The Sugar Tongs have been offline due to a malfunctioning T-unit and what with cloning technology being what it is at the moment (etc Etc EiTC), Elvis had to resign himself to the fact that in this (or that) instance he wasn’t (currently isn't) able to be in two places at one moment.
Fortunately help was on hand...
Cue John Dewhirst…
Whether it is Seasonal affected disorder (SAD) or age, the passing of winter and the coming of spring is always a welcome occurrence. March can be hit and miss in terms of the weather but it is a month that has assumed a particular significance, heralding the start of the touring season for the Men in Black that can be relied upon to brighten the mood.
I have seen The Stranglers on most tours since 1979 but have no hesitation in saying that those of the last five years or so have been the best for sheer all-round enjoyment. I am not alone in confessing that there was a phase in an earlier decade when I attended gigs more out of a sense of duty or habit than a compelling case of having to be there. But how things have changed! At the start of the decade I had a deep-rooted fear that a forthcoming tour was going to be the last but The Stranglers remain the band which continues to surprise and defy.
The last forty years bear testament to the band’s ability to reinvent itself with different styles of music. This decade however has been a statement of vitality almost akin to a rebirth, sufficient to persuade myself and others to commit significant chunks of time to follow the band across the UK on its annual March tour.
This year The Stranglers began their 19 date schedule in Lincoln on 7th March and I was fortunate to be there. It was the first time that I had visited the city and walked the streets having only previously been to Sincil Bank to watch the football. (Baz Warne alluded to the recent FA Cup exploits of Lincoln City and I share his sentiments of goodwill towards the club in its forthcoming Quarter-Final tie at Arsenal. As a supporter of Bradford City and someone at the Valley Parade fire in 1985, I share a certain affinity with the Imps.)
Although based in Bradford, I work across the UK and on this occasion had the relative convenience of travelling from Sheffield, only 50 miles distant. I arrived in Lincoln in the early afternoon and enjoyed a few hours wandering around the city before getting some food and heading off to the venue. It was a great day with spring sunshine and a nice place to visit. There is also the friendliness of the people in black from diverse backgrounds but with one thing in common.
What I have discovered is that when you attend a Stranglers gig you can be assured of a decent, charismatic venue (Fibbers at York included) and in that regard, the Engine Shed in Lincoln rates highly as one of the best. As far as sound systems go, neither was the support band plagued by the sort of issues that occurred in nearby Skegness last October.
It is very easy to take for granted all the incidental stuff that makes for an enjoyable experience seeing The Stranglers but the common theme is that you get good, solid entertainment. The Ruts DC were no exception to this and once more we have another hard working, enthusiastic band in support.
The atmosphere at the Lincoln gig was in many ways characteristic of what Stranglers concerts have become and the enjoyment of the evening is evident not only on the faces of those in the audience but on stage too – as well as the road crew. Everyone has fun. It is quite a unique bond between all concerned and what is so refreshing is just how down to earth it all is. All quite matter of fact and with no pretentiousness.
There is also the relaxed manner in which the band performs consistently to a high standard. Yet whilst it could be claimed that this comes from the familiarity of the band members it overlooks the professionalism of those concerned. For all the laid back delivery there is a wonderful team ethic and attention to detail that few of us have the privilege to witness in our day jobs. Also noteworthy is that this discipline is maintained during the entirety of a tour, a stamina challenging routine of at least four concerts per week that would test the energy levels of performers thirty years younger.
In terms of the music, Ruts DC gave a good performance that featured songs including ‘In a Rut’ and ‘Babylon’s Burning’. Crucially these were musicians who wanted to be there and were enjoying the occasion as much as the regular Stranglers fans.
The back catalogue of The Stranglers is so extensive as to make a mockery of any description of the set list being one of classics. There was probably an ironic grain of truth in the admission by Baz that it is in fact what the band wanted to play. The choice of songs showcases a real balance of musical talents and underlines the credentials of Jim and Baz alongside J-J and Dave – it is difficult to believe that the former pair are relative newcomers to the line-up.
The Stranglers never fail to be innovative and the rendition of ‘Bear Cage’ deserves special mention – a version that is destined to be a new live favourite. So too the contribution of Dave’s swirling organ that was particularly noticeable on the night. A new song – ’15 Steps’ – was given its (live) debut and was well received (15 Steps is the closing track on Giantseitc). Other favourites included the opener, ‘The Raven’ as well as old favs ‘Dagenham Dave’, ‘Sometimes’, ‘Buddy’ and ‘Down in the Sewer’. If this was the choice of tracks for an album it would be nothing less than balanced – a classic collection indeed.
On the basis of the first gig we have a great month ahead and much to look forward to. I remain in awe and have nothing but praise for the band – The Stranglers surely offer the benchmark for what a good gig is all about. Whilst there have been many videos of live performances, the one that is missing is a film about the hard work that goes into making these tours such a success and allowing us to celebrate the coming of spring!
See you next in Glasgow…
Words: John Dewhirst
John was co-founder of the longest surviving football fanzine The City Gent and has written a number of books about the history of both rugby and soccer in his home city, Bradford: https://johndewhirst.wordpress.com/@jpdewhirst
He is the proud owner of a Triumph Bonneville T120 – black, of course.
Guildford no Putney no Guildford no Putney...
Guildford yes Lil...
Putney yes Half Moon...
The (yes) Monochrome Set!
A set of sugar tongs flew past the car on my drive up the A3. Swerving to avoid them set me on the road to Putney. It seemed only fair to take the hint although the view of the clouds was sadly lacking in Elvis shapes. There might have been a half moon if the drizzle had abated though.
The Half Moon was a good destination. And improved by an encounter with a Time Lord in the form of Tom Baker although apparently preferring the nomenclature of John and ready to provide aural transportation via keyboards not TARDIS.
Sidestepping for a moment into the beer garden I found Loopy Lou and Mr Bloggs with friend, Mick, a man for whom there is no internet alias as yet, a wisp that defies the electronic ether and exists only in…reality (note: please read that in an increasingly doom-laden echoing voice of disbelief). Better still was the presence at the table with them of Bid gently limbering up the vocal cords with civilised conversation.
Following an incredible antler related light show we moved indoors. Forces beyond our control meant that there had been a few changes to the line-up for the evening over the weeks leading up to the rendezvous. First to take the stage were The Fallen Leaves who drew a good crowd for their advertised brand of “R&B with an English accent”. We caught the second half of the set and very dapper they were too.
A short break was followed by the arrival on stage of The Monochrome Set. All were cool, calm and collected. Except for the hired hand, the frenetic drummer who picked up the pace (or according to alternative facts – it was actually Mike Urban their full time drummer, who was on the last album and is happy to sign autographs etc Etc EiTC). Dr Who had become his own glamorous assistant, delightful in powder blue and nimble of finger. Andy “The Stare” Warren, tidy in black, makes one wish that one had a job that they could carry out with such unflappable, mellow ease. A man at one with his bass. Finally Bid, bringing the whole together, completing the set.
An excellent opener was provided in the form of Eine Symphonie Des Grauens. The set flowed smoothly from there, picking out tracks from throughout the years. As a relative new comer perhaps I could not appreciate the addition of Leather Jacket as much as those who had been waiting for its reappearance in the set for twenty years. It was however a great track and the rabbits at the front expressed their delight to one another. Newer tracks were Cosmonaut and Stick Your Hand Up if You’re Louche from last year’s album and only a relatively few weeks older, the hypnotic Z Train, a particular favourite of mine. Waiting for Alberto and Cowboy Country eased us towards to the close.
After a brief moment TMS came back with Bliss and an outstanding He’s Frank to finish. Mr Bloggs singled out Frank as his standout track of the night and then added Walking with the Beast as also being up there with it. The opposite end of the gig was Lou’s choice as her favourite, Eine Symphonie. A pair of bookends those two.
Have to say at this point a big thank you to Mr Bloggs for directing me in the, er, direction of TMS a couple of years ago. A very good recommendation that I’m happy to pass on to any reader who’s made it this far.
We remained behind at the end for amiable chats with the participants and half the crowd. A hint to anyone loitering after a TMS gig, if an otherwise friendly woman accosts you with the cry of “The…” please make her evening with a response of “…Monochrome Set” and a few further lines of the song. Running away is not an option but distraction techniques such as talking about cats can work for a time.
Beyond this was the pub disco. A few stalwarts dominated the floor, their ranks swelling and contracting with the unusual ebb and flow of hits and dance numbers. Somehow Nena’s multiple Red Balloons got us all up on our feet but it was late by then and it had been a long day, judgement was not at its best and nor perhaps were the moves. The DJ selected Prince’s When Doves Cry as a suitably uplifting track for a last dance… Great for encouraging punters to turf out. A chorus of “Guildford Lil” outside the Half Moon got everyone moving before the rain came down.
You may have heard of Occupy!
You may have heard of Sir PiL!
You may have heard of Stamford!
You may have heard of Rebus Bloggs...Read on...
The Voodoo Lounge, Stamford
Ever been to Stamford?…
Well I have now, and what a great place it is! And The Voodoo Lounge, situated in the cellar of Mama Liz’s bar/restaurant, is a great little venue…
We venture up the A1(Ba**ard)M to go and see Occupy, a Punk/New Wave cover band from North London. I found out about them from their Bass player, none other than Paul Cooklin (or Paul in London to those in the know).
The Journey was eventful but as I have been criticised in the past for giving too much of the revue over to the journey to the venue and the Ednas consumed, I will leave that out.
On arrival we found Paul holding court in the main bar, he was in a very jovial mood and was nursing a glass of his usual Pinot Grigio.
The support for the night was George Linton, a singer songwriter who played some very good guitar and sang a great mix of tunes. I thought he had a bit of an acoustic “Groundhogs” sound, with perhaps a bit more blues and a touch of Neil Young. Catch his web site here www.georgelinton.co.uk
After a very short break, Occupy took to the stage. A four piece, Guitar, Bass, Drums and Vocals. Straight into a powerful version of the 1959 classic by Vince Taylor “Brand New Cadillac”. More Clash was to follow after some very good Jam/Stranglers/Dead Kennedys. Radiohead’s “The Bends” was a highlight for me as was the very fine “Hurt” from the Johnny Cash catalogue, and The Stereophonics song “Dakota”.
Add to the mix some more Radiohead, some Ramones, some more Clash and Pistols and Stranglers and it makes a very fine set indeed. Altogether a worthwhile trip up the A1(Ba**ard)M for us.
Brand New Cadillac – The Clash
Eton Rifles – The Jam
London Calling – The Clash
Hanging Around – The Stranglers
Police Truck – Dead Kennedys
The Bends – Radiohead
Silly Thing – Sex Pistols
Hurt – Johnny Cash
Dakota – Stereophonics
Start – The Jam
Creep – Radiohead
I wanna be sedated – Ramones
Clash City Rockers – The Clash
Submission – Sex Pistols
Babylon’s Burning – The Ruts
Holiday in Cambodia – Dead Kennedys
In his own words, some yet to be added to the OED - The legend that is Pigeon gives his account of the recent Finchley Boys 40th Anniversary Bash...
It was 9am Saturday Morning. I received a phone call from Elvisintheclouds. He was on his way to his yoga class. We spoke about the Finchley boy bash, and I asked if I was going I was (couldn’t edit that mate, it’s golden EiTC). He offered me a lift to the venue, a bed for the night, and a drop off to the tube station Sunday morning so I could go to work. So the day started with a trip to Archway Tube station North London. I met EITC at 6pm, and off we drove to The Flag pub Watford.
We Arrive in Watford just gone 7pm. The Flag is a nice setting for the event. Upon Arrival the usual suspects are already there, Alex, Sarah, Rob, Owen, Jacquie, Les Neil, Audrey, Sandra, Elaine, The Welsh Mafia. I met Neil Sparkes and Alan Hillier. It was good to talk to them, and we heard many stories about the Finchley Boys.
Walk into the venue I meet Steve Hillier. Who has my t-shirt and I bought a badge. To my right I spy a table full of goodies “Sell him Everything” I think was Mr Carnes idea. I could not believe my luck when my eyes feasted upon a poster of JJ Burnel on his Triumph Motorcycle, that was given away free with early Japanese copies of “Euroman Cometh”. I bought a Japanese copy of Euroman on eBay but my copy did not come with the said poster. “HOW MUCH? for the JJ poster I say to Steve?”. He says “you want it make me an offer?”, I say “Whatever the asking price is” he says “£15”. I open my wallet to (in disgust) find only a tenner in it. I say I will be right back and there’s a cash machine inside the venue. Withdraw another tenner. Rush back inside and yes its still there in all its glory. I can’t believe what happened I HAVE THE JJ BURNEL POSTER ON HIS TRIUMPH. I can’t recall the next half an hour, oh yes I can, proceed to show to it anyone who’s willing to let me talk to them.
First on was a band called The Smash. A punk rock covers band. They did great covers of New Rose, Ever fallen in love, Hit me with your, rhythm stick, She does it right, smash it up, Teenage kicks. got the audience dancing. They played well enough.
Next up was one of the highlights of the evening, the brilliant Neil Horgan. Who from Ireland, and one of the tops Stranglers collectors gave an impressive speech on why The Stranglers changed his life. Saying the first time he heard The Stranglers was in 1979, and “Duchess” on the radio. He then went on to tell the length and depth of his record collection “No More Heroes” was released in Turkey!! & ….. Brazil. “Ain’t nothing to it, was released in Bolivia”. He then said his mum went on to give him a birthday surprise one year, “You can’t go to The Stranglers, Neil but there coming to you”. This was in 2005 and Neil said “I saw them in London last night, they’re in Southampton tonight”. Then Hugh walked in the living room with an acoustic guitar, and did an acoustic set for Neil, who couldn’t believe it. And Hugh said to Neil “Neil I have written a song that’s better than Golden Brown, do you want me to play it to you?”. Neil said “yes please” the song was “Delightful nightmare” and said it wasn’t as good as “Golden Brown”. He then when onto say his favourite item was his Stranglers Bomber jacket! A great speech.
Next up there is a raffle that takes place, of which I didn’t enter but lots of nice items up for grabs including an acoustic white guitar, signed by all the band.
Up next was supposed to be a film, but there was technical difficulty so Neil Sparkes then introduced The Finchley Boys onstage for some stories, some have flown in from abroad for this. Steve Hillier, Alan Hillier, Alan Warne, Graham Hayhoe, Peter Enter, Peter Sharp, & Jonjo Bull.
They all gave stories of how the Finchley boys came into existence, when The Stranglers played the Torrington pub in 1976. They said they saw The Damned play live there in 1976, but when they saw The Stranglers they knew that they were something special, so they invaded the stage. There was then tales of what they got up. They were in the TW studios, when No More Heroes was being recorded. They told the story of the battle of Cleethorpes and Canterbury 1977, when a running battle with the band the Finchley’s, and some HA, one had a knife and was about to stab JJ and a Finchley boy saved him. Alan told the story of the Dingwalls incident that JJ always talks about, and he says jj says the Finchley were there, but Alan says they weren’t as they didn’t know them then. They also tell the story about when they followed the band on their first European tour.
After the Finchley’s it was time for Straighten Out who Neil Sparkes introduced. 3 Straighten Out gigs this year for me. As unfortunately I missed the second Hope and Anchor gig of the year in September. They came onto what else but “Burning up Time”. Seeing Straighten Out is always an experience, as it gives an idea to what it was like in the really early days. Keyboardist Mick “The Doctor” Turley, uses a Hammond just like Dave’s and it sounds superb. Shaggy’s bass, is how JJs bass sounded back then, and Guitarist Phil Harvey does a brilliant job emulating Hugh. It’s a concentrated set tonight. “Goodbye Toulouse” followed. But hello, technical problems early on in the set.
The pure MK1 magic continues with “Peasant in the big shitty”, “I feel like a Wog”, “Peaches”. “Nuclear Device” the Bruce and Sheila’s are in fine voice tonight Then the crowd favourite “Toiler on the Sea”. a highlight of any gig, Dave’s Keyboard intro sung by all fans in various stages of merriness. It is here that the merriness of the Southern Section could no longer take it and were the first to fall. With the hard Northern Section of the audience prompting them back up (huh? EiTC…).
A Brilliant version of “The Raven”, follows “Princess of the Street” and “Genetix”. It’s a very long set tonight part two sees the “Black and white” part of the set start with “Sweden”, “5 minutes”, “Walk on by” was well received. Time for more “Black and White” now “Sleazy”, “Tank” and “Curfew”. “Straighten Out”, “Hanging Around”, “Something better Change” and “London Lady” finish the main set.
Time for the Encore “School mam”, “Heroes” and the rip roaring “Down in the Sewer” where I among Alan Munro, Steve Maloney and Paul Anthony Kerswell find ourselves as Stage Security acting as the human barricade. I have never done Stage Security before, but like being a Stage Tech I am excellent at it (modest too EiTC).
A great evening all round a well over £7 thousand pounds raised for Charity. Thanks to Steve Hillier and The Finchley boys for organising this.
Archeologists recently uncovered some ancient runes located around the conjunction of major Ley Lines situated to the North and West of the great sprawling Metropolis. What they discovered upon decryption of the messages held within will astound and amaze you! The full transcription follows below, so spark up the kettle pull up a pouffe and enjoy...
Accept No Substitutes?
I’m no slave to big brand loyalty. I’m perfectly happy to test out shops’ own brands and alternatives. But then there was Sellotape. It had to be Sellotape, I stood no nonsense with inferior varieties that would not tear smoothly, I bypassed these for the one true adhesive tape. Oh but curses upon the school art project or the helpful birthday child wrapping their own pass-the-parcel that used up a whole roll of the precious tape. Salvation was at hand though. Did you know that the pound shop sells bundles of sticky tape rolls with a handy dispenser thrown in? Happy wrapping resulted.
The Tropic in Ruislip had booked the well renown Stranglers tribute band Straighten Out, a very acceptable alternative to the original (and let us bow away for now from discussion over line ups and recipe changes in relation to that big brand). A tried, tested and trusted brand was anticipated for the start to the late May bank holiday weekend until disaster struck in the form of guitarist Phil’s finger fracture. As Facebook filled up with best wishes for a speedy recovery so too did the eyes of those who looked to the Tropic for Strangular entertainment. Now I’d hate to suggest that Philip at the Tropic headed to the pound shop for a solution but an alternative was certainly sought and a resolution found. Step forward the Dead Ringers from Peterborough. Who bring us Nick Moon on guitar and vocals, Geoff Hayward on bass and vocals, Scott White on drums and backing vocals, and on keyboards is Rob Poynton (a young Jet Black lookalike, one might risk saying a dead ringer).
A bank holiday crowd can be unpredictable in numbers and apparently many of the Tropic’s regulars had splashed out in search of sun depleting the audience somewhat. Those that had splashed into Tropic made full use of the space available and were quickly on their feet as Dead Ringers took the stage. A largish room, small audience and a band that had only played about half a dozen gigs together? Sometimes these things gel in their own special way. Indeed Sometimes began the show.
Sometimes you can spend ages searching for the end of the sticky tape. You carefully hold the roll to the light and ease your fingernail over the surface at snail pace to catch the contour ripple. You hold yourself in anticipation of the tape splitting as the strip is raised. For a moment you are nervous and tense. Is the beat going to hit the right tempo? Are the keyboards going to swirl? Will there be tune but no passion? How will the voices sound? And damn it, will the bass growl sufficiently?
It takes a few songs to get used to the changes, to become attuned yourself, to ease the audience in. Wisely the band don’t relent on the pace as Straighten Out and Nuclear Device follow. Geoff slides into vocals with London Lady sounding particularly like JJ. Nick announces that next will be a slow one and produces expert pub rock guitar work on Mean to Me. These guys mean business. The audience responds, the applause pitches higher and the dancing gets crazier as the night wears on.
We are treated to Tank, Sleazy, ATS and Curfew before the first half is wound up with three in a row from NMH: Bitching, Dagenham Dave and Heroes itself. As Parrot Boy says they’re playing as a very tight unit with all the bass and lead solos being well executed and the keyboards are making quite a difference, being rather special.
I have to admit that at the start I was not convinced by Nick’s voice but it really was only a matter of time before my ears adjusted. By the time we hit Always the Sun I was sold on it. You can’t talk Stranglers without some discussion of Hugh/Paul/Baz vocals and a tribute is no exception. I was however particularly pleased with the singing on Duchess, a favourite of mine and one that really only Hugh’s voice can usually provide the polish to for me.
After the well-earned break the audience is on its feet and looking for more while the band are looking confident and ready to banter. Longships and The Raven give way to Grip. There is mention from the stage that a Facebook comment hoped that Golden Brown be omitted, they apologise and play it anyway. This elicits a snigger and a groan from my companion as the author of the aforementioned comment. For me GB is the weakest track of the night, could it be the keyboard sound? We aren’t given time to dwell on such matters as Dead Ringers storm through Duchess, Peaches and Toiler. Scott comments on his admiration for Jet continuing to play Toiler into his seventies. Parrot Boy singles Peaches out as a highlight of the evening “spot on”. Sweden, Five Minutes, Hanging Around, Something Better Change (the dancers are going wild by now). Geoff pulls off Ugly (sorry, thought about rewriting that but what the heck).
The set finishes with a decent length Sewer. There’s nothing worse than a band skimping on Sewer and this is so good that you don’t want it to end.
Encores are in order. I may have to take cover when I say that I yawn when the Stranglers start Walk On By but these chaps made me fall in love with the track all over again. An achievement as they say before starting it that they’ve not played it on stage other than at the sound check. Go Buddy Go brings the evening to an exhausting end.
Nick, Geoff, Scott and Rob are gracious in their acknowledgement that they are on stage tonight because of Straighten Out’s misfortune and they wish Phil well. The audience are with them in echoing those best wishes but are equally keen to show Dead Ringers of their appreciation for the entertainment provided tonight. At the end we spy Leigh Heggarty from Ruts DC in the house looking like he’s been enjoying the set. My trip back to Guildford takes half the time that it did to get there but it was worth the journey. I promise to demonstrate proper crazy dancing next time (without air guitar).
Just as my Sellotape substitute has proved effective I like to think that Dead Ringers will stick around too.
Brand loyalty, brand awareness, working with a product like the Stranglers’ output is a high standard to attain but give Dead Ringers a go. The fansinblack aren’t so old that they’re stuck in their ways, are they?
This just in from way down under - A superb brace of reviews from the recent Australian Tour courtesy of Meanie who regales us with tales of his antipodean adventures - Including transhemispheric double-decker submarine buses! For real! - Brilliant!!!...
Strangled in The Great Southern Land
It was with some trepidation that I agreed to accept the honourable task of reporting on The Meninblackdownunder Tour (title blatantly stolen from the tour shirt). Being neither a literary genius, nor a great storyteller, I will endeavour to provide you with a blow by blow account from my perspective.
A quick bit of background, when I moved to Australia, I didn’t think I would ever attend another Stranglers gig again, you know, bus timetables and all that, apparently there are no aquatic buses to The UK after 6PM on weekdays. I had been lucky enough to be around for the ‘Glory Days’ and was not at all keen on MKII. It was a case of tried that and didn’t like it, I was happy to remain loyal to the ‘old stuff’ and I had more than enough dodgy boots to keep me sustained. Then in 2009 I decided to dip the preverbial toe in the water when I saw that The Boys were playing a venue called The Roundhouse, at Sydney Uni, the temptation was too much, the name of the venue alone was enough to prise $1000 from me to get there, and what a night!!! Hooked again completely. I thought that would be the last time I ever saw the band and that I would die happy after the previous incarnation. For the record, I now see every Stranglers gig that I attend, as possibly the last time that I will ever see them, so it’s kind of emotional for me, I’m not ashamed to admit it. Fortunately, I have seen them seven ‘last times’ since Sydney.
So, on to the matter at hand. Back to September 2015, my phone beeps…. SMS…. a link and a question…… are you going? I click the link, it’s a heads up on ticket sales for The Stranglers tour in April……..”Am I going???”, what kind of question is that? Of course I’m going, boot computer and register for the old early bird heads up thingo. Within days I’ve pawned the family jewels and got tickets, flights and accommodation……..now we wait, and wait and wait, I post “is it April yet” regularly on Facebook. Finally it’s April and we are packing for Brisbane 1000km round trip of open road interspersed every 10km by the dicks with sticks, that’s my term of endearment for those stout yeoman who wield the stop/go signs, I swear half the working population of Australia are dicks with sticks.
The Tivoli – Brisbane
After a quick tour of family we set the GPS for Coniston Street in search of The Tivoli, we hit Brisbane at rush hour and become slightly quizzical of the GPS when it suggests that we turn left 8 times in succession, we abandon the car, I feed the meter and we set off on foot in search of the venue and then the pub, The Jubilee, to meet fellow Fansinblack. We wander in, spot a few Stranglers shirts milling about, we order drinks and sit down. I spot a few familiar faces and soon tables are being drawn together like some medieval banquet and the black knights and their ladies are seated reminiscing about old times, past gigs, football and the old country. It was great to meet some of those who had made the long and perilous journey to New Zealand and then on to Aus for the tour. I took particular delight in watching Chris Foulkes squirm as I told him the story about the brown snake in our bathroom, there is no innuendo whatsoever in that, real snake.
We sculled a few and then all set off to wait for the doors to open, it was still pretty hot, so nobody had a problem with standing outside waiting for the doors to open ten minutes after the tickets stated, which is the norm. As soon as I entered the venue memories came flooding back of the venues I had seen The Stranglers play so many years ago, before the advent of the concrete and metal insincere buildings they call concert halls, all owned by the same money grabbing company. It felt like I had come home, I grabbed my tour shirt and stubby holder post hastily as I know how quickly those things sell out here. We found a great spot and I made the obligatory trip to the bar as is customary at such occasions, beer in a bottle, not one of those plastic cups, living the high life, we were.
Support was provided by some nong with a laptop who stood like someone who wasn’t sure whether he’d peed on his white trousers and was desperately looking to see in the dimly lit venue, at the beginning we were lured into a false sense of security as he played tunes by the old skool punk elite at the beginning of his ‘set’, by the time he’d reached a painful near two hour marathon, Jo was ready to beat him to death with his laptop and she made that VERY clear. And two hours passed, the sound was pretty dire, the nong never uttered a word, remaining stooped over his gadgetry while we waited, somewhat impatiently. By 9PM the crowd were getting toey as we’d been told that there was a curfew and this dick was eating into gig time, sure enough he eventually disappeared, then the obligatory last minute adjustments started in the dark. I remember chuckling to myself as Jo stated “For fucks sake, they’ve had all day to fiddle about with that stuff!” Then, thank the maker……..
Waltzinblack, Toiler, Grip, you know the story. The band looked tired but they worked hard and played many of the standards, they made a rotten job of a couple but were totally forgiven, Skin Deep was dismal and really out of tune, Dave took the piss out of Baz on a number of occasions, which I had been told he’d done for the previous few gigs and Baz took the piss out of Australians and Brits alike, throwing in the odd Acca Dacca riff to demonstrate ”I can play fuckin’ anything me.” We watched people skate by on the multiple discarded beer bottles and laughed at the group next to us who firmly planted cotton wool in their ears when the lights went down. It wasn’t the best gig I’ve ever been to but it was still brilliant and we left sated. We steered the beast for Coffs Harbour, and home the next morning for one day at home before heading south to Adelaide.
Thebarton Theatre – Adelaide
Early morning flight to Sydney followed by a short wait for our flight to Adelaide, nothing is close in Straya. Five hours later we’re in Adelaide, I really wanted to go to this gig as I’ve never been to South Australia. We arrive at our hotel and from the outside it looks like a lifesize prop from Gotham City, complete with Gargoyles, our room is on the tenth floor, it’s very luxurious and it’s black and white and we discover that there is a roof top bar…. Complete awesomeness. I found some amusement in sitting on top of a skyscraper, drinking a stout called King Kong while trying to balance on a bar stool overlooking the city.
I had booked a few days in Adelaide to explore and I’m glad that I did, what a beautiful city, The City Of Churches. On Friday, gig day, we woke to the news that his royal purpleness, Prince, had died, the weather had turned and it was cold and pretty miserable. I did the sensible thing and booked a taxi to the pub nearest to the venue and after waiting for an hour in the cold and the rain for the invisible taxi, someone told me that it’s a waste of time booking a taxi on Friday or Saturday because they don’t turn up! Fortunately the boys in the hotel were onto it quickly and in no time we were whizzing along Henley Beach Road towards the venue, unfortunately we missed catching up with everyone at the pub as it was knocking on 7PM by the time we got there. There was none of the previous joviality outside the venue because the weather was nasty, Jo advised me “this is worse than queuing to get into a gig in England”, referring to the harsh weather. Twenty minutes later and we are inside, fantastic theatre, gloomy and old, just how I like them.
Oh Nooooo, here we go again another nong with a laptop, this one looked like an extra from Waynes World but at least he was more animated, he walked about and flicked his long hair a lot whilst drinking from a bottle…. Talent or what????
This geezer didn’t make us suffer as we had in Brisbane, an hour and a half and he was gone. Our cunning plan for being central to the stage came slightly undone when chromedome stinky appeared right in front of us with all of his bags and wind up mobile phone, it’s possible that Jo and I did not take more than a few breaths in 2 hours. Lights go down, Waltzinblack and the place was electric, it just had that buzz about it, it felt right. Toiler, Straighten Out, Grip, I’ve been Wild, Curfew (Andi et Al, sneaking about frantically on the stage)…. They’re smashing it, then, Jim’s drums spit the dummy and decide to part company with each other, the lights go up and people rush about the stage frantically Jim disappears for a while and Baz goes into comedy mode while repairs are made.
Baz “People ask us if we bring all our gear on tour, you’re joking, it would cost a million fucking pounds to bring all of our shit to Australia, this is my guitar and that’s JJ’s guitar, come on show ‘em JJ, Dave brings a few bits and so does Jim, the rest is hired. Looks like we hired a shit drum kit though, it keeps falling apart”. Baz held it all together for a good five minutes while he and JJ treated us to a few short solos, even Dave chipped in with a few rare words on occasion, mostly aimed at mocking Baz. Then we’re up and running again……Relentless, Sleazy…. Firing on all cylinders and then some. 5 Minutes appeared in the set, as did Go Buddy Go in exchange for that eternal ‘crowd pleaser’ ADAAOTN.
The announcement of GBG referenced pub rock, as it had on the B&W tour, but Baz threw in “You Aussies know all about that though, you probably fuckin’ invented it”. We finished with Heroes and could easily have gone another fifteen rounds. Then we all disappeared into the shadows, unaffected by the cold, warmed to the centre of our beings. To end my bit of the tour on such a high was all that I could ask for………… except maybe that they come back again next year, they know that they will pull a good crowd of ex-pats and with those of you mad enough to make the trek from the UK they’re always going to have fun.
Thankyou and goodnight from the arse end of the world…. Who Wants It?
In an epic transdimensional/transtemporal tale that takes us from behind The Iron Curtain into the heart of the Decadent West - Comrade Boshkin gives us this report of the last week of The Stranglers Black and White Tour. So put on your slippers, pull up your chair, spark up an Havana and enjoy...
Black and White and Grippe!
by Anatoly Boshkin
Our esteemed brother-in-black Matt Brown asked me if I wanted to contribute a guest review to his web site. I feel honored to join the ranks of guest reviewers on his excellent site which I have been following, with fascination, for several years. At first I was not sure if my writing ability is up to the task, after all English is not my native tongue, but then I recalled the words of my high school teacher giving advice on writing essays: “There’s nothing to it, write in short sentences, avoid big words, and you’ll be fine”… She and I hated each other’s guts, so I intend to completely ignore her advice and still attempt to come up with something readable.
As I was booking my flights and hotels for this trip, I realized that it was my 7th year in a row that I would cross the Atlantic to see The Stranglers live. Not bad. On this trip I would reach 25 on my Stranglers gig count (a bit tricky with the 2011 convention, which I count as 2 gigs). Not very impressive, I know, with many fans out there having their numbers in the hundreds, and some reaching double digits in a single year. My excuse, of course, is the geography (I have been living in the USA since 1994) and, shall we say, geopolitics: born and raised behind the Iron Curtain. I could only dream of seeing the band live in the first half of its existence, having thus missed the original lineup completely.
By 2010, I had only seen the band live once, at Glasgow Barrowlands, December 1993 – the one with Jet singing Old Codger and JJ having beer spilled all over him, with subsequent invitation for the culprit to come onstage for a lesson (not accepted). Those were the high points, the rest of the gig not so much; Mr. Roberts had a knack of turning the hits I had fallen in love with as a teenager into some other band’s songs, and Mr. Ellis insisted on playing guitar parts his way, cleanly and technically but without the quirkiness of his predecessor, which, again, made it sound like there was some other band on stage playing their own renditions of the songs by The Stranglers (needless to say, I did not care about most Mk II songs at all). The substitute drummer (Tim Bruce, if i remember correctly) did an adequate job but, quite understandably, nothing more, and the two original members did not look engaged, apart from the aforementioned beer-throwing episode. It was certainly an important milestone, my first Stranglers gig (and Jet’s Old Codger is a memory I will cherish for the rest of my life), but overall a bit of a disappointment. So much in fact, that when The Stranglers played a very short North American tour in 1997, I decided not to take the 4 hour drive to the nearest point of call, New York City, from Washington DC area where I lived by then, figuring that they’d do a proper US tour soon enough and I would be able to see them locally. A bit of a miscalculation: the next US tour would happen 16 bloody years later!
Fast forward a few years, there is a new guitar player in town, and fans on the Internet say they quite like him. My first taste of Baz’s playing came soon thereafter with the 5 Live album, and I was duly impressed. I heard a guitar player that managed to replicate Cornwell’s sound and style pretty damn close to the original, including the reported use of a Telecaster; I deduced a desire to please the fans and zero arrogance. Then came Norfolk Coast where I heard, to my delight, that Dave started playing, after many years of just providing the background. There was an overall feeling of a band enjoying their craft again. By now, I was very much interested again, and hoping for an imminent US tour which for some reason did not happen this year; OK, next year for sure.
In a few more years there were 4 again, JJ started singing more, and Baz, although not imitating Hugh vocals-wise, somehow still sang in a manner that did not grate this old-time fan at all. I felt The Stranglers were back! Sweet XVI sort of confirmed that the band was returning to its roots, but the real treats were the live recordings that clearly showed me that the band I fell in love with as a teenager somehow resurfaced after a prolonged near-hiatus. That, and the rumors that Jet’s health was failing, led me to a decision to stop waiting for the mountain to come to the US and catch them whenever and wherever I can, for however long they have left to run. As a side note, by then I had seen Hugh on all of of his US solo tours (even came over to watch him play the Guildfest in 1999), met him and spoke with him several times, and it was abundantly clear that the reunion was out of the question. Oh well. Bring on the next best thing!
In 2010, I recruited my best friend Sergei to accompany me for a 3-day, 2-gig trip to England. We had a fucking blast! First, Cambridge Corn Exchange, and then Hammersmith Apollo, an absolutely unforgettable experience. I waited near the head of the line for more than an hour and was able to get a place at the railing on JJ’s side, and then survived 2 hours plus of being tossed about in the human surf, ended up with multiple bruises on my rib cage but never let go of the rail, and was rewarded with a blissful audiovisual experience, from the first note of Waltzinblack to the last sound of the encore. That was pretty darn close to what I had been dreaming of ever since hearing No More Heroes on the BBC Russian Service in December 1977 and deciding right there and then that this was my band! It became clear to me that I wanted to continue going to these gigs again and again, for as long as the band keeps on running.
So here I am, 6 years later, very happy with the decision I made, and enough of my life story, let’s get to the latest trip, a week on the Black and White tour of 2016, which turned out to be the one to remember, for reasons great and not so much…
The overnight flight from Washington Dulles to Heathrow was uneventful and almost enjoyable. The usual questioning by the immigration officer on my plans in the UK raised the customary chuckle (“What, the same gig 5 times in a row? Jolly good, Sir” – bam! a stamp in the passport). A long walk to the bus station, a longish wait before a comfy bus ride to Woking, a look at Salisbury bound departures… “Cancelled”. “Cancelled” . Oh my. Don’t know what was happening there, but having crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 6.5 hours it took me 3 more hours to clear Woking. British Rail can be tricky, as many readers probably know.
Anyway, there goes my chance of a couple hours’ kip before the festivities begin. Finally at Salisbury, a taxi to the hotel (White Hart – remember the name), and then to the pub across the road where comrade Jo Black is eagerly waiting, a pint in hand. Hugs and back pats, fish and chips, pints and pints, then cognac and cigars, all with a talk between two mates about what went on in their lives in the past year. A very happy start to what would undoubtedly be a fab week!
At some point Matt Brown texts me, he’s at a local curry house (where else) with a bunch of fellow fans, so Jo and I swing back to the hotel to freshen up and pick up the gig tickets; I don my white Black & White top, then follows a short taxi ride to the aforementioned Indian establishment (to the hotel receptionist: “Er, can you please call us a taxi, we are going to an Indian restaurant, we forgot the name but remember that it ends with a double A”… she managed!). A group of fans in black is present, beside Matt there are Karen Parfitt, Adam “Pigeon” Salem, Lou and Rebus Smith, Pete from West London and his mate whose name is swept away from my memory by the subsequent streams of Kingfisher (Two Pint Pete and Keith, EiTC). Soon, we are joined by Jan Stoelinga and his wife (another name I lost, sorry!), direct from Netherlands (The lovely Jacqueline Mr Boshkins Sir, EiTC). The food is fiery, the beer cold, Pete keeps calling me Boris (from the movie Snatch, apparently I am a lookalike), I feel mildly irritated until I realize that he refers to everybody else simply as “c**t” (EiTC note: Profanity and alcoholic excess aside, he’s a top bloke Comrade!). A great time is being had by everyone. Soon, it’s time to go into the venue.
We catch most of the set by The Alarm. It’s a good one, Mike Peters is a charismatic front man, the tunes are good, the band sound fine, I’d say they are one of the best bands that I have seen support The Stranglers.
Finally, the lights go out and the magic sounds of Waltzinblack fill the hall. The first gig on each trip is always special for me. It’s a combination of a sleepless night, jetlag, many pints, the euphoria/adrenaline of starting a new chapter in my personal Stranglers adventure…. The first gig usually flashes by as a blur of happy sounds and lights, and this was no exception.
The gig over, Jo and I hurry to a pub to come down using a few rounds of Jamie and Guinness.
Back at the White Hart and who do we see in the lobby… Dave Greenfield himself! With a Stella in hand and the famous black bag (though it’s brown these days) at his feet, chatting with several companions. Somehow we find ourselves join the company, Jo asks a question and Dave is chattering away. I sit slack jawed and try to follow the conversation. Jo: “How does it feel to be the best keyboard player in the world, Dave?” Dave: “Nah, there are better ones”. Even though I had met Dave and spoke with him several times before, I am starstruck and mostly speechless, however the fact that I am on a cross-Atlantic trip to see the band for the 7th year running surfaces at some point, and everybody seems impressed. One of the gentlemen present, Gary, says he is the tour manager and offers me to be at the Folkestone venue by 3PM next day, to see the soundcheck. I can hardly believe my luck. Being an experienced drinker and not trusting my memory, I take a photograph of Gary and type a note to my next day’s self into my iphone: “This man’s name is Gary, he’s the tour manager and he wants you to be at the venue in Folkestone at 3PM, he will get you in to see the soundcheck. This was not a dream, dude, do not fuck it up!”
Next morning, I find Jo in the lobby chatting with the hotel manager Audrey. Her husband is a huge fan of Dave Greenfield and he had no idea the band would stay at the White Hart, so she said she would tease him “guess who I spend half the last night chatting with!” A hearty breakfast of one pint of Guinness each, then another quick pint of real ale at the railway station where we learn of the terror attack in Brussels (a priceless tirade from a local guy to the effect that “do you feel you have admitted enough ‘refugees’ now, euroliberals, or do you still want some more?” – about twice as long if I were to leave the cuss words in). Jo and I say our goodbyes – see you next year buddy – and onwards I go, the goal is 3PM at the Leas Cliff Hall, Folkestone, as the iphone message from the past prescribes.
British Rail does a proper job this time, and at a quarter to three I am at the ticket counter of the Leas Cliff Hall demanding my ticket and somebody to page Gary the boss man or his deputy Merv to come and let me in. The people at the counter are amused but oblige, and soon I am told to stick around and wait near the entrance to be picked up, which indeed happens at around 3:20. Gary tells me to wait at the merch stall for the band to arrive which I do, and when they show up 15 or so minutes later he introduces me, and to my surprise JJ says “We have met you before, haven’t we” – indeed, at the US tour 2 years prior we spoke at the VIP meet-and-and-greets in NYC and Philly. While we shake hands somebody says “What a great name, Anatoly” – not sure what makes it great, but I’ll take it, thanks Mom&Dad! I ask Baz for a selfie, and he responds “Sure, after we’re done here. Come inside!”
It is my first time witnessing a Stranglers soundcheck (in fact, any soundcheck), and it is quite the experience. The Alarm are present, some of the crew are scurrying around the stage, others pushing faders on the soundboard, I watch in awe and feeling special (I appear to be the only just a fan in the hall). After a few whacks at the instruments and some discussion, the band decide to play Burning Up Time, and they do, only the voices are not audible. They seem to be singing for real, so I guess the mikes were on and they heard themselves on the monitors, and I find myself being treated to an instrumental version of B.U.T. – very special indeed!
At the end of it, Gary invites me onstage for a photo with the band. As we walk towards the stage I offer profuse thanks for the wonderful experience. Gary answers along the lines of “we certainly noticed your dedication and want to do something nice in return as a sign of appreciation”. I get up on stage, Jim is nowhere to be seen (I guess he still shies away from full band photos; he should not), I hand my iPhone to Gary and the four of us line up. While Gary prepares to shoot, JJ asks me where in Russia I was born, how long have been living in America, and then delivers this one: “Do you agree that Black and White has not aged at all? I listen to it today, and it sounds as modern now as it did in the 70s”. I am not ready to handle such a profound topic and in response start telling JJ how it was the full first album I heard as a teenager in 79. The shots are snapped, Gary hands me the phone back, I wish the band a good gig, thank Gary again, and leave the building, escorted by a crew member.
The whole experience lasted for about 30 minutes and left me in a somewhat dizzy state.
I had thought that the unbeatable high point of my “career” as a Stranglers fan was when Baz addressed me from stage in Philadelphia as part of his pre-No More Heroes “Can you feel it?” banter (“And you, my Russian friend, can you feel it?”) This might very well be even more special, I am not sure. To ruminate on the subject, I walked to a bar across the street from the venue, ordered JD on the rocks and a pint of Bombardier, positioned myself in their garden overlooking the venue and lit up a cigar. As it often happens these days, ruminations were quickly abandoned in favor of Facebook, Skype and other means of sharing the joy with the outside world that do not require deep insight or even use of proper language, lol.
Having finished the refreshments and enlightened the world, I took a long walk through the streets of the fine town of Folkestone in search of proper food and historical attractions (found none, settled for a pint and a sandwich), followed by a lovely stroll along a seaside promenade back to the venue.
The faithful had already started a queue, full 2 hours prior to opening of the doors.
I go to the hotel to freshen up, along the way noticing that the Leas Cliffs Hall does not deal exclusively in rock concerts, other quality entertainment is also on offer:
Soon, Matt pages me from a curry restaurant (where else), he is there with his brother Phil who sports an impressive facial hair, in the style of the last Russian emperor Nicholas the Second. Soon we will be joined by two more fans, Lucy and Rihannon. More fiery food and Kingfisher, we relocate to a wine bar (why do they call it a “wine bar” if everybody still drinks beer and shorts?), after some drinks back to the venue where I meet up with a recent Internet contact of mine, Tony Raven. The gig is about to begin.
I make my way to the front, positioning myself near the front on the Baz’s side. My second gig of the tour begins well enough but towards the end of the Black and White section I realize that something is not right. Baz looks pale, barely speaks between songs and disappears backstage every now and again. JJ looks concerned. I do not remember noticing any deterioration in Baz’s playing or singing, but he looks unwell and quite unhappy. Approximately 3/4 through the set JJ turns to the other band members and I see him mouth “Let’s just finish”. They play 5 Minutes (if the memory serves) and go. People start shouting for encore. JJ quickly returns and explains that two of the band members have food poisoning and could not finish the set, for the first time in 40 years of operation – I suspect most of you saw the YouTube clip with his speech, so I will not transcribe it here. What impressed me was the fact that audience responded with respect and understanding, I did not hear a single boo, instead there was a long and loud applause for a band who fought hard to give the fans their music and persevered for almost 1.5 hours instead of taking the easy option of cancelling the gig, one I suspect many of the more pampered stars would choose without a second thought. Much respect!
Post-gig everybody is concerned with the health of the band, next day’s concert in Cambridge, and even the rest of the tour. As the evening marches on, though (we relocate back to the “wine bar”), the spirits rise and the mood improves. I even donate a raven badge off my jacket to a co-drinker (Rihannon in this case), which indicates a time well spent.
In the morning, I venture outside for a wake-up drink, find a coffee shop, sit down with a big cup, and notice a woman lying flat on the sidewalk across the street, apparently passed out. A couple of people seem to be tending to her; others walk by with nary a glance. The ambulance takes quite a bit of time to arrive, and when it finally does there is no big hurry on the scene. I guess the English do not lose their heads and really keep calm no matter what is going on. Finally the lady on the pavement starts moving, my coffee is finished, I head back to the hotel to pack and move on to Cambridge.
Upon arrival to Cambridge some 3 hours later, I check into my hotel, eat lunch at my favorite place in the town, The Prince Regent pub (a separate story), and head to the Corn Exchange in order to find out the state of the Stranglers camp, and if luck permits maybe hear the sounds of the soundcheck. I pick up my ticket, the person at the box office does not know anything about any cancellation, good sign but I decide to hang around the venue for a bit and see what I can find. An occasional person in a Stranglers T-shirt can be seen walking past the building, quite a number of people see the poster advertising tonight’s gig and show recognition, some even pull out their phones and snap pictures of it. I have always heard of Cambridge as a very cultural town, and here’s the proof!
After about 20 minutes I notice a crew member who I remember from the day before. As he smiles at me on the way to the stage door, I ask him “How are they feeling?” His reply is “Ugh” and a wave of the hand that I interpret as “far from perfect but good enough”. A look at the latest Facebook postings confirms my guess, we seem to have a show tonight.
It’s about 4 o’clock, a bit early to expect many fans at The Eagle, but I go in to check anyway. I do not see anybody I recognize; the Stranglers apparel is not yet represented, except for two unfamiliar gentlemen who I exchange nods with. I sit down with my pint of Abbot, and in a minute one of them walks to me and asks if I am on my own, after my “yes” he invites me to join him and his mate. Very nice and, uh, family-in-black-like! As we exchange introductions, he asks for my last name and exclaims “I know you! We are friends on the Facebook! I am Tony Armitage”. What a lovely surprise. Tony and his friend Gary drove to Cambridge from Luton (“There is nothing in Luton, do not go there”, they say) and turn out to be nice and intelligent people, we spend about two hours in a lively discussion of all matters Stranglers-related and otherwise. After a few pints, I feel the need for nourishment before the gig but am not quite in the mood for pub fare, so Tony and Gary give me directions to a kebab place that they thought was excellent (it was) and I leave. If Tony or Gary read this, thank you gentlemen for a great time, hope to see you again next year!
Passing by The Corn Exchange I see that a healthy queue has already formed, one of the familiar faces is Elaine Smith who informs me that she is attending 16 ot ouf 18 gigs on this tour. What a trooper! You must be tough as nails Elaine, I bow my head to you.
I also speak with Lou Smith who informs me that she is hoping to get to the front row, while her husband Rebus preferred to go to The Eagle for a pint. I return to The Eagle after my kebab, but cannot find him. Time to go in.
This time I position myself at the back, near the soundboard. The place is quite packed and to my pleasant surprise the band sounds as tight as ever. Everything goes great until near the middle of the Black and White section I start feeling woozy. My first thought is, “Shit, it’s the kebab” but no, the symptoms are different. After a while I realize that the nasty flu which I seem to be bringing back home from every English trip, struck early this time. The condition worsens so quickly that I have to leave the gig about three quarters in.
On the way to the hotel I pop into a supermarket and load up on flu and cough remedies, the most important of which is the sticky sweet concoction poetically branded Night Nurse. In America, the same kind of stuff goes by a bland pharmaceutic name of Nyquill. I’ll take Night Nurse over Nyquill any day, or rather night.
Into the bed I go, with a towel on my forehead and a bunch of medicine bottles on the side table, a la Mr. Bean. Good night and let’s try to survive the rest of the trip.
Cambridge, day 2
After 12 hours filled with all sorts of unpleasant dreams (and not a single night nurse in them), I decided that I improved enough to risk a walk, get some fresh air, a coffee and maybe some food. Coffee did its temporary magic, so I walked on. In all my previous visits to Cambridge I had never seen the local river, Cam, which in the tourist guides is made up to be some sort of a Seine, only a bit more scenic. I reached it this time. What a disappointment.
In addition, it started raining. I took refuge in a nearby pub named The Mitre and tested my condition with a half pint of Hobgoblin. The beer, to quote a fictional Russian scientist, “refreshed my dusty brow”. Encouraged, I ordered a sandwich and a full pint. “The food did me good” but the pint made me feel wobbly again and it became clear that the balance of the day would be best spent in bed. A day of rest in the middle of the week turned out to be a godsend and I needed to take full advantage of it.
As I walked towards the hotel, I saw a homeless-looking man playing a harp. Not a little handheld thing, but an impressive 4-footer which towered above his head as he held in his lap. The locals paid no attention. Worried that my next encounter would be a trio of hobos playing the 80’s style brass part of Down In The Sewer on heavenly trumpets, I hobbled on. Wish I took a photo, at least I’d have known know whether that was a hallucination. Not much to report about the subsequent 20 hours or so. Fever, cough, Night Nurse and bad dreams.
Mid-day Friday, a 4 hour+ train ride from Cambridge to Leeds, with 2 changes. The less said about that horrible time the better.
This is my second time in Leeds, I stay at the Radisson Blu which I prefer for its insanely comfy beds, and try to rest before the gig. Always dependable Matt comes through with a texted invitation to another curry place. With regret, I turn him down since I cannot think of food in general, and anything spicy in particular. Instead, I order room service of an over-peppered pumpkin soup and an awfully bad Caesar salad, force myself to eat some of that crap and go right back to bed. In a few short hours, it is time to pull myself out and start staggering towards the Academy..
Thank myself for good planning! When I was booking the gig tickets, I chose to sit on the balcony in Leeds, correctly figuring that after 4 days of trains and gigs I would be on my last legs. I did not figure on being sick, which turned the sitting ticket to the balcony into a real life-saver. Thus, despite my malady, I am able to enjoy a good view and sound, and another excellent gig.
Post-concert mingling, alas, was out of the question. At the end of the gig I went straight back to the hotel for another dose of Night Nurse and a night of feverish dreams.
Next morning, the last day of the tour, another lucky break for me, the relatively short distance from Leeds to Manchester. I was able to sleep late, take the journey which took less than 2 hours door to door, and check into a bed at the McDonald hotel, very close to the railway station and not far away from the Apollo, this year’s venue. Another set of city-exploring plans had to be ditched in favor of some miserable time with the drapes closed.
For the last gig of my trip and the tour, I had to make the effort to survive. The healing powers of good cognac should not be called upon casually, but this occasion felt right. When the time to get out was close, I went down to the hotel bar and ordered a dose of Remy Martin, with a cup of tea and a sandwich. Soon came a text from Matt with the location of today’s curry place, Punjab. A friendly Indian taxi driver never heard of the place, somewhat surprisingly, and it took him some effort and extra time as the originally given address was incorrect.
When I arrived, Matt and his companion Di were finishing their meal. No problem, “A cup of tea and a brandy” was my dinner order, after which it became evident that the waiter had little idea what “brandy” or “cognac” means, so I had to walk over to the bar and locate a bottle of Martel for him. Di seemed to be suffering from a flu-like condition like myself, so we share the “magic sweeties” as she called the anti-cough candies which I had been carrying a pocketful of for the prior 3 days. No magic there, sadly, just a chemical taste and a short-lived superficial relief. Unlike tea and cognac, which returned some colour to my face, as Matt noted, and allowed me to be minimally sociable for the rest of our dinner and the trip to the Apollo.
The gig was exceptional, the band at their peak and the fans at their most enthusiastic. Once again, the Manchester tour closer turned out to be my favorite gig of the trip. For the fifth time in a row, I was blown away by the first bar of Grip, a monster keyboard sound that heralded the switch from the somewhat depressing Black side of the album, with its stark white lighting, to a full color celebration of timeless hits and classics old and new. Grip is one song that I think sounds better live these days than its original recording. Another highlight of the last gig for me was 5 Minutes, the most energetic version I have ever witnessed. There was even Golden Brown in one of the encores, played for the only time on the tour (or at least its last week), which is just fine by me. At 2 full hours, this gig was over way too soon.
If I had to choose the biggest loss caused by my illness, it would not be the fact that it made me miss some sightseeing, good food and drink, record shopping, or even the last 30 minutes of the Cambridge gig. It would not be the recovery that lasted for many days after I returned home (I am still feeling the after-effects as I write this, more than 3 weeks later). It has got to be missing the post-Manchester gig action at the Big Hands bar, with so many friends-in-black I had made in the prior visits. At the end of the concert I could only muster just enough strength to greet all the friends I could locate on the floor, and then had to go to the hotel, be miserable for another night and head to the airport early in the morning.
So…. Julie, Gill, Jason, Andy & Pam, Dave Higginson, Steve and Paul, Elaine, Liz, comrade Pidgeon, Colin Davies, Kathinboots… great to see you all! I am sure I forgot somebody, but it was great to see you as well. Sorry I could only say hi and disappear. I promise to do better next year. And for now, long live The Stranglers and their fans! Amen.
Blimey! here we go again… Not unlike, your London Bobbies and Buses… You wait for what could conceivably be called an eternity for a review… Then three come along at once… It never rains but it pours etc Etc EiTC… Oh well, here goes…
Hugh Cornwell – Union Chapel – 2-11-15.
A small article in The Times on Monday 2nd November said that Christians who are vocal about their faith are more likely to put their acquaintances off God than attract them to find out more about Jesus… Don’t mention the religious tracts and stick a gig on in a church and those with their own true belief will come… Even on a Monday!
The Hugh faithful know that you cannot convert with talk but on a foggy night in Islington the voice was there to speak for itself. But as it was a foggy Monday unsurprisingly the chapel wasn’t as full as it had been two years ago on a chilly Saturday. There was plenty of room on the pews meaning that everyone must have been able to get a good view towards the pulpit.
There was also an abundance of heating. Maybe even too much heat which combined with a hot chocolate and a Tunnock’s teacake (available from the handy kiosk at the back of the hall) could have been soporific but the hard seating counteracted any tendency to nod off.
Added to this were the excellent acoustics that let Hugh’s voice ring out. There were ten Stranglers songs performed before a half hour interval. Hugh started with Strange Little Girl, the first song penned as The Stranglers, and then followed with a song and anecdotes from each album up to Dreamtime.
A few sharp intakes of breath at the omission of 10 as people headed to the bar, tea bar or to the usher’s ice cream tray. Hugh, however, did have a plan and came back with Break of Dawn from Wolf, placing it neatly in chronological order before Man of the Earth. He then played a song from each of his subsequent solo albums finishing with a look to the future (and hints that an album is due next year) in the form of one of his newest songs, La Grande Dame.
Difficult to pick a favourite from the selection played. Second Coming followed by Tramp was very special. In trying to write other highlights I more or less find myself typing out the set list in its entirety. Outside Tokyo, Black Hair Black Eyes Black Suit, Beat of My Heart, and Never Say Goodbye.
To mention that I would have preferred a different track from T&T to the one played (I Want One of Those, which I find a bit of a dirge) is a minor quibble and one that was rectified by the addition of Gods, Guns and Gays in the encore. The only track that didn’t work for me was Dagenham Dave. When I last saw Hugh play an electric set at Weyfest in September this was the track that I least enjoyed then too. For me it needs keyboards, no other substitute is acceptable.
By Hugh’s charming admission, following a few botched chords, he is a singer first and foremost and only took up the guitar to accompany himself. Did I mention his voice? It was spot on in the chapel. No point preaching to the unconverted but anyone who fell in love with the Stranglers based on any of the first ten albums really should experience hearing them sung by the original voice. Acoustic gigs might not be the answer to everyone’s prayers but this was the best that I’ve heard from Hugh.
Praise be. Go in peace.
Words: Gill Baglady. Photos: EiTC.
Hugh Cornwell The Union Chapel Islington Monday 2nd November.
As the yearly Hugh Cornwell Autumn Tour rolls into town, it is always a gamble as to what it is going to be; a full band tour or Hugh alone on his tod with an Acoustic Guitar. I am a big fan of His electric gigs, last year’s gig at The Brighton Concorde 2 was one of the best times I have ever seen him. I thought he was going to follow it through as he has been electric for most of the year. But this year it was an acoustic tour (these seem to becoming a thing of the norm in recent years). The Times I have seen him acoustic are 2006 Telford, 2008 Ronnie Scott’s, 2012 Bush Hall and 2013 Sale. So my 25th Hugh Gig will be at The Union Chapel a venue I have never been to before. Before the gig I had a Great time meeting fellow Burning Up Time Forumster John Cooper and his girlfriend Lynsey in the Legendary Hope and Anchor. A couple more people turned up of whose names escape me. At 7.30 me, John, Lynsey and co make our way to The Union Chapel. Inside is Matt Brown, Graham Flowers, Gill, Bill and Kat, time to take our seats!
Hugh comes on promptly at 8pm. Dressed in a suit that looks tailor made for him. He thanks everyone for coming and tells the Audience what to expect, a set of two halves – one from his Strangler days and one from his solo days…
He straps on his guitar and tells us a story about the first song The Stranglers ever wrote with Biochemist friend from Sweden Hans Wärmling, of course it was the brilliant Strange Little Girl. He spoke of his time in Sweden and Johnny Sox and said it was like his school of rock.
He then goes into Grip from Rattus Norvegicus, Dagenham Dave from No More Heroes, and the brilliant Outside Tokyo from Black and white. This is the first time I have ever heard him do this. Stories are told very quickly and The Raven Story was that the record company, wanted to fly a band member to Japan, First Class to approve a new hologram 3D sleeve. So Hugh flew from The UK to Japan, First Class. Outside a limousine was waiting for him to take him to the Japanese studio. He had a look at the sleeve and said “Yeah that looks alright” and went back to England. They wouldn’t do that these days as it would cost a fortune. The song played from the raven was Duchess. Onto the Stranglers Darkest period The Meninblack, Hugh got put in Pentonville prison for possession of Drugs. In Prison the only thing to read was the Bible. So Hugh Read it and when he came out started to work with JJ on the next album The Gospel according to the Meninblack. Of which the record company did not like, naughty Stranglers as Hugh Said impersonating someone from the record company “There are no hit singles on this record go back and make another”. A big surprise was in store for us in the shape of Second Coming my favourite of the gig.
Next up Hugh says “So the record company says – the next album there has to be a smash hit or you’re finished, finito! So we come up with Golden Brown, and that was a massive smash hit. But the important thing is to follow up one smash hit with another. The record company and me wanted to release Tramp. Brilliant I thought, two smash hits in a row that I wrote y’know I was more than pleased, but we went away and came back and JJ persuaded the band to release La Folie a song in French, that didn’t do very well at all” Tramp is played next.
The Stranglers leave Emi Hugh says, Every Mistake Imaginable as they are known by the band and move to CBS (Epic, which he also joked was English Product Ignored Completely! etc Etc EiTC) in 1982 and in 1983 they release Feline off which Hugh plays Never Say Goodbye, then No Mercy From Aural Sculpture and Always the Sun from Dreamtime follow which ends the first half of the set.
The second half of the set Hugh comes on and says “in 1990 I took a walk from The Stranglers, did various collaboration albums, but while I was still in the stranglers I released a solo album called Wolf and here’s a song from it Break of dawn”. (After which Hugh then played Man of the earth from 10, his last record with The Stranglers… etc Etc EiTC).
The solo Hugh set list I thought was a bit predictable (IMO) as he is usually more adventurous with it. First Bus to Babylon followed from the Wired album, my favourite of his solo set, from Guilty – Black Hair, Black eyes Black suit. Then from HIFI we get Lay back on me Pal, from Hooverdam Beat of my Heart, from Totem and Taboo I Want One of Those.
Hugh then says to follow the trend of releasing a solo album once every 4 years he has got the songs ready and is on the ball and plays a new song La Grande Dame. That finishes the second set.
Hugh comes on for the encore and explains there is a DVD called Anthology on sale from the acoustic tour in 2013 recorded at Aberdeen. On it there is a number for a competition to win a poster that Hugh found in his loft for the charity cricket match – The Stranglers VS the Media at Paddington in 1979. He will be doing a draw at the end of the tour so keep hold of it. One Burning Desire from Guilty, Gods Guns and Gays from Totem and Taboo, and he finishes of with the mariachi version of Golden Brown. At the end of the gig I buy the DVD and compilation album The Fall and Rise of Hugh Cornwell and the single Under her spell CD2. I have a little chat with Hugh. Matt, Graham, Gill and See The Little Nuclei. Then it is time to make our way home. There is a strike on apparently. But I get home before midnight. Another good night out seeing Hugh!
Words and Photos: The Legendary Pigeon.
And finally your old mucker EiTC…
Gig Review – Hugh Cornwell – Union Chapel Islington – 2nd Nov 2015.
In the Pews with Hugh…
Sunday saw a real Pea-souper which kind of set us up for a gloomy Monday in foggy ol’ London Town. What with it being a school night and all, there just wasn’t that much to get excited about…
…Wait! Scratch that!
The sugar-tongs were set to cross the River Thames (the River Thames is cold!) and head through the central London evening rush into the wilds of the North (Islington to be precise) to spend an evening at church…
I stopped off en-route at the delightful Diwana in Drummond Street Euston for some nourishing sustenance, before getting back in the race with the other rats and eventually arriving at Union Chapel to meet up with Lil, Lefty and Andyw. Inside the church the flock had turned out en Masse, a healthy congregation indeed for a miserable Monday evening in November – including; Pigeon, Bat and Kill, Mike Aboud, MonikaJ (aka seethelittlenuclei) and Nell, Aldinblack and the Pharbours to name a few. The faithful gathered around the alter filling the pews in anticipation. And tonight the sermon was being delivered by none other than Hugh Cornwell!
Around the dot of 8ish the lights dimmed, the crowd buzzed and Hugh took the stage, where he proceeded to take control of the Sugar Tongs guiding us on a journey through time spanning some 40 plus years.
Kicking off with “the first song The Stranglers ever wrote” Strange Little Girl, Hugh then proceeded to weave his way through every record from both his Stranglers days and his Solo career. Choosing one song to represent each release, he interspersed these with tales and good humoured banter relating to each of these periods. Hugh comes across as warm, sincere, and funny while displaying a hint of humility and genuine appreciation towards the audience.
The set tonight was totally different to the previous acoustic tour in 2013, with some nice surprises. Highlights for me being too numerous but special mention to Second Coming, Outside Tokyo, Grip and Tramp from the Stranglers canon and Under Her Spell, Lay Back on Me Pal, Beat of My Heart and maybe, or maybe not, One Burning Desire (which according to Guilford Lil – Lefty said Pidge told him to tell her was definitely probably in the set, although I’m sure OBD was in there somewhere – etc Etc EiTC!).
Observation… While we’re on the subject of Hugh’s acoustic gigs, in my review of last year’s Electric performance at the Electric Ballroom, I mentioned that songs like Duchess and Grip didn’t seem to particularly work without the keyboards, while others like Straighten Out and Sleazy were on fire. Not so tonight! Grip was slowed down a little and with Hugh’s strong-arm strumming sounded perfect with an air of Velvet Underground about it. Duchess too was Top Drawer! etc Etc EiTC…
The sound tonight was great, with the acoustic sounding silky smooth in this large chapel (much better than the sound of two years ago). Hugh took a few false starts in his stride while joking with the crowd. While the melodic picking on his more intricate solo material was a sonic tonic for the lug holes! And the voice! Oh the voice! Despite appearing a little under the weather and chugging lozenges like no-ones business, it’s always a delight to hear Hugh sing and tonight was no exception.
Peter Hook & the Light …. Manchestaaa Eh Eh Eh? or is it A A A?
Every now and then one of those gigs comes up that you know is going to be special and that you know that you have to be at! Back in February I was made aware of a certain night in Manchester in Leafy October…
Peter Hook – YES!
Closer in its entirety YES YES!
Unknown Pleasures in its entirety YES YES YES!
Live in Manchester the home of Joy Division YES YES YES YES!
Tickets went on sale rather bizarrely at 1730 on 19th February and by 1732 I was the happy owner of 4 tickets and just the small matter of the summer to pass…
As they do, the summer came and went over 2 days in June and here we were on Halloween Eve. Leaving the balmy climes of Costa del Coventry at 1300 I was somehow manoeuvred into the passenger seat of Shazzers street Ka , regrettably not topless , to begin our journey to the sunshiiiinnnneeee in Manchestaaa . The very helpful man on Sat Nav kept us amused through the journey insisting that the journey was on the whole via A roads and more A roads . We passed through some delightful little villages the highlights being Shazzer shouting out Tittensore (unfortunately this was the village name not a request from Sharon for me to rub them better , Im sure if we were topless it would have been much different)! . Later on we passed through Marton and saw a beautiful church, anyway culture over…
Some 3 ½ Hours later on arrival at our destination we safely parked the Shazzer Mobile in a street conveniently located near to the venue and linked up with compatriots for the evening Willie and Tracey Williams , sadly this meant walking past the now defunct Jabez Cleggs (Home of many a fine soiree) continuing round the corner where we took up our alfresco seating in the KRO bar and watched the student population walk buy , a few beers and a very enjoyable Pork Schnitzel later we ventured to other side of road and joined a smallish queue at the venue noting fellow MIB Scott Howieson at the head of the queue. Doors opened promptly and we took our positions with Sharon and Tracey managing centre barrier spots.
We had found out earlier in the day that we were going to have a support act , despite the length of the PHATL set and at 1930 El Tel Eleven took the stage , a strange American Duo who based their all instrumental act on layering of sound and repeated loops . Although mostly respectful the audience were not entirely overawed by this performance, very obviously being there for the main act.
My gig buddy for the evening Willie Williams then got into a deep and meaningful Joy Division based dialogue with a Liverpudlian fan who was so stereotypically scouse every sentence starting Eh Eh Eh Dat Peter Hook…
A quick transition on stage and Peter Hook and the light walked the boards and we were treated to a New Order opening mini set, starting off with the wonderful Ceremony, Age of Consent, Love Vigilantes, Your Silent Face, True Faith, Temptation before the final track The Perfect Kiss. The sound was spot on even in our position and Mr Hook and many more were beginning to build up a head of steam.
A brief 5 minute break followed before returning to the stage for the first of the 2 JD Albums. Breaking chronological order they commenced with Closer, the audience lapping up every moment of it. Hooky’s voice works with the JD catalogue far better than with the New Order stuff, highlights for me were Isolation and Heart and soul. Ably accompanied by Jack Bates (Hooky’s Son ) on bass , David Potts (Guitar) Paul Kehoe (Drums) and Andy Poole (Keys). Closer was sadly over all to quickly but we were only half way through the evening and had Unknown Pleasures to look forward to.
Another 5 minute break, obviously not enough for Hooky to change his sweat drenched T – Shirt before the band reappeared for the original Joy Division Album Unknown Pleasures. Commencing with Disorder seamlessly running through to the final track I Remember Nothing. Personal highlight here was the middle section of New Dawn Fades, She’s Lost Control and Shadowlands . The crowd by this stage were totally in awe of the performance still wanting more and we were not disappointed.
A final 5 minute break before the last section of the gig which sent the audience into raptures comprising of Atmosphere , Warsaw , Transmission and Love Will Tear us apart at which stage some lucky fan (?) became the benefactor of Hooky’s sweat ridden T Shirt . Warsaw being my favourite track of the night!
2320 the gig was over, the crowd were buzzing and reminiscing on what they had just witnessed, time to briefly meet Alex Owen, Alex’s Dad (Mark) and one of Hooky’s crew who I had met in Leamington earlier this year.
Dodging the dodgy T shirt wheeler dealers we had a brief chat with Janet Taylor albeit through one of the magic busses steamy windows before repositioning myself in the shazzer mobile for a much quicker journey home , most of it singing Love , Love will tear us apart again.
So October ending the way it started with a Hooky Gig , November is here and its nearly time to get Wonky!
Special thanks to Shazzer , my gig companion and dedicated driver?
Thank you Peter Hook! Almost 3 hours of music you didn’t disappoint!
Andy Miller brings us this from Brighton and Southsea…
Well, as many people who know me will testify, I do like my live music and a band that are very special to me are Ruts DC! Firstly because one of my best and oldest friends Leigh is the guitarist in this band but also because they are one of the best bands out there! I have seen this band on many occasions over these past few years and can honestly say they are an exceptional group who just get better and better. For my sins I never got to see The Ruts live which is something that I have always regretted. And apart from them being the local band along with the Lurkers my only contact back in the day (1979) was bumping into Malcolm Owen in Uxbridge town just after I had purchased Babylon’s Burning on 7 inch single and getting him to scribble his moniker on the picture cover (sadly I had this stolen along with a lot of my records at a party many years ago and although at the time I was probably fairly nonplussed about it – now it really eats at me and would be a prized possession if I still had it).
Move forward a few years to the mid to late eighties and through Leigh I got to know Paul Fox who played in various bands like Choir Militia, Big Boys and the Dirty Strangers, so I had a sort of loose connection again and got to see Foxy play live quite a bit over the oncoming years. As Paul’s health deteriorated, Leigh, with Paul’s blessing, stepped into dep on gigs when the man himself couldn’t play. Sadly Foxy passed away a few years back and when Segs Jennings and Dave Ruffy were approached about doing a couple of gigs as Ruts DC, Leigh got the call and as they say the rest is history.
Brighton – Komedia 21st Oct:
Fast forward to Wednesday evening and the Komedia in Brighton for the second of Three South coast gigs on their Psychic Attack Tour. This is a first time at this venue for me and I was very impressed! Prior to the gig went I for a pint with Leigh in a Brighton boozer and we were joined by Simon from the Neurotics and Rupert from the Jim Jones Revue, where the conversation was obviously all about music. Then it was into the venue to catch the final few numbers from the UK Feds who are the support on this tour and a nice bunch of lads who play real music and hopefully will go far. It was good to catch up with quite a few familiar faces as always and a decent crowd was in situ as Segs, Dave and Leigh took to the stage at 9pm…
The opening song of the set was a new song Surprise which is a great taster for the new album to be recorded when the band return from their Australia/New Zealand Tour next month. Next up Mighty Soldier from Rhythm Collision 2. Then the first visit to the Ruts back catalogue with Backbiter closely followed by It was Cold/Mirror Smashed with a stunning guitar solo from Leigh full of power and angst.
The set as always is well balanced and back to back songs from Animal now – Dangerous Minds and No time to kill are up next , Second Hand Child is a powerful new song about abuse, this song just gets better and better and Seg’s vocal delivery on this is exceptional – he really spits out the lyrics. Love in vain is also an emotive song but on a different level and is dedicated to Malcolm ,Paul , and anybody that has lost somebody.
Then the final salvo of the main set is launched with the anthemic West One followed by the new song and title track of the pending new album Psychic attack, two of the shortest songs in the set bar Society but boy do they hit the spot and nearly took the roof of the Komedia! We then get in quick succession Staring at the Rude boys, Jah War, Babylon’s Burning and a jaw dropping In a Rut to close the main set.
They left the stage to great applause but were soon back for a three song encore kicking off with a cover Brand new Cadillac, then Something That I Said and the shortest song in the whole of the Ruts/Ruts DC catalogue – Society to end what had been one of the best gigs I had seen this year along with their gig back at the 100 Club in January…
Southsea – The Wedgewood Rooms 22nd Oct:
Fast forward 24 Hours and I am now at another new venue for me – The Wedgewood Rooms in Southsea. With the same format of visiting a pub with Leigh and friends for a couple of pints then into the venue for a few numbers from the support band before Ruts DC took the stage at the later time of 10pm.
There was a decent crowd in who were well up for the gig and the band (which I didn’t think was possible) took it to a higher level than the previous night. It was exactly the same set as the night before which, if I had to choose, although very hard – the stand out tracks would be Mirror smashed, Love in Vain , Rude boys and an even more blistering version of In a Rut than the previous night (aided by Segs skipping over and flicking all Leigh’s switches etc to maximum).
A brief exit and return back to stage for an extended encore to the previous night with, as Segs introduced it, the b side of our first single (and a storming) H-Eyes – a song which up until two weeks ago I had never seen played live and have now seen twice after hearing it at Boileroom in Guildford). This was followed by Brand New Cadillac, Something That I Said and a rip-roaring Society to round off a fantastic gig and the final song on the South Coast leg… What a gig! And if possible it did top the Brighton gig but only just and as back to back gigs go these two will take some beating in my eyes.
As an overall summary of the past two gigs it is so refreshing to see a band who have such a revered legacy and could go out and play the Crack with singles and b-sides every night but this is not what this band is about – they want to move forward. New songs, ideas, plans etc and I applaud them for this. And long may they continue to do so and not rest on their laurels. I would like to thank Seg’s ,Dave and Leigh for these great gigs and end with this -Bring on the Psychic attack album HURRAH!