mass of multi-coloured hair twisted into spikes with liquid soap or Vaseline, leather jackets spray painted or Humbrol enameled, many with great artistry, utilizing the names of the groups that support the cause that many have written off as being dead.

Groups such as ‘The Damned’, ‘Theatre of Hate’, ‘The Exploited’, ‘Killing Joke’ and of course ‘Crass’.
The Crass emblem which is at one stroke both a symbol of a group identity and more importantly a declaration incorporating anarchy and peace has been stenciled out and stamped on to that favourite jacket with obvious loving devotion.

The queue moves forward a little, the prospect of witnessing Crass in action grows a little stronger. 
Around the corner an orange transit van loaded with police bumps along into Oxford Street on patrol, inside the security of their van they were forcing back stifled, nervous laughter and contemptuous disgust, observing the line as a potential threat. 

In front of me a pudgy faced Japanese girl is interviewing with caution, select queue people while her male partner is candidly taking photographic studies of spike topped ‘curiosities’ with an almost guilty enthusiasm.

The Japanese girl has found a willing interviewee and is plying him with questions instructing him to talk into the slimline cassette recorder she has clutched in one hand.

“Do you like other groups other than Crass?”

“Uhh, yeah sure.”

“Do you like reggae and dub?”

“UHHHH.”

“Have you come here just to see Crass?”

“Well, yeah of course.”

“Ahhh that’s very good, do you believe in anarchy?”

Now there’s a question to ponder on as the queue slowly snakes its way to the entrance of the 100 Club.
The vibrations of loud music could be heard coming through the pavement below us.

Then from the front of the queue came the cry that many of the throng were dreading to hear, “ALL THOSE WITH TICKETS TO THE LEFT, THE REST OF YOU CAN GO HOME IT’S SOLD OUT.”
The expected friction mounted and subsided, those who held tickets scampered up to the entrance while others not so fortunate sauntered away almost amiably, although certain angered fans apparently felt it necessary to pay for their disappointment by smashing in shop windows situated in Wardour Street causing some grief to the owners.

I had now managed to get to the pay desk and was greeted by the demure form of Annie Anxiety (more of whom will be told later) holding a white emulsion painted mask and long ashed cigarette. " It's okay he's a friend of ours" she told the club owner as I explained my story to gain admission.

I finally made my way down the flight of stairs and into the tightly packed surroundings of the club bedecked with huge banners of the Crass symbol and the backdrop inscribed with the motif of The Poison Girls.

Banked on either side of the stage are video monitors which flicker an occasional snowstorm pattern into the audience and a film screen, hanging in space.

I had, while waiting in the queue outside, missed the main film attraction of the evening, a twenty-five minute extravaganza of film collage by one Nick Duffield who does much of the film work for the Crass organisation.

On stage a group called Flux Of Pink Indians are winding out the last few sweat drenched minutes of their set to full enthusiastic response from those in attendance.

Flux Of Pink Indians used to be called The Epileptics and have a single out under that name, a new single 'Neu Smell' is to be issued shortly by Crass records using their new name.

Another new name to many takes the stage, the afore-mentioned Annie Anxiety, carefully pulling on her own personal little backdrop in front of which she will perform. The symbol of Annie's black curtain, a skull and flowers set within a circle came, I am told later, from a book of Japanese house signs.

With this simple little prop Annie shrieks out her heartfelt message over a taped backing track of percussion assault, the videos snow scene has gelled together and come into sharp focus displaying the image of Annie??? or perhaps her doppelganger stroking a microphone.

Annie's performance was, I found myself feeling, gloriously fulfilling, its simplicity in execution was almost uplifting.

She returns later in the evening just before Crass come on to do another song which surges into a stop start vocal routine hung loosely over a ballroom dancing backbeat, I admit to failing to understand  word that was being sung on stage but I enjoyed it thoroughly.

A record from Annie Anxiety entitled 'Barbed Wire Halo ' also to be released on the Crass label should go some way to clear up this minor detraction however.



The evening moves into phase three of the big build up that will eventually erupt with the emergence of Crass as The Poison Girls take to the stage, again heralded by a personal banner draped behind them.

What has impressed me most of all about the evening 's proceedings has been the organisation of the entire event, the way each performance merges into the next leaving no tiresome time-filling gaps to get bored in between. There 's no work here for the devil to put into idle hands so to speak.
 
The News Of The World shock horror expose was conspicuous only in its absence this night, no blood, no vomit, no overflowing toilets and the merest speck of saliva was all that was in evidence on this particular ocasion.

The actual sound is another all important factor, instead of the expected blitzkrieg of aural assault that tends to lead up to one big headache, the sound is mixed with care keeping it loud and powerful but not to the extent where it becomes uncomfortable.

The Poison Girls sound is totally murk free and the songs, sung with an earthy, broken texture to them by singer/guitarist Vi Subversa are almost corrosive in the way they are lashed out as the system, its bombs and greed are vigorously attacked and sprayed with The Poison Girls particular brand of venom.

Before their live attack a film by Nick Duffield was shown called 'Total Product' made with The Poison Girls and using a song called 'Statement' originally given away as a flexi disc item with their album
'Chappaquiddick Bridge '.

The film's images of consumer gluttony mixed with scenes of death camp, jewburning chimneys and the like may sound in cold print as being fatally predictable but Duffield's choice of imagery in both sections is coldly intelligent thus creating the chosen effect that both film and soundtrack strive to achieve.

Greatly impressed thus far I decided to mingle and take in my surroundings, the crowd heave towards the bar a mixture of punks, skins with monogrammed throat tattoos plus the occasional beer swollen
hippy and astonishingly the now legendary Gene October who reeled and wittered in loud tones about the merits of 'Freemans Beer' before being sucked again into the crowd.

I manage to strike up a conversation with two loyal Crass fans called Pete Test-tube and Gray but owing to the babble of the surroundings we sound like a replica of the interview conducted by the Japanese
correspondent I had overheard in the queue.

Both Pete and Gray are firm believers in the whole Crass ethic a " they play straight with us so we play straight with them " moral is strictly observed. The point, "which other groups would put on as good a show and only charge you a quid?" is put before me, I can only nod in weak agreement.

Pete 's favourite Crass song is 'Band From The Roxy ', it says a lot about the band's attitude to things, about not selling out, about self respect and respect for the people around you, I am told.

"It was the first song I ever heard that really hit me", admits Pete.

Gray is equally enthusiastic even though his bootlaces, marker pen, dog collar and nearly even his chewing gun were taken into custody.

Crass time ticks several paces further, everything 's set to go up real soon. At the invitation of Crass, the stage is momentarily taken over by a young punkette poet with a Mephistopheles-type hair style that brings to mind the creature that appeared in the film 'Night Of The Demon' , her head pulled tightly into a nest of quills.

Alas the PA offers little assistance in communicating her words to the audience but eventually the spirit and the image she projects is rewarded by scattered applause .


Crass strike up, ignoring any phoney build up or 'tonight's main attraction' psyche, they just take their places and get on with it. The audience blasts into full life as if they have found new energy as Steve
Ignorant thrusts the mike and stand into the belly of the crowd like a lance. The rest of Crass churn out sharp metallic rhythm like an amplified lathe.

Already Steve Ignorant's voice is shot to pieces slowly turning into the anguished cry of a wounded animal but heightening in intensity with every throat cracking twist he can pile on to it. Lead vocal chores are shared out equally between Steve Ignorant and Eve Libertine with the occasional addition of Joy De Vivre who accompanies Eve on songs from the new, highly acclaimed 'Penis Envy ' album.

For me, these songs work best of all, 'Systematic Death', 'Poison In A Pretty Pill’, 'Berketex Bribe' and 'Where Next Columbus' have a musical edge over the material performed from the 'Stations Of The Crass ', and 'Feeding Of The 5,000' projects.

It's a sign that Crass are beginning to bloom, steadily adopting a new musical alternative to getting the message across rather than that of just heavily-meshed punk thrashing (which they still do in case you're wondering), just seeing them in action made much more sense. The musical side is superbly and disturbingly illustrated with a graphic bombardment of cutting room floor, film montage bludgeoned into your senses with a cruel yet perceptive wit. A butcher assists a triple decker chinned 'modern ' mother in the choosing of meat products screened in freeze-frame slow motion to accompany one of the songs from 'Penis Envy '.

A taste of the full-blown horror of nuclear war hell is provided with footage showing the treating of victims during the aftermath of the sickening atrocities committed at Nagasaki and Hiroshima, it's deathly cold soundtrack is that of 'Nagasaki Nightmare ' announced with the cry of "200,000 people
were killed in Nagaskai, now that 's what I call OBSCENE" from B A Nana as he is now titled, his eyes bristling with both rage and horror at the thought of it all.
 
Equally chilling is the tape recorded selection of 'countdown' talk overs calmly and mechanically played out and lacking any feeling.

All these effects are fitted together to form a terrifying portrait of what could happen tomorrow should the right madman get it into his head that today 's the day.

The crowd is crowing out, demanding to be fed. The result is a searing power charge version of 'So What' with Steve Ignorant again, by now looking as lean and wide eyed as a rabid hyena.

The fans behind me are echoing the songs lyric straight from the heart, passionately mesmerised. A final implosion of video blare and it's all over, the heat dies down, the message, for now, is over.

Afterwards, in the remains of that evening 's event I talked to Andy (B A Nana), rhythm guitarist of Crass who is handing out badges and assorted material connected to the doings of the group.

Two of the audience approach him and ask about the possibility of obtaining one of the 'CRASS ANTI WAR' banners about to be neatly folded away.

"You can easily make another' one" one of them declares, he is told that the banners are needed for the next date on the tour and that they take a lot of time to individually produce, why doesn 't he make one for himself?

The fan explains that he doesn 't know how and a short lesson in DIY silk screen technique is provided acting as a form of compensation.
 
The two of them bustle off eventually, grinning, their heads already filling with ideas.

I hang around to socialise and sip après gig cups of tea, Crass have turned the little canteen to the side of the club into a veritable cup of tea factory.

The best drink of the day never tasted so. good. It felt great to be alive.

Thursday, 11 March 2021

The Subhumans Interview (Sounds 22nd May 1982)

 Reasons for Persistence

The Subhumans (l-r: Bruce, Dick, Trotsky and Grant) 1982.

Sounds 22nd May 1982

We played in Bristol, right and there were all these so-called hard-core punks roaming around, bloody ten foot mohicans and more studs than a bloody horsefarm, and they're all going, 'Are you the Subhumans? Are you the• Subhumans?' Yes we are. 'You CAN'T be!' "

Dick is the Subhumans' singer, and like the rest of the band he isn't quite your average Sun reader's idea of a Punk Rocker …

Guitarist Bruce and bassist Grant have only about five studs between them, while Trotsky the drummer has long hair, a denim jacket with a Led Zeppelin patch sewn on the back, and ... flares. The singer's gear is pretty punk rock in itself, but the hair, it kind of droops, and there's this strange long bit that hangs over his face like a wet sock, and well ...

Do you think the punks express such disbelief because you wear glasses, Dick?

"It's because I wear glasses, because Trotsky's got long hair, because Bruce has curly hair, because Grant's got that hair… They think if you don't look like a hard-core punk you can't be a hard-core punk
band."

Rising triumphantly out of the ashes of the Stupid Humans, Audio Torture and the Mental came The Subhumans. The current line up has been together since June 1981.

The Subhumans are becoming very popular. They've released two EPs on Flux Of Pink Indians' Spider Leg label - 'Demolition War' and, more recently, 'Reason For Existence', which at this very moment is steadily climbing the indie pop charts.

They are not an ordinary punk rock group. The music available here is special. Deadly, shimmering, growling guitar, teasing, stunning musical dodges and chases, their name is deceptive. Sometimes the
Subhumans stray into the more familiar territories of punk, pushing the four chord bashes too far, for too long, but this is unusual. On most occasions when they opt for thrash, they'll weave and twist around that basic framework, add ever so subtle, mesmerising little sounds, decorate and build upon their song, and come up with something new, something fresh, and something exciting .
Yet it's still punk - Subhumans punk . . .

Are you aware of your growing reputation and street credibility? ..... " No, tell us about it!"

Dick: " Well, I'm getting a lot of letters, because I put my address on the back of the first EP thinking, oh great, I'II .get some letters for once! Now I can't stop them, and I'm months behind in answering them. A lot of people must think we're a bunch of c***s, but I do eventually get 'round to answering them, I mean l 'must have had 300 this year."

What' sort of letters do you get? 

"Most of them are just three lines saying, please send me some info, thought the EP was great. You get the occasional people who write long letters, and out of those there's the ones who tell you they're doing fanzines, and those that make it worth it really, the ones who offer constructive criticism ."

What's the reaction been to ‘Human Error', the fiery reggae based number on 'Demolition War'?

Bruce: "We've only had one person who said they didn't like it. We were a bit dubious to put that on the first EP, or to put it anywhere, because it's slower. We thought it would be best to put it on the first EP because if we put it on the second it'd look as though we were copping out."

Reggae was very cool with punks at one time.
 
Dick: "Yeah. I don't like it myself, this so called-real reggae bores me to tears, the stuff John Peel plays all the time. "

Bruce: "I like reggae a lot."


How did the connection with Flux come about?

Dick: " Well ,'when they were starting up Spider Leg , they heard our three tracks on the 'New, Criminals' compilation tape, and they thought we were good enough to be put on a record.

" First of all we intended to record 'Demolition War' on a cassette recorder and make it into an EP, but they said they'd pay the money back if we went into a studio, so we did that instead."

You've got strong views about keeping prices low, haven't you?

Dick: "Yeah, we intended to do an EP with Small Wonder, but just at the last moment I said can you put it out for 85p? They said no way, it has to be £1 .05, which isn't so much their fault, because they've got a lot more overheads to see to than a small, totally independent company like Spider Leg."

The Subhumans are different. They sing of things most punk bands wouldn't even consider
singing about, like ... Peroxide girl with a false ID/Lost and lonely she can't see/ Peroxide hair and burnt out  eyes/ Blinded by so many lies … ' Peroxide'.

Are you slagging off peroxide?

Dick: "Not at all. No, it's just a made-up fantasy type story about this girl who dyes her hair and it goes wrong. Instead of going on her hair it goes on her face and she f** *s herself up. "

But the majority of punk bands wouldn't dream of writing something like that...

"Not nowadays, no. Because it's not considered hip at all. It's just a fun number, we've got to have some fun numbers."

Bruce : " I worked it out the other day. We've got 27 serious numbers and 20 fantasy numbers."

Is 'Cancer' a fantasy number?

Smile - it's impossible / I – I feel disposable / You laugh and it f"'**s me up/ Fag? Has he woken up? - 'Cancer'.

I thought it was an antismoking song, but as you all smoke it obviously isn't.

Dick: "No, it's ... imagine the situation where this bloke who's got cancer is sitting, down at work in his lunch break with his mates, and he's feeling depressed because he knows he's got cancer, and there's
these blokes trying to cheer him up by giving him fags. People think that fags actually cheer you up and, er, more so than, ..em .. . "

Bruce: " Sweets."

Dick; "It's like ' Drugs Of Youth', it's just a statement. It's not pro-drugs or anti- drugs .. . "

But how do you feel when you see punks sniffing glue?

Dick: "I don't like glue".

Bruce: "We don't agree with glue."

Do you deliberately try to bring something fresh to the confines of punk?

Dick: " No, you can't do it deliberately. You just come up with what you do, and it either works or it doesn't work …”

Bruce: “We try to keep the music tight, and interesting…. We’ve got a lot of bash-bash stuff, but we also put lots of little interesting bits in it.”

Grant: “Bash-bash with a difference….”

In a musical area that grows simultaneously larger and more unexciting all the time, the individuality,
sparkle and strength of the Subhumans is a rarely experienced treat. Does the sheer predictability of most of today's punk groups depress them?

Bruce: "Oh the whole scene depresses me actually, musically it depresses me. Because they all say they don’t want anything to do with politics …"

Dick: “Yeah, that is copping out if You ask me."

Grant: "What's wrong with it?"

Dick: "Well . . . it's just the way they stress it. I mean certain bands, I've read in fanzines how they say all these bands who write about politics are idiots, that sort of crap."

Somebody once described you affectionately as 'hippypunks'.

Grant: "I can't see anything wrong in that."

Bruce: "Hippies are passive people, aren't they? Nice people hippies, always got on with them."

Along with the refreshingly sensible anti-war / bomb lyrics printed on the sleeve of 'Demolition 'War', there is a long complicated and utterly incomprehensible mini-essay. What are they getting at? Dick explains it to me ...

"Ah yes, I remember writing this."

Surely it could have been made a lot clearer.

"Well of course it could have been made clearer, it's just that I love writing long complicated sentences like that!" (Uproar).

But seriously, do you think any of your fans understand it? I didn't.

Bruce: "I didn't either. He's got an 'A' level in English, the bastard. He knows all these long words we don't understand."

Dick, do you ever worry that like some bands get labelled 'Crass-band' you'll find yourselves labelled a  ‘Flux-band'? " Well yeah, quite a few people have lumped us in with Flux and Crass . I'm not particularly worried about that, because both bands are good. I mean it's better than being called an Oi band or something like that, which obviously we ain't ... I think we're a 'Subhumans-band' .

Unpredictable, unpretentious, thrilling and new. The singer is perfectly correct.

Barriers will be broken.



The Subhumans - A Warminster Warning

 

Forgive me an indulgence. The Subhumans are by far my favourite band that carried an association with anarcho-scene. Somewhat out on a limb down in Wiltshire here was a band that approached the music with an element of humour that was never particularly apparent with some of the other bands. 

Led by the irrepressible vocalist Dick Lucas, The Subhumans were given their first proper crack at recording with releases of Flux of Pink Indians' label 'Spiderleg' which resulted in two brilliant E.P.s, 'Demolition War' and 'Reasons for Existence' and the debut album 'The Day The Country Died', one of the finest albums of that punk genre.

The band never conformed to the spiky topped fashion that many of the other bands (and fans alike) adopted. Ultimately this worked to their advantage as image never tied them down to a particular style. If there is one thing to say about The Subhumans it is that they were very musically competent to the extent that their 1984 album 'From The Cradle to the Grave' feature the title track which at 16 minutes 53 seconds took up the whole of the second side of the album..... this was dangerous turf.... this was prog turf. 


Upon the demise of The Subhumans, Dick formed Culture Shock and thereafter Citizen Fish that kept him occupied for the next 20 years or so. Periodically, The Subhumans regrouped and at the time of writing all three bands co-exist with Dick being the lynch pin.

In Dick Lucas and the bands that he has fronted over the last 40 years I don't think that any other person has carried the original DIY ethic of Crass so consistently and so effectively.