The Who Wembley Stadium 18th August 1979
Support from AC/DC, The Stranglers and Nils Lofgren.
This was The Who’s first big gig with Kenney Jones as drummer. It was also the first time that the band were accompanied by a horn section, for some songs. A capacity crowd of 80,000 fans crammed into the old Wembley Stadium to see the ‘Orrible ‘Oo; accompanied by a strong support line-up. I went down to London with a group of mates on an early train. When we arrived in the capital some mates went off to Chelsea, as Sunderland were playing there that day. Those of us who weren’t football fans made our way to Wembley, in time to catch the support acts. Nils Lofgren was first on; I recall he had his small trampoline and did somersaults across the stage. AC/DC were great; this was the Bon Scott era band, who were just breaking big at the time. They started with “Live Wire” and played great classics like “The Jack”, “Highway to Hell” and “Whole Lotta Rosie”. Great stuff; really got the crowd going and, other than the Who, were the highlight of the day. The Stranglers were ok, but decided to make the brave move of playing mostly new material from “The Raven” album. This didn’t go down too well with the crowd. A big fight broke out on the pitch during their performance.
I’d arranged to meet my mates who had been to the match, at around 7pm at the back of the stadium. They arrived, quite drunk, full of stories of how the police had directed them into the Chelsea “Shed” section of the ground, where all the home supporters were standing. They stood through the entire match, surrounding by hard men Chelsea skinheads, not daring to speak in case anyone recognised their Mackem accent. If Sunderland got the ball they had to stop themselves from cheering, lest they revealed themselves to the skins. They seemed pretty shaken by the whole experience, but quite proud that they had survived and lived to tell the tale.
The crowd was very mixed; a collection of rock fans, a smattering of Hells Angels who were camped on the pitch just in front of where we were all sitting, and groups of “new mods” in parkas (this was the beginning of the mod revival and around the time of the release of the “Quadrophenia” movie). One of my mates, who had been to the match and was a little worse for wear, insisted on taunting the Hells Angels in front of us. Luckily they started to joke along with him, taking it all in good spirit.
The Who started with “Substitute” and “I Can’t Explain” and played well, although the sound wasn’t good at all. The crowd loved them, and gave them a “returning heroes” type welcome. I enjoyed the gig, but it wasn’t the best time I have seen the Who. We left during the encore ot be sure to catch our train home to the north, which was just as well, as there were massive delays getting to the tubes. The police diverted us away from Wembley Park tube station and round to Wembley Central. Although we left around 10pm, we arrived at Kings Cross just in time to catch the midnight train back to Newcastle.
Setlist: Substitute; I Can’t Explain; Baba O’Riley; The Punk and the Godfather; Behind Blue Eyes; Boris the Spider; Sister Disco; Drowned; Music Must Change; Magic Bus; Pinball Wizard; See Me, Feel Me; Trick of the Light; 5:15; Long Live Rock; Who Are You; My Generation; Dreaming From the Waist; Won’t Get Fooled Again.
Encore: Summertime Blues; The Real Me
Archive for the ‘Stranglers’ Category
The Who Wembley Stadium 18th August 1979
The Stranglers Sunderland Manor Quay 27th August 2005
The next time I saw The Stranglers was in 2005 at a gig at Sunderland Manor Quay, which at the time, belonged to the Students’ Union of University of Sunderland, although this was not a student gig. It was 20 years since I had last seen The Stranglers in concert, and 25 years since the band last played in Sunderland. This was quite an event for the city, and a home-coming for local guitarist Baz Warne who joined The Stranglers in 2000, so come the night the venue was packed with punks and rock fans, young and old. The Manor Quay has a long history of music. I first started going to see bands there in the 70s when it was the Boilermakers Workingmen’s Club, and recall seeing Son Of A Bitch there, who became Saxon. The club then became the Barbary Coast nightclub, and in the 80s I saw Screaming Lord Sutch, Bo Diddley and Lords of the New Church play there. Anyway; back to The Stranglers. It was great to see them live again, and the concert brought back loads of memories of happy days. Their set included many of the old classics, lots of which had been dropped from their live show when I last saw them perform back in the 80s. There was, of course, much beer bring thrown around, and lots of pushing and shoving on the dance floor, but all in good spirit. I took David, who also enjoyed it. Support came from local band The Golden Virgins.
The line-up of the band at the time was Jean-Jacques Burnel, Jet Black, Dave Greenfield, “new” singer Paul Roberts (who had actually been in the band 15 years by this time) and local lad Baz Warne on guitar. The Stranglers released their 15th studio album, Norfolk Coast, the year before and the set included quite a few songs from that album. Singer Paul Roberts left the band shortly afterwards, and Baz Warne took up vocal duties.
I’ve seen The Stranglers once since then, at Glastonbury a few years ago.
The Stranglers Newcastle City Hall 1983 and 1985
The Stranglers were back at the City Hall again in 1983 for the “Feline” tour and in 1985 for the “Aural Sculpture” tour.
“Feline” was the Sranglers’ seventh album and was released in January 1983. It did better than their previous album, “La Folie”, reaching No. 4 in the UK Albums Chart. “Feline” produced three singles, the best known of which is “European Female” which reached No. 9 in the UK singles chart in January 1983.
“Aural Sculpture” was the Stranglers eighth album and reached No. 14 in the UK album chart in November 1984. Three singles were released from the album: “Skin Deep” (No. 15 in the UK Singles Chart), “No Mercy” (No. 37) and “Let Me Down Easy” (No. 48).
Although I still enjoyed both of these gigs, the material that they played live was becoming less and less familiar, and I must admit to finding some of the newer songs quite hard going at times. I particularly remember wondering whether to go to the 1985 concert at all, and deciding to do so at the last minute for “old times sake” and partly out of curiosity. I went along late and paid at the door, and found the City Hall far from full; a very different scenario to Stranglers gigs in the late 70s and early 80s. I remember being quite surprised to find the band accompanied by a brass section (now come on, what’s all about? Punk and brass?!). I was also intrigued by the large ear backdrop hanging behind the band.
Here is one guy’s memory which I found as part of a review of the “Aural Sculpture” album: “I remember going to the “Aural Sculpture” tour at the Preston Guild Hall… What was different was the addition of a brass section in the top left hand corner of the stage. When I bought the “Aural Sculpture” LP it came with a free single it was a long poem which ended with Hugh declaring “now i give you aural sculpture” [the single actually came free with the “Feline” lp. It is called the “Aural Sculpture Manifesto” and it was played before The Stranglers appeared on stage during concerts on both the 1983 “Feline” Tour and the 1985 “Aural Sculpture” Tour]…….I remember Hugh was wearing a long black leather coat and shades; all black of course.”
I must admit that I was beginning to lose faith in the band at this time, as I I did with many other bands of the period. Looking back I regret giving up on going to see many of those bands. At the time I was just getting tired of hearing a band play “the new album”; I wanted to hear the old songs…I know, perhaps I should have invested more time in listening to new material from those bands, but the truth was in many cases the new stuff just didn’t cut he mustard compared to the songs which made the band famous in the first place. Many of the bands from those days are now back, reformed (or in some cases, including the Stranglers, they never went away), playing again, usually with a slightly different line-up. In all cases they are now returning to their back catalogue and playing the old classic songs again.
For me the Stranglers were at their peak in those early days of punk, playing those classic singles and tracks from their first couple of albums. There was a craziness, an air of danger, and an excitement about those gigs, which can never be recreated. The Stranglers were never the coolest of bands, and they were never fully accepted by the punk community, or the much press, in the same way the Pistols or the Clash were, but they had great tunes, throbbing bass, swirling organ, and an attitude about them that you just couldn’t ignore. And their legacy is an amazing number of excellent songs and many, many hit singles and albums over a long career which is still going continuing.
A few years after the 1985 tour Hugh Cornwell left the band, and it was around 20 years until I went to see them again in concert. I’ll write about that gig tomorrow.
The Stranglers Newcastle Mayfair 26th Feb 1981 & Newcastle City Hall 24th Nov 1981
Before I start today’s post; I just remembered that I also saw The Stranglers as one of the support acts for The Who at Wembley Stadium in 1979. Now, looking back, that was some line-up: The Who, The Stranglers, AC/DC and Nils Lofgren. I must write a full account of that gig when I come to covering The Who. Today I’m reflecting on The Stranglers in 1981.
1981 was another busy year for the band, releasing two studio albums, and touring in support of each. Their popularity was, however, starting to wane a little in the UK, and their three single releases of 1981 (“Thrown Away”, “Just Like Nothing on Earth”, “Let Me Introduce You to the Family”) only made the lower regions of the chart. Indeed, I can’t remember any of those singles at all. But as a live concert attraction The Stranglers remained a big draw, attracting punks and rock fans alike to their gigs.
The Stranglers first album release of the year was “The Gospel According to The Meninblack”, a concept album which explores the conspiracy theories around alien visitations to Earth and the sinister Men in Black, who appear in many biblical stories. This was a very different sort of album from their early punkier releases, and quite a brave move. Hugh Cornwell said of the album in a recent interview (SmellsLikePop, 2011) “I was sitting around Jet Black’s house and he was obsessed with UFOs……I thought that we could do a whole album about stuff they were writing in those books [referring to UFO books]…we all started getting into it. Jet didn’t realize that anyone would be interested in this weird stuff.” “The Gospel According to The Meninblack” made No 8 in the UK album chart, and the Stranglers went out on tour to promote the album. I saw their concert at Newcastle Mayfair on 26th February 1981. Phil Coxon attended every night of the early 1981 UK tour and says of the Mayfair gig: “The venue is in the nightclub style, have a look round and decide to treat myself to a Kentucky. Go back to the venue to see Modern Eon. [Aha so thats who the support was]. There’s a bit of hostility towards them tonight, the first time I’ve witnessed any so far. Their roadie quickly makes his way to the culprits and, even though he was outnumbered, he soon shut them up. Another good night from both bands with another lively crowd. The band coming on to Waltzinblack works a treat. Even though they have totally omitted anything from Rattus or Heroes, it’s still a great set and all the crowds seem to approve.” (From lair.thestranglers.net).
But one album wasn’t enough for the men in black in 1981. In November of that year they released “La Folie”, which was yet another change in style. This time the band consciously set out to make a much more accessible, commercial pop album, and worked with producer Tony Visconti, who helped them to achieve it. “La Folie” is French for “Madness”, and the theme of each song was “The Madness of Love”. The album contained the song “Golden Brown” which was released as a single in January 1982, reaching No. 2 in the UK chart. “Golden Brown” took the bands career in a different direction, and returned them to commercial success.
The Stranglers toured again in late 1981 and early 1982 in support of “La Folie”. The tour saw them returning to the City hall for the first time in four years to play a concert on 24th November 1981, which I attended. Live the Stranglers continued to put on great concerts, although I must admit I wasn’t familiar with the new songs, and missed some of the early classics like “London Lady”, “Grip” and “Hanging Around”.
Setlist from Newcastle City Hall 24th November 1981: Non Stop; Threatened; Just Like Nothing on Earth; Second Coming; The Man They Love to Hate; MeninBlack; Who Wants the World?; Baroque Bordello; Golden Brown; Tramp;Thrown Away; Tank; I Feel Like a Wog; Let Me Introduce You to the Family; Nuclear Device (The Wizard of Aus); Genetix. Encore: Bring on the Nubiles; Duchess; The Raven
The Stranglers Sunderland Mayfair 17 July 1980
The Stranglers were persona non grata in Newcastle after a riotous gig at the City Hall in 1977. It was almost three years before they appeared in the North East again, this time at Sunderland Mayfair (aka The Mecca or, previously, the Locarno). A lot had changed in the intervening years. By 1980 The Stranglers had released four albums, the latest being “The Raven”, and had 10 singles in the UK singles charts, including top twenty hits with “Something Better Change”, “No More Heroes”, “5 Minutes”, “Nice ‘n’ Sleazy”, and “Duchess”. Disaster also struck for the band in 1980 when Cornwell was arrested and convicted for drug use and sent to prison for three months in Pentonville.
This tour was to promote “The Raven”. I remember the Sunderland show as a good gig, but also being a little disappointed that many of the early songs had been dropped in favour of more recent tunes. A young Baz Warne was apparently in the audience that night. He would, of course, join the band some 20 years later. The programme from the show folds out to make a large poster of the band.
Based on setlists from that period the concert is likely to have gone something like this: Shah Shah A Go Go, Ice, Four Horsemen, Toiler On The Sea, Duchess, Thrown Away, Hanging Around, Hallow To Our Men, Waiting For The Meninblack, Down In The Sewer, Who Wants The World, Princess Of The Street, Just Like Nothing on Earth, Tank, Nuclear Device, Genetix, Baroque Bordello, The Raven
“Duch of the terrace never grew up
I hope she never will
Says she’s an heiress sits in her terrace
Says she’s got time to kill
Time to kill
And the Rodneys are queuing up
And they all want to win the cup
God forbid” (Duchess, The Stranglers, 1979)
The Stranglers Newcastle City Hall 12th October 1977
I have already written about the first couple of times I saw the Stranglers in concert which was at gigs in early 1977 at Newcastle Poly and the City Hall. Well it wasn’t long before they were again, once more headlining at Newcastle City Hall. I think that support on this occasion came from local punk heroes Penetration (or maybe that was the City Hall gig earlier in the year); it is all, I am afraid, a bit of a blur…. I saw the Stranglers quite a few times over the next 7 or 8 years and I’ll blog a little about those gigs over the next few days. The Stranglers live was always guaranteed to be wild, with the crowd going absolutely mental, goaded on by Hugh Cornwell and Jean-Jacques Burnel. By late 1977 the Stranglers had just released their second album “No More Heroes” and were massively successful with punks and rock fans. These were one band which seemed to be able to bridge the two camps, and thus drew massive crowds to their concerts. They were in the UK singles charts 4 times in 1977, first with “Grip”/”London Lady”, which was a minor hit early in the year reaching No 44, then with “Peaches”/”Go Buddy Go”, which made No 8, “Something Better Change”/”Straighten Out” which reached No 9, and their final hit of 1977 “No More Heroes” which got to No 8.The October 1977 concert was a pretty wild gig with some trouble as I recall, Hugh and Jean-Jacques arguing with the bouncers (I think Jean-Jacques may have tried to kick one of them at one point), and Hugh encouraging the crowd to push their way past the bouncers and climb up on stage. By the end of the gig the stage was completely full of pogoing fans surrounding the band. All of this resulted in the Stranglers not being welcome in the City Hall for some time. Indeed the next few Stranglers tours missed out the North East completely, and it was 1980 before they returned to the region for a gig at Sunderland Mayfair, which I will write about tomorrow. I believe one of the band (either Jet Black or Jean-Jacques Burnel, depending upon which report you read) was arrested after the 1977 Newcastle gig. But then the band were used to controversy at the time, not least because of their very non-PC songs and lyrics and their attitude towards the press. I would always buy a copy of “Strangled” magazine at each gig, as these were often on sale in place of a programme. This was a regular fanzine type mag; one of my early copies is pictured here. Based on setlists at the time the Stranglers set will have been something like this: No More Heroes; Ugly; Bring on the Nubiles; Dead Ringer; Sometimes; Dagenham Dave; Goodbye Toulouse; Hanging Around; Five Minutes; Bitching; Burning Up Time; I Feel Like a Wog; Straighten Out; Something Better Change. Encore: London Lady; Peaches; (Get A) Grip (On Yourself); Go Buddy Go
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.