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

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.