Here's a great recording courtesy of The Rat Zone.
A bit of a shameless plug this one for the band the Mo is in. Dad cannot attend as he will be some miles up the road in Blackpool.
Friday 4th of August! at The Peer Hat with Ombudsmen, The Kidney Flowers, and FURROWED BROW!
My daughter Mo, or in the context of this particular post, her rarely used full title of Ramona, was in the habit of recording and posting short vignettes of songs that took her fancy. Last night, after some persuasion from a few hundred miles away she did another one. Here's a minute or so of 'Danny Says' by Ramones, a ballad that appears on the Phil Spector produced 'End Of The Century' album.
I cannot imagine that this footage isn't familiar to nearly all visitors to the site... but you never know.
OK, so now The Stranglers had a surprise hit on their hands in 'Golden Brown'. As a consequence the UK music weeklies want the gen, what is it all about and where is it taking the band (in fairness to Record Mirror, if there was one music publication that stood in The Stranglers' corner it was them). Here, Hugh talks of the single, the video and a new found interest in TV documentary film making, having just been comissioned by BBC West in Bristol to put something together. That something was the Black Documentary, an exploration of the psychology of the colour black (or more scientifically speaking the lack of colour black) and how this authoritarian hue has been used as a symbol of power for 100's of years, be it by the clergy or judiciary.
Just when you thought the STRANGLERS had been flushed well and truly down the drain, they're back with a vengeance and a big hit single, 'Golden Brown'. DANIELA SOAVE asked Hugh Cornwell how they do it.
THE STRANGLERS are poised on the brink. The sweet flower of success is within their grasp, a flower which, in recent years, has withered at their very touch. All that is changing with the shrugging off of the meninblack cloak and, more largely, the melodic mystery of their most prosperous single for a considerable time, 'Golden Brown'. Suddenly newspaper pages are open to them, as are radio airwaves and television slots. It must be a strange feeling after being "ignored" for so long.
That ignoration has even gone as far as an unofficial censorship of their videos, but that too came to an end last week with the showing of the 'Golden Brown' film on Swap Shop. In keeping with the song's gentle indolence, the video is set in Egypt, with pyramids and Islamic scenes abounding. The video immediately poses two questions: if it was filmed on location where did they find the mammoth budget, and secondly, does the middle east connotation mean the song is about certain illegal substances?
It transpires I'm misled on both counts: Hugh Cornwell elaborates.
The video was filmed on location, but not where you think. It was made in a house in Holland Park which used to belong to the royal portrait painter Leighton, who had a fascination with the middle east and all things Muslim. Whenever friends of his were travelling in that area, he would ask them to bring him back tiles and other bits of houses, and thus he amassed all this stuff, which he puts in a room called the Arab Hall.
“The footage of the pyramids was real as well, so we've cleverly mixed everything together to lead people to believe it was all done in the middle east," Hugh tells me. "Nothing is faked, you're simply not seeing what you think.
"As for the meaning of the single, it's all about the colour brown, about, it gelling into ... Well, Jet and I are making a film about the colour black, how it sometimes links colours and emotions. There have been certain colour tests carried out by scientists which prove that different hues can change your mood, for instance green being tranquil, red making you emotional and brown being the colour of serene calm.
"I'm linked to the colour brown, maybe other people are as well. I'm talking about golden brown, not shit brown, it's a very romantic and gentle colour. Just think about it, when people are sun tanned they're healthy golden brown, very relaxing and romantic. We tried to bring all that across in the video with sun tans and palm trees and sun sets, all beautiful and tranquil.
We co-direct our videos, we don't just go to someone who tells us what to put across because I know what I meant when I was writing the song and I have strong ideas of what we want to do for that particular theme."
THE chance to make a documentary came about through a stroke of luck when the Stranglers were playing the Bristol Granary shortly before Christmas. BBC Bristol were filming the concert , because both Hugh and Jet are local lads, and they were so impressed that they offered the BBC's facilities to them for future ventures.
"They were so knocked out that they asked us if we wanted to make a film," Huh says, "virtually carte blanche. Our minds started working overtime, the possibilities being endless, but then Jet hit on a great idea of the colour black and the way people react to it. People are frightened of it because it's used by superstition and authority, and figures assert themselves with it.
"It started off as an eight minute film, but as we researched it, it got longer and longer and it's ended up as a 20 minute film. We got a Patrick Moore type expert from Bristol University who was just like him to talk about colour, and when I interviewed him he mentioned everything we wanted to include without our prompting him or supplying him with a script. At the time I didn't think I'd got very interesting subject matter, but Jet, who'd been watching it from the control room, said it was fantastic and fitted in perfectly with what we were trying to put across."
I'd have thought that Jet would have jumped at the chance of making a film about his pet subject, UFOs, as it's common knowledge that he is an authority on the subject.
"Ah, but if you ever get the chance to see the film - at the moment it will only be screened by BBC Bristol - you'll see it's all part of the same theme," Hugh points out. "We've got vicars and police and all sorts of things connected with it, and at the end I spent a day in Oxford Circus asking people who came out the tube what they thought of the colour black. It all ties in.
"When you first think of filling eight minutes with subject matter it does seem like a daunting task, but we found that even with 20 minutes, we didn't have enough time. It's much better though to be able to leave things out than be scrabbling around, frantically trying to fill 30 seconds.
"Being in charge of such a venture is a new departure for us," he continues, "and it's suddenly shown me... I was sure it was true before… that the Stranglers are multi - talented and people haven't realised this yet. We're getting more and more opportunities to demonstrate our talents ."
It's the beginning of a very exciting period for Hugh, Jet, Dave and Jean Jacques. By dis-associating themselves from the dark and evil theme, life has started to go well for them, almost as if in the past they were tempting fate. With the never ending stream of unhappy occurrences, it must have been a tempting thought to pack it all in and forget the music business forever. Hugh agrees.
"Especially with meninblack, it was getting very ominous; very sad occurrences were happening to people around us, we were losing finances, uninsured equipment was being stolen... it was so depressing that we started giving off claustrophobic vibes. Yet as soon as we finished the project everything turned round on its head, which leads me to believe that we were creating a lot of our own bad luck with our depression. Now we're getting the chance to diversify our interests."
By making the conscious decision to shake all that off, how difficult was it to come up with something like 'Golden Brown'; was it a hard, business-minded ploy or was that form of music still akin to the Stranglers?
"Admittedly it is the most different single we've ever released; but it's not out of context for the band," Hugh says.
"If you know the Stranglers' albums, on nearly every LP there's a waltz, so 'Golden Brown' isn't so much of a departure.
"We've always been into different instruments, in this instance Dave is playing the harpsichord, but this is because we don't want to limit ourselves to certain sounds and line-ups. We leave that to other people. It's great to break new ground, for instance, I'm really excited that the single is David Hamilton's record of the week on Radio Two.
"After carrying the yoke of bad publicity for so long and being thought of as mischievous bad boys," he adds, "It's a relief that people are realising we are full of musical talent. That bad image is just one tiny facet of the diamond, dare I say.
"We're still discovering things about ourselves. We're capable of acting out parts, of using other media."
ANOTHER facet of the diamond, another medium used by the Stranglers is their information service. Apart from putting out their own magazine, they have also published two books, because no other publisher would touch them. One was Jet's account of the fiasco at Nice University, 'Much Ado About Nothing’ the other was Hugh's account of his stay in prison.
"Some publishers said it was too short, other publishers wanted it to be a glossy affair with pictures of me standing outside the prison gates - could you imagine that?” he asks with a shudder. "The only sensible thing was, to put it out ourselves, and it's in its second print already.
"We’re very concerned with what we put out. 'Strangled', our bi-monthly magazine, isn't your typical fan mag with glossy pictures. It doesn't tell you what the band had for breakfast... there's articles about UFOs, love, Japanese suicide techniques, plus lots of contributions from readers. We also want it to become an alternative' form for journalists who have their articles rejected and ideas stopped by their editors – perhaps you can give that a plug.
"The most motivated thing being Strangled was the utter misrepresentation we were suffering from the press. We wanted to set it straight ourselves and that's how it came about."
This diversification into the world of print and celluloid isn't to indicate that the Stranglers might jack in the musical side in order to concentrate more fully on the former two.
As Hugh says: "We never think of stopping. We're having such fun creating together that we want to carry on and on. But we don't really know what's ahead of us, we seem to be poised in a period of anticipation. We're waiting to go across to America after we've finished our British tour, but although we can play up to 2000 capacity venues there seems little point in doing that until we can get 'La Folie' released in the States.
"It seems amazing that we still don't have a deal in America, especially with the latest LP and single doing so well here. We fell out with A&M and 'Raven' wasn't released in the US as a result, and although IRS released half of Raven and some ' singles as an album, it's astounding that nobody wants to press and distribute our albums over there, specially when they sell so well on import."
UNLIKE the Stranglers' reaction to their difficulties in finding a book publisher, they have no plans to release 'La Folie' independently, saying it's too large a thing to take on.
"It's so frustrating," Hugh admits. "There's little point in doing America, and on top of that, Europe isn't financially viable to us either. Although we sell well throughout Europe, there's very little point in touring there unless we play concerts in Germany. At the moment there is a huge anti punk backlash going on over there and there is a great deal of trouble at gigs. Some promoters still think we're a punk band and because of this they won't book us in case the halls are damaged, people get hurt etc etc. The result is we can't play Germany and the rest of Europe suffers because we can't afford to tour there without playing Germany too."
Thus, with an album recently released, and a British tour soon to be finished, there doesn't seem that much ahead to occupy the Stranglers. It's miles too soon to think about another LP and tour, yet, with no prospect of American 'or European tours, their schedule is looking decidedly blank. Yet they don't seem to be gloom ridden or disconsolate, more frustrated yet optimistic and convinced that something will come along eventually. It seems maddening that at last, when things seem to be going so well, two very important outlets should be barred to them.
The brink on which they are poised is a very thin line ... a very fine balance which could so easily change their destiny. A tip of the scales could hurl them into a pool of success in the music and film world, or, if nothing happens, they could be plunged once more into obscurity.
And the most frustrating thing about it for the Stranglers is they can do absolutely nothing about it to change their fate. Just wait.
I had a recent request for an upload of the 'About Time' gig at Rock City in Nottingham. I would happily oblige were I to have it. If anyone is happy to send it to me I will be pleased to add it to the site.
Here's a substitute from Germany.
Whilst searching on line for suitable images to use for artwork purposes I am constantly amused that the arguments of Hugh versus Paul as vocalist or Baz versus Hugh as guitarist/vocalist still have legs!
I would just say all opinions are valid (I am one of the most opinionated people that I know on a multitude of subjects!). My recommendation is to take what you enjoy and appreciate it, at the same time keep the stuff that does not float your particular boat at arms length for the benefit of the appreciators. The career of The Stranglers is a little bit like European history with ample room for Reformations, Renaissances and Enlightenments.... and the occasional Inquisition!
Thanks to Alarmfan, the original Dime uploader.
Following on from the 'Anarchy Tour' post, as mentioned, Manchester hosted two of the seven gigs that the band managed to play throughout December 1976. The Electric Circus put the band on on the 9th and again on 19th, the latter being hastily arranged as the powers that be decimated the original tour schedule.
The band's relationship with Manchester may have ended at the Collyhurst venue, but it didn't start there. The Pistols played two gigs at the prestigious Lesser Free Trade Hall in the centre of the city. Both gigs were instigated by Pete McNeish and Howard Trafford (soon to be of Buzzcocks under the more familiar monikers of Shelley and Devoto) who had travelled down to London some weeks before expressly to see this emerging phenomenon of Sex Pistols.
And Slaughter and The Dogs own poster for the same gig.... know your place John!
The story is brilliantly told in this Granada TV documentary which features many of the prime movers in the organisation of these now famous gigs, the bands that played and equally importantly some of those in attendance as punters, whose lives were changed and drastically shaped by the experience of seeing the Pistols in the summer of 1976 at one or other of those two gigs. Many attendees were inspired to buy an instrument and form a band within days of seeing Sex Pistols play. Those people went on to establish the city as one of the most vital and vibrant for music through the remainder of the 1970's and throughout the '80's and '90's.
The 'I Swear I was There' title of the earlier book and the documentary is a tongue in cheek reference to the exclamations of people who were there, but more tellingly those who were not there but claim that they were.
The documentary also covers the other key event linking Sex Pistols and Manchester and that is the band's first television appearance of the Granada TV magazine programme 'So It Goes' on 28th August 1976 hosted by one Tony Wilson.
Rotten's opening howl of 'Get off your arse!' grabs the attention for sure and what follows is still very powerful when viewed as I write this in 2023. I can only imagine what a rallying call these three something minutes of ensuing chaos was to many who were lucky enough to see it as it went out.