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

Sunday 27 November 2022

Farewell Wilko Johnson!

It was with great sadness last week to hear the news that Wilko Johnson had died at the age of 75. I was familiar with  much of the material that he recorded with Doctor Feelgood, but did not get to see him live until his support slot on a Stranglers tour (the year escapes me). Thereafter, I saw some of his solo shows, the incredible trio of Wilko, Norman Watt-Roy and Dylan Howe. What a visual as well as an aural treat those gigs were. Such a sight to see Wilko and Norman locked in a deadly combat with their respective instruments. Wilko being dragged across the stage by his Fender telecaster jerking in his hands like a high calibre machine gun whilst Norman was engaged in a life or death wrestle with a wet alligator, slippery with Mississippi mud..... or was it a bass!?

Back in the early to mid-1970’s a rough at the edges quartet, in the form of Lee Brilleaux, Wilko Johnson, John B. Sparkes and The Big Figure, roared out of Canvey in the direction of London and its plethora of smokey pubs that would nightly play host to a array of bands who delivered gutsy Rhythm and Blues and Rock ‘n’ Roll to appreciative beery audiences. Sadly, like Doctor Feelgood itself most of those venues are no more, but the former had lit the touch paper that in 1976 emerged as punk rock and those same pubs opened their doors to a new breed of music fan.

The Feelgoods were rather blown up by their own bomb as the likes of The Pistols and The Clash (The Clash themselves coming together out of a pub rock band and a glam rock band) swept away all that had come before. Those most closely associated with Pub Rock either put a little distance between themselves and pub rock and took on took on board some of the elements of the new music or they battled on for a time against the tide.

But it should never be forgotten that those bands and Doctor Feelgood with the amphetamine rush of their music, their look and their stage presence paved the way.

RIP Wilko Johnson.

Wilko Johnson
Linoprint A4
Clack ink on Cream artcard.

Wednesday 23 November 2022

The Newtown Neurotics and Attila the Stockbroker The Lexington London 22nd November 2022


I am not sure that even the Neurotics imagined that they would be back on tour in 2022, but here we were on the last night of that tour in London Town.... a last night in Harlow would have been more poetic but for some inexplicable reason the magnificent Square was demolished several years ago now and now stands as a vacant plot! However, the Lexington offered a splendid intimate environment for tonight's entertainment. 

With Attila opening up for his Neurotic mates, it is business as usual, an evening spent with 'his punk rock family' in his words. Whilst there is new material to be heard tonight from both the Neurotics ('Cognitive Dissidents', the new album is out now) and Attila (new material at least for me), tonight is not one of those nights where the band are on the front line as was often the case in the past. There were no impressionable skinheads in Skrewdriver T-shirts taunting the band at the front of the stage or their older mates saluting the stage. This really did feel like a group of musicians and fans coming together to celebrate 40 plus years of intelligent music, the sole intention of which was to 'agitate, educate and organise'. Preaching to the converted it may well have been, but everyone needs an affirmation of values every now and again, and right now seems to be a fine time when I increasingly reluctantly watch the news!

Attila had a new vibe.... dub-ranting verse, which is as you would imagine is a amalgamation of poetry with a reggae backing. It worked really well. I was reminded of an old Attila rant 'The Iron Men of Rap' when the lyric along the lines of 'My only hoes are in the garden centre' hit me. Brilliant stuff!

As I recall, the Neurotics took the stage at about 9 pm (a good early start for me as a middle aged punk out in London on a work night!) and got he evening of to a good start with a trio of songs from the debut album 'Beggars Can Be Choosers'. We were warmed up with 'Wake Up', 'The Mess' and 'Get Up and Fight' before the first new material was offered, two singles in fact, 'Climate Emergency' and 'Liar Liar'. 

Then it was back to the early days of the band with the two earliest singles 'When The Oil Runs Out'.... very apposite in the winter of '22, and 'Hypercrite' (which could have been dedicated to FIFA boss Gianni Infantino in reference to his speech on the eve of this World Cup... maybe it is just me but having FIFA's top brass officials moralise to me sticks in the craw a little!). These songs were the bread around the 'Repercussions' filling of 'Fighting Times' and 'This Fragile Life', again songs that bolster the belief that we are not alone in our disdain of the current political climate (and actual climate!) whether here or internationally. These songs are also the reason why I sounded like Paul Robeson with COVID this morning!

'Stand With You' is a new anti-fascist anthem and one that resonates very strongly with me having been to Sachsenhausen concentration camp in the last month and being utterly shocked at the attitudes of some of the residents of the Oranienburg suburb that surrounds the camp. 

And then we are on the home stretch, with a real treat of The Neurotics sharing the stage once again with Attila for a rousing rendition of 'Andy Is A Corporatist' which hammered home the key message of the previous song.

'Andy Is A Corporatist'
The Newtown Neurotics and Attila The Stockbroker
The Lexington, London 22nd November 2022.

They left us with 'Kick Out The Tories' and 'I Get On Your Nerves'..... they did nothing of the sort of course. And with that I headed back to Angel tube station for the journey back to Bishops Stortford with the slight comfort in the knowledge that if I am angry with the world at least I am not alone.

Monday 21 November 2022

2 Million Views and Counting!


At some point over the weekend, the counter registered the 2 millionth visit to the Aural Sculptors site. 

I would like to thank all of those people who have added something to this site over its 11 year existence. You know who your are, whether you have in that time shared files, donated sums of hard earned cash to the upkeep of the site or just offered positive comments... thank you one and all. And thanks for uncomplainingly supporting me in my mostly musical indulgence that this site offers me.

Cheers to all!


Small Fakers 100 Club London 2022


Last summer I finally got round to seeing the Small Fakers who were performing at the Stone Valley South Festival. Normally, I rather shy away from tribute bands, but in this case where there is no other option when it comes to hearing the music of the Small Faces live by virtue of the fact that three quarters of the band have shuffled off of this mortal coil, I was more than happy to make an exception. They were fantastic in a festival setting so I figured that they would be even more impressive in their own headlining gig and when that gig just happens to be at the 100 Club (my favourite London venue) we were gonna be there!

Taking a step back for a moment. The Small Faces were the real deal, genuine pint-sized ace faces with killer songs to boot. In Steve Marriott the band had one of the best vocalists that Britain has produced. Aside from the tongue in cheek cockney delivery in some of their songs Steve had the most extraordinary blues voice, one at complete odds with his stature! The band's back catalogue is also something to wonder at, a proper mix of styles, from the raucous cock-er-ney singalongs to full on ballsy blues numbers.

The Small Fakers take all of this in their stride. Matt Bond, the Fakers answer to Stevie Marriott is the bollocks. The man to a tee, the look, the attitude and most importantly let's not forget, the voice!

Gunta and I arrived part way through the support set by The Veras, who happen to be the same band but playing original material. A quick outfit change.... a Humble Pie t-shirt swapped for a velvet suit and The Small fakers were upon us. We had a great vantage point, right at the front in fact. I am more used to punk gigs where space at the front is more aggressively contested!

What followed was a razor sharp, chronological romp through the Small Faces' back catalogue.  Early stompers like 'Whatcha Gonna Do About It', 'Shake' and 'Sha La La La Lee' as well as the hammond heavy 'Grow Your Own' warmed the crowd up admirably for mid-period songs like 'My Mind's Eye', 'Here Comes The Nice' and 'Tin Soldier'.

Mid set two well known faces were introduced to the stage, Glen Matlock (well known to be a big Small Faces fan) and Clem Burke, one of my all time favourite drummers, for a rousing version of 'All Or Nothing'. Crash, bang, wallop.... Clem signed off with a thunderous routine.

'All or Nothing' by The Small Fakers
100 Club London 22nd October 2022

Onto the latter days then with a fine selection of songs from 'Ogden's Nut Gone Flake'. We were treated to 'Song Of A Baker', 'Lazy Sunday' and my song of the night 'Rene'. My German mother-in-law is called Renata and sometimes we would shorten this to Rene, just to wind her up! We used to play the song over Sunday lunches just for mine and Gunta's amusement. Of course, a combination of age-related hearing loss and Steve Marriott's barrow boy delivery guaranteed that she had not the faintest idea of what the song was about. Lurid descriptions of Rene's colourful dockside occupation were totally lost on her... which only added to the joke!

The end of the set gave Matt as Steve the full opportunity to showcase his vocal talent as the band ran through 'Afterglow' and 'Rollin' Over', late career song that pointed in the direction where Marriott was heading next with Humble Pie.

If you are unfamiliar with the music of the Small Faces, don't be a fool.... give them a listen. Had I have been around in '65 this would have been my band! If you like what you hear, take it that bit further and spend an evening in the company of the Small Fakers and you won't regret it, that I can promise you-aaagh!

Sunday 20 November 2022

Thursday 17 November 2022

Hugh Cornwell Interview Sunday Express 13th November 2022


Last Sunday presented me with a dilemma. As I looked at my Facebook feed, it was apparent that Hugh featured in the review section of the Sunday Express. What to do, clearly, Hugh is out there promoting his new ‘Moments of Madness’ album and tour and naturally, I want to know what he has to say….. but…but…. It means purchasing the Sunday Express, a publication, along with the Daily Express, for which I have a fervent dislike! Notwithstanding I made the purchase, extracted the relevant pages of the review section and cast the remainder into the recycling bin. As John Cooper Clarke once said…. ‘Margeret Thatcher looks stunning yes, but why no nipples in the Daily Express!’

I do not have high hopes for such articles that inevitably devote much of the column inches to rehashing the ‘bad boys of punk’ narrative with lurid tales of misogeny, ill-treatment of journalistic unfortunates and Class A drug use. These are stories and anecdotes that compulsorily accompany any article on The Stranglers or past or present members of the band. They add little to our understanding and only elicit the same oft-repeated responses from the interviewees. What remains then for me, the reader, is to scan the piece, with Stranglers’ anorak on, looking for inaccuracies and examples of sloppy journalism. 

Did JJ study history? I thought that it was economics…. ‘Harris, now 84, has retired’…. Presumably a mistaken reference to Jet Harris, the now deceased former bass player of The Shadows!

One comment that did stand out for me was Hugh’s assertion that JJ, disdain for ‘Golden Brown’ was such that he did nor appear on the record…. Is this true…. Or just another shot in the ongoing rounds of sniping between the former guitarist and current bass player?

Answers on a post card please!

'The Stranglers never tried to please anybody' Hugh Cornwell on punk era and new album.

While all of the UK's original punk rock bands exhibited a dandyish rebel stance, only The Stranglers exuded a genuine sense of menace.

In their early pictures, the band look positively thuggish compared to the dyed spiked hair, slogan-smeared T-shirts and clownish make-up favoured by their contemporaries. “We didn’t dress up or wear safety pins, we definitely weren’t like the others,” former Stranglers singer-guitarist Hugh Cornwell tells me.

For a start, they were older. Cornwell turned 28 in 1977 – the year punk entered the mainstream. Johnny Rotten turned 21.

Behind their scowling image, the four were professional musicians. As well as being a karate black belt, bassist Jean-Jacques “JJ” Burnel was a classically-trained guitarist who’d read history at university.

Keyboardist Dave Greenfield was a piano tuner with a background in prog-rock. Drummer Jet Black owned a fleet of ice cream vans and was an accomplished jazz musician. While Cornwell was a biochemistry graduate whose first band included future Fairport Convention folk-rocker Richard Thompson.

The Stranglers had spent years playing London’s hard-to-please pub rock circuit, tightening their skills, before Peaches became their first of three Top 10 hits in 77.

Hugh tells me, “The necessity of adopting a pose appealed to our provocative nature. Like Elvis Costello and Blondie, none of us were really punk. It was an opportunity. Who cares what they called us? This was our chance to get in through the door.”

The BBC banned Peaches, for “coarse language and innuendo”, and the band revelled in the notoriety. The song (minus its lecherous lyrics) famously went on to become the closing theme to the late Keith Floyd’s TV cooking series…

“Could a group get away with that stuff now?” ponders Cornwell. “No. Would we be cancelled? We would. But the ones who complained about Peaches had no sense of humour.

“Nobody has got a sense of humour anymore. It’s a sad, sad time for the human spirit that people are behaving like this.”

You needed more than a sense of humour to digest some of The Stranglers’ more antisocial antics, however. Their feuds with journalists became legendary.

Hugh once tied a French journalist to a girder of the Eiffel Tower – 200feet above the ground.

JJ kidnapped another hapless hack and suspended him over a London stage. In Australia, he gaffer-taped a female journalist to the stage.

“There was also a Portuguese journalist who we left out in a desert,” Hugh recalls. “But that wasn’t very clever.”

At one stage the notorious Hell’s Angels adopted the band. “We realised they weren’t there to do us any harm. When we came offstage, they took us to their clubhouse. They said, ‘Any of these women you like? They're our girls. Anyone takes your fancy, they’re yours’.”

To refresh the band, the gang served them amphetamine. “There was a huge knife with a pile of industrial-strength speed, and you can’t say no…”

This episode was commemorated in their 1978 hit, Nice ‘N’ Sleazy, which they promoted with a now infamous outdoor show in London’s Battersea Park with a chorus line of onstage strippers.

“The police busted the strippers afterwards,” Cornwell recalls. “They were trying to take their names and they’re going, ‘Miss Tubby Hayes’, ‘Tessa Tickell’...all false names and addresses. It was very funny.”

The joke wore thin after the band agreed to play a fundraiser for the Angels. “As one of them was escorting us to the stage we saw two Angels beating the crap out of each other with knives. It all fizzled out after that.”

Worse was to come for Cornwell however when in January 1980 he was convicted on drug charges and sentenced to two months in Pentonville prison.

He “toughed it out, kept my nose clean and was out in five weeks; you’ve just got to treat it as a new experience that you can learn from. And I learned that I never want to go to jail again.”

The next two years proved a nadir for The Stranglers. Album sales held strong, but the hits dried up… until 1982 when Hugh composed their million-plus-selling single, Golden Brown – number 2 in the UK, Top Ten in six other countries.

With its dreamy hypnotic allure, Golden Brown was – unlikely as it sounds – harpsichord-led punk baroque.

London was awash in cheap ‘brown sugar’ heroin at the time and many assumed that the song was about the drug.

Hugh still insists however that “the lyrics served more than one purpose – there was a girl I was having an affair with who had beautiful golden-brown skin.”

Burnel never liked the song. “He didn’t actually play on the record,” says Hugh. “He said, ‘I can’t. This doesn’t turn me on.’.”

He must have been the only person in the world that didn’t like it.

Hugh laughs. “Well, he probably likes it now,” referring to the fact that the record still brings in considerable royalties.

We meet at a recording studio in west London, where Cornwell was putting the finishing touches to his first solo album for three years: Moments of Madness. A less-is-more delight that lets the music do the talking.

“I’m not trying to knock down any doors these days,” he says. “I grew up buying Eddie Cochran singles and Cliff Richard EPs. I’d rather write a great three-minute pop song than a nine-minute epic.”

There are plenty of great three-minute moments on the album, not least the single, Coming Out of The Wilderness, which sounds exactly like the sort of catchy one-two-punch that first made The Stranglers famous.

Hugh left the band in 1990 and has resisted several lucrative offers to reunite. “Five years after leaving the Stranglers, there was a seven-figure offer. I said no, and I’ve continued saying no.”

Greenfield died in 2020, aged 71, of Covid-related causes. Harris, now 84, has retired. And Cornwell is adamant he’s not interested in teaming up with JJ again.

“I’ve had covert offers. I was told, ‘We are going to let you re-join the band’. I went, hang on a second, I left. I wasn’t sacked! Thanks but no thanks.”

He frowns. “They treated me quite disgracefully after I left. Never wished me luck or anything. It was sad because we’d spent so much time together.’

Little changed from his Stranglers heyday, apart from the thinning thatch he still insists on pushing up, Hugh kissed goodbye to his wild years long ago.

“The drugs are off the table because they end up destroying your cells. The trouble with cocaine, it sobered you up. So that if you were blind drunk, you could carry on. Ultimately, your body’s going to pay for that.

“Dope now is so strong. I mistakenly tried some a few years ago, and I had to sit down in an armchair for three hours, I couldn’t move.”

Now 73, he tries hard to stay fit and healthy. “I eat a lot of fish; I don't eat much red meat. I avoid processed stuff, sausages.”

Hugh is on a 23-date UK tour, his first since before Covid. “I remember thinking at the end of 2019 how I could use a year off,” he says. “But not like that!”

His new show is “a game of two halves – the first is my solo stuff, the second is ramming those Stranglers songs down their throats.”

He hates encores and eschewed them for years. But has grown tired of fans complaining.

“We’ve gone back to that facade of, ‘Right. We’re going to walk off stage now, and then we’re going to walk back on, and then we’re going to play…’.

“You can’t please everybody.”

And as he reminds me, the band he personified in his black-clad punk days never tried to please anybody but themselves. “I was always my best judge.”

He still is.

Tuesday 15 November 2022

Siouxsie Sioux Inked


Siouxsie 1977 (Siouxsie & The Banshees)
Linoprint A4
Black ink on cream art card.

Ruts DC Club Volta Cologne 25th October 2022


The German tour complete and 'Counter Culture' now released there is no better time to post this recording of the band's gig in Cologne. My thanks goes to Peter for kindly sharing this with me. I mentioned the set in my earlier post on our time with the band in Berlin, but here is the proof of just how on form Ruts DC are right now.

The UK tour is upon us so fill your boots with Ruts DC!



Dave Ruffy Ruts DC Inked


Dave Ruffy Ruts DC
Linoprint A4
Black ink on grey art card.

Thursday 10 November 2022

'Cognitive Dissidents' by The Newtown Neurotics


I have often repeated on this site that whilst The Stranglers became the mainstay of my musical listening, my social life and all that that entails, I have always made time for a whole array of bands, most but not all, with a leaning towards punk. Political bands have always been a part of that. I have never subscribed to the view that music and politics don’t mix. Quite the contrary, music is the perfect vehicle for conveying political opinions and ideas… especially to those newly eligible to vote or those for whom this right is almost upon them. Politics is part of our lives, whether we like it or not, it defines how we are able to live.

In the early to mid 80’s, The Stranglers may have enjoyed the most hours on the turntable in my bedroom, but bands like Crass, Conflict and The Newtown Neurotics were not so far behind. Of the last three, they were all clearly overtly political! Crass and Conflict introduced me to many new ideas, some of which still resonate with me 35 years on, but the ballot box approach always seemed to me to be the way to go in my mind. This was especially the case when not so long after my introduction to The Neurotics’ second album ‘Repercussions’ I would spend my evenings in front of the evening news on TV watching shocking scenes that were being played out in the North of England and the Midlands as miners fought with police in our colliery towns during the Miners Strike of ’84-’85.

Gigs in Brighton followed before I was lucky enough to see the band’s ‘final’ performances at the Electric Ballroom and the Fulham Greyhound in 1988.

All went quiet until 2005 when an interest in an old independent punk label, Stortbeat (a label that put out material by bands hailing from the Harlow and Bishops Stortford area). Incidentally, Bishops Stortford has been my ‘home town’ for the past 27 years. A rather splendid compilation CD of the label’s output also encouraged many of the musicians that were involved in the label to reconnect as ‘The Stortbeat Collective’. This in turn seemed to reactivate the Newtown Neurotics a couple of years later as they  played some stunning gigs which for me rekindled that initial buzz that I associate with the term ‘Agitate, Educate and Organise’. 

However, no new material has been forthcoming from the band since 1988’s ‘Is Your Bathroom Breeding Bolshevicks?’. Until now.

‘Cognitive Dissidents’ to my ears picks up where ‘Repercussions’ left off (‘Is Your Bathroom Breeding Bolshevicks?’ was a rather more reflective album). The new album takes on familiar themes from the very local (’Take Your Dirty Hands Off Our Town’) to truly global issues (‘Climate Emergency’). The latter track needs no explanation whereas perhaps the former does. The town is Harlow, a first wave new town created in 1948 under the provisions of the New Town Act 1946. The Luftwaffe had started a job of East End slum clearance that the then London authorities capitalized on, demolishing the rest and creating new environments for displaced Londoners beyond the inner city. 

Originally greeted with great enthusiasm (who wouldn’t be thrilled at the idea of an inside loo!) the new town concept in time fell out of favour. I have worked in Harlow for the last 29 years, but it is not for me to opine about the pros and cons of Harlow. I leave that to Steve Drewett, who by his own admission is around the same age as the town that he has spent his life in. In this song, a love song to the town, he traces his love hate relationship with Harlow which culminates in a fierce pride for the place. Quite a contrast to the sentiments of ‘Newtown People’ from 40 years ago. Then again, I guess that any town with a venue as brilliant at The Square will always have something to shout about…. Don’t get me started on the travesty of the Square’s closure!

‘Liar Liar’, an in your face appraisal of the personal qualities of the now twice former Prime Minister is not my favourite track on the album, although I am fully behind the meaning of the song with its appraisal of the immorality and integrity of Boris Johnson. I wonder whether when the band recorded the track, just a few short months ago, they realized that by the time the track was released on the album the song would be out of date to the tune of not one but two Prime Ministers!!

One of the most pointed tracks on the album is ‘Dumb’. It is a bitter ode to this new, technology enabled, breed of keyboard warriors, those who invest so much time propagating madcap conspiracy theories about how we are all being controlled from on high. Just for the record I am fully vaccinated and if Bill Gates intended to track my every move via a smart implant he will have figured out by now the revolution is not being plotted nightly in the Castle Inn in Bishops Stortford! Sorry to be a frightful bore Mr Gates!

‘We’re dumb, you’re wrong
Embrace your conspirituality!’

The song reminds me of an earlier track ‘Sects’…

‘I have come to the conclusion
That if you refuse the transfusion
Then you’re certainly insane
To cause so much suffering and pain’

As I write this in November 2022, two days after Gavin Williamson reluctantly resigned in the wake of accusations that he had told a member of his ministerial staff to ‘slit his throat’ I am absolutely despondent as to how fractured we are as a country and a Kingdom.

The Newtown Neurotics may not have all of the answers to all of these big issues but I am more than happy ‘To Stand With Them’ whilst we try to figure a way through the bloody mess.

The Newtown Neurotics play the Lexington on Pentonville Road, London on 22nd November…. I’ll see you there.

Segs Jennings of Ruts DC Inked


Segs Jennings Ruts DC
Linoprint A4
Black ink on grey art card.

Nick Cash of 999 Inked

 A couple of weeks ago I did my first lino printing for over a year... most satisfying it was too!

Nick Cash of 999
Linoprint A3
Black ink on grey art card.

Tuesday 8 November 2022

'Let Me Tell You About Sweden' Tradgarn Gothenburg 7th October 2022


After we left them in Copenhagen, a couple of our intrepid fellow travellers continued onwards to Sweden. And the prize for us is a fantastic recording of the band's appearance in Gothenburg. Thanks as ever to Chatts99 and also to Shadow23 for the Trevor Horn touch!


01. Intro-Toiler On The Sea
02. (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)
03. Duchess
04. Something Better Change
05. Nice ‘N’ Sleazy
06. Last Men On The Moon
07. Skin Deep
08. Don’t Bring Harry
09. Water
10. Always The Sun
11. Golden Brown

01. Sweden
02. Walk On By
03. This Song
04. Peaches
05. Nuclear Device
06. White Stallion
07. Relentless
08. Hanging Around
09. Tank
10. Go Buddy Go
11. No More Heroes

Monday 7 November 2022

'Berlin's Burning With Anxiety' Ruts DC S036 Berlin 27th October 2022


It was fantastic to be on our much COVID delayed East German road trip that finally brought us back to Berlin, via Leipzig and Dresden. It was a double pleasure schedule our travels such that we could have the opportunity to see the wonderful Ruts DC for a third time in the equally wonderful S036 club in the district of Kreuzburg in the company of mates, Nick and Steve.

As usual when Ruts DC are in town I contacted Leigh to try to interest him in a beer. A while later he was waiting outside the venue for Gunta and I and we got to enjoy the band’s sound check which is easy to forego a beer for! Sound tweeked and sorted to the band’s satisfaction, they headed to the hotel and we headed off to locate Nick and Steve.

The clock quickly rolled around to show time. We saw about half of the set by the second support, ‘More Kicks’, who sounded good and tight before the lights dimmed for Ruts DC. 

Opening with a new song, ‘Faces in the Sky’ which will be on the soon to be released album ‘Counter Culture’, it was clear that the night was going to be a great one. In Leigh’s words earlier, approaching the end of this German tour, the band were ‘beyond tired’ but there was no evidence of that from the stage! Ruts DC delivered a powerhouse set that made time for material from their entire career from 1979 to 2022…. Almost. If I have one criticism and it’s more of a selfish observation really, I absolutely miss some of the material that the band used to play from ‘Animal Now’ and ‘Rhythm Collision 1’. But, that is the price that you pay when a band refuses to sit back on its laurels (impressive though they unquestionably are) and survive on past glories. New material pushes older material out whilst of course the hits have to stay. Three new songs were aired tonight, the aforementioned ‘Faces in the Sky’, ‘Counter Culture’ and ‘Born Innocent’ and I have to say that all three sit very comfortably in the set.

The band played an energetic set at the expected urgent pace making a noise that belies the fact that there are just three musicians up there on the stage.

The good thing is that Ruts DC are still angry and railing against the inequalities that exist in this world. And I thank them for that. It’s just a shame that it is men in their sixties and seventies that are making all the noises of dissatisfaction. Where are the angry hordes of young people whose futures really are on the line? I have never know young people to be so disengaged in politics, at a time when there is so much to fight for and too many things are going in the wrong direction.

On that point is was good to see the S036 stance on the far right spelled out so clearly on each and every wall. Such a contrast to tome of the stuff we had seen on walls in other cities earlier in the week!

‘This music must destroy’… they said it!

Wednesday 2 November 2022

Shepherds Bush Empire 10th December 2004


This post is filling a request. This is one of DomP's remasters.

Not surprisingly, the set is heavy on the new 'Norfolk Coast' material with no less than seven of the album's eleven tracks showcased on the night. And why not? 'Norfolk Coast' is pretty much universally recognised amongst the fan base as the return to form album after the lacklustre offerings of 'Written In Red' and 'Coup De Grace'.



The Stranglers Fabrik Hamburg 3rd October 2022


A return to Europe for the band and Gunta and I as we joined friends as they travelled up from Cologne to Hamburg. Our base for the two day sojourn was the St Pauli/Reeperbahn area of the city. The saving grace for the area is the official St Pauli FC shop where we put a dent in the stock of clothing that Richard Jobson had kindly left behind. The rest of the area is seedy beyond belief. It is how I imagine Soho would have been back in the early 1980’s, before the Vice Squad cleaned it up.

Having arrived early doors on the Reeperbahn on the Sunday morning it was necessary to wade through the detritus of a Saturday night in Europe’s most famed and infamous red light district. If the sole of your DM boot did not crunch glass into the pavement, it skidded through dog shit (at least I assumed it was of canine origin!). It was all rather grim.

Two mates ventured out on Sunday evening and stumbled across a street with restricted access (with under 18’s and women prohibited from entering). In the window displays within the cordoned off area, young prostitutes advertised their wares. Outside of the area other prostitutes hounded potential clients. Our mates beat a hasty retreat back to the apartment. 

Earlier in the evening we had taken a walk to the nearby St Pauli stadium, not so much to see it but rather what stands next to it, a massive World War II flak tower. This huge concrete edifice was one of several constructed to defend the city of Hamburg from the devastating Allied bombing raids that reduced the city to rubble. 

Built as they were to withstand high explosive, the post-war authorities have tried and failed to remove them and so endeavoured to make something better out of them. This tower has been converted, in part, to a gymnasium with climbing walls and most interestingly, a bar. High apartments also do their level best to hide the stark concrete walls of the construction. Strangely for such an ugly, functional building, something of beauty can be found within, a rather spectacular spiral staircase.

The following day, gig-day, there was another war time attraction to see, this time a relic from the Cold War. The U-434 is a Russian submarine Tango Class, constructed in Gorki (now Nishniy Novgorod) in 1976. Now moored in the Fischmarkt 10 area of the port it is well worth a visit. 

To say that to be inside this tube of steel was claustrophobic would be something of an understatement. To think of it filled with its full complement of submariners, 84 men no less, coupled with the smells (fuel, farts, smoke and boiled vegetables) and the heat, typically 40°C (but up to 60°C in the engine room) when submerged. It was tricky to navigate too!

The moment of impact.
Submariner Andrews comes a cropper.
(Photo: Owen Carne)

And I nearly forgot, when on the Reeperbahn it would be a shame not to track down The Star Club, so we did.... with the help of a friendly chap who beckoned us in the right direction (through a gate into a small courtyard, hidden from view).

The European home of Rock 'n' Roll
(Photo Owen Carne).

Moving out of the centre to the venue, Fabrik (a former factory as the name would suggest) was located and entry gained. For a change we decided to occupy the balcony overlooking the stage. As is evident from the photographs, such a vantage point in such a small venue offered an intimacy that 02 Venues just cannot offer.

Supporting were The Membranes, fronted as you well know by friend and fan of the band, John Robb. I so wanted to like them as John is a genuinely nice bloke, but I didn’t really.... sorry John.... but there’s no accounting for taste as they say.

The Stranglers put in a solid performance as usual. I got the impression that the opportunity to play such smaller venues of the kind that their European tours provide is something of a treat for the band (I may be wrong of course!). I have never been in a band but I would imagine that playing in such close proximity to each other beats performing across a vast expanse of stage. 

Highlights of the evening were ‘Sweden’, ‘Relentless’, ‘Something Better Change’, ‘White Stallion’, ‘Don’t Bring Harry’ and ‘Go Buddy Go’. The last of which should either open or close the set. JJ seems to be rather retiscent about the song, probably because he penned it so young. Sure, it is a little dated, but it is such a powerful testament to youthful experience, describing as it does a scenario little changed in clubs and pubs since the advent of the teenager. I would gladly sacrifice ‘Peaches’ or ‘Walk On By’ everytime in favour of such a classic hallmark Stranglers’ track. Perhaps its reappearance this time around was linked to the recent passing of Bob, the hero of the piece.

I wasn’t disappointed with the set by any means, but perhaps with a new guy on the keyboards and a young and powerful drummer on the stool, this would be the time to through some obscurities into the set... to give then a last run out so to speak. Something of ‘Feline’ or perhaps something from ‘The Gospel’... ‘Second Coming anyone?

Fabrik Hamburg 3rd October 2022.