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Stranglers Live Review + Photos [Nov. 5th, 2008|09:36 pm]
The Stranglers and Friends
dannidisaster

Hey guys! thought you might be interested in a new Stranglers review + photos (by me)
they're featured on an up and coming e-mag.
http://fat-wrok.com/index.php/component/option,com_flippingbook/Itemid,30/book_id,4
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A VH1 view of the Stranglers... [Aug. 30th, 2007|10:44 am]
The Stranglers and Friends

melnychuk

The Stranglers formed as the Guildford Stranglers in the southern England village of Chiddington (near Guildford) in 1974, plowing a heavily Doors-influenced furrow through the local pub rock scene -- such as it was. Of the four founding members,

only bassist Hugh Cornwall had any kind of recognizable historical pedigree, having played alongside Richard Thompson in the schoolboy band Emil & the Detectives. According to Thompson, their repertoire stretched from "Smokestack Lightning" and the blues, through to "old Kiki Dee B-sides," while their gigging was largely confined to the Hornsey School of Art, where Thompson's sister was Social Secretary.

The Guildford Stranglers were confined to a similar circuit. It was 1975 before they ventured into even the London suburbs, although once there -- and having shortened their name to the less parochial Stranglers -- things began moving quickly. The established pub rock scene was dying and promoters were willing to give any unknown band a break, simply to try and establish a new hierarchy. Thus it was that as the first stirrings of punk began to make their own presence felt on the same circuit, the Stranglers were on board the bandwagon from the beginning.

Their early songs, too, radiated the same ugly alienation that was the proto-punk movement's strongest calling card. Material like "Peasant in the Big Shitty," "I Feel Like a Wog," "Down in the Sewer," and "Ugly" itself were harsh, uncompromising, and grotesque; a muddy blurge of sound cut through with Dave Greenfield's hypnotically Doors-like keyboards, that was possessed of as much attitude as it was detectable musical competence. One uses the word guardedly, but "highlights" of this period were included on the 1992 archive release The Early Years: 74-75-76 Rare Live and Unreleased.

By mid-1976, the Stranglers already had enough force behind them to be booked as opening act at the Ramones' first London show, and Mark P., editor of the newly launched punk fanzine Sniffin' Glue, conferred further punk approval on the band when he wrote, "their sound is 1976...the Stranglers are a pleasure to boogie to -- sometimes they sound like the Doors, other times like Television, but they've got an ID of their own." Further prestige accompanied the band's opening slot for Patti Smith in October -- and that despite most of the audience walking out, long before the band left the stage; by the time the band set out on their own first U.K. tour, they had signed with UA (A&M in America) and were preparing to record their debut album with producer Martin Rushent.

"(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)," the Stranglers' debut single, made the lower reaches of the Top 50; Rattus Norvegicus, their first album, confirmed the group as one of the fastest developing groups on the entire scene -- even as the scene itself still puzzled over whether the Stranglers even belonged on board. "Old hairy misogynists" was a common accusation to fling in their direction, and it was one which the Stranglers themselves delighted in encouraging. In a more PC climate, their first U.K. Top Ten hit, summer 1977's "Peaches," would never even have been written, let alone recorded, while the bandmembers' reputation as sexual bad boys was only exacerbated by other songs in their repertoire -- "London Lady," "Bring on the Nubiles," "Choosy Susie."

The fact that much of their lyrical prowess was built around the darkest hued of black humors never entered many people's minds at the time, but listen again to their finest moments -- "Hangin' Around," "Down in the Sewer," the mindless boogie of "Go Buddy Go" and the sheer vile joys of "Ugly" -- and try to keep an even halfway straight face.

Unfortunately, though the Stranglers themselves reveled in an almost Monty Python-esque grasp of absurdity (and, in particular, the absurdities of modern "men's talk"), there was an undercurrent of violence which not only permeated their music, it also, inevitably, spilled into their live shows. Their fall 1977 British tour was marred by some very ugly scenes, while a trip to Sweden brought them into violent confrontation with the Raggere, that country's equivalent of Britain's punk-hating Teddy Boys. Hugh Cornwall's choice of T-shirts (a Ford logo reworked to read F***) brought the band into conflict with London's local council, while the group's decision to line their stage with topless dancing girls when they played a concert in that city's Battersea Park brought women's groups screaming down on them, too.

Yet despite so much controversy, the Stranglers' grip on the British chart seemed unbreakable. "Peaches" was followed by "Something Better Change" and might easily have been joined by a passionate cover of "Mony Mony," had the band not opted to hide behind the pseudonym of the Mutations, accompanying singer Celia Gollin on the number. (A second Celia & the Mutations single, "You Better Believe Me," followed late in 1977.) "No More Heroes," the driving title-track to the Stranglers' second album, was another huge hit, although the album itself was a disappointment -- recorded in a hurry, with little time to write new material, it was largely comprised of older songs which had been passed over for Rattus. Within months, a new Stranglers album was on the streets, and this time they got everything right. Black and White was previewed by the hits "Five Minutes" and "Nice'n'Sleazy" (self-mythology in a nutshell), and was swiftly followed by one of the band's finest moments, a murderously slowed-down version of Bacharach/David's "Walk on By."

More importantly, Black and White was the last Stranglers album to even flirt with the socio-sexual shock troop imagery which fired their first records; with the live X-Cert album (their first for IRS in America) rounding off 1978 with a final flurry of gruffness, the band was now free to experiment beyond even the most indulgent fan's wildest imaginings.

1979's The Raven saw them moving toward both psychedelia and radio-friendly pop -- "The Duchess," Top 20 that summer, was a classic tune by anybody's standards and, while a flurry of solo activity from Jean Jacques Burnel (The Euroman Cometh) and Hugh Cornwell (Nosferatu) raised rumors that the band was reaching the end of its lifespan, in fact it was their non-musical activities that came closest to bursting the bubble, after Cornwall was sentenced to three months imprisonment for drug possession in January 1980.

The band regrouped following his release and banged out two albums in a year, the concept Men in Black, and the extraordinarily ambitious La Folie -- home of their biggest hit single yet, "Golden Brown." It reached number two in Britain, although two other singles from the same album, "Let Me Introduce You to the Family" and "La Folie" itself, contrarily proved among their least successful so far.

"Strange Little Girl," specially recorded for the hits compilation The Collection 1977-1982, returned the band to the Top Ten the following summer and, having moved from UA to Epic, the Stranglers rounded out 1982 with the "European Female" single and Feline album, defiantly pop-heavy albums flavored by the group's own special take on the then-prevalent synthesizer sounds. This phase of the band's development reached a nadir of sorts with 1984's Aural Sculpture, the least engaging of their albums to date, and the least successful -- it faltered at number 14, with the exquisite "Skin Deep" single drawn up one place lower.

Two years of near silence followed, punctuated only by a succession of under-performing British 45s -- American releases were even rarer. "Nice in Nice," a commentary on a six-year-old misadventure in the French city of that name, "Always the Sun," "Big in America," and "Shakin' Like a Leaf," drawn from the 1986 album Dreamtime ensured the band remained very much a sideshow into the late '80s, but 1988 finally brought a massive turnaround in their fortunes. That January, a wildly churning cover of the Kinks' "All Day and All of the Night" powered the Stranglers back into the Top Ten, to be followed by a new live album of the same name.

Another long silence followed but, sticking with covers, the Stranglers were back to their best with ? & the Mysterians' "96 Tears" in early 1990, a taster for the album 10. A second hits collection, The Stranglers Greatest Hits, stuffed stockings across Europe that Christmas, but any serious attempt at a lasting revival was stymied by the departure of Cornwall for a solo career. He was replaced by John Ellis, a former member of fellow pub-to-punk graduates the Vibrators and Sniff'n the Tears frontman Paul Ellis and the new look Stranglers re-emerged on the China indie in early 1992.

A new album, Stranglers in the Night, appeared that fall, together with the minor hit "Heaven or Hell"; by year's end, however, drummer Jet Black, too, had departed. He was replaced by Tikabe Tobe and, in this form, the group recorded yet another live album, Saturday Night Sunday Morning, before Black returned for 1995's About Time. The group's studio set, Coup de Grace, was issued in 1998, but the relative lack of action on the new releases front has been more than remedied by some sterling assaults on the Stranglers' archive.

Each of their UA/Epic albums has been reissued with generous helpings of bonus tracks, while 1992 saw the release of a classic 1977 live show, Live at the Hope & Anchor, together with a collection of the band's (surprisingly inventive) 12" singles and a fabulous box set drawn from the 1976-1982 period, The Old Testament. Further live albums have since appeared, as has a remarkable document of the band's three BBC sessions, from 1977 and 1982.

That it is those earliest years which remain the Stranglers' most popular is not surprising -- from bad-mannered yobs to purveyors of supreme pop delicacies, the group was responsible for music which may have been ugly and might have been crude -- but it was never, ever boring. That people are still offended by it only adds to its delight -- if rock & roll (especially punk rock & roll) was meant to be pleasant, it would never have changed the world, after all. The fact that much of the Stranglers' message was actually hysterically funny -- as they themselves intended it to be -- only adds to their modern appeal. And the fact that their fans are still called upon to defend them only proves what humorless zeroes their foes really were. ~ Dave Thompson, All Music Guide

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The Stranglers [Aug. 9th, 2007|01:10 pm]
The Stranglers and Friends

melnychuk

The Stranglers

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The Stranglers

The Stranglers is an English rock music group, formed on September 11, 1974 in Guildford, Surrey. They were originally called The Guildford Stranglers and operated out of an off licence in the Surrey town called the 'Jackpot' which was run by their drummer. Original personnel were drummer Jet Black (real name Brian Duffy), bass player/vocalist Jean Jacques Burnel, guitarist/vocalist Hugh Cornwell and keyboardist/guitarist Hans Warmling. Hans was replaced by keyboardist Dave Greenfield within a year. None of the band actually came from Guildford - Black is from Ilford, Burnel from Notting Hill, Cornwell from Kentish Town and Greenfield from Brighton. Hans Warmling comes from Sweden, and returned there after leaving the band.

They began as a sinister sounding, hard-edged pub rock group, but eventually branched out to explore other styles of music. The Stranglers were, beginning in 1976, tangentially associated with punk rock, due in part to their opening for The Ramones' first British tour. The Stranglers were also associated with New Wave as well as gothic rock, but their idiosyncratic approach never fit completely within any musical genre. JJ Burnel has however said in an interview, "I certainly considered myself to be a punk-rocker". In another interview he goes further saying, "I would like to think we (The Stranglers) were more punk plus and then some".

Contents

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EMI years

The group's members came from some very different backgrounds: Cornwell had been a blues musician prior to forming the band, bassist Jean Jacques Burnel had been a classical guitarist who had performed with symphony orchestras, Jet Black was a former jazz drummer, and Dave Greenfield had played at military bases in Germany. One of their early touchstones was a considerable influence from pre-punk psychedelic rock bands, especially The Doors, and The Music Machine.

However, despite their association with punk rock, the Stranglers were generally not regarded as punks by their musical peers. They wrote a string of top ten hits, including "No More Heroes" and "Peaches", which placed the band at the forefront of the New Wave movement - a branch one step removed from the more confrontational punks - not to mention that The Stranglers' material was fiercely intellectual. The band has been quoted as saying that they did not consider themselves to be a "punk" band. It was their frequent run-ins with the law and their strong following amongst British street gangs like the Finchley Boys that gave them a menacing persona. A nationwide UK tour in May 1977 where they were supported by the four-piece band London did nothing but strengthen their credibility and fanbase. Their 1978 appearance from the University of Surrey on the TV programme Rock Goes To College created an infamous incident where the group walked off stage after smashing their instruments and verbally abusing the audience. As the producer of RGTC was later to become the producer of The Old grey whistle test it also accounted for their lack of an invitation to the latter. The band had themes of violence against women in their music. This ignited the rage of feminists who protested their music. At one protest, the band grabbed one of the feminist protesters, and proceeded to manhandle her until she managed to escape to safety. Later the band stated that it was unfortunate she escaped because she was probably enjoying it. [1]

Their early albums are critically acclaimed. Although initially received with mixed reaction because of their apparent sexist and racist innuendo, the Stranglers employed a sort of dog-humour in their lyrics that won over many music critics. Indeed, Dave Thompson wrote that "the Stranglers themselves revelled in an almost Monty Python-esque grasp of absurdity (and, in particular, the absurdities of modern 'men's talk')."[2] These early albums (Rattus Norvegicus, No More Heroes, Black and White) built a strong fan-following.

The picture cover of the March 1980 Bear Cage single - a double-A side with Shah Shah A Go Go
The picture cover of the March 1980 Bear Cage single - a double-A side with Shah Shah A Go Go

The Raven, their 1979 album, clearly illustrates the band's separation from 'traditional' punk and a transition towards a more melodic, less aggressive sound. The songs are multi-layered and musically complicated, and deal with such subjects as a Viking's lonely voyage, heroin addiction, genetic engineering, and more contemporary political events in Iran and Australia.

The following album, The Gospel According to The Meninblack was a concept album exploring religion and the supposed connection between religious phenomena and extra-terrestrial visitors. It peaked on the UK Albums Chart at #8,their lowest chart placing and was widely considered an artistic and commercial failure in 1980.

The Stranglers recovered their commercial and critical status, after a slow start, with La Folie (1981) which was another concept album, this time exploring the subject of love and included the hit "Golden Brown"). At first La Folie charted lower than any other Stranglers studio albums, and their first single "Let Me Introduce You to the Family" only charted at #41. EMI were said to be disappointed at this and informed the Stranglers that they were yesterday's men, and that they could soon find themselves searching for a new record label. The Stranglers then released "Golden Brown", their biggest hit, charting at #2 in the UK Singles Chart, and also proving to be EMI's biggest selling single for a number of years. La Folie then recharted at #11 in the UK albums chart. EMI then made a u-turn on their threat, this however did little to comfort the Stranglers. "Tramp" was thought to be the ideal follow up single to "Golden Brown", however "La Folie" was chosen after Jean Jacques Burnel convinced band mates of its potential. It charted at #47. By the release of this single the Stranglers lawyers found a loop hole allowing them to leave EMI. Immediately Stranglers informed their record company of their intention to leave. As part of their severance deal, The Stranglers were forced to release a greatest hits collection The Collection 1977-1982. This included the new single "Strange Little Girl", which was a bold choice as it was recorded on a demo and given to EMI before being signed. EMI had rejected the Stranglers on the basis of this demo. Despite EMI's original opinion of the song years before, it became a big hit charting at #7.

Epic Records era

In 1983 the Stranglers released their first album on Epic Records Feline, which included the hit "European Female" charting at #9. This album gained much critical success but fell way short of La Folie in terms of sales. Although not extremely successful in Britain, Feline was a success all over the rest of Europe. It was on this album that Jet Black began to use elctronic drum kits.

1984 saw the release of the Stranglers LP Aural Sculpture with the UK Top 20 hit "Skin Deep" (Top 30 hit in the Netherlands). This was their first album to feature the inclusion of a 3-piece horn-section which feature in all their albums and live performances until Hugh Cornwell's departure in 1990.

Their 1986 album, Dreamtime, concerned itself with environmental issues, and contained the memorable "Always the Sun" (a big hit in France, #15, and a moderate success in the Netherlands, #35). Dreamtime was also the only Stranglers album to chart in the U.S..

1990 saw the release of The Stranglers final album with Hugh Cornwell,10.This was recorded with the intention of building on their "cult" status in America. After the sucess of The Kinks cover, All Day And All Of The Night,(reaching #7 in the UK singles charts), The Stranglers decided to realease 96 Tears as their first single from 10. It proved to be a hit reaching #17. Despite this success their follow-up single "Sweet Smell Of Success" only reached #65."Man of the Earth",which the band had high hopes for, was due to be the third single from the album, however Epic Records decided against it when The Stranglers failed to get a tour in America. Since 10 was recorded with the intention of breaking America, this was a major blow and Hugh finnally decided to leave.

After Depeche Mode, by 1990, the Stranglers had had more British chart hits (28) than any other artist never to reach the number one spot.

Post-Cornwell era

In August 1990, founding member Cornwell left the band to pursue a solo career. In his autobiography, Cornwell states that he felt the band was a spent force creatively, and cited various examples of his increasingly acrimonious relationship with his fellow band-members, particularly Burnel. The remaining members recruited John Ellis, who had opened for the band in the 1970s as a member of The Vibrators, filled in for Cornwell during his time in prison in the early eighties, worked with Burnel and Greenfield in their side project "Purple Helmets" and also was added as a touring guitarist a short time before Cornwell's departure, as guitarist. Burnel and Ellis then took over vocal duties before deciding to enlist singer Paul Roberts.

Interest in The Stranglers resurfaced when, in 2001, singer Tori Amos covered their song "Strange Little Girl" and titled the album it was featured on Strange Little Girls. "Golden Brown" was also used in the hit film, Snatch, by director Guy Ritchie, and extensively in the Australian film He Died With A Felafel In His Hand. Their hit "No More Heroes" was covered by Violent Femmes and used for the film Mystery Men. "Peaches", finally, also appears prominently in another British movie, Sexy Beast by director Jonathan Glazer.

The Stranglers had a critical and popular renaissance in 2004 (together with their first top 40 hit for 14 years - "Big Thing Coming") with the acclaimed Norfolk Coast album and a subsequent sell-out tour. The follow-up album, Suite XVI, was released in September 2006 (the title is a pun on "Sweet 16" and also a reference to the fact that it is the band's sixteenth studio album).

Celebrity Stranglers fans include the chef Keith Floyd, who used "Peaches", "Waltzinblack" and other tracks as title and background music for his TV cookery programmes.

The Stranglers song "Peaches" is featured in the fourth game in the Driver series, Driver: Parallel Lines. A version of The Stranglers piece "Midnight Summer Dream" was also used in the BBC Micro computer game, Spellbinder.

As of May 2006 Paul Roberts has left the band. The lead vocals are currently being handled by the guitarist Baz Warne, and also Burnel, who has begun to sing more of the songs live that he originally recorded the vocals to.

In October 2006, a number of The Stranglers songs were voted, ranked and featured on the Triple M Essential 2006 Countdown including:

  • "Skin Deep" was ranked and voted 253 out of 2006 songs
  • "Golden Brown" was ranked and voted 1328 out of 2006 songs

Both "Golden Brown" and "Skin Deep" are rich sources of mondegreens. An example: "Better watch out for the Skin Deep" is often heard as "Brother, watch out for the Skinny".[3]

Personnel

In the latter half of the 1980s, the Stranglers regularly featured a 3-piece brass section in their live line-up.

Discography

Studio albums

For main article see Stranglers discography

Live albums

The Stranglers have always toured regularly. The official albums listed below chronicle the changing face of these performances over the years.

Compilations

Special projects

Singles

  • "(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)" (1977) UK #44[4]
  • "Peaches"/"Go Buddy Go" (1977) UK #8
  • "Something Better Change"/"Straighten Out" (1977) UK #9
  • "No More Heroes" (1977) UK #8
  • "Five Minutes" (1978) UK #11
  • "Nice 'N' Sleazy" (1978) UK #18
  • "Walk On By" (1978) UK #21
  • "Duchess" (1979) UK #14
  • "Nuclear Device (The Wizard Of Aus)" (1979) UK #36
  • "Don't Bring Harry"/"Wired"/"Crabs (Live)"/"In The Shadows (Live)" EP (1979) UK #41
  • "Bear Cage" (1980) UK #36
  • "Who Wants The World" (1980) UK #39
  • "Thrown Away" (1981) UK #42
  • "Just Like Nothing On Earth" (1981) UK #81
  • "Let Me Introduce You To The Family" (1981) UK #42
  • "Golden Brown" (1982) UK #2
  • "La Folie" (1982) UK #47
  • "Strange Little Girl" (1982) UK #7
  • "European Female" (1983) UK #9
  • "Midnight Summer Dream" (1983) UK #35
  • "Paradise" (1983) UK #48
  • "Skin Deep" (1984) UK #15
  • "No Mercy" (1984) UK #37
  • "Let Me Down Easy" (1985) UK #48
  • "Nice In Nice" (1986) UK #30
  • "Always The Sun" (1986) UK #30
  • "Big In America" (1986) UK #48
  • "Shakin' Like A Leaf" (1987) UK #58
  • "All Day And All Of The Night" (1988) UK #7
  • "96 Tears" (1990) UK #17
  • "Sweet Smell Of Success" (1990) UK #65
  • "Heaven Or Hell" (1992) UK #46
  • "Sugar Bullets" (1992) UK #??
  • "Lies and Deception" (1995) UK #111
  • "In Heaven She Walks" (1997) UK #86
  • "Big Thing Coming" (2004) UK #31
  • "Long Black Veil" (2004) UK #51
  • "Spectre of Love" (2006) UK #57

Solo discographies

J.J. Burnel

(with Dave Greenfield)

(with Fools Dance)

  • "They'll Never Know" (7"/12") (1987)

Hugh Cornwell

The Purple Helmets

(Featuring JJ Burnel, Dave Greenfield & John Ellis)

Paul Roberts / Faith Band / Soulsec

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