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

Friday, 30 September 2022

The Specials Paramount Theatre Staten Island New York City 21st August 1981


So I have come to the last post themed around the song 'The Boiler'. Here, one of the last gigs that The Specials played in their first incarnation is presented. It features what is perhaps one of my all-time favourite sets. Heavy on the 'More Specials' material. the set also features 'Friday Night, Saturday Morning' (surely, the best coming of age songs ever written!), 'Why?' (one of the best statements on the utter futility of race related violence) and of course 'The Boiler' of which much has already been said.

As we well know, the band fractured in two with Terry, Lynval and Neville sheering off to form The Fun Boy Three, whilst Jerry, Brad and Horace formed the nucleus of The Specials with a reinstated A.K.A. The former followed a more chart palatable path whilst the latter introduced a jazzy and soulful sophistication to The Specials sound. 

The legacy of Jerry Dammers is astounding! His vision for The Specials was revolutionary at the time. Just the existence of a multiracial band leading the first meaningful music scene since punk was a statement in itself....  before they had even played a note!

To conclude the existence of the band with a song that so perfectly captured the mood of young people across the spectrum in Great Britain 1981 was a masterstroke. 'Ghost Town' remember was at number 1 when many of the country's inner cities burned as a result of wide spread rioting. 

'The Boiler' was a courageous move on the part of Jerry Dammers and the 2 Tone label tackling as it did  the subject of rape and sexual violence at a time when such issues remained unvoiced, especially in the 'pop' world (although it has to be said that  The Fun Boy Three recorded the disturbing 'Well Fancy That!' the following year). It is difficult to imagine just how far from a 'woke' society we were living in in 1982.

The Special AKA were not finished yet either. Unarguably, their finest moment came in 1984 with the release of 'Nelson Mandela'. A song which, along with a huge 70th birthday tribute show staged some years later, played a pivotal role in the events that lead up to the release of Mandela who after 27 years in captivity went on to become the first president of South Africa. Our Rhoda was a vocalist on this track too.

It could be said that 'Nelson Mandela' was a swansong of the 2 Tone era, a journey of some five years that broke down barriers and even changed people's lives. On the recording (produced by Elvis Costello, as was the first Specials album) were Jerry, Brad, John Shipley (a former Swinging Cat), Rhoda and Dick Cuthell, whilst Lynval, Elvis, Ranking Roger and Dave Wakeling offered backing vocals. A proper 2 Tone collective effort. A live performance of the song with the Special AKA with Elvis, Roger and Dave on backing vocals is a classic bit of 2 Tone footage.

Those who do not see beyond the boisterous, playful side of 2 Tone should take some time to venture into the label's back catalogue. It is for this reason that I consider the 2 Tone label and the bands associated with it to be as important as the original bands linked to punk's Year Zero.



01. Concrete Jungle
02. Sock It To ‘Em JB
03. Hey Little Rich Girl
04. Crowd Problems
05. Rat Race
06. Why?
07. Pearl’s CafĂ©
08. I Can’t Stand It
09. The Boiler
10. Friday Night, Saturday Morning
11. Maggie’s Farm
12. Chang Kai Shek
13. Stereotypes
14. International Jet Set
15. Do Nothing
16. Man At C&A
17. Nite Klub
18. Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Than You Think)

Sunday, 25 September 2022

The Bodysnatchers John Peel Session 8th April 1980


Happy days, having delved into the controversial history of Rhoda and The Special AKA's version of 'The Boiler'single, I unearthed a gem. As mentioned in the earlier post, this Bodysnatcher's original is a rather elusive beast, appearing on one bootleg and on a John Peel Session from 1980. And here is that session. The Peel session id posted here in great quality (thanks to the 'Formerly known as the bollocks' website). At this stage of its gestation (perhaps an unwise turn of phrase given the subject matter) 'The Boiler' has all of the signatures of early 2-Tone i.e. that high octane melding of punk and ska. To my ears the song sounds great and Rhoda's vocals are pretty much word for word the same as on the released version. What it lacks is the sinister edge that Jerry's cinematic organ arrangement brought with it. But it is great to be able to compare and contrast such a hugely poignant and important song as it evolved between the writing and recording.



The Boiler by Rhoda Dakar and The Special AKA - A 2 Tone Masterpiece


Once again out living area is shared with a mass of vinyl with no means of making itself heard! I knew what I had to do.... simple really, invest once again in a turntable and reignite that old passion for vinyl. Reissues do not tempt me but some of the new old material that sees the light of day does peak my interest. This was the case for a 2021 Record Store Day release of two Jerry Dammers home demos, 'Ghost Town' and 'Theme From The Boiler'. 

This got me thinking about the final early 1982 release of 'The Boiler' (which was backed by the 'Theme From The Boiler', the instrumental version). In many ways much has happened in terms of sexual attitudes in the intervening 40 years. Were it ever to be shown again we might laugh at the arse-slapping antics of the Benny Hill show but not in the way we perhaps used to, rather in a 'how on earth was that allowed to be broadcast. In a similar vein, I recall a few years back showing our son Rudi a compilation of old '70's ads as a means of demonstrating how far we have come in equality terms. In one memorable ad, a secretary looked on glumly as her male boss went about his business paying no heed to her. The following day after discovering a brand of breath freshener the boss was overcome with a passionate desire for his transformed secretary to the extent that he picked her up in a fire-man's carry and whisked her out of the room to what ends? Who knows a spot of dictation perhaps?

At the extreme of sexual violence there is then as now rape and not surprisingly not many artists of the day were brave enough to tackle such a taboo subject. Step forward Jerry Dammers and Rhoda Dakar. Rhoda was vocalist with Specials 2-Tone label mates The Bodysnatchers. The London based all female outfit were short lived, and whilst some of the musicians went on to form the Belle Stars, Rhoda kind of became an honorary Special, recording with them on the 'More Specials' album and performing with the band live throughout 1981.

I did not realise until I started to delve deeper in to the evolution of this remarkable song that it was originally a Bodysnatchers' song. It could have been their first single but Chrysalis and the band went with 'Let's Do Rock Steady', a song with at least more commercial potential than 'The Boiler'. With the early demise of the Bodysnatchers, the song effectively left the stage with them and things may have stayed that way without the involvement of Jerry Dammers, fresh out of the rubble of The Specials break up. It was under these circumstances that this little known 2-Tone original was given a second lease of life.

With the release of 'More Specials' the band dramatically veered away from the ska/Blue Beat sound that underpinned the original 2-Tone sound. Different musical styles and elements, dare I say it, of 'easy listening' came into play, brought to the fore principally by Jerry's end of the pier organ flourishes. For the reworking of 'The Boiler' the keyboard track was re-written as what could have been a score for a 1960's film-noir. The keys perfectly follow the narrative of an evening that started with high hopes but ended in an horrible act of violence. The upbeat, although rather sinister music, driven by the organ, descends as the song progresses into a cacophony of intense sound as the narrator succumbs to a brutal rape.

The single was released in January 1982 and became embroiled in the type of censorship row not witnessed since the Sex Pistols 'outraged' a Jubilee-happy population back in 1977. 

I will pause here and let contemporary interviews with Rhoda and the music press take up the story. But before I do here's what the fuss was all about. In a rare (the only I think) appearance of the song on TV thanks to the 'Oxford Road Show' Rhoda performs 'The Boiler'

'The Boiler'
Rhoda Dakar and The Special AKA
Oxford Road Show 1982

New Musical Express 23rd January 1982

The reality of rape that they’re trying to ban.

Adrian Thrills talks to Rhoda Dakar about her uncannily timed single ‘The Boiler’.

During a week in which a Crown Court judge decided that the teenage victim of convicted rapist John Allen was “guilty of a great deal of contributory negligence” in hitch-hiking alone at night, a record that stands as a harrowing tirade against violence to women has effectively been banned from the airwaves of Britain.

The record id Rhoda Dakar’s terror-stricken monologue ‘The Boiler’ on 2-Tone. Produced by Jerry Dammers and played by the Special AKA, the remnants of the post-split Specials, Rhoda’s vivid account of a rape is currently being ignored by radio programme controllers.

Radio One last week slipped the disc into their two late evening slots – John Peel and Richard Skinner – but have now dropped from all of their playlists, while one play from DJ Peter Young on London’s Capital Radio last Saturday led to listeners jamming the switchboard and a somewhat sensationalist story in the Sunday People.

A Radio One spokesman denied on Tuesday that the record had been banned, though the BBC have not played it since last weekend.

“It was played twice last week on Peel and Skinner and discussed on Saturday’s Rock On show as a review record. It hasn’t been banned, but it is unlikely that it will get future plays unless it comes up in some other context, another review or discussion show.”

But Chrysalis Records, 2-Tone distributors, maintain that this constitutes a ban – a claim refuted by the BBC.

“It isn’t a case of the BBC ignoring the record,” continues the Radio One man. “It has been played as a review record. But the general feeling is that it is unsuitable for normal radio play. The final decision is still up to the producer of each individual show, but it is unlikely that they will decide to play it.

The song itself is not a new one, dating back to Rhoda’s days as the lead singer in the all-femail 2-Tone septet The Bodysnatchers, most of whom evolved into the Belle Stars at the start of last year. It was originally intended as a Bodysnatchers’ single or album track, a plan which failed to materialize when the band split after only two singles, although it was documented in a John Peel session in 1980.

Rhoda herself is realistically pessimistic as to the single’s commercial potential. She’s grateful to finally have the chance to release it.

“I don’t really expect it to be a hit, but I hope that people will get to hear it. I never expected it to get any airplay, so any play that it does get is going to be a bonus really. It wasn’t released to be a massive hit. It was done ‘cos it’s a good song worth recording.”

Was it written deliberately to shock?

“I didn’t think of it that way when I was writing it. It just came from a jam we were doing during rehearsals. I started ad-libbing and it just came out, but its not from any personal experience thank goodness. Then again, I think that it did come as a shock to a lot of the people who went along to the early Bodysnatcher gigs.”

The single’s release could hardly have been more uncannily timed, coming the week before Judge Bertrand Richard’s ludicrous courtroom leniency and the subsequent outcry.

“It just leaves you speechless when you hear things like that,” says Rhoda, “but seems to sum up the reaction of a lot of people to the crime of rapists. It certainly isn’t treated with the seriousness it should be, not in this country anyway. In America, for example, it is taken a lot more seriously, maybe because it’s more of a problem out there.

“In Britain, rape is something you don’t talk about, even if it happens to you. The attitude of a lot of people is that girls on their own are just asking for it by the way they dress or the fact that they are walking around late at night… we are almost conditioned to think that if a girl gets raped, then it’s her own fault, which is ridiculous.”

“A woman walking around late at night is somehow regarded as inviting some sort of approach. They just assume that you’re looking for a bloke. It’s the same stupid attitude.”

Jerry Dammers’ ingenious treatment of the song and the eerie keyboard motif that hovers ominously in the background as the record builds to a chilling crescendo have totally transformed it from the version that used to highlight Bodysnatchers’ sets, and Rhoda is quick to acknowledge the talents of theman they call The General.

“It is totally different from the way we used to do it in The Bodysnatchers. I don’t profess to know much about music itself, so I listened to a lot of the advice Jerry gave me. The arrangement is now totally different – Jerry seemed to be thinking of something along the lines of a really spooky Hitchcock movie soundtrack.”

Rhoda has been playing live with The Specials immediately before the summer split and appeared on those two superb Top Of The Pops versions of ‘Ghost Town’ when the single was number one. But she maintains that she was very much the outsider when it came to the end of the band.

“I wasn’t really in on that very much. I was basically just a holidaymaker, doing a few gigs with a band that I really liked. I never really tried to be part of the band, ‘cos I knew that I wasn’t.

“In a way, from being involved with them, I could see that the split was coming – but when it arrived, it still came as a surprise. Not so much because the gravy train had come to a halt…. Just because it was the end of a brilliant band.”

Rhoda’s future involvement with The Special AKA is not yet certain, as the nebulous unit of Dammers, drummer Brad, bassman Horace and guitarist, John Shipley, once a Swinging Cat, are still in the process of finding their feet. What seems most probable is that The Special AKA will function as a production company, rather than a fixed band, with various vocalists and instrumentalists guesting regularly on an array of projects – a single with Rico has already been recorded and a follow-up to ‘The Boiler’ entitled ‘Female Chauvanist Pig’ has been written and a demo made.

“I don’t know whether there is going to be any sort of permanent set up. I see Brad and Jerry from time to time, but there hasn’t been any talk of a fixed group. There is some studio time booked soon, so I suppose whoever turns up is going to be part of The Special AKA!

“To be honest, I couldn’t really tell you what’s going to happen ‘cos I don’t really know…”

Record Mirror made 'The Boiler' one of their singles of the week in its week of release. They also made reference to the scandalous Crown Court judgement in the John Allen case.

Record Mirror 16th January 1982

The storm broke quickly with stories of retail bands appearing on page 3 of the following weeks edition which also featured an interview with Rhoda.

Record Mirror 23rd January 1982

2-Tone's follow up to'Ghost Town' is equally timely and a good deal more controversial. The Single is ‘The Boiler' and its subject is rape. As a result, it's been banned by the BBC. MARK COOPER meets up with RHODA, ex -Bodysnatcher, and listens to her side of the story.

'Come outside, there's a lovely moon out there .. .' (Mike Sarne)

The first sound is the bass drum. At first it's just a beat and then it begins to growl and grow louder - as if in pursuit. The 'steady beat' of the dance song turns into a nightmare while the circus organ  turns eerie and the cornet whistles down the wind.

Lulled by the conventional voice of the London 'dolly bird' you think you ' are safe until you realise you're in it, pop turns to shock and this is no longer seduction but rape, not sex but violence. This is Rhoda's 'The Boiler', the scariest Single since 'Watching The Detectives' and a good deal more topical to boot. 

Rhoda Dakar used to Sing with The Bodysnatchers, 2-Tone's all-women group. Although that group had something of a frivolous reputation, Rhoda's own interests were never escapist:

"That band contained all kinds of different viewpoints from outright feminist way on in."

'The Boiler' was the first original song that The Bodysnatchers ever performed: " I wrote the words in the tube going to Camden Town for rehearsal. The group could never agree to put it out as a single. Some of them felt it was too hardline and wouldn't help us commercially."

Eventually, these differing attitudes in The Bodysnatchers' caused them to split. Rhoda continued to perform the song with the Specials: "One of the reasons I believe this song will survive is that it's been performed over two hundred times. It's been written about and it's got a reputation. It always shocked people. Sometimes they'd just be quiet or sometimes they'd laugh, kind of hysterically."

"Jerry (Dammers) has always wanted to record the song. He wanted it to be The Bodysnatchers' first single. Now he's changed the music. The Bodysnatchers' already had music which they put the words to while Jerry wrote this music specially.

"We just kept the piano riff which was stolen from somewhere anyway. Jerry's music sounds like a soundtrack from a film." Rhoda will perform the song again, if and when The Special AKA play live.

Rhoda's rap has suffered for its topicality and for being explicit. Like Dury's 'Spasticus Autisticus', an inspired dance tune for the disabled (with all ironies intended), 'The Boiler' is being stifled. Meanwhile Bucks Fizz are Number One and their make-believe view of the sexes is played day in and day out until you too might believe that life is all smiles and knowing winks. Now listen to 'Make Believe' and 'The Boiler' and you tell me which is obscene' and which is healthier and then tell me why 'The Boiler' is being silenced.

The BBC's new method of killing a single is more effective than the outright ban. They probably got a few tips from the Polish government. Rhoda explains it to me in a record company office, her voice quiet but calm and only occasionally revealing the London twang that is 'The Boiler's’ everyday voice.

"The BBC don't make outright bans anymore because the last time they did that, it was 'God Save The Queen' which went to Number One. They will play it in connection with 'relevant discussion' on the grounds that if you're discussing something that people consider offensive to begin with, they needn't listen. They believe that if the record just comes up in normal air time it'll surprise and offend.

"Thankfully, Chrysalis haven't withdrawn the record - unlike Polydor with 'Spasticus' with which the record company were in collusion with the BBC. Polydor withdrew the single and, naturally, it sank without trace. Apart from the Pistols, all the records that have been banned have disappeared. After the Pistols, they no longer give the record the notoriety of banning it. They just don't play it.'

And so the voice of sanity and the voice of women is silenced. Instead we are offered a diet of make believe or the pornographic fantasies of heavy metal; clever lads like Phil Lynott describing himself as a 'Killer On The Loose', while the Ripper is murdering women. Women who supposedly want it. Who is obscene, the rapist or the victim? You tell me.

Rhoda doesn't condemn the male pin-up mentality or the male sex, though well she might: "All men aren't pro-rape. A lot of men find it just as horrific as I do. Just because you're into Page Three doesn't mean you’re pro-rape. That's quite a jump. There are plenty of men who're quite happy to look at pictures of women's tits who wouldn't go out and rape somebody."

But Rhoda is quick to point out that rape is not sexy or sexual, although it is an act of force directed against a person's sex. A woman's sex.

"Rape as I understand it is an act of force and violence, not a sexual act. A man tries to impose his will on a woman by force. If it's a sexual act, why do old women get raped? Rape is a way of asserting superiority.

"It’s more the attitude of the policeman, the husband, the boyfriend, that is supported by the Page Three way of looking at women, an attitude that blames the victim, that says that if you go round looking like that: 'What do you expect?'" 

"The woman in 'The Boiler' calls herself a boiler, she believes herself to be a boiler. And the consequence in the song, indirect no doubt, is that she's raped. Is this another way of blaming the victim? Ask Rhoda.

"Women are often their own worst enemies. Perhaps it's a divide and rule policy by this mythical male (whoever he is) who rules the world. You begin to accept the ideas that are forced upon you." The woman in the song is always a boiler in her own eyes and always helpless. Are women that helpless?

"When it comes to rape, a man is always going to be stronger than me which annoys me no end. Unless I can run a two-minute mile, if a bloke's got hold of me, there really isn't that much that I can do. If you get frozen with fear, you’re trapped and once a bloke has hit you a couple of times, what can you do, you can't get up. It's not like the TV fights that go on for half an hour."

'The Boiler' takes place not on the TV but in the realm of the kitchen-sink, where the dance hall has turned to the alleyway, the mascara has run, and the smell of the perfume has turned to the smell of piss. Here we are, back in the ghost town.

Rhoda and the boiler are obviously not one and the same. Rhoda played in the all-woman 2-Tone band, The Bodysnatchers. Although it was at a rehearsal that she heard the word ‘boiler’ (from a roadie), she says that that band escaped many of the worst consequences of being women in the male world of rock: "Most of the bands we played with were 2-Tone bands and they were all 'cool' . Once we started playing with normal groups we started to encounter the strange attitudes like: 'Do they really need a soundcheck, they 're only girls, etc'."

Where did the character of the boiler come from then? "I suppose the character is how I see a 'typical ' girl. She's may be how I could have been. A lot of women seem to see themselves in terms of the blokes they know and are or aren't going out with. You're only as important as your bloke. Most of the women I went to school with are married, only about three of them aren't.' And I went to a so called 'good' school, a grammar school."

Rhoda isn't blaming women or men but rather an attitude, a male attitude with which women often collude. " 'The Boiler' isn't addressed to a particular sex (not as if there's about five of them anyway) but to people. It was written and recorded for its own sake and written about an attitude, to women and to rape, an attitude that comes as much from women as it does from men, unfortunately. 

"You'll find women who have high executive positions and yet not tell her boyfriends' mates that she works. She doesn't like them to know that she's more successful than he (I don 't suppose he's too keen either).

"At work such women have authority yet all too often they'll leave the men to make all the decisions at home. Feminism has got us the jobs, but it hasn't changed our homes and private lives enough yet."

The next song she’s working on is called 'Female Chauvinist Pig'. She'll explain it: "Female chauvinism supports male chauvinism. A lot of women like to manipulate men, twist them round their little fingers as the saying goes while at the other extreme you have the Sun's idea of a feminist, the woman with a crop and, dungarees who claims that men are a mutation of women and are separatists. The song attacks both extremes. I’m more anti-sexist than definitely feminist.

"I don't know who this superwoman I believe in is but she's not this manipulative woman nor this separatist woman. I wouldn’t presume to say separatism is wrong or anything. It's just not for me."

Rhoda's voice is a sane voice, a calm voice that's not afraid of uncertainty and yet has reached some definite conclusions. Why is it that 'The Boiler' is unheard when pop-pap porno like Bucks Fizz fills the airwaves?

"This conspiracy is all around us everywhere. We're supposedly to think like Bucks Fizz. So much so that it's 'The Boiler' that uncovers the secrets of the underside of pap and lays them bare. If they don't want you to hear it, are you going to obey? Better scream than simper.


I'll leave the last word if I may to Nicky Summers, bass player of The Bodysnatchers and musician on the reworked version of 'The Boiler'. Here she discusses the song on her blog back in December 2017:

"Bodysnatchers songs came about with the music first . We would generally collaborate and  jam on pieces of music or someone would have a few chords, bass line , or keyboard line . Rhoda would then be inspired by our musical output and put the  lyrics to it. She would listen to us play in rehearsals and write while we played.

The Boiler - we used to jam around a 1960's sounding keyboard riff and gradually this piece of music grew . I remember coming out of Gaz Mayall's club , Gaz’ Rockin’  Blues,  one night and asking Rhoda to put lyrics to it. She came along to the next rehearsal and improvised over the music an experience of a rape.

The song title was called this because the manager of the Nips , a guy called Howard used to refer to women as ‘Boilers’  ..I think we were being ironic when we called the song that .

The audience reaction …generally stunned silence ..they didn’t used to even clap hardly after we played it , but they were always definitely transfixed by the song .

Jerry Dammers did a different treatment of the song and I re-wrote the bass line when we recorded it with Rhoda and the Special AKA .

I like both versions of the song , The Bodysnatchers version was more of a 60’s r and b thrash. It was powerful to play live , it is a challenging song for any audience , I think more powerful live than Dammer’s version which is manicured with production . 

The song itself had to be written, played and recorded  . I am glad and proud to have been part of it ."

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:


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:


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.



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):


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!

Empress Ballroom, Blackpool
6th August 2022



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...



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)