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, 21 May 2022

Acne Rabble (Sex Pistols) Interviewed After Appearing At The Rock Garden Middlesbrough 26th August 1977


'Britain's Premiere Mystery Group' in an interview with BBC Radio Cleveland after their S.P.O.T.S. (Sex Pistols On Tour Secretly) gig at the Rock Garden in Middlesbrough on 26th August 1977.



Asked to comment on their contemporaries in the UK punk scene, The Stranglers come off badly with Hugh being described as Clive Dunn and Jet's age being given as 52... as confirmed in the background by Paul Cook!

Typical snotty stuff.

The Rock Garden Middlesbrough, hosts to 'Acne Rabble' on 26th August 1977 



Sex Pistols at The Rock Garden, Middlesbrough
26th August 1977 


Friday, 13 May 2022

20 From '81 (4) St. George's Hall Bradford 27th November 1981

 


From the first leg of the 'La Folie' UK tour here's a reasonable sounding recording from Bradford. Listen out for Matt Holland's dedication!



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


01. Non-Stop
02. Threatened
03. Just Like Nothing On Earth
04. Second Coming
05. The Man They Love To Hate
06. Meninblack
07. Who Wants The World?
08. Baroque Bordello
09. Tramp
10. Thrown Away
11. How To Find True Love And Happiness In The Present Day
12. Tank
13. Let Me Introduce You To The Family
14. Nuclear Device
15. Genetix
16. Nubiles (Cocktail Version)
17. Bring On The Nubiles

Saturday, 7 May 2022

20 From '81 (3) Bauhaus 3rd September 1981

 


Ah, the undead of Northampton. Not everybody's cup of tea but I love them. Stuck in a twilight zone occupied by David Bowie and The Damned, Bauhaus carved a niche in the market for sure. Forget the Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus were the ultimate band of the goth genre. The band were something of an enigma. On the face of it they took themselves very seriously indeed. They had a penchant for pretention.... a great example of this can be found on the sleeve notes to their 1981 album 'Mask'. Not their own words, but those of avant garde poet Brilburn Logue (a.k.a. Alan Moore, comic book writer, poet and fellow resident of Northampton):

'This is for when the radio is broken and crackles like uranium orchids
This is for when the fohn-wind rattles the telegraph wires like a handful of bones
This is for when dream ambulances skitter through the streets at midnight
This is for when you get caught in a sleep-riot and the sky is out of order
This is for when your sex is full of voodoo
This is for when your clothes are imaginary
This is for when your flesh creeps and never comes back.'

What's that all about then?

On the other hand there are the occasional glimpses of humour. The sinister sounding 'Spy in the Cab' is allegedly a song about tachographs that record the activity of long-distance lorry drivers. 

'Hidden in the dashboard
The unseen mechanized eye
Under surveillance
The road is full of cats eyes
It's sick function to pry
The spy in the cab.'

I caught the tail end of the band, the singles 'Ziggy Stardust' and 'She's in Parties' were both big in my world. In fact at the time I used to boldly told friends that the Bauhaus version of 'Ziggy' was superior to the original.... a view that I have had the sense to abandon in the years that followed!

I saw then just the once in 1998 at Brixton Academy. In doing so I caused a long weekend holiday with friends to be cancelled, such was my desire to see Mr Murphy and the boys!

And they are back.... having played an extortionately expensive gig at Alexander Palace some months ago, some new material 'Drink The New Wine' and another Brixton gig is in the offing.


That's the now, here's the then. From Edinburgh in September 1981...

Pete Murphy (Bauhaus)
The Nite Club, Edinburgh
3rd September 1981



01. Intro / Passion Of Lovers
02. In The Flat Field
03. Terror Couple Kill Colonel
04. Dancing
05. Spy In The Cab
06. Kick In The Eye
07. Satori
08. Of Lillies And Remains
09. Hair Of The Dog
10. Hollow Hills
11. Stigmata Martyr
12. Dark Entries
13. Bela Lugosi's Dead

Ruts DC Music Hall Aberdeen 27th January 2022

 


Following on from the main act, here's the set from Ruts DC who surely must be right up there as one of the best and most consistent bands to open for The Stranglers. The only problem with a Ruts DC support set is that they are too bloody short. At the risk of uttering contentious statements I think that perhaps it would have been an idea to cut The Stranglers stage time down by 20 minutes to allow Ruts DC to get three or four extra songs in. After all it's not often that such a strong line up comes along.

Music Hall, Aberdeen
27th January 2022

Ruts DC are nothing if not prolific, they refuse to stand still and rely on past glories, and so it was fitting that this set featured a new song 'Born Innocent' which soundwise reminds me of 'Animal Now' era material. Thanks to the original taper and uploader.

Get out to see the band on their own tour in October.


FLAC: https://we.tl/t-tVbHpOhpKE

Artwork Sleeve: https://we.tl/t-txp4VptNQM

01. Intro
02. Something That I Said
03. S.U.S.
04. You're Just A...
05. It Was Cold
06. Kill The Pain
07. West One (Shine On Me)
08. Born Innocent
09. Jah War
10. Staring At The Rude Boys
11. In A Rut
12. Babylon's Burning
13. Psychic Attack

Music Hall Aberdeen 27th January 2022



The second night of the UK leg of the 'Dark Matters' tour and my first time seeing the band without Dave (having been scuppered in my attempts to see the band in France due to ever changing travel rules).

Music Hall, Aberdeen
27th January 2022

This was to be a baptism of fire for young Toby. In my experience UK crowds are a tougher prospect than the French audiences that he had faced to date. He needn't have worried. As I have said before, the strategy of front loading the set with songs that drip Dave Greenfield for the new boy to showcase his plentiful skills before uttering a word of the change worked wonders. The crowd were won over by that point.


Another nice twist in the set was the acoustic segment where the band delivered the contemplative 'Lines' and then 'And If You Should See Dave...', the latter of which saw JJ visibly choked. For the audience too it was an opportunity to reflect on the loss of a character who had been a player in our lives for decades. 



Necessary as this melancholic interlude was, the band know full well that this is not the way to end a Stranglers' gig and so the volume and pace was ratcheted up once more for a trip back to '77 with 'Grip' and 'Heroes' closing the evening's entertainment.

Many thanks to the original taper and uploader.


Artwork sleeve: https://we.tl/t-GM6TnNIj3P

01. Intro
02. Toiler On The Sea
03. The Raven
04. Sometimes
05. Water
06. I’ve Been Wild
07. This Song
08. Nice ‘N’ Sleazy
09. Don’t Bring Harry
10. Strange Little Girl
11. Always The Sun
12. Peaches
13. Golden Brown
14. Baroque Bordello
15. White Stallion
16. Curfew
17. Relentless
18. Nuclear Device
19. Walk On By
20. Straighten Out
21. Duchess
22. Hanging Around
23. Last Men On The Moon
24. Lines
25. And If You Should See Dave…
26. (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)
27. No More Heroes



Sunday, 17 April 2022

20 From '81 (2) The Clash Jaap Edenhal Amsterdam 10th May 1981

 


Well I mentioned The Clash so I may as well add them into this theme. This is an excellent remastering of a radio show that was rebroadcast in 2008. Many thanks to the original Dime uploader and to the person responsible for the remaster (see file notes for details). 'Sandinista!' had been released at the end of 1980 and The Clash took it on tour the following year. This is one of those shows. Say what you will of 'Sandinista!' and many do, but there is something brave about a 'punk' band going so against the grain and releasing a triple album. The Clash should be applauded for experimenting with the presentation of their music even if conceding that the album probably runs to two sides too many. The album does have some amazing tracks... 'Somebody Got Murdered' and 'Rebel Waltz' are two of my favourite songs by the band.

Anyway, it is what it is.... make your own mind up.

FLAC: https://we.tl/t-qag3R3jp5b

Artwork (Sleeve and CD format): https://we.tl/t-Uui3JFFp6n

01. London Calling
02. The Leader
03. Somebody Got Murdered
04. White Man in Hammersmith Palais
05. The Guns of Brixton
06. Lightning Strikes (Not Once But Twice)
07. Ivan Meets G.I. Joe
08. This Is Radio Clash
09. Charlie Don't Surf
10. The Magnificent Seven
11. Bankrobber
12. Train in Vain
13. Career Opportunities
14. Clampdown
15. One More Time
16. I Fought the Law

Saturday, 16 April 2022

20 From '81 (1) The Jam The Ritz New York 26th May 1981

 


Kicking proceedings of then in a revisit to 1981 are The Jam with a full set radio broadcast of their gig at the Ritz in New York on 26th May 1981. At this time Weller & Co were at the top of their game being one of the biggest bands in the UK, perhaps The Police could have pipped them to that particular accolade but not by far. In the UK music press Paul Weller was viewed as musician/politician rolled into one.... A Minister of Yoof you could say. Sting never acquired that status. The Police on the other hand conquered the world which was something The Jam never achieved. Weller alludes to the problem in this recording in the introduction to 'Strange Town'..... 'Right, this is our bid for US success... this one's called 'Strange Zipcode'. Perhaps it was the accent, perhaps the fact that Selsey Bill or Bracklesham Bay were just too far removed from Time's Square or Sunset Strip. It seems that to break America you have to play by their rules and the music has to be palatable to US taste. The Police and certainly The Clash understood this, but Paul Weller refused to join in with that game. It's not that The Jam avoided American culture, they were very adept an making great American soul tunes their own but a gritty Britishness pervaded all of their albums and they were a better band for that.

So, with all that in mind, take a listen to this 'Sound Affects' period recording.

FLAC: https://we.tl/t-ryv9G32vpv

Artwork: In download file.

01. But I'm Different Now
02. Boy About Town 
03. To Be Someone 
04. Monday 
05. Man In The Corner Shop 
06. Funeral Pyre 
07. Pretty Green 
08. Private Hell 
09. The Butterfly Collector 
10. Set The House Ablaze 
11. David Watts 
12. Scrape Away 
13. Start 
14. Dreams Of Children (cut at end) 
15. When You're Young (cut at start) 
16. Little Boy Soldiers 
17. The Modern World 
18. Strange Town 
19. Heatwave 
20. Eton Rifles 
21. 'A' Bomb In Wardour Street 

Government leaving the youth on the shelf...... 1981

 In March 1981 I turned 12. This of course meant that when it comes to the band's that I have loved for 40 years now, my initial appreciation came from afar, or at least not from the front of the stage. Exposure was limited to Top of The Pops, Smash Hits and of course much discussion/argument in the classroom.

I have mentioned before that musical appreciation in the early '80's was a tribal affair. Even in the small school that I attended that tribalism was was fully reflected. 1981 saw the tail end of the 2 Tone scene, although the finest moment of The Specials did not occur until July of that year. Punk still had a relevance..... The Jam, The Clash, The Damned and of course The Stranglers were still going concerns, in addition to that a new wave of punk in the form of UK '82 was emerging, for naughty schoolboys one local band going by the name of the Anti-Nowhere League was to become essential, if not secretive listening. Those not scanning the pages of the aforementioned 'Smash Hits' (the weekly music press did not feature in my life for a couple of years yet) were absorbing information gleaned from the pages of 'Kerrang'.  UK '82 had a hairy counterpart in the form of NWOBHM or the New Wave of British Heavy Metal that gave the world the likes of Iron Maiden, Saxon and the Tygers of Pan Tan. 

Away from the clashing guitars, the electronic bands were enjoying their first flush of success, Depeche Mode, Soft Cell, OMD and the like. Then there was Gary Numan... the first path that I went down. All things considered, my education in popular music was something of a melting pot. By way of example I can recall borrowing and taping (we didn't pay any heed to the 'Home taping is killing music' message! There was too much music and too little cash for us to worry about that) 'Dare' by the Human League, AC/DC's 'For Those About To Rock', the Pistols' 'Anarchy in the UK' 12", 'My Generation' by The Who and 'Dirk Wears White Sox' by the Ants... all within a week's period.

That musical mix was also the soundtrack to a very turbulent and dark year. Peter Sutcliffe's reign of terror was ended with his arrest in January. In the Spring, grey foreboding 'H block' prisons featured on our televisions nightly as Bobby Sands MP and IRA member died whilst on hunger strike triggering riots in many nationalist areas of Northern Ireland.

HM Prison Maze in Belfast showing the 'H Blocks'

Trouble followed trouble as policing methods in black communities resulted in explosive riots in London, Liverpool, Bristol, Leeds and Manchester. As mentioned earlier 'Ghost Town' by The Specials, a mournful response to the urban decay of Britain's former centres of industry, resided at number 1 in the UK singles chart as inner city areas of Liverpool and Manchester burned. Joe Strummer could only have dreamed of such a scenario.

Brixton, London April 1981

Away from the troubled streets, the 'Royal Wedding of the Century' saw Charles, the 32 year old heir to the throne, marry Diana Spencer, an aristocratic girl just weeks out of her teens when they married in July. That didn't end well either.

So, yes it was a miserable year but the music was great. 

What will follow in the coming weeks in another in the '20 From' series which will put a spot light on... yeah you guessed it, 1981!

Friday, 15 April 2022

Transbordeur Lyon 2nd December 2021

 

Here is another brilliant recording from the recently concluded tour, this time from The Transbordeur club in Lyon, the 3rd night of the European tour that contracted to become a French tour! Thanks to Chatts and DomP for their sterling efforts once again.

CD artwork has a split between 'La Folie' and 'White Stallion'.

N.B. Artwork splits 'Lines' and 'Go Buddy Go' whereas they are not separated in the WAV file.

WAV: https://we.tl/t-5yoJ2E1jmB

Artwork: https://we.tl/t-kS6lM139LA

01. Intro-Toiler On The Sea
02. (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)
03. I’ve Been Wild
04. Nice ‘N’ Sleazy
05. This Song
06. 5 Minutes
07. Always The Sun
08. Golden Brown
09. Midnight Summer Dream - European Female
10. La Folie
11. White Stallion
12. Walk On By
13. Relentless
14. Peaches
15. Water
16. Nuclear Device
17. Duchess
18. Hanging Around
19. Last Men On The Moon
20. Encore-Lines
21. Go Buddy Go
22. Tank
23. No More Heroes

Wednesday, 6 April 2022

O2 Academy Brixton London 4th February 2022

 


Back on home turf for this gig, the first of two at the glorious Brixton Academy. Once again this was a team effort of recording, remastering and packaging. Thanks to all involved. The set saw a few changes from that played in France, most notably the poignant in the extreme, 'And If You Should See Dave'...



01. Intro-Toiler On The Sea
02. Something Better Change
03. Sometimes
04. Water
05. Skin Deep
06. This Song
07. Nice ‘N’ Sleazy
08. Don’t Bring Harry
09. Strange Little Girl
10. Always The Sun
11. Peaches
12. Golden Brown
13. Last Men On The Moon
14. (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)
15. Curfew
16. White Stallion
17. Relentless
18. Nuclear Device
19. Walk On By
20. Straighten Out
21. Duchess
22. Hanging Around
23. Encore-Lines
24. And If You Should See Dave
25. Encore-Tank
26. No More Heroes



Tuesday, 5 April 2022

Adam & The Antz The Roundhouse London 14th May 1978

 







Yesterday the worldwide punk community were shocked at the passing of Pamela Rooke a.k.a. Jordon Mooney but best known of all just 'plain' Jordan. As iconic and as identifiable with British punk of the 1976 vintage as Johnny Rotten himself Jordan was something else! Her reputation went before her, young visitors to 'Sex' on the Kings Road would by all accounts tremble on the threshold at the idea of encountering this way out there assistant Jordan. Her appearance was extraordinary even by the standards of the first adherents of the London punk scene. No one touched her when it came to her insistence on the right to self-expression, perhaps Siouxsie and Soo Catwoman came close but they were for sure either side of Jordan on that particular podium. 

Promo poster for Derek Jarman's 'Jubilee' (1978)

I remember watching a programme with my Dad, quite possibly The Old Grey Whistle Test when Blondie were playing. This would have been 1977 I think  and Debbie had the ripped fishnet tights etc on. He said to me, 'Adrian, God forbid that you ever bring a girl home like that' (....as if!). What he would have made of Jordon in her finest finery I cannot guess, but I don't suppose that she ever crossed his conscious mind (neither did punk in general... although in 1976 he would have been only 38!). He bizarrely fancied Princess Anne in the 1970's and would try to tell me and my Mum that she was a good-looking woman!

As outlandish as Jordan's style was it had, well... style. As a dress-maker herself, something that drew her to Vivienne and Malcolm in the first place, she had an eye for what went well together, be it in latex or cheesecloth. 

Punk face became punk manager and punk 'singer' when she became involved with Adam & The Ants. This is a recording of the band from the Roundhouse in May 1978 that features Jordon on vocals for the band's assassination song Lou Reed entitled... 'Lou'.

In recent years, Jordan the long term veterinary nurse in her home town of Seaford, reacquainted her with her punk past attending gigs in Brighton and in the wider the Sussex area as well as participating in high profile punk events in London. I never got to meet her but many friends did and all described her as a charming, intelligent and witty woman willing to share her unique insider's view on Year Zero and her key role in the punk wars. 

I have to say that I was rather dismayed upon first seeing social media messages that she had died that my regular updating of the BBC new webpage did not reveal the sad truth. In fact 36 hours later and there is still no mention of her passing on the BBC (although I think that 6 Music covered it). But still, are the Pistols and all those associated with those foul mouthed yobs still so reviled by the Corporation  that 46 years on the female face of punk does not deserve an obituary? I am sure that there could have been room for both Dot Cotton and Jordan!

Jordan
1955 - 2022


Monday, 4 April 2022

The Damned Town & Country Club London 1st July 1986

 


Here's one that I forgot that I had, put together many years ago. Back in the summer of '86, the band played two gigs in North London's Finsbury Park, the '10th Anniversary Tea Party'. However, earlier in the month they played another anniversary gig at the T&C in Kentish Town. The gig was filmed and an an edited version (presented here as audio) was broadcast on Whistle Test on the BBC. Around the same time another edited version, largely with different tracks was broadcast on BBC Radio. In combination the two broadcasts make for a good quality record of the night (or at least part of it!). With the duplicated 'Love Song' this represents more than half of the set played on the night. But what a set.... great to hear that material from 'Phantasmagoria' along with the mighty 'The Limit Club' for Malcolm. 'Anything' gets a first airing, a song so new that Dave Vanian has the lyrics on a crib sheet!

WAV: https://we.tl/t-2bipTt7pXD

Artwork: https://we.tl/t-VBS1ozhOZQ



Krakatoa Bordeaux 6th December 2021

 


It pains me a tad to put this up, this being one of the two French gigs that I had lined up until the omichron variant reared its little bastard spikey head and made travel impractical once again. Nevertheless, I am very glad to have it as I think that it is one of the best recordings that Chatts has achieved and I thank him for it. Dom also sprinkled some audio fairy dust over it and what you have is an extremely good document of the European leg of the last full tour. Okay, 'And If You See Dave' was yet to make an appearance (that emotional roller coaster was held in reserve for the fans back home), but there is 'La Folie' in there and I am never gonna complain about that being in a Stranglers set! Enjoy this gem from Bordeaux!

If you wanna split it the artwork reflects CD 2 starting with 'White Stallion'.

FLAC (16 bit): https://we.tl/t-i5CvfuXogT

Artwork: https://we.tl/t-FLLQ2UnL6M




Monday, 28 March 2022

Hugh Cornwell Chalk Brighton 17th March 2022

 

What a St Patrick's night it was with the Gov'nor opening for The Undertones as he comes to his last dates promoting the return to form 'Monster' album. 

With thanks to Chatts and Elayne!

FLAC: https://we.tl/t-r5evj7UJYi

Artwork sleeve: https://we.tl/t-6wdbTJl3wF

01. Tuning-Black Hair Black Eyes Black Suit
02. Big Bug
03. Duchess
04. Mr Leather
05. Skin Deep
06. Monster
07. Strange Little Girl
08. Always The Sun
09. The Beautiful Girl In Hollywood
10. Goodbye Toulouse
11. Bad Vibrations
12. London Lady
13. 5 Minutes

Saturday, 26 March 2022

The Undertones Chalk 17th March 2022


 It is very difficult to stand in a crowd watching The Undertones without having a big, stupid grin on your face such is the warmth and humour that comes across from the stage when they are playing. Equally, it is hard to think that these are men in their sixties (Paul excepted) singing 'More Songs About Chocolate and Girls' and in no sense does it seem wrong or out of place. I remember years ago, Jake Burns stating that he had retired the Stiff Little Fingers' classic 'Gotta Gettaway' as it didn't sit comfortably with him as a man in his then 40's I guess to be singing about leaving home. But when The Undertones tell tales of difficult relationships with their nerdy spoilt cousin (and Subbuteo cheat to boot!) it's fine! It may be that they have weathered well and with Michael Bradley's cheeky in between song interjections you, or at least I can forget that the band are sexagenarians and not the parka-donning youfs of the late '70's. They may not be an antedote for these shit times that we are living through but they can make the world seem a brighter,  more humane place for at least 90 minutes!


Thanks to Chatts for the recording and Elayne for the photos.

FLAC: https://we.tl/t-RsIQ7yVHfS

Artwork sleeve: https://we.tl/t-CnIX4cU4gW

01. Intro-Family Entertainment
02. You’ve Got My Number
03. I Need Your Love
04. Jump Boys
05. Billy’s Third
06. Love Parade
07. Thrill Me
08. Jimmy Jimmy
09. Tearproof
10. It’s Gonna Happen
11. Enough
12. Teenage Kicks
13. True Confessions
14. Oh Please
15. 9 Times Outta 10
16. Gotta Getta
17. Girls That Dont Talk
18. Here Comes The Summer
19. When Saturday Comes
20. Male Model
21. Dig Yourself Deep
22. Wednesday Week
23. Hypnotised
24. Runaround
25. Girls Don’t Like It
26. Listening In
27. Get Over You
28. Encore-More Songs About Chocolate And Girls
29. I Know A Girl
30. My Perfect Cousin



Friday, 25 March 2022

Here Comes The Summer... Out On The Town For The Undertones

 

Well it has to be said that that one was a long time coming. The mighty Undertones and Hugh in Camden Town no less.

Why not make something of a day of it. There was in fact an exhibition of Derek D'Souza's photographs (with associated memorabilia) from his time working with the Jam, The Style Council and Paul Weller as a solo artist. Always a pleasure to be at the Barbican and even more so the fact that the esteemed photographer was in attendance when we turned up.

The exhibition runs until May 2022 and is well worth a visit.


Of course it would be entirely unacceptable to be in the environs of London's Barbican development without acknowledging it's contribution to the brutalist canon of British architecture. It certainly has it's place and is striking whether the viewer loves or loathes it!


The Barbican, London 12th March 2022 (with a noir filter needless to say!)

Such culture-vulturing demands appropriate sustenance which pulled our party in the direction of beer and curry.

 

Refueled it was a dash to the Electric Ballroom for an early start by Hugh (it's my age but in London I love a club night related curfew!!).

Running through the last of his planned gigs promoting Monster. Hugh was on good form and dare I say it quite upbeat on the evening. Always great to see the man.


If Hugh was good, The Undertones were the perfect antidote to these shit times that we are enduring... even if they offered only a 90 minute respite!

'Billy's Third'
Electric Ballroom 12th March 2022.

The Undertones
                                                      Electric Ballroom 12th March 2022.

A good time was had by all!


Saturday, 19 March 2022

‘Victory Over Blindness’ Manchester Piccadilly Station

 

I have a huge interest in The Great War. Not from the perspective of grand strategies or successful or disastrous campaigns but from the human perspective, the impact that the war had on the men who fought (not forgetting those ‘Roses of No Man’s Land who did their upmost to save them in battlefield clearing stations and hospitals) and each and every combatants loved ones on the Home Front.

Men and boys thronged to any building that doubled up as a recruitment office in answer to the famous call by Lord Kitchener that all eligible men should step forward to do their bit for ‘King and Country’. Older men did just that to defend treasured British values and the principles of Empire. Young men stepped forward too, but their reasons to take the King’s shilling were in many cases far less jingoistic, rather a spell with the colours represented an opportunity to escape from the shackles of poverty, the hardships of factory existence or the drudgery of office working.

Regardless of the motives to enlist, the war was a great leveler and before too long, all soldiers, without regard of class or civilian status were exposed to the same hardships and horrors of modern warfare as experienced on the Western Front (as elsewhere). Of those shared horrors, a gas attack must have been one of the most feared and when it did happen it was one of the most horrendous of the brutalities meted out by either side.

Leaping forward some 107 years, I made my way from Euston to Manchester Piccadilly to meet Mo for a Soft Cell anniversary gig at the O2 Academy in town. Stepping out from the station for the first time I was confronted by an extremely striking bronze sculpture. I promised myself to pay it more attention on my return…. but unfortunately poor organization on the day of the return journey resulted in a sprint past the sculpture in order to make the train back to London. On my next visit, I did make the time to see what it was all about… although I did have a good idea.

The sculpture is entitled ‘Victory Over Blindness’ by Cumbrian based artist Johanna Domke-Guyot. She pursued a degree in Fine art after receiving a devastating MS diagnosis in 1998 and her work presents her with difficulties related to the Multiple Sclerosis, including elements of visual impairment.

The final version of ‘Victory Over Blindness’ that now graces the entrance to Manchester Piccadilly Station was commissioned as part of the Great War centenary events, but prior to its unveiling in Manchester by the Countess of Wessex it had toured other venues in concrete rather than bonze form.

‘Victory Over Blindness’ in concrete displayed at Westminster Abbey, London


Study in wax for ‘Victory Over Blindness’

In its permanent Mancunian home it is accompanied by a plaque which states the following:


‘Victory Over Blindness
Johanna Domke-Guyot

Remembering the returning blind veterans
Of the First World War

More than 3,000 veterans lost their sight as a result of their service in the First World War. Making their way home from the front they began their journey to rebuild their lives after sight loss.

In 1915 a charity was founded to support them. Blind Veterans UK, formerly St. Dunstan’s has continued to support thousands more blind veterans to live independently as they begin that same journey today.’

The piece depicts a precession of seven wounded soldiers with injured eyes bandaged, each gripping the shoulder of the soldier in front. The sculpture is intentionally a three dimensional mirror of the famous ‘Gassed’ painting by John Singer Sargent. This huge, almost lifesize,  painting is housed in the Imperial War Museum in London. Sargent, an American war artist was commissioned to paint the piece based on his own experience. That experience came in the form if a German bombardment in August 1918 in the Arras sector in which mustard gas shells were used. Expose to mustard gas (1-Chloro-2-[(2 chloroethyl) sulfanyl]ethane to chemistry nerds…. I was one but had to look it up!) resulted in blindness, severe lung damage and blistering of exposed skin.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gassed_(painting)

I struggle to imagine the fear that gas attacks instilled in front line soldiers. I could be talking nonsense here but at least a bullet or a high explosive shell offered the possibility (with no guarantees) of a quick and clean death. Gas offered no such thing, rather a painful and lingering demise.

Wilfred Owen perhaps made the best attempt describing the horrors of a gas attack in the English language in what must be one of the most damning pieces of writing concerning war, ‘In Dulce Decorum Est’:

'Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.'

The saddest thing of all is the fact that when I saw the ‘Victory Over Blindness’ monument and decided to write a piece on it online I was looking at it in terms of a memorial to the horrors of a bygone age, more than a hundred years distant from today. However, at the time of writing, March 2022, politicians are seriously discussing the possibility that Vladimir Putin could deploy chemical and biological weapons against Ukraine. I for one never thought that I would here such talk on such a scale. Sad times indeed.