The Stranglers Newcastle City Hall 15th June 1977
I first saw the Stranglers in the bar of Newcastle Poly in February 1977, and have a natty little ticket from the event (pictured here) which shows a victim of (I think) the Boston Strangler. The gig was in a small upstairs bar, rather than the usual venue of the main ballroom, and completely packed. The audience was a mix of students, and locals with a smattering of people starting to wear punk gear. A group of fashion students were into the punk scene and would dress in Vivienne Westwood gear which they must have bought from Seditionaries in London. The Stranglers played a blistering performance featuring early songs, many of which were to appear on their soon to be released first album, “Rattus Norvegicus”. Their only release at the time of the Poly gig was the first single “Grip”/”London Lady”. “London Lady” was probably my favourite song of theirs at the time. I found a bootleg listed for a performance at Middlesbrough Rock Garden, also on 23rd February 1977. The Rock Garden gig was in fact the night after, on 24th February 1977. The recording shows the set as being: Get A Grip On Yourself; Sometimes; Bitching; School Mam; Peasant In The Big Shitty; Straighten Out; Hanging Around; Ugly; London Lady; Down In The Sewer; Something Better Change; Go Buddy Go. If that set list is correct it seems that the band had already written, and were playing, tracks such as “Bitching” and “School Mam” that would end up on their second album “No More Heroes”.
Come June 1977 and The Stranglers were back and headlining at Newcastle City Hall. I remember being surprised that they could contemplate playing such a large venue only a few months after I had seen them play in a students union bar. But by June, punk was making news everywhere, the Stranglers had released “Peaches” which was climbing up the charts, and the gig sold out. The venue was packed with a mix of rock fans, those curious to see what this new “punk” phenomenon was all about, and several sporting their own home-made t-shirts, complete with zips, safety pins, chains, locks etc. This was probably the first big punk gig that the north east had seen, and certainly the first in a public venue that was accessible to all (ie not in a students union or in a bar or club with an over 18 entry). The crowd made the most of it. The Stranglers played an amazing, challenging set: Hugh Cornwell very non-PC spitting and growling lots of apparently sexist and racist innuendo, Jean-Jacques Burnel looking moody, dark and dangerous and driving the band with his lumbering, thundering bass guitar, Dave Greenfield providing the melody with some swirling Hammond organ that could just as easily have come from Deep Purple, and Jet Black, the grumpy looking man in black at the back on drums. The Stranglers were one of the hardest working, and most consistent, live acts at the time. They made it through a set of great songs, and through hard graft, playing up and down the country throughout 1976 and 1977. Caroline Coon, said (from ‘1988: The New Wave Punk Rock Explosion’, 1977): “The Stranglers slogged through over four hundred gigs in two years building up an ever-increasing following. They did not jump on the punk bandwagon but they were astute enough to know which way the rock wind was blowing.” It can be argued that The Stranglers were not punk, but more classic rock. However, Burnel was quoted as saying, “I thought of myself as part of punk at the time because we were inhabiting the same flora and fauna … I would like to think The Stranglers were more punk plus and then some.” (Interview for Punk77). But the kids at the City Hall in June 1977 didn’t care either way. As far as they were concerned, they were getting their first slice of the action, and were seeing a real live punk rock band. And of course they were meant to go totally crazy and spit at the band, and that is exactly what they did. This was a manic gig, and the first of many that the City Hall and other venues would host in the months to come. “I couldn’t care what anybody else says, the Stranglers are still one of the finest rock ‘n’ roll bands this country has spawned in years. Old wave, New Wave, fart, new fart, what do the labels matter, eh? Electric music is electric music. It either hits you where it should or else it apologises and passes by on the other side. And since when did the Stranglers ever apologise for anything? ” (Chas de Whalley, Sounds, 1977). Support at the City Hall came from London, who were a four piece punk band formed in London in 1976, and were well known for their wild stage act. The original line-up was Riff Regan (vocals), Steve Voice (bass), Jon Moss (drums, later of the Damned and then Culture Club) and Dave Wight (guitar). I’m sure that somewhere I have a flyer for London which I picked up at the gig. I’ll try and find it and load it to this page. The Stranglers hit the UK singles charts four times in 1977 with “Grip”/”London Lady”; “Peaches”/”Go Buddy Go”; “Something Better Change” and “No More Heroes”.
A bootleg recorded in June 1977 at Manchester Electric Circus shows The Stranglers setlist as: Get A Grip On Yourself; Sometimes; I Feel Like A Wog; Dagenham Dave; School Mam; Peasant In The Big Shitty; Peaches; No More Heroes; Hanging Around; Straighten Out; London Lady; Down In The Sewer; Ugly; Something Better Change. I imagine that their set at the City Hall in June 1977 will have been similar. I saw the Stranglers many times after this, and will write about those gigs another time.
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The Stranglers Newcastle City Hall 15th June 1977