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, 17 September 2022

More Punk And New Wave Compiled By Annie Nightingale

 


This compilation DVD needs no further introduction other than to say that it is a perfect reminder of how great and diverse music was at that time.

DVD disc image: https://we.tl/t-DTjP2zkQHd

Artwork: https://we.tl/t-zfqHd5H5Le



Punk And New Wave With Annie Nightingale

 


This is the first of two BBC 4 produced compilations featuring long standing Radio 1 DJ Annie Nightingale. In the first she showcases her favourite and most memorable moments from The Old Grey Whistle Test program. She took over as anchor of the long running music show in 1978. A mainstay of BBC televisions music programming throughout the decade, the show was essential viewing for the serious student of rock! With 'Whispering' Bob Harris at the helm, the OGWT took itself very seriously indeed and it earned its reputation of being pompous and staid at the same time. 

Whatever the reason for the shake up, Annie Nightingale's arrival spelled great change for the Test. She was determined that under her stewardship the show would be a more realistic reflection of what was now occurring on the musical front in the UK and in 1978 that meant punk and new wave!

The program was turned on its head although initially it was not known whether the new bands would consent to appear on a show so closely associated with the dinosaur bands that punk looked to make extinct. Nevertheless, appear they did, the result being for the next five years or so the Old Grey Whistle Test gave us some of the finest and most memorable footage of many of 'our' bands in their prime.

DVD disc image: https://we.tl/t-4d5unwDLCX

Artwork: https://we.tl/t-HrqGjhME8a

Monday, 12 September 2022

Up All Night With The Stranglers - New Musical Express 27th October 1979

Whilst scanning some old copies of NME I was interested to read the piece reproduced below. On one hand this is all about the forthcoming release of the Christmas E.P. but perhaps more interesting is the parallel announcement of plans for the band hosting a Stranglers' related all-nighter to be hosted in London over the Christmas period. Rumoured support was Devo (Mark Mothersbaugh had recently collaborated with Hugh and Robert Williams on the 'Nosferatu' album).

Clearly, the event did not materialise but does anyone on here have anymore information about these plans and their fate?



Sunday, 11 September 2022

'Blood, Sweat, Leather And Tears' Adam and the Antz 1977-1980 Part 1 by Johna Johnson and Salisbury Technical College September 1978

 


Another post on a recently read book, once again music related so not a complete indulgence.

As pointed out in the preface by the author, the story of Adam and the Ants is really the story of two bands. Like me, the author expresses frustration at the fact that to state that you were a fan of Adam and the Ants would instantly invite 'Dandy Highwaymen' and 'Prince Charming' taunts, but it wasn't always like that, far from it! The Ants of Matthew Ashman, Dave Barbe, Andy Warren and Adam, along with various other early ants that served, were a different proposition altogether from the chart friendly pop act that rubbed shoulders with royalty. The Ants of 1977 to 1979 were a cult band who drew around them a hardcore band of young fans who followed the band to whichever run down clubs and colleges they played at. 

The bands focus on sadomasochism, bondage and the like ('Whip In My Valise', 'Rubber Room', 'Beat My Guest', 'Bathroom Function' etc etc) coupled with songs touching on fascist themes, albeit in a tongue in cheek manner ('Nietzsche Baby', 'Deutscher Girls', 'Il Duce'....) did little to endear the band to the all important British music press. So in this most interesting period of the band's existence they did not get the media attention that made many of their contemporaries.

What is notable about the early Ants is just how prolific they were. Whilst official releases were slow in coming (first single 'Young Parisians' was released in October 1978 whist their first studio album, 'Dirk Wears White Sox', only saw the light of day in November 1979) the band produced a veritable treasure trove of material in demo form, songs that made up their live sets in 1977 and 1978.

Now I love 'Dirk Wears White Sox'. It is quirky, highly original and very stylish and yet much of the demo material was even better. As I have mentioned on this site before, Adam recorded some of these early songs with Marco and they became B-sides to many of the big hits that came a little later. But how I would live to hear proper, fully fledged versions of these songs as recorded by the original band!

Many years ago and for a period of a few months I used to cross paths with Tony Barber (then of Buzzcocks) in Camden. He recorded yet another permutation of the demos for me and we discussed the Ants. He said that any outing to see the band, especially outside of London, always had the potential for violence. This observation is borne out in Johna's book. Written in the style of a novel, it focusses on the early Ants as viewed through the eyes of the small yet devoted fanbase. The euphoria, danger and overall sense of belonging to a tribe inextricably linked to one band jumps off the page and into the imagination of the reader.

Individual gigs are described in detail. The author clearly also has access to the 45 year old recordings of these gigs as the set lists are accurately described in the narrative.

Sadly, whilst this era of the band is quite well represented in bootleg form, not all of the gigs described in the book have survived in audio form, if ever they were recorded in the first place (probably not). I can however, correlate some of them. One of those is an eventful evening spent in Salisbury Technical College on 21st September 1978. As was usual fans of the band converged on the Wiltshire city for the gig, but tonight in fewer numbers that usual it seems. Unfortunately for this travelling contingent, the Ants appearance coincided with a biker's rally. The potential for trouble, high at the best of times, looked like an inevitability on this evening... and so it was. Bikers and local anti-punk thugs gained access to to the hall and started picking off the outnumbered fans. 

Listening back to the gig today, I was wondering whether any reference  to the situation would be made from the stage, but it seems not. The recoding sounds ok when you consider i) its age and ii) the circumstances under which it was recorded.

Trouble continued after the band left the stage. What followed sounds like a mini Dunkirk operation. As drunken bikers patrolled the area around the college looking for hapless punks to beat, fans were piled into the band's transit and the van carrying the PA and a getaway for many was pulled off . Other gaggles of fans ran the gauntlet upon leaving the venue including Johna and his mates who faced a 30 minute wait for an AA man to rescue their broken down hire car from the car park ahead of a long tow back to Bradford.

So here is the gig. The artwork states the 22nd of September but what the hell! A memorable gig for all the wrong reasons. Johna states that this is the only time that the band played 'Song for Ruth Ellis' live.




01. Plastic Surgery
02. Bathroom Function
03. Il Duce
04. Physical (You’re So)
05. Weekend Swingers
06. Song For Ruth Ellis
07. Cleopatra
08. B-Side Baby
09. Friends
10. Never Trust A Man (With Egg On His Face)
11. Catholic Day
12. Deutscher Girls
13. Lady
14. Puerto Rican
15. Fall In

The Lemon Tree Aberdeen 20th September 2006

 


With the release of the deluxe edition of Suite XVI almost upon us now seems to be as good a time as any to offer up a recording from that tour back in 2006.

For me personally, this was a great time for the band. Unshackled from the internal wranglings that seemingly dogged the band in the latter days of the Paul Roberts' era the revamped four-piece approached the gigs on this tour like they were their last. To anyone in the audience the pleasure that the renewed four piece dynamic gave JJ, Jet, Dave and Baz was palpable. JJ's willingness to jump back on the mike after several years of abstinence was an undoubled highlight. Opening a set with the primal roar of '5 Minutes' is always gonna be a winner! It was clear that the good times were back. The new material from Suite XVI slotted very well into the set, which with the exceptions of 'Norfolk Coast', 'Lost Control' and material from the new album had been purged such that there was not a trace of the recently departed singer. Of the new songs most notable were 'Spectre Of Love', the eyebrow-raising 'Unbroken' and the majestic tale of survival against the odds, 'Relentless', a song surely up there with the best of the Mk I material.

FLAC: https://we.tl/t-EZK9dNMtiP

Artwork: https://we.tl/t-br1CBgWypU

01. Intro
02. 5 Minutes
03. Norfolk Coast
04. Spectre Of Love
05. Nice N’ Sleazy
06. Unbroken
07. Death & Night & Blood
08. Peaches
09. Always The Sun
10. Golden Brown
11. I Hate You
12. Summat Outanowt
13. Walk On By
14. Relentless
15. Threatened
16. Never To Look Back
17. All Day & All Of The Night
18. Lost Control
19. Thrown Away
20. Duchess
21. London Lady

01. Burning Up Time
02. (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)
03. Encore Break
04. No More Heroes

Hugh Cornwell Watermans Arts Centre Brentford 26th January 1996

 


Many thanks to yesican for this mixing desk recording of this relatively early solo gig. It's a significant upgrade from the version that I have.

MP3 (as received): https://we.tl/t-Ogyxo8dxHT

Artwork: https://we.tl/t-k8py21ngFr

01. Everybody
02. Not Hungry Enough
03. Five Miles High
04. Strange Little Girl
05. Snapper
06. Venus In Furs
07. I Can't Handle It
08. Story Of He And She
09. Touch Touch
10. Jesus Will Weep
11. Spanish Castle Magic
12. Lady In Mind
13. Endless Days Endless Nights
14. Golden Brown
15. Cold Turkey
16. Long Dead Train

999 Empress Ballroom Blackpool 6th August 2022

 

Whilst on an RAR theme, another stalwart supporter of the cause was 999. I was rather surprised when watching the 'White Riot' documentary about the history of the movement that 999 featured more prominently than other bands more readily associated with RAR activities, The Ruts being a good example. That however does not detract from 999's involvement.

Nick Cash, was then as now (I believe) is a resident of Brixton in South London, an area in which racial tensions have run high for decades, most notably in the '70's and '80's. Those tensions came to ahead in April 1981 when rioting broke out in Brixton. The government of the day's response was to order an enquiry as to the causes of the disorder. When the Scarman Report was published in November of the same year, it was highly critical of policing methods, especially of the application of the SUS law ('SUS' coming from 'Suspected person') which conferred upon the police the powers to stop and search individuals if suspected of being in breach of Section 4 of the Vagrancy Act of 1824. Figures show that individuals subjected to such searches were hugely disproportionate with a high number of young, black males being stopped with a regularity that effectively equated to harassment. This contentious piece of legislation was immortalised in the classic 'SUS' by The Ruts.

Anyway that's the SUS law in a nutshell, here's 999! Thanks Peter for the recording!

999
Empress Ballroom, Blackpool
6th August 2022

FLAC: https://we.tl/t-J6CKBRtMln

Artwork: https://we.tl/t-dH7FByXsf9

01. Intro
02. Arturo's Announcement
03. Inside Out
04. Shoot
05. Hit Me
06. Feelin' Alright With The Crew
07. My Dad Trashed My Submarine
08. Boys In The Gang
09. Biggest Prize In Sport
10. Don't Wanna Know
11. Let's Face It
12. Emergency
13. Nasty Nasty
14. Homicide
15. I'm Alive


Monday, 5 September 2022

Tom Robinson Band R Fest Blackpool 7th August 2022

 


That last RAR related post leads quite nicely into this one.

Sadly, I missed Tom Robinson at Rebellion. I last saw him in 2019 in Skegness where it was announced that a special 70th birthday party was in the offing for the great man. It's still planned I  believe but in the meantime Tom has turned 72.... bloody COVID eh?

I am no Tom Robinson/TRB aficionado, I have the 'War Baby' single and that's about it apart from a couple of tracks on punk compilations and yet when I look at and more to the point listen to this set there is so much familiar material in there.

Musically, TRB sat somewhere between the earlier pub rock and punk. However, attitude-wise few bands out punked TRB! Activists through and through, TRB were on the front line from the beginning on issues from racism and the rise in fascism to gay rights. As part of RAR, the Tom Robinson Band did much to establish the model that fused music with protest as a potent weapon against the far right in Britain.

So here's TRB in 2022, still angry and with something to say...

FLAC: https://we.tl/t-bzH3ZPNkDT

Sleeve: https://we.tl/t-UDU2CFr4Pf

01. Intro
02. Bully For You
03. Listen To The Radio (Atmospherics)
04. Grey Cortina
05. Martin
06. The Mighty Sword Of Justice
07. Too Good To Be True
08. War Baby
09. Thin Green Line (With TV Smith)
10. Glad To Be Gay
11. 2-4-6-8 Motorway
12. Up Against The Wall
13. Power In The Darkness

Many thanks to Peter for sharing his recording!



Babylon's Burning: Music, Subcultures and Anti-Fascism in Britain 1958-2020 by Rick Blackman

 


I don't usually go in for the business of reviewing books on the Aural Sculptors site but I stumbled across this book in Piccadilly the other day that is so aligned to by point of view that I thought that I would bring it to the attention of others who may wish to read it too.

For anyone interested in the utilization of popular music in the never ending fight against the far right in the UK, 'Babylon's Burning' is an essential read, a perfect accompaniment to 'Walls Come Tumbling Down' (a history of Rock Against Racism, Two-Tone and Red Wedge'). 'Babylon's Burning' takes the latter book's historical narrative a stage further back, to the 1950's at a time when immigration numbers were increasing as West Indians responded to the then Government's request to come to the UK to work in the struggling service industries. At that time Teddy Boy violence in the Notting Hill area of London prompted the creation of 'The Stars Campaign for Inter-racial Friendship', a collective of artists, predominantly from the UK jazz scene, including husband and wife, Johnny Dankworth and Cleo Laine along with Humphrey Littleton. Whilst the pioneering efforts of SCIF were on a relatively small scale they did achieve a few notable successes, a high profile feature on the BBC's highly respected and widely viewed current affairs program 'Panorama', and articles in their newsletter from two of the biggest music stars of the day, Frank Sinatra and Paul Robeson. Sinatra took a significant career risk in  being so vocal about the need for racial tolerance. America at that time was highly segregated along racial lines and the Civil Rights struggle was still ahead of them. SCIF established the 'Harmony Club', a social centre, in Notting Hill, just a few doors down from the offices of the far-right organisation, 'The White Defence League'. These were courageous actions for the time I think.

As is usually the case with extreme political factions of either side, there is a tendency for in-fighting to periodically render such groups impotent and this has indeed been the pattern seen across far right groups over the past 50 years or so. Organised resistance to far right popularity and their associated organisations (be they focussed on street level agitation or electoral successes) has ebbed and flowed in time with the rise and fall of parties on the far right. So whilst at no time since the 1950's have racial tensions left our towns and cities, there have been peaks and troughs in terms of the intensity of those tensions.

Another surge in popularity of fascism in the UK was triggered by Enoch Powell's incendiary speech that he delivered in Birmingham in 1968. In what has since become known as the 'Rivers of Blood' speech he called for and end to immigration and introduction of a programme of repatriation. The speech saw him suspended from the Conservative Party and yet his words had ignited passions in many that spelled trouble.

Eight years later in 1976, a drunken, rambling tirade delivered by Eric Clapton from a Birmingham stage set in motion the biggest collaboration of music and politics in the name of anti-racism that had yet to be seen in the UK. Clapton's abusive rant prompted activist Red Saunders to write into the letters page of 'Melody Maker' . Eric was derided for his words and the fact that such opinions from a man who had built a career on the back of the talents of far less well known African American blues men were bullshit. The letter closed with an invitation to all those who wished to do something positive in opposition to the rising tide of far right opinion to contact 'Rock Against Racism' (address supplied). The inception of RAR was really as low key as a single letter on a UK music weekly!

Interest in this nascent musical/political movement spread extremely rapidly throughout the country. Interested individuals who contacted RAR's small staff in London were provided with quantities of badges, stickers and leaflets and informed that they were now RAR in their respective towns. The approach was very D.I.Y. and improvised and as such it was very much aligned with the then emerging punk scene. RAR also greatly benefitted from the fact that these new, young punks, followers of the latest counter-culture youth movement were naturally drawn towards reggae (prior to the new punk bands getting signed there was no punk music to play in clubs, so DJ's, perhaps most notably Don Letts at the Roxy, filled the gaps between bands by spinning reggae discs). That both followers of both punk and reggae had outsider status foisted upon them played perfectly into RAR's hands. Bob Marley, perhaps the biggest recording artist in the world in 1977, acknowledged this coming together of minds in his 'Punky, Reggae Party', the B-side to 'Jamming' which reached number 9 in the UK charts that year.

'New wave, new craze (Punky punky punk)
New wave, new wave, new phrase (Punky punky punk)

I'm saying
The Wailers will be there
The Damned, The Jam, The Clash
Maytals will be there
Dr. Feelgood too'

This mutual audience appreciation of both punk and reggae meant that RAR gigs could routinely be set up black and white bands appearing on the same bill.... the perfect embodiment of music triumphant over racial intolerance.

Stages were set for a monumental struggle of RAR and its supporters with the high profile far right organisations of the day, the National Front (NF) and the British Movement (BM).

The RAR message was voiced through its magazine 'Temporary Hording' which ran to 14 issues from 1977 to 1981. Extensive use of photomontage and battered typewriters echoed the DIY style of punk fanzines to which the intended audience could instantly relate.



RAR's reach was extensive and the gigs that were staged in its name ranged from low key gigs in provincial towns to high profile carnival events (those held in London and Manchester being the most prominent). In 1979, RAR staged the 'Militant Entertainment Tour' in a similar style to the package tours of the 1960's.


As the book points out very clearly, this level of intense activity at all levels served as an effective message to youth drawn to the far right that the NF and BM would be opposed whenever and wherever they sought to gather.

In the election year of 1979 the National Front (whose emphasis was on gaining Parliamentary seats more than street level confrontation) fielded their highest ever number of candidates but to no avail. They faired disastrously,  some would say because Margaret Thatcher's Conservative Party purloined elements of NF policy relevant to issues of race and immigration and in doing so won the votes of a sizable proportion of the electorate who would have otherwise opted for the National Front. It was a blow from which the NF never recovered.

Smaller campaigns filled the gap in the '80's and '90's, one being Cable Street Beat, some of whose gigs I remember very well, but it wasn't until the 2000's when the forces of music and left wing politics combined again as the next thing in far right politics, namely the English Defence League (EDL) came to prominence. This time the same racial hatred was directed at a different target to previous groups, Muslims. Thus the 'Love Music Hate Racism' organisation came into being, with involvement of some of the same activists that had been the driving force behind RAR. 

'Babylon's Burning' concludes with thoughts on the legacy of the SCIF, RAR and LMHR organisations and campaigns. Did RAR's efforts result in the demise of the National Front, probably not, in the same way that a February 1978 speech by Margaret Thatcher addressing widely held national concerns about immigration did not in one stroke floor the NFs best chance of political headway. The factors in play were multifaceted and highly complex. However, the existence of RAR was undoubtedly a thorn in the side of the NF and BM and it undoubtedly changed the political outlook of some of Britain's disaffected youth who otherwise could have become foot soldiers of the far right.

In 1981 RAR was wound up with a high profile gig by The Specials in Leeds. For Red Saunders the emergence of Two Tone that saw black and white bands not only sharing the same bill but also saw black and white musicians performing in the same band was validation for everything that RAR had been striving to achieve since its inception back in 1976.


The Specials, RAR/ANL carnival, Potternewton Park, Leeds, 1981 (Syd Shelton)

Saturday, 27 August 2022

Reflections on Rebellion Festival 4th to7th August 2022 Blackpool UK

 


Well, again it was a long time coming wasn’t it! It is the Glastonbury of punk (but without the flags and granola breakfasts!!). The biggest celebration of all things punk and new wave in the world that under the normal rules draws people in from all corners of that world on an annual basis. Of course in these Covid times things were by necessity a bit different as a two summers had passed without this gathering. Many tickets were sold indeed and this caused some changes to the normal order of things.
All shades of punk are covered here and it is great to see the new bands playing cheek by jowl with the bands that inspired them to form a band in the first place. A founding principle of punk that has never changed.

For the dedicated, the £200 face value of the ticket (I wasn’t confident enough to go for the slightly cheaper early bird tickets!) is a bargain. If you were only to see 20 bands (out of the 200+ bands scheduled over the four days) it works out to be £10 per band (I know, I know…. I did get a B at maths ‘O’ level). Double the band count and you are seeing bands that command £20-£40 ticket prices for a fiver.

This year a collection of friends congregated in Blackpool from Bishops Stortford, Manchester, Sutton, Milton Keynes, South London, Ipswich and Derby to enjoy rather salubrious accommodation just a couple of streets walk away from the Winter Gardens. With the exception of Mo, this particular congregation are in their ‘50’s and ‘60’s (sorry Phil!) so whilst Rebellion represents a bit of a blip in terms of the normal sleeping habits and alcohol intake things rarely get out of hand these days. The only real difference is that I was going to bed at 3 am… the time that I would normally be getting up for a nocturnal piss!


Going back to the magnitude of the festival this year, to a man and woman I think we struggled with formulating viewing plans from such a congested running order. Bless him, Nick Pryde was so organized that he had prepared a spreadsheet of the running order supplemented with ‘revision notes’….. this one sticks in my mind….. The Newtown Neurotics…. ‘’80’s political, v. good’! Seriously though the running order was so crowded that it was impossible for me to see half the bands that I would have had the billing worked for my particular good or bad taste in music. However, that is my only gripe about a festival that was otherwise extremely well run and organized. 

Perhaps it was the introduction of the separate R Fest with a stage on the promenade that threw a spanner in my best laid plans. Although not far from the indoor stages, the trek to the R Festival stage took about 15 minutes by the time you had worked your way to the front of the stage. The concern then was that if a headliner was appearing in an indoor venue that was at capacity you were rather stuck.

As I recall, the first band that I saw over the weekend was a Swiss outfit that went by the name of Fluffy Machine who were OK. I then moved on to my first ‘must see’ band, The Circle Jerks. This band had been on my radar for 38 years or more, ever since someone taped for me a ‘Rodney On The ROQ’ compilation album which featured a host of Californian bands championed and featured on Rodney Bingenheimer’s L.A. radio show of the same name. Keith Morris of The Circle Jerks is another legendary figure in the Californian punk rock seen having served with Black Flag, The Circle Jerks and more recently Off!. They did not disappoint, delivering a blistering set of US hardcore classics that hopefully would set the tone for the weekend ahead.


Next up was Mr Jobson and Co. late stand ins for Bad Religion who pulled out at the 11th hour. This was to be the first of three sets by The Skids that I was to see in 48 hours. At times Rebellion seemed like a Skids’ convention! But I wasn’t complaining in the least. They delivered a greatest hits set, the songs being interspersed with Jobbo’s anecdotes…. Something of a raconteur is Richard, his talents are not limited to cutting the rug! Aside from the hits, the new material from the excellent ‘World On Fire’ gave way to covers ‘Complete Control’ and ‘Pretty Vacant’. The Skids have released an album of punk covers under the title of ‘Songs From A Haunted Ballroom’.


And that was it for Day 1. My best laid plans to take in Misty in Roots and Hawkwind came to nothing on this occasion…. next time?

Our pitfall at Rebellion is in part to our inability to navigate beyond the Brew Room pub without falling across its threshold…. it is something to do with the holiday spirit and good company I think.


I did extract myself from the pub to make it into see the Newtown Neurotics, a band that I have been listening to since 1983 and seeing live since 1985. Whilst it is always great to hear the likes of ‘The Mess’ and ‘Living With Unemployment’ it is refreshing to know that the band are not resting on their laurels as they have a new album soon to be available called  ‘Cognitive Dissidents’ on Cadiz Records and a new single ‘Climate Emergency ‘ that got an airing on the day. I am sure that the new album will also have something to say about the old foe as things are bad and on the verge of getting worse I fear…. Like 1979 again but without the decent music!


Following on from that and 10 minutes of Attila’s poetry from the Literary Stage it was over to the promenade for me for the rest of the afternoon and most of the evening.

So how’s this for a line up of consecutive bands!

From The Jam
The Skids
The Undertones
The Stranglers

What was it I said about 1979… well here the good music was to be found!

From The Jam I was particularly looking forward to. This will for evermore be the closest that I will ever get to seeing The Jam. Many years ago I missed the early incarnation of FTJ at the Junction in Cambridge when Rick Buckler was on board. The following year having enjoyed a modicum of success they played the Corn Exchange and with my dislike of the venue, I elected not to go. I had a ticket to see them more recently in Bury St Edmunds but missed it as I lost track of reschedule after reschedule!

Despite the current health problems endured by both Russell and Bruce they played a blinder, more than enough to moisten the eye of a Jam fan what missed out first time around!


As I stood in the sun listening to ‘Going Underground’ that closed their set the line 

‘You choose your leaders and place your trust
As their lies wash you down and their promises rust
You'll see kidney machines replaced by rockets and guns
And the public wants what the public gets
But I don't get what this society wants’

Hit me hard. A strong resonance 42 years down the line as 0.42% of the electorate stand ready to foist Margaret Thatcher’s stunt double upon us! 

Back then to the narrative…. The Skids ran through another set (that I thought might have included more recent material amongst the well known tracks) similar to the Bad Religion stand in set, but it was none the less enjoyable for that.


More health casualties were evident when The Undertones took to the stage when a Billy Doherty stand in was occupying the drum stool, Billy having been laid low. His deputy did a fine job however and the Derry men delivered an anticipated set full of smiles and the exuberance of youth not often seen from a band of 60 year olds (Paul excepted!).


This just left the Stranglers for the R Festival stage and here I have to say that I rationed myself to the first five songs due to a need to get back to the Wintergardens for the Ruts DC acoustic set. On balance, I see The Stranglers many more times that any other band in a given year and so on this occasion a compromise had to be made.


So I found myself in Spanish hall for Ruts DC amongst a sea of bodies! By my reckoning there were about 500-600 people in the hall for an acoustic set at 10.30 at night. Impressive stuff and affirmation, if any were needed as to the affection that the punk fraternity have for Segs, Ruffy and Leigh!


The Skids closed the evening for me by which time I was getting the impression that Richard Jobson Doppelgangers had infiltrated the Wintergardens for the weekend, so ubiquitous was the man!

And so closed Day 2 bandwise.

Saturday’s musical adventure commenced with 999, never to be missed for me! This was the second time around in a couple of weeks after the long pandemic musical drought. Auturo explained from the outset that Nick had been hospitalized the day before with a heart issue but had managed to be signed off in time to play the gig…. The show must go on eh Nick! They were great as usual, mush appreciated in the Empress ballroom. 


Post 999 I thinks that the need for food had to be addressed. I did return to the Empress Ballroom for a couple of quick rounds with Stinky and the Rejects before returning to Spanish Hall for a second dose of Nick Cash. Nick was followed by Henry Cluney. At this point in the day’s proceedings it is entirely possible, nay, likely that I was not my usual sharp witted self! I do recall that Henry berated me for coming in at the wrong time with my Oooh-oooh-oooh’s during ‘Gate 49. Apologies Henry!


Owen's comment 'Like looking in a mirror' was noted!


Reading through the list of bands that I saw, it is becoming ever more apparent that I was done musically very early on each night! What a lightweight, although I recall bollocks was talked each night into the wee hours back at the house.

Sunday becomes even weirder as I saw just four bands I think!! 

I’ll always be in the running to see Conflict. I was a bit late coming to the Conflict/anarcho party and I did not get to see Conflict until 1986 at The Richmond Hotel in Brighton. At the time ‘The Ungovernable Force’ had just come out and I was rather terrified by them. By the time I saw them at ‘The Gathering Of The 5000’ gig at Brixton there was a very heavy scene around Conflict, some serious shite with the Metropolitan Police. Colin would hate to hear this but whilst the message is still there it is not delivered with the same menace as 36 years ago. Perhaps it’s something to do with social media. Information sharing through a whizzy Facebook page is a long way from receiving badly photocopied flyers through the post. On the last few occasions that I have seen Conflict play I have to admit that I struggle to hear what they are playing. Stuart (the drummer) said that they have slowed down over the years so I guess it’s all down to multiple lost frequencies in my hearing range…. I blame Jean Jacques Burnel!

And so back to the Empress Ballroom for the last time for the UK Subs and Ruts DC. The Subs, were just… well…the Subs. It’s good to see Charlie Harper back in his natural habitat after this two year hiatus!


Ruts DC have the work ethic akin to that of the Stakhanovite’s of the old Soviet Union. If they are not touring or on stage at one festival or another they appear to be in the studio recording new material! Also they never baulk at the idea of playing new material whenever and wherever the opportunity arises. Lesser bands may save new material for a lower key gig or a better known Ruts DC audience. No…. let’s knock these new tunes out to 3,000 people! Tonight there were no less than three new songs being showcased tonight ‘Faces In The Sky’, ‘Counterculture’ and ‘Born Innocent’ and I am happy to report that they sound just fine!


Having seen Stiff Little Fingers very recently I decided to take on the sea air for the last in the company of Squeeze…. Or at least part of Squeeze, Chris Difford being yet another medical casualty knocked out for the weekend. Nevertheless, Glen Tilbrook and the musicians surrounding him pulled the gig off brilliantly as the band played a fantastic greatest hits set to round off my weekend.



See you next year Blackpool!

Saturday, 13 August 2022

Wreckless Eric The MOTH Club Hackney 30th July 2022

 

Wreckless Eric at The MOTH Club
30th July 2022

This was an opportunity to see a rare UK date by Wreckless Eric, the enfant terrible of Stiff Records (not a bad epithet if your label mates are The Damned!). It was a spot by my daughter who loves Eric’s material. The gig was the first night in a three day festival run marking the 20th anniversary of the Hello Goodbye Show, a platform representing a range of leftfield, independent performers. The money raised by the event was to be ploughed back into efforts to get the independent radio station Resonance FM, home to the Hello Goodbye Show, back on the air.


We saw one of the two other acts on the bill, namely Meatraffle from Brixton I believe. I think that all three of us thoroughly enjoyed them…. We even danced! A bit of Pigbag, Chumbawamba and God knows who else, not to mention an avant garde dancer (every band needs one don’t you know) and a keyboard player who does a very good impression of the 1977 Dave Greenfield!


Decamped from the pub across the road Eric was on stage setting up his minimalistic gear (an electric and acoustic guitar and an amp). I am ashamed to say that I was unfamiliar Eric’s new material, although I did recognise ‘Father to the Man’ a reflection on his relationship with his father ‘Now I’m older I’m a lot like him, history coming back again…… I love my Dad but I don’t wanna be him’,  and ‘California/Handyman’ from his last album ‘Transience’. Whilst it was great to see a truly original artist of the punk era in such intimate surroundings, the venue started to work against him. A word here about the venue. The M.O.T.H. Club is situated behind the Hackney Picture House. It was established back in 1972 as the Hackney headquarters of The Memorable Order of Tin Hats, a South African Brotherhood established in 1927 to support Great War veterans. As in Royal British Legion Clubs throughout the country, regimental insignia adorn the walls. The capacity is small, about 400 by my reckoning, and tonight many punters were crowded around the bar and at the back of the hall deeply engaged in their own group conversations. Now I am all for socialising at gigs but always advocate reigning it in when the performer is on stage. The time for discourse is plentiful before, between and after performances. When the performer is solo on that stage with just a guitar and a mike, it’s disrespectful to expect them to compete with the indistinct yet volumous clamour emanating from the rear of the hall. And so it was with Eric, a couple of earlier comments culminated with a screamed demand from the stage ‘Fucking shut up!’. Clearly irked now he picked up the acoustic for a run through ‘Whole Wide World’, an attempt to engage the audience with something that they knew. Clearly they did not know anything else, and as I mentioned above I too am guilty of that, but we stood there and took it in. For fuck’s sake, the man hasn’t been standing still since 1977!

‘Whole Wide World'
Wreckless Eric at the MOTH Club 
30th July 2022

A few more songs followed and the set was closed. Eric left the stage but despite the compare’s best efforts to bring him back it became clear that he was not returning to the stage for an encore.

Having only seen Eric once (nearly 30 years ago at the 12 Bar Club in London's Denmark Street) I had no way of knowing whether this was typical behavior or not, although I suspected the latter. This was proven to be the case when he posted a tweet the following day.


So it was clear that whilst indifference amongst some of the audience was a contributing factor, the issues were multiple as the venue seemed to conspire against the pint sized troubadour.

So Eric, I hope to see you play these shores again under more favourable conditions.




Tuesday, 26 July 2022

Interview with Chas de Whalley Sounds 17th September 1977

 Here is a really nice piece that appeared in UK music weekly Sounds on 17th September 1977. It was written by one of the earliest, if not the earliest serious music journalist to take a positive interest in the band, Chas de Whalley. In it he gives a fantastic early insight into the dynamics of the band at the time of the recording of 'No More Heroes'.... and producer at the point that the band were rapidly becoming the biggest commercial draw on the punk/new wave scene. Something is said about the songwriting processes that were employed within Fulham's TW Studios. This was of course before Martin Rushant, 'The Fifth Strangler' famously fell out with the band over that old creative chestnut.... musical direction!

TWSTUDIOS are tucked away behind a drab shopfront off London’s Fulham Palace Road. To gain entry you have to go round the side, through a used car lot and down three crumbling steps. The building looks so ramshackle it’s difficult to tell whether it’s in a state of terminal collapse or whether it’s being shored up at the eleventh hour. 

It's a far cry from the slick recording establishments you might find in the West End. You can hear the music out in the street, but it still comes as a surprise to push open the battered white door and stumble straight onto the mixing desk. 

No lap of luxury this. There is hardly room to swing a cat in the tiny control room. And there are few chairs. The walls are painted some shade of dirty brown. The ceiling tiles are battered and broken while the air conditioner, if it's working at all, fills the square concrete cell with a hum as pervasive as the tobacco smoke in the air. 

But as a recording studio, as a place to capture those rock’n’roll vibes piping hot as and when they happen, TW and its twenty four tracks are highly regarded in London circles. Despite its lack of facilities, TW comes out top of the pile for its atmosphere and intimacy. 

Even on those terms, however, the place has its drawbacks. Like if you've been drinking too much you’ll have to step out into the cold to hang a rat. Once you're there, (up the steps over the rubble and turn right, okay?) you’ll find there's no door on the bog. And should have been foolish enough to sample some of Fulham’s awe-inspiring array of takeaway food, you'll discover there's no bog paper on the roll either. 

What a bummer! 

WHILE YOU and I spent the first week of July basking in the sun or staring longingly out of an office window, the Stranglers were locked away in this grubby little pit. Working on their second album even as their first ‘Rattus Norvegicus' crested the New Wave and their double headed single 'Peaches/Go Buddy Go’ became THE Summer Hit of Seventy Seven. For ten days the toasts of the nation might just as well have called TW home. 

But if it wasn't actually home the Stranglers were still receiving visitors. A steady flow of well-wishers. Like the dressing room of a successful football team an hour before the match. Stranglers people like Steve, Dennis and Leigh from Finchley (first the band's fans, now their personal friends, these three young guys recently promoted the Stranglers at a secret North London Youth Club benefit). Stranglers' comrades in arms like Dick and Sheds from the road crew. Representatives from the record company United Artists. 

And while the boys were at work the control room was filled with a friendly and relaxed atmosphere that was jaunty even to the point of being jovial The Stranglers know this studio inside out. They recorded everything they’ve released there and its seedy backstreet ambience suits. Perfect|y at ease, the Stranglers were working under little strain.

Unlike producer Martin Rushent, chain-smoking with a look of genuine harassment on his face.

“THATS GREAT JJ. If you really want drum spill all over the track, you're doing a really great job." 

At the mixing desk Rushent sits with a smile of playful sarcasm hiding his exasperation. On the other side of the glass Jean Jacques Burnel bounces past the amplifiers and tiptoes through the trailing leads with his face fixed in an impish grin. He thrashes at Jet Black’s kit with all the energy and skill of a three-year-old with a tin drum. 

Martin Rushent groans again in mock despair, but Jean Jacques pretends he can't hear. Secretly watching the window along his sly black fringe he crashes the cymbals with renewed vigour. Le gamin français raises titters and smiles as usual. Even the producer has difficulty supressing a snigger. 

But Dave Greenfield is not amused. He stands at his keyboards, fingers poised, headphones over his cars, ready and waiting to lay down a lil’' overdub. He shoots Rushent a look of I mild irritation as Jean Jacques bashes on. 

The bearded producer takes the hint immediately. 

"Okay. Jean. Dave's ready to do this take. If you don't cut that crap out immediately, I won’t let you go home tonight. Come back in here." 

Burnel recognises the tone of authority and obediently he lays down the sticks. But, as he appears at the console door, with the hangdog expression of a truant summoned to the headmaster's study, he looks like there's still a dodge or two up his sleeve. Dennis the Menace with a history book in the seat of his pants. 

"Oh Martin. It’s getting late, man. Recording's supposed to be fun. You're too much of a slave driver." 

"And you 're a c—. Stop giving me a hard time' eh." quips our man. 

"I don't need to take that from you." 

The room bursts into laughter. 

Rushent has this 'Look-I-could-get- I just-a-little-pissed-off-with-you-guys' rap that always begins with the line 'I don't have to take that from you’. And it’s invariably a show stopper. Jean Jacques played for that point and he won it in a game of verbal tennis the two strike up every time they meet. 

Backchat and banter, mental muscle flexing and friendly rivalry make up the twenty fifth track in any Stranglers mix and as the hours drag on, the sun shines bright outside but the tapes continue to roll down below, the jokes and the pokes serve to keep the corporate pecker up, the band cheerful and relaxed and the morale high. 

Making records, you see, isn't the most exciting thing in the world. Unless you’re personally involved, a recording session can be a remarkably tedious experience. And even if it is you that’s got your head in the bucket screaming your thoughts to the world or else lacing your vanillas with electricity, the process is hardly one big party. 

For the Stranglers, the same as any , other band, it means work. And like every other aspect of rock'n'roll it is money earned under extremely high pressure. Short bursts of high activity, real mental energy squeezed into a thirty second organ break the same way as the whole working day might be compressed into sixty minutes on a stage. The action is exhausting and the subsequent inaction sometimes deadly boring. 

Just ask Jet Black what it's like and, reaching for his rolling tobacco, he’ll tell you how he spends two thirds I of his time simply sitting about. Rolling cigarettes, opening beer cans, I drinking coffee and .. . sitting about. 

There's not that much for him to do, you see. After the basic group backing tracks have been laid down Jet has few if any overdubs to see to. 

So he sits at the back, next to the mixing desk, and chips in short and pithily but with fatherly wisdom as the Stranglers and their producer toss ideas around off tape. Otherwise he is silent for hours on end. 

So while Dave Greenfield sucks on his Sherlock Holmes pipe and rattles through books of crossword puzzles; while Hugh Cornwell talks knowledgably about cricket, discusses the virtues of Strangler schoolgirl fans or reads socialist book club paperbacks about prisons; while Jean Jacques Burnel bounces between serious conversation and comic riot, Jet Black leans back, puts his hands behind his head and closes his eyes in repose. 

You asleep Jet? 

“Nah. I'm thinking about my holiday." The bearded face breaks into a smile. "I'm going to Tenerife next week. It’s the first holiday I’ve had for years." 

In the beginning there were the Guildford Stranglers and they starved for nearly two years. Then they signed a record deal with United Artists last December and since they have been moving at a pace that would cripple most other bands. 

Their debut album ‘IV (Rattus Norvegicus)’was recorded at the TW studios in little more than a fortnight. They had little rest since, for they were out working on a gruelling schedule that culminated in the ‘Rats On The Road' tour and those two triumphant shows at the Roundhouse. Less than a week later they were back down in Fulham hard at work on the follow-up 'No More Heroes'. They seemed to be at what we music critics call a 'creative peak’. In fact where I expected to find them tired and drained after the months on tour the Stranglers were bubbling with ideas and motorvatin' with their  foot hard down on the floor. 

In seven days they cut eleven tracks for the LP.

And gave short measure to none. 

A QUICK look on the label of a Stranglers record will credit no one individual with song writing credits. The experienced ear can often pick out individual authorship (except for the man from the NME who thought Hugh Cornwell was responsible for the voice as well as the lyrics of 'Princess Of The Streets') but the songs as such are conceived by the band as a whole. Sitting in the dressing room, riding in the car, playing in the studio they pick up on phrases in conversation and marry them to a riff or a beat someone has in their heads. 

New numbers are normally rehearsed at soundchecks. But if nothing seems to be working out after twenty minutes or so, that number is dumped unceremoniously. A hard system perhaps, and one which might trample on a few egos from time to time. But it is one which makes the Stranglers an unusually cohesive and committed band. The strength of purpose carries over on to record. Few can have failed to notice the actual sound of the Stranglers. It’s full, round and rich in texture. A Fleetwood Mac fan with an expensive stereo might even grant it decktime — an honour bestowed on few New Wave bands. There is a quality about the Stranglers recorded sound that creates a vivid, almost psychedelic tension in the jagged nature of the music itself. 

Fanfares for Martin Rushent (although he would be the last to claim it was all his doing). This bearded young man with the wit of a used car salesman and a line for every occasion is United Artists 'house' producer and he learned his trade working with just about everybody from Shirley Bassey to Stretch and beyond. 

Not automatically the sort of person you'd expect to click with the Stranglers. A bit too Recordbiz at first sight. Talks of 'artistes' and 'acts' and such. Rushent admits that he found the four Stranglers a little perplexing when he first saw them. Now, though, he is open handed in his praise of the band as a whole and as individual musicians. 

The claims he makes of Hugh Cornwell's abilities as a guitarist are awe-inspiring. But then Martin ought to know. He started off playing the six string in public himself. He knows it all from a musician's point of view. Which is maybe why despite and because of the playfully insulting banter, Rushent and the four Stranglers get on. 

They were a winning combination at work on 'No More Heroes', and they knew it. 

But to imply that the songs were the Stranglers contribution and the sound purely Rushent's would be to over simplify the situation. Even falsify it. Admittedly it’s Jean Jaques Burnel's unique bass tone and that eerily unreal vocal timbre that's the key to the Stranglers' Sewertone. And it’s in Rushent's department to get it down on tape. He freely concedes that he uses the sophisticated modem studio at full stretch to earn his money. 

"But we use the equipment in unorthodox ways that would be frowned upon by whoever designed them originally. As far as I’m concerned , the idea is to recreate the vibe I get off the band at a live gig and to compensate for the fact that you can’t actually see the band playing in your front room. What tricks are used are to make the right noise. If somebody notices any of them merely as effects then I think I've failed.” 

But it's them Stranglers 'oo think it all up first. 

"We want to sound like ourselves " Jean Jacques Burnel insisted. "We don't want a Ramones sound like most of the other bands these days. We want to explore ways of getting through to you. Of grabbing your attention. We experiment, but we don’t go over the top. But even if we do it doesn't matter." 

The adventurous imagination department. The suggestions department. The ‘why not an echo on the guitar?’ department is staffed by Stranglers and Rushent respects their judgement one hundred per cent. He says they’re probably the easiest band he has ever worked with precisely because they are not afraid to speak their minds. In plain simple English or even in the vernacular. 

“That's great, you know. Because when you get down to it the sound and emotion of a record is only as good as the ingredients your artiste puts into it. All the producer does is mix the cake. So if you're working with a band that doesn’t know what they want you’re in real trouble. 

So what are the Stranglers looking for? 

"Well, it obviously differs from track to track," ponders Jet Black, always the man for a serious appraisal of anything. "But, basically, when we come into the studio we have a preconceived idea of what we want. 

"It's a certain sound we get live when we’ve got a good sound and the acoustics are right. That’s what we're looking for."

PUNK PURISTS may knock the Stranglers for those operatic productions. They might even claim the Stranglers aren't even a New Wave band at all and use that sound gushing from their speakers as evidence backing their case.

Certain critics will doubtless brand the ‘No More Heroes’ album another case of middle class angst from those sexist hedonistic and existentialist Stranglers . But this is still a democracy and idiots are allowed their opinions. The Stranglers hearts are firmlv with the new politics of rock even if they approach it from up the fire escape and criticise its back yard while supporting its façade.

Already classic Stranglers numbers like ‘Feel Like A Wog’, ‘Dagenham Dave’, ‘No More Heroes’ and ‘Peasant In The Big Shitty’ – all on the new album – are by no means songs of selfish appetite. They question the status quo as strongly as the Clash, and only ‘Something Better Change’ could be critisised as mere sloganry. They question the motives and integrity of the revolutionaries too. ‘Dead Ringer’ quite shamelessly points the finger at some of the big punk polititiona. 

But what about the X Certificate porn of ‘School Mam’ or the decadence of that brand new tune ‘Bring On The Nubiles’? Our feminist friends won’t buy those two, that’s for sure. 

The Stranglers are ready to pull the sheets off anybody – YOU even – and if that doesn’t give them New Wave credibility then the Boring Old Farts are right. The whole thing is nothing but a fashion.




Sunday, 24 July 2022

20 From '81 (8) The Police Brighton Centre 18th December 1981

 


Now this may divide opinion. Three white guys who had all been around the musical block it is fair to say jump on a bandwagon called punk and make a name for themselves. Soon to ditch the shackles of punk they carved a niche in  the British music industry with their 'Reggatta de Blanc'. The formula worked and whilst the music press were always suspicious of The Police, the public certainly took them to heart as they churned out hit after hit over their five album career. This set alone includes nine top 20 singles, four of which went to number 1!

Where did I stand on them? On record I think they are great, especially the first three albums but live from the earliest days Sting could not suppress his jazz roots and this lead to diabolical improvised versions of some of their songs on stage. Listen Sting, 'Roxanne' is a great track but no one needs a live version of it strung out for eight minutes!

This particular gig was very nearly my first. I was offered a ticket but opted to see Adam and the Ants instead, arguably the wrong choice. 

In 2007-2008, The Police embarked on a 158 date world tour (yes really that many!) and given how public the rifts were in the band, one can kind of question their motives for undertaking such a schedule.

But anyway, here they are promoting the 'Ghost In The Machine' album in December 1981.

FLAC: https://we.tl/t-oFXlRNGCL0

Artwork: https://we.tl/t-GEk1a5PIHa

01. Voices Inside My Head
02. Message In A Bottle
03. Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
04. Spirits In The Material World
05. Hungry For You
06. When The World Is Running Down...
07. The Bed's Too Big Without You
08. Demolition Man
09. Walking On The Moon
10. Shadows In The Rain

01. Bring On The Night
02. One World (Not Three)
03. Invisible Sun
04. Roxanne
05. Don't Stand So Close To Me
06. Can't Stand Losing You
07. So Lonely

Penetration The Junction Bristol 16th April 2009

 


Just to mix things up a bit. This is a recording of Penetration from Bristol back in 2009. The sound is pretty good but it is audience shot... although you could argue that that only adds to the atmosphere. This is a classic Penetration set in what must have been an extremely hot club!

DVD Disc image: https://we.tl/t-oetcLoPUBM

Artwork: https://we.tl/t-984pPuRMX1



Baz Warne The Centurian Club Somersham 16th July 2022

 


Many thanks to Saz Chapman for allowing me to take the audio from her video clips and also to Jez Bottley who's recording of 'Nice 'n' Sleazy' meant that songwise this is a reflection of the full set from this most important of gigs. Many thanks to you both!

This was the near culmination of a very emotional day... tired and emotional for many, myself included. A friend's tribute in a place that Dave knew so well.

WAV: https://we.tl/t-IpTglNMOXB

Artwork: https://we.tl/t-WMGJrMwXL7

01. The Man Comes Around
02. Nice ‘N’ Sleazy
03. Golden Brown
04. Bless You (Save You, Spare You, Damn You)
05. Dutch Moon
06. Lines
07. Breathe
08. And If You Should See Dave
09. Always The Sun