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Fresh Spins : Dark Matters

ON  BY DAVE

We’ve all seen the old guys with toupees bombing along in convertible sports cars, rap music blaring for all to hear trying so desperately to defy time. Thankfully that’s not The Stranglers.  If not the best of the myriad British punk bands of the 1970s, The Stranglers certainly are the most resilient. “We’re a bunch of old guys now,” bassist and clear leader J.J. Burnel told Uncut. “And I wanted out music to reflect that.”

Old; perhaps not, but certainly a good deal more mature than the brawling, leather-jacketed lads who sang about being “Down in the Sewer” or “walking on the beaches, looking at the peaches” over 40 years ago. The result is Dark Matters, their 18th studio album, out this month, one Burnel has said is “our first ‘grown-up’ record.”

That too is an over-statement; the band has clearly been maturing and expanding their musical boundaries since the ’80s. But Dark Matters does feel different. And no wonder. It’s been eight years since their last record, and a lot has happened since then. Jet Black, their sinister-looking drummer went from being the full-time pounder to a guy who’d play a song at encores if they were playing close to home to a fully-retired, ailing 80-something the rest now look at as a sort of Yoda, a wise senior statesmen advisor. More significantly, of course, the world has changed in the past 18 months with the pandemic, and one of its first celebrity victims was the band’s ultra-talented but…odd…keyboardist Dave Greenfield. His odd ways and haircuts are revealed by Burnel to be attributable to his being autistic, innocent and blissfully unaware of much of what was going on around him (think a pleasanter version of Sheldon from Big Bang Theory.) Thankfully, this record had been in the works for years and many Greenfield keyboard bits were already taped and ready to go leading to his eerie posthumous presence on most of the tracks. The one exception to that was the tribute “And If You Should See Dave” they did after his death, with the sad “here is where your solo would go” at the end.

Dark Matters lives up to its name. The 11-song effort isn’t cheery in feel. It is however, well-played, eclectic and full of earworms that catch you whether you want them to or not. What it is not is a load of ’70s snot-nosed punk revisited. At first listen, perhaps the biggest surprise is that the overall feel is one of British prog rock (!) aiming to not lose touch of the pop world altogether. Greenfield’s swirling keyboards add to the oft-anthemic seeming songs that at times seem almost reminiscent of early Rush or like something which might have been written for Queen late in its Freddie years. Of course there are exceptions; “The Lines”, is startling for its directness and simplicity, a spoken-word poem about aging with minimal acoustic guitar and organ accompaniment. There’s still a lot of anger and hostility barely below the surface, but unlike the Meninblack of 45 years back, now it’s a focused rage against dictatorships (“No Man’s Land”), rallying freedom-fighters (“Water”) and questioning the ever-burgeoning space race. That in the very proggy “Last Men On The Moon” (Canadian fans might think they even detect a hint of Prism in it) which contains one of the most laugh-out-loud lines we’ve heard in a long time : “with all the things you can chase/ they’re putting geckoes into space”. Which is deeper than it might seem at first glance, but does highlight the album’s weak link, which is the lyrics. While not bad anywhere in the album, they do seem rather basic in places and under-written; the bombastic “White Stallion”, for instance (about the American “ceding of moral superiority in the world” according to J.J., with China waiting in the wings to take over) gets bogged down in a nonsensical “kissing in the rain” chorus.

That said, the songs largely lend themselves to singing along and at their best do indeed make you think about this world we live in. Mostly though, The Stranglers demonstrate they can still play. Thankfully, J.J.’s booming bass really power through songs like “No Man’s Land” and Baz Warne drops in some very nice, Chris Isaak-y, almost flamenco guitar hooks here and there, and Greenfield was still as stellar upto his final days. They also still rock and as much as ever, and mostly have a great ear for a catchy chorus and hook. My bottom line is that while nothing here rises to all-time greatness, almost all of the songs are worthy and it’s an album that bears repeated listening.

A good mature rock album that looks forward while giving a nod to the past. I’m happy to report it’s already hit #4 on the UK album charts. I give it 4 flying lizards out of 5.

(Early purchasers get a bonus CD of live performances dedicated to Dave Greenfield. It’s worth grabbing if you’re a fan, but not their best live record and inexplicably, the man it pays tribute to – the keyboardist – seems mixed rather low in the balance.)

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The Stranglers Newcastle Polytechnic Green bar 23 February 1977

Posted June 14, 2020 by vintagerock

This is an update of an earlier post, thanks to Mark the promoter, who sent me more details of the first three punk gigs in Newcastle. This was the second gig of the three, the first being the Vibrators and the last being Penetration; both of which I have already written about.

I first saw the Stranglers in the Green 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 bar was 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”.

Picture courtesy of Mark from a later gig at The City Hall

Mark says: “The Stranglers originally asked for more money than we had in the bank. But they made us an offer… if we put them up for the night, they would reduce their fee by £50, which made the gig possible. They were a great bunch of guys, very interesting to talk to. And they gave my and my bother a lift in their old rover car to the gig at the Rock Garden in Middlesbrough which was the next day. I recorded the Middlesbrough gig and is available amongst collectors (Aha, so that is where the aforementioned bootleg came from; it was courtesy of you Mark!) I also recorded the Newcastle Poly gig, but the sound on the recording was no good, so I didn’t keep it (the sound at the gig itself was great). All the posters had the same design, except different colours. The Stranglers sent publicity stuff, which I used for the tickets. But I designed my own poster, because I didn’t want people copying the poster to forge tickets. At that time, the Stranglers were the best known punk band after the Pistols.”

“RIP Dave Greenfield. His keyboards defined The Stranglers sound.” Well said Bryan.

14 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Caroline on June 14, 2020 at 4:43 pmThe ‘locals’ included two 15 year olds, one of whom had blagged herself a job at HMV Records in Northumberland Street and thus had access to tickets. And gave one to a grateful mate. RIP Helen.
    • Posted by vintagerock on June 14, 2020 at 5:55 pmWhat a great time to be 15, and what a great band to see at that time! Peter.
  2. Posted by Bryan on June 14, 2020 at 5:47 pmRIP Dave Greenfield. His keyboards defined The Stranglers sound.
  3. Posted by Prof_Alistair on June 15, 2020 at 12:47 amSaw them at about the same time at Huddersfield poly. An excellent band – one of the more memorable gigs I’ve seen. 1st album out just after that – bought it first day out!
  4. Posted by david howarth on June 15, 2020 at 9:11 amI have fond memories of this gig as I was already in the building early on. The Green Bar had a line of pinball machines along the back wall and the ‘stage’ was to the right of them. I had Jean Jacques Burnell playing on a machine next to me on the left, and Hugh Cornwell playing next to me on my right. I am also pretty sure that this wasn’t the first Stranglers gig at the Poly. Just before Christmas they had been booked as a support band in the main hall. The main band cried off so they ended up headlining and I remember them playing stuff then that appeared on their second album, so much of their material must have been written long before they were signed up to a label. The Entertainments Officer at the time told me that most punk was shit but the Stranglers were different because they could play and were reminiscent of the Doors. I have never been able to track down the date and have never read anything about the gig. If anyone else can remember it would bring my gig list further up to date.
    • Posted by vintagerock on June 15, 2020 at 11:54 amYes I remember the great pinball machines David. I think they had a KISS machine which was very impressive and probably very rare, and worth a lot now. I’m afraid I can’t shed any light on the gig you mention. I used to go quite often on a Friday and don’t recall the Stranglers playing; but then my memory is terrible these days Cheers Peter
    • Posted by mark taylor on June 16, 2020 at 10:15 pmHi David… I don’t like contradicting you… but if the Stranglers had played Newcastle Poly in late 1976, I’m sure I would have been there. I had seen them 3 times earlier in the year, and knew what a great band they were, and was desperate to see them at every opportunity! So I think your memory might be playing tricks on you.
      Are you maybe remembering the first gig in Jan 77 which was originally the Buzzcocks, who cancelled and were replaced by the Vibrators?
      regards, Mark.
      • Posted by david howarth on June 17, 2020 at 9:49 amHi Mark. I remember you in the Fine Art department having copies of the Ramones and Patti Smith albums long before anyone else, so I bow to your knowledge! Memories do become fuzzy over time but Ian has posted on the City Hall July thread that he remembers it too. I don’t think it was advertised, they just ended up playing to a pretty much empty hall.
  5. Posted by Nick Beddoe on June 20, 2020 at 4:08 pmActually I am pretty sure they played in the main Ballroom, because it was sold out immediately, so moved downstairs and extra tickets made available- I was on the lighting crew, I know the social secretary Pete Brannigan (?) gave them extra cash because they hired a PA which cost £60, think their fee was only £50. Vibrators were in the Green Room, but I don’t remember a second gig upstairs for the Stranglers.
    • Posted by vintagerock on June 20, 2020 at 6:36 pmHi Nick I am pretty sure it was upstairs. I remember standing right in front of Hugh Cornwall. But then again my memory plays tricks these days! Cheers Peter
      • Posted by Caroline on November 11, 2020 at 10:00 pmSorry just seen this thread again – as one of the 15 year olds, all I can remember about the room was that it seemed fairly cosy and to have a ‘sprung’ floor (which was actually fantastic).
      • Posted by vintagerock on November 12, 2020 at 1:33 pmHi Caroline I don’t remember the sprung floor but I do remember lots of Pogo dancing; which the sprung floor would have helped with! Happy days Peter
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The Stranglers Newcastle City Hall 18 February 2022

Posted February 23, 2022 by vintagerock

Well here I am. Back at the City Hall with The Stranglers. So many memories. Happy days again, yet tinged with mixed emotions, some of elation, some of sadness. So many different perspectives: the venue, the band, myself, family. I will explain each of these below.

The Venue. Newcastle City Hall is almost like a second home to me. I have seen so many concerts there; probably several hundred, maybe over 1000. My first was back in early 1971 when I saw Iron Butterfly supported by Yes and Dada (who included the late, sadly missed, superb vocalist Robert Palmer and Elkie Brooks who, of course, went on to much greater success in Vinegar Joe, again with Robert Palmer, and as a soloist). Soon I saw the Rolling Stones there, a few weeks later, and then many more bands over the years including Led Zeppelin, The Who, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Bruce Springsteen, and many, many more over a 50+ year period. For the first time they had somehow managed to remove all of the seats from the downstairs area, allowing a massive crowd of Stranglers fans to jump around and have fun to the music. It was very strange, yet refreshing, to be part of a very different experience in a very differently configured City Hall.

The Band. This is The Stranglers Final Full UK Tour. The tour has been postponed for some time partly due to Covid and partly because of the sad passing of founder member Dave Greenfield; he of the great swirling, driving keyboards that underpinned, and led, all of those Stranglers classics. At one point the tour was almost cancelled but fan demand persuaded the members to continue in tribute to Dave Greenfield’s massive contribution to the band and their music. Only Jean-Jacques Burnel remains from the original lineup. Drummer Jet Black retired some years ago. Lead singer and songwriter Hugh Cornwell left many years ago, and after a few line-up changes including one with both a vocalist and a guitarist, his position is filled by local Sunderland lad Baz Warne with Baz taking over vocal and guitar duties and becoming the band’s main front man. The Stranglers were the first punk band to play Newcastle City Hall in 1977, a concert which I attended and was absolutely stupendous. Later in 1977 they returned and after some altercations between Hugh, Jean-Jacques and the bouncers which ended up in a massive stage invasion The Stranglers were banned from the City Hall for a number of years. But the soul of the band remains as does the power of the music. Nothing is diminished, we are overwhelmed by a constant barrage of classic songs: right back to the start with “Grip” and “Peaches”, through the massive hits “Sweet Little Girl” and “Golden Brown” and many, many more along the way. This is The Stranglers at their best and just as I remember them from the many times I have seen them over the years. If this was to be the last time I experience this band, it couldn’t be any better. Jean-Jacques is a joy to see, quietly leading the band, his bass playing as booming and driving as ever. Baz has a bit fun with the Newcastle crowd, in terms of the Geordies/Makem rivalry. There are lots of encores and lots of dancing and moshing down at the front. For the first encore Jean-Jacques and Baz return as an acoustic duo and treat us to a couple of beautiful, more subdued, songs. The pace and volume then return for the second encore and the band finish, triumphant. The crowd go home overjoyed at the experience.

Myself. Even after a few years in a wheelchair I am still getting used to the experience of being different to, and separate from, the majority of the crowd. However there are some benefits. I am sitting with my carer and my sister-in-law (more of this below) perched on a disabled ramp up above the crowd, with a great view over the heads of the jumping, swirling, moshing, crazy crowd below us.

Family. In 1977 I was accompanied to the Stranglers concert by my late wife, Marie. We took along her sister, now my sister-in-law, Elaine. Elaine was at the time a young teenager, excited by the new music known as punk. She is now one of my carers, but on this occasion came along to see The Stranglers as my guest. This was the first time she had seen them since that concert back in 1977. So 45 years later she was experiencing The Stranglers again. Her verdict was that they were just as good as they were “back in the day”! Having Elaine with me again, brought back lots of memories and mixed emotions. It is strange the twists and turns one experiences in one’s life.

I must not forget to give credit to the support act, Ruts DC; who are basically The Ruts without their sadly departed singer. We arrived late, but in time to see them perform their hit songs “I’m in a Rut” and “Babylon’s Burning”. Both of these were very credible versions and it was great to hear them again.So, to summarise. A night of very mixed emotions but overall one I greatly enjoyed. The last time I saw The Stranglers was in a muddy field at Glastonbury, once again with my late wife Marie. This time was probably the last, but was another excellent experience. Overall a happy night.

Many thanks to my carer Jackie for taking the photographs and doing a great job too.

Setlist: Toiler on the Sea; Something Better Change; Sometimes; Water ; Skin Deep; This Song; Nice ‘n’ Sleazy; Don’t Bring Harry; Strange Little Girl; Always the Sun ; Peaches; Golden Brown The Last Men on the Moon; (Get a) Grip (on Yourself) ; Curfew; White Stallion; Relentless; Nuclear Device (The Wizard of Aus); Walk On By; Straighten Out; Duchess; Hanging Around

Encore: The Lines; And If You Should See Dave…

Encore 2: Theme From Get Carter; Tank; No More Heroes

10 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Alun Rees on February 23, 2022 at 4:42 pmI really enjoy your gig reviews. I was fortunate to spend 5 years studying dentistry in the building diagonally opposite Newcastle City Hall and attended as many gigs as I could there in the period 1973-78. Fantastic memories, thanks for sharing. Your reviews, especially this last one, have a bitter sweet quality and reflect the changes that have taken place in your life. Long may you keep sharing.
    • Posted by vintagerock on February 23, 2022 at 6:13 pmThanks Alun I’m sure we must have been at some of the same concerts at the City Hall. Happy days. I hope my reviews strike the right balance between my own feelings and the joy I still get from rock music. Cheers Peter

Posted by Prof_Alistair on February 23, 2022 at 4:54 pm

Good to know they’ll still good. Saw them first in early 1976 in the Students Union small hall at Huddersfield Poly just before their first album Rattus Norvigicus (sp?) came out. Awesome gig. Wouldn’t call them punk – I remember High Cornwall saying if there was any ‘gobbing’ (dreadful habit) they’d walk off. Too many shades of the Doors, the Pirates and some very clever informed lyrics to be called punk. Excellent stuff.

  • Posted by vintagerock on February 23, 2022 at 6:09 pmHi Alistair thanks for your memories. Yes I agree that the Stranglers were never straightforward punk, but always a great band and still are. Happy days Peter
  • Posted by TerriersFan on February 27, 2022 at 11:20 amStrange that you should mention the “gobbing” incident. I saw them at Scarborough Penthouse in February 1977 and on that occasion I recall Cornwell ‘masturbating’ his throat and ultimately spitting into the assembled throng which he thought was hilarious but left me hugely unimpressed.
    And, like you, I have always considered them far too talented to be classed as ‘punk’.
    You can read my review of that gig here…
    https://gigsnstuff787616231.wordpress.com/category/artists-bands/the-stranglers/Roger
    • Posted by vintagerock on February 27, 2022 at 12:52 pmHi Roger just like the Middlesbrough Rock Garden, Scarborough Penthouse was THE place to go in the 70s! Yes Hugh Cornwell did exactly the same thing at the early gigs I saw. I also thought it was pretty disgusting and over-the-top. Thanks for your review. Always good to read your memories. For me, the Stranglers remain a classic band! Happy days Peter

Posted by David Wilson on February 23, 2022 at 8:29 pm

Excellent write-up, thank you. I first saw The Stranglers back in probably 1979 and saw them loads over the next few years but then didn’t bother once Hugh left, to me they wouldn’t be the same. I then went back late 80’s at Gateshead Stadium and my view was reinforced, with a different singer they just weren’t the same. However, with Dave’s passing I started thinking just how many more chances would I have? Then their new single from the latest album was superb, a proper blast from the past so I decided to go and only bought a ticket about a month ago. What a decision! They were brilliant, and as you say a mixture of old, new, classics, hits, it had everything.
As for the venue, as a young punk I hated the City Hall due to the seating and not being able to get down the front. I saw Siouxsie walk off stage because of it, I saw other shows less subdued than normal, because of it. But with the new configuration, and I’ve now been to a few gigs with the seats removed, it’s become a first-class venue for all types of bands, just wish it had been possible all those years ago.

  • Posted by vintagerock on February 24, 2022 at 12:28 pmThanks David Glad you enjoyed the review. Yes the Stranglers were excellent and the new configuration of the City Hall works well. Happy days Peter

Posted by nedmalet on March 20, 2022 at 2:05 pm

One of my favourites from the early days. I couldn’t get enough of them, and was lucky to see them at Fort Regent, St Helier, in the early 80’s. JJB, inspirational, and of course Hugh Cornwell. I was, I think, lucky to come of age between 1972-, continuing… Witnessing Punk Rock at boarding school was awesome, and the genres of music blasting out of our competing study bedrooms.

  • Posted by vintagerock on March 20, 2022 at 2:30 pmYes punk and the 70s were a special time! Happy days Ned best wishes Peter
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October 4 – Forgotten Gems : The Stranglers

ON  BY DAVE

Today we remember a song released this day in 1984. Is it dark new wave or punk sunny-side up or merely a very cool pop song? Whatever the definition, The Stranglers‘ “Skin Deep” was one of the best examples of Brit keyboard-based music of the ’80s.

The Stranglers had by that time been around for a decade, and put out seven studio albums which had shifted steadily from aggressive yet melodic rock that was labeled “punk” (the subject of many a music debate; the band themselves never classified themselves as that and many diehard punkers hated them for being considerably older than most punk bands and rather good talents on their instruments) through driving post-punk new wave to rather synthesizer-heavy, almost dreamy new wave on their previous album, Feline. “Skin Deep” was the lead single off their seventh album, Aural Sculpture.

The title to that eluded to a “manifesto” they’d read at the tail end of the previous album, which should have put to pay any arguments about how earnestly serious they were about being angry punkers. Should have, although some might have missed tongue in cheek nature of a “manifesto” which declared “the musicians of our times are harlots and charlatans who use science without being scientists and abuse art without being artists… the world must prepare itself to herald the advent of aural sculpture, whose presence can now be shared with the fortunate few who have ears to hear…”

While the quartet had been a democracy of sorts, with all four sharing the spotlight musically at times and sharing writing credits, by this time cracks were starting to appear in the bonds, chiefly between guitarist and main vocalist Hugh Cornwell and bassist and occasional lead singer JJ Burnel. Looking back, JJ remembers they were “being dominated by Hugh” and that “everyone seemed to think i was the pretty boy and Hugh was the talent…Hugh was playing about with American models and moving in different circles. He started to look down on our fans.” After one show the guitarist got mad over a botched move on stage and threw a glass of champagne in JJ’s face. Not a good thing to do with a guy whose one of the top karate practisers in the country. “the backstage had paper-thin walls and I put him through it, leaving a Hugh-shaped sillohuette like on Tom & Jerry,” the bassist recalls. Perhaps not surprisingly, Cornwell quit the band not that long after (he went on to have a solo career and is currently promoting a sci-fi novel he wrote.)

the Stranglers had gone through quite a few labels in their day and for Aural Sculpture were signed to CBS. The label saw untapped potential – the group had been very successful in the UK and France, but Columbia sensed the time was right for a major breakthrough in North America. They brought in Laurie Latham to produce. Latham was fresh off working on a Paul Young album. The result was as Burnel puts it, “really ’80s production…it’s no one’s fault, certainly not Laurie’s. (all things considered) I think it worked out well,” he says. Latham introduced a horn section for a couple of songs, which worked not badly, but the one thing Burnel regrets that Latham turned his bass down low in the mix “a more conventional position,” but very different than many of their early tunes where his forceful bass arguably dominates the whole song. CBS not only brought in a well-respected producer, they also commissioned a big sculpture of an ear for the cover photo…and made it attention-grabbing. “The monumental ear was transported on an unnecessarily large low loader truck around central London in an attempt to cause traffic chaos and maximize publicity,” the band’s website reports.

“Skin Deep” was the lead single and perhaps the catchiest tune on a pretty solid album, with lyrics that make a certain amount of sense… “many people tell you they’re your friend, you need them you believe them…” but “brother, you’d better watch out for the skin deep.” The song is credited to all four of them but given the state of affairs between Burnel and Cornwell, one might imagine it was JJ singing about his one-time best friend and bandmate, even though Hugh got to do the vocals. The song showcased Dave Greenfield’s keyboard skills more than anything else, and it certainly ranks among the better songs of its type from the mid-’80s. Critics seemed to like it, and the album in general, none more so than allmusic. They rate it 4.5-stars and say “the Stranglers have gone sensual, sounding sincere, serene and sensitive. And it’s perfect..you never thought they could transition to this.”

The song got to #15 in Britain, and was a top 10 in Ireland and Poland. It marked the tenth top 20 single for them in the UK – the Sex Pistols had seven in their career for comparison’s sake. Over here though, it didn’t break through like CBS expected. The album hit the Canadian top 40, and the video for “Skin Deep” was shown on MuchMusic quite regularly in 1985, after the domestic release here, but the single didn’t make much of a mark outside of Toronto. Aural Sculpture was the fifth top album of the year in ’84 on CFNY in that city, and made the top 30 the next year as well, and “Skin Deep” actually ended up getting played not only on that alt rock station but the hard rock and the easy-listening one as well!

Cornwell might have fallen out of favor with the others, but the remaining trio remained close and The Stranglers still operate, although sadly Dave Greenfield passed away this year and drummer Jet Black, now in his 80s, had to retire.

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Hugh Cornwell announces Moments Of Madness album and November 2022 UK Tour

By admin

Posted on 18th April 2022

Hugh Cornwell returns with his sensational and highly anticipated tenth solo album Moments of Madness with ten outstanding tracks that are set to stun. The album is released on Friday October 7, 2022.

Stream and download new song Red Rose at https://lnk.to/HC-RedRose

To dovetail with the new album, Hugh will embark on a 21-date nationwide UK tour from November 4 to December 3, 2022. A 48-hour ticket pre-sale will start at 10am on Tuesday April 19 via www.hughcornwell.com and www.thegigcartel.com. 

Tickets will then go on general sale on at 10am on Thursday April 21 via www.hughcornwell.com and www.thegigcartel.com.

Widely regarded as the poet laureate of the punk era (from his early career fronting the Stranglers to his transition as a solo artist), Hugh Cornwell has built a substantial and singular body of impressive solo albums. His tenth solo opus, Moments of Madness, continues his illustrious output by experimenting with musical genres as his enviable reputation as a wordsmith resounds across this album’s songs.

Self-produced, and playing all of the instruments himself, Moments of Madness’ ten incredible tracks finds Hugh flexing his musical muscles with a stripped down, offbeat, reverberating sixties vibe ringing from the  seductive melodies and lyrically distinctive perceptions that are indelibly stamped with Hugh’s trademark imagination.

Vocally and lyrically a career-best, Hugh has never sounded so good on his tenth solo album.

A high watermark and a modern-day masterpiece, Moments of Madness is being tipped as the most significant album of Hugh’s career.

Four years since his previous remarkable solo album Monster, the opener, and first single, Coming Out of the Wilderness surfs an edgy and explosive sixties sound with a heavy Duane Eddy guitar twang as Hugh declares, “I’m coming out of the wilderness, learnt how to throw a bowie knife. Ran into fair-haired maiden’s out there but didn’t take no wife.”

On the new album, there is no mistaking Hugh’s distinctive vocals and lyrical mastery as the consummate storyteller. He returns with his inimitable observations on the art of survival in these challenging and turbulent times.

Says Hugh, “It’s like I’ve got a stew pot of sounds where I’ve put in a bit of Joe Meek, a bit of Lou Reed, a flavour of The Doors, a bit of this, a bit of that and I mix it all up and it tastes good. I’m like a cook when I make records in that I don’t follow any recipe.”

“I don’t mind different types of jewellery, show it to me, just feel free’, could be I’m missing the artistry” opines Hugh on Red Rose – a song about the bewildering trend for tattoos revealing a record of many gleaming lyrical gems.

Hugh’s ecological message on Too Much Trash also resonates loudly on another irritating topic close to his heart as he eviscerates the thoughtless actions of the devil may care consumer society who needlessly drop litter everywhere. “We’re heading for a crash. We got too much trash.”

The surreal carousel of psychedelic motifs spinning from this sixties stew of sonic moments (of madness) echo down the years as Cornwell delivers his unique humour in the pithy lyrics for a safe port in the storm close relationship on I WannaHideInsideAya.

Looking for You reveals a Jim Morrison inspired vocal over this song’s spooky atmospherics, and the semi-autobiographical and upbeat When I Was a Young Man opens a can of insightful, wistful emotions “As years go by and friends, they die they leave me living slow,” Hugh sombrely sings as he reflects upon his family and friends.

Hugh explains his motivation to the monumental title track Moments of Madness that musically adventures in mixing a dash of dub as he strums a lockdown rhythm to this devilish groove. ” The Clash did reggae so what’s wrong with me doing it? I loved playing the bass on this track.

On the album’s title track, Hugh’s lyrics again have a finger on the pulse of our times. “Looking like the fog’s gonna finally clear. Switch on all the lights at the end of the pier. Tidy up your makeup and shampoo your hair. Have a little party but nobody’s there.”

Moments of Madness is multi-layered with serious messages, acute analysis, and witty observations in fun-filled lyrical and musical eccentricity. On Lasagne Hugh tells the story about his Italian friends who live in Mexico and make the best lasagne he has ever tasted. As always, Cornwell communicates with a biting humour in all the right places.

Hugh’s cautionary tales about matters of the heart are revealed in his inimitable coded style on Beware of the Doll. You think you’re listening to love. You’re sinking from a foot above.” And the more personal album closer Heartbreak at Seven which was the first song that Hugh recorded for this album.

Illustrious, multi-talented and a legend, with Moments of Madness, Hugh Cornwell has produced a timely and thought-provoking masterpiece for our times.

TRACK LISTING

COMING OUT OF THE WILDERNESS (4:35)
RED ROSE (3:26)
I WANNAHIDEINSIDEYA (3:34)
LOOKING FOR YOU (3:34)
WHEN I WAS A YOUNG MAN (3:13)
MOMENTS OF MADNESS (3:52)
BEWARE OF THE DOLL (3:55)
TOO MUCH TRASH (2:57)
LASANGA (3:07)

HEARTBREAK AT SEVEN (3:43)

The album is available to pre-order from www.hughcornwell.com.

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The Stranglers achieve their best chart position in 38 years

News Blog by Jack Semmence

The Stranglers achieve their best chart position in 38 years

We are thrilled to report that one of the great British bands, The Stranglers, enter at #4 on the UK Official Albums Chart with their brand-new album, Dark Matters. Making this their highest UK chart position for a studio album in 38 years, since Feline in 1983.

“I bought their singles when I was in my late teens, and now we’re delivering a top 5 album 45 years later. I’m so proud to be associated with this new record. Class and talent will always shine through. Great work from everybody involved.”

  • Henry Semmence, Absolute MD

The record includes the first single, ‘And If You Should See Dave…’, an honest tribute to their much-missed keyboard player Dave Greenfield, who tragically passed away a year ago from Covid-19, and who features on many of the tracks recorded for the album.

“Over a year ago on May 3rd my great friend and colleague of 45 years, Dave Greenfield, passed away, another victim of the pandemic.” says JJ Burnel.

“We had already recorded most of the album with him and during the lockdowns our only wish was to complete it as a fitting tribute to his life and work. I consider this to be one of our finest recordings.”

The Stranglers released the music video for recent single ‘This Song’, featuring the legendary England International football player, manager and long-time Stranglers fan, Stuart Pearce. Talking about the upcoming album Dark Matters, Pearce says: “It’s a fitting tribute to Dave Greenfield who will be missed by everyone. I’m sure I speak for all Stranglers fans by saying we can’t wait to see the boys touring again.”

First formed in 1974, The Stranglers no bull***t attitude was embraced by the punk movement of the late 70s.  But their musicianship and menace transcended the genre, creating a sound unique to themselves.  With their first three albums (Rattus Norvegicus, No More Heroes and Black and White) being released within an astonishing 13 months of each other, scoring hit singles with ‘Peaches’, ‘No More Heroes’ and ‘Walk On By’. Further success was to follow with ‘Always The Sun’, ‘Strange Little Girl’ and the mercurial ‘Golden Brown’, amongst many others, earning the group 23 Top 40 singles and 19 Top 40 albums in a career spanning six different decades.

Dark Matters is out now on the band’s own Coursegood imprint, via Absolute.

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THE STRANGLERS RELEASE VISUALS FOR NEW SINGLE ‘THIS SONG’ FEATURING STUART PEARCE IN HIS STRANGLERS VIDEO DEBUT

“’This Song’ is proof, if it was ever really needed, that the Stranglers can record

a love song.” – JJ Burnel

Out today, the music video for the Stranglers latest track ‘This Song’, featuring the legendary England International football player, manager and longtime Stranglers fan, Stuart Pearce. It’s the latest insight into up-coming album Dark Matters, due for release on 10th September 2021. Watch here.

The visual for ‘This Song’ follows Pearce in action mode, being chased through streets and leaping over ledges through a monochromatic London. Pearce has often cited the Stranglers as one of his favourite bands, having seen them play live over 300 times.

On the making of the video, Pearce says: “When the Stranglers make you an offer you can’t refuse… you can’t refuse! I played it cool but to be honest I was excited, and honoured to be asked. As a lifelong fan of the Stranglers, being part of this video was very special. ‘This Song’ is the Stranglers at their best, a really catchy song full of all the classic traits of the band. We had a lot of fun filming, my demons (the parkour boys) were fantastic and the crew were top quality.”

Talking about the upcoming album Dark Matters, Pearce adds: “It’s a fitting tribute to Dave Greenfield who will be missed by everyone. I’m sure I speak for all Stranglers fans by saying we can’t wait to see the boys touring again.”

Although lyrically the song is packed with emotion, Baz Warne’s vocals add a real attitude to the track that director Jamie Wanstall (Praxima Films) wanted to reflect:

“The lyrics drove this idea that we can sometimes be trying to escape feelings and emotions that actually we need to confront head on. This led me down a route in which we could mix parkour action with a Bond-like performance from Stuart. I wanted Stuart to perform as if he was giving a half-time team talk to his team that had just conceded before the break… Luckily for us, that actually happened to West Ham the day before, so that emotion was fresh in his memory.”

‘This Song’ follows previous Stranglers’ releases this year: the emotional tribute ‘…And If You Should See Dave’, the thought-provoking ‘The Lines’, and recent electro-pop single ‘If Something’s Gonna Kill Me (It Might As Well Be Love)’.

Go behind-the-scenes of the making of the album, in The Stranglers video ‘Track Chat’ series – watch here.

First formed in 1974, The Stranglers no bull***t attitude was embraced by the punk movement of the late 70s.  But their musicianship and menace transcended the genre, creating a sound unique to themselves.  With their first three albums (Rattus NorvegicusNo More Heroes and Black and White) being released within an astonishing 13 months of each other, scoring hit singles with ‘Peaches’, ‘No More Heroes’ and ‘Walk On By’. Further success was to follow with ‘Always The Sun’, ‘Strange Little Girl’ and the mercurial ‘Golden Brown’, amongst many others, earning the group 24 Top 40 singles and 18 Top 40 albums in a career spanning six different decades.

Surviving Stranglers band members, JJ and Baz, completed new album Dark Matters remotely during lockdowns, making it their first record since 2012. Adding to it a fitting tribute in ‘And If You Should See Dave…’, the first single from the album – a contemplative but uplifting dose of sixties sunshine-drenched rock.

Keyboard player Dave Greenfield tragically passed away in 2020 from Covid-19, but still features on 8 of the 11 tracks, which were made over the course of two years at the band’s studios in the rural idylls of Somerset, and in Southern France, produced by long-time collaborator Louie Nicastro.

Dark Matters is out on 10th September 2021 on the band’s own Coursegood imprint, via Absolute. All pre-orders for the album, on any format, through the official store will receive a special bonus CD titled ‘Dave Greenfield – A Tribute’, featuring 8 unreleased live recordings selected by the surviving members with a view to celebrating Dave’s unique talent. Pre-order Dark Matters on https://stranglers.tmstor.es/

The Stranglers announced their ‘full final tour’ of the UK and Europe and have decided to proceed with the 47-date run which includes two sold out performances at Brixton Academy, in Dave’s memory. For full tour details and more information visit www.thestranglers.co.uk

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PLAYLIST: ‘Year Zero’ – 20 Essential Punk Singles That Defined 1977

by Ed BiggsDecember 23, 2017

Whenever people think of punk, the first (often only) image that leaps to mind is three chords, safety pins, leather and gobbing. Unsurprising, perhaps, given the state of the alarmist headlines of Britain’s tabloids throughout 1977 following the Sex Pistols’ now-legendary NSFW appearance on journalist Bill Grundy’s TV show.

It seems unbelievable now, but punk was fleetingly thought of as a genuine threat to societal harmony. After the psychedelic Sixties, when the Beatles conquered pop, England won the World Cup and music had pushed back the boundaries, the Seventies was a drab and sterile decade in Britain. Hippie fashion had become co-opted to the point that office workers could have long hair and flares; pop and rock music was in decline, just like post-imperial Britain itself, crippled by recession, strikes and unemployment. There had to be a reaction.

But, beyond the ‘here’s one chord, here’s another, here’s a third, now form a band’ mentality of its first wave of bands, personified by the Pistols, The Clash and The Jam, punk was a rapidly evolving beast, and by the end of 1977 its original progenitors were expressing dissatisfaction and alienation with the scene. Punk became more complex quite quickly, and the same year saw debut releases from The StranglersElvis Costello and Ian Dury. The pub-rock scene and new-wave helped to guide its evolution, along with an impulse to be constructive as well as destructive. The burgeoning growth of the independent scene, with new, regional labels striking out by themselves and releasing music outside of the existing, London-centric major label structure, soon followed the punk explosion.

MORE: Sex Pistols // ‘Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols’ at 40 years old

Much less overtly political than its British equivalent, American punk had also always been more diverse, even from the very start, as demonstrated by more sophisticated acts like Talking Heads and Television, the more melodic new-wave of Blondie, and the excoriating Suicide who didn’t even use guitars at all.

Punk itself has been endlessly storied, remembered and written about over the subsequent 40 years. Did it succeed? What was its legacy? There are some truly wonderful and informative books out there about punk, either dedicated to the subject or placing it in the wider pop history context. Jon Savage’s authoritative ‘England’s Dreaming’ is a great starting point; Barry Cain’s 2007 book ‘The Sulphate Strip’ provides contemporaneous reviews and interviews from the year itself; and Greil Marcus’ totemic but incredibly scholarly ‘Lipstick Traces’ for the extremely dedicated.

MORE: ‘No Elvis, Beatles or the Rolling Stones’ – An Introduction to The Clash

To mark the year that punk smashed its way into the nation’s mindset, here is our guide to 20 absolutely essential punk singles released in 1977.

Although that means no ‘Anarchy In The U.K.’ (released in 1976) or ‘Teenage Kicks’ (released in 1978) and nothing by the incredibly influential all-female outfit The Slits, who didn’t get their discography up and running until 1979, there’s plenty of stone-cold classics and comparatively under-appreciated gems.

All of them are collected in a Spotify playlist at the foot of this page, after a track-by-track guide to the playlist – happy listening!

The Damned – ‘Neat Neat Neat’

The Damned, of course, had the great honour of releasing the first ever British punk single in the shape of ‘New Rose’ in October 1976 – an utterly iconic moment, but sadly not eligible for this list. Its follow-up ‘Neat Neat Neat’, however, was very nearly as brilliant, and remains a perfect encapsulation of the original spirit of punk – a new musical situation.

Built on an iconic, revving bassline from Captain Sensible and featuring an addictive playground-chant of a chorus as the band garble “neat neat neat”, it barrels along at breakneck pace. In 2017, it appeared on the soundtrack to the acclaimed film Baby Driver, providing the score to an intricate heist and car chase.

The Jam – ‘In The City’

One of the great British debut singles, ‘In The City’ perfectly sets out everything about the fire and skill of The Jam. Coursing with electricity and intent, it is two minutes and 16 seconds of power-pop musical stacking reminiscent of The Who.

Paul Weller and co. were always more positive and constructive than the average punk band. With lyrics like “I’m gonna tell you / about the young idea”, it wasn’t just about everything being shit, but also about them being the generation that was going to do something about it, a reflection of their suburban and upwardly-mobile origins.

The Jam went on to deliver many more famous singles over the next five years before breaking up at the peak of their fame, but as a mission statement, they don’t get more concise or attention-grabbing than ‘In The City’.

The Adverts – ‘Gary Gilmore’s Eyes’

A track whose release perfectly exemplified the ridiculous tabloid-driven hysteria that surrounded punk in 1977, British group The Adverts picked up on an American newspaper story about the soon-to-be executed murderer Gary Gilmore wanting his eyes to be donated to science for transplant purposes. In the song, the recipient is taken over by his new organs and goes on a killing spree.

On the back of the resulting publicity, denouncing it as ‘DEPRAVED’, The Adverts scored a UK Top 20 hit, thoroughly deserved in its own right due to its giddy, bouncy and slightly demented nature, which was a result of the band’s well-honed tightness as a musical unit.

Buzzcocks – ‘Orgasm Addict’

Having self-recorded and shopped around their utterly seminal debut EP Spiral Scratch at the start of 1977, Manchester’s Buzzcocks impressively landed themselves a major label deal with United Artists. Despite founding member Howard Devoto having left the group already by this point, frontman Pete Shelley totally owned the spotlight on the Buzzcocks’ early singles, which had all the essential elements that punk was invented for – pounding bass, rolling drums and slashed, buzz-saw guitars, all squashed inside two minutes.

‘Orgasm Addict’ obviously ended up getting banned, but the youthful, hormone-filled energy in the template laid down by the band here went on to inform so much of pop-punk. Shelley’s higher-pitched singing and palpable sense of anguish also set them apart from the gruffness and confrontational vocals that characterised a great deal of first-wave punk.

Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers – ‘Chinese Rocks’

Written all the way back in 1975 by former Heartbreaker Richard Hell (writer of American punk anthem ‘Blank Generation’ in 1976 and a sometime member of Television) and Dee Dee Ramone but which became a part of the Heartbreakers’ repertoire even after Hell’s departure, ‘Chinese Rocks’ is one of the great could-have-been punk hits that never quite made it.

With a rutting Stooges-esque riff combined with Spectorian production, it’s the stuff pop gold is made from – except its subject matter of heroin addiction and rough inner-city living, written primarily as a bet by Dee Dee that he could write a better song about the drug than Lou Reed’s ‘Heroin’.

Ramones – ‘Sheena Is A Punk Rocker’

One of the bands most frequently credited with lighting the punk fire with their “one-two-free-four” hollers and basic three-chord formula played extremely quickly, and their highly influential self-titled debut arriving in early 1976, Ramones were a lot more melodically indebted to classic ‘50s and ‘60s rock’n’roll and bubblegum-pop than the ‘punk’ label would suggest.

‘Sheena Is A Punk Rocker’, one of their most distinctive songs and taken from third album Rocket To Russia, was an embodiment of the way in which they had inadvertently established punk rock as a viable alternative – lightning fast but minimal instrumentation, doltish drums, and that same kind of endless-summer vibe going back to The Beach Boys. Even going so far as to mention ‘punk’ in its title, it’s one of the first explicit expressions of the movement as a sub-culture.

Chelsea – ‘Right To Work’

London group Chelsea – whose very first line-up briefly included a certain Billy Idol – remain one of the more underrated British first-wave punk outfits. Led by the politically outspoken Gene October, whose mission statement was to represent “the poor, the underdog and the loner”, their debut single ‘Right To Work’ was piece of explosive sloganeering.

Built on a scuzzy, rusty three-chord riff, Chelsea railed against the rocketing youth unemployment that was blighting Britain in the late Seventies, October hollering “I don’t even know what tomorrow will bring / But let me tell you, having no future is a terrible thing”.

X-Ray Spex – ‘Oh Bondage Up Yours!’

Another member of the ‘Bromley contingent’ who seemed to make up so many first-wave British punk acts, the indomitable Poly Styrene was one of the stand-out characters of 1977.

Combining a savage, brattish denunciation of consumerism and instant disposability with a feminist call-to-arms, ‘Oh Bondage Up Yours!’ was her debut single with the sadly short-lived X-Ray Spex. However, the legacy of this track, its parent album Germfree Adolescents and Poly Styrene herself is clear to see in subsequent rock frontwomen from Kathleen Hanna to Karen O.

Penetration – ‘Don’t Dictate’

Hailing from County Durham, Penetration proved that British punk was not a London-centric phenomenon. Boasting the memorable if divisive voice of Pauline Murray, a plaintive yet fearless presence on record, ‘Don’t Dictate’ was a bold statement of feminine autonomy set to a scuffed Stooges riff and a flurry of drumming.

Winning support slots with The Stranglers and a great deal of column inches followed, but Penetration sadly split up after just two albums. Their 1978 debut Moving Targets remains a widely admired time-piece of the era, however.

The Clash – ‘Complete Control’

A fiery polemic levelled at the record industry and the state of punk itself in the second half of 1977, released with no small amount of irony on CBS. An expression of frustration that CBS had insisted without their permission on releasing ‘Remote Control’ as a single four months previously, it’s one of The Clash’s finest and most complex moments.

‘Complete Control’ was a rare instance of the system being turned against itself, but also scans as a howling lament at punk’s idealism being crushed by corporate reality. More importantly, it was an absolutely crunching track in musical terms, with Joe Strummer and Mick Jones’ guitars rubbing against each other letting sparks fly.

Talking Heads – ‘Psycho Killer’

Talking Heads were one of a number of arty, interesting New York-based bands in 1977 who were demonstrating that punk was a far more diverse phenomenon than as it was portrayed in the press.

Crackling with neurotic, highly-strung nervous energy and jagging guitar lines, ‘Psycho Killer’ helped define the Talking Heads’ early sound and their bookish, intelligent reputation at a time when many of their Lower East Side colleagues were stripping back and opting for simplicity over subtlety. David Byrne’s vocal performance is masterful, sounding at once deranged and yet totally in control.

MORE: Talking Heads // ‘Talking Heads: 77’ at 40 years old

Television – ‘Marquee Moon’

Similar to Talking Heads, New York’s Television seemed to be the antithesis of noisy, nihilistic punk – with Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd’s duelling, spidery and intertwining guitars offset by a careful, deliberated rhythm section, this was as far from punk’s white-hot anger as it was possible to get. On the surface, at least.

A track like ‘Marquee Moon’ represents punk as an attitude or way of approaching art, not a singular, straitjacketing sound. An intelligent, poetic and textured art-rock masterpiece sprawling over an unusual 11 minutes, this could be seen as one of the first statements of post-punk.

MORE: Television // ‘Marquee Moon’ at 40 years old

Suicide – ‘Cheree’

Standing out from the crowd even among the diverse New York scene of 1977, Martin Rev and Alan Vega found their space in the gaps between styles. Although they’re most well-known for the amazing ‘Ghost Rider’, it was the eerily beautiful ‘Cheree’ that was the only single from Suicide’s eponymous debut.

Created from Rev’s shuddering keyboard/drum-machine hybrid and featuring Vega’s impassioned, guttural noises, ‘Cheree’ is strangely reminiscent of the simplicity of a ‘50s doo-wop song. Clinching proof that punk doesn’t necessarily require guitars!

The Stranglers – ‘No More Heroes’

With their proto-new-wave sound and knack for an irresistible melody, The Stranglers were one of the few British punk bands to achieve genuine mainstream success. Following hot on the heels of their highly successful debut album Rattus Norvegicus, ‘No More Heroes’ was the title track of the band’s second album in the space of a year.

A sideways commentary at the rise of crass celebrity culture at the expense of venerated persons with actual historical significance, namechecking Leon Trotsky, Lenny Bruce, William Shakespeare and literary character Sancho Panza, ‘No More Heroes’ was a top-ten smash in the UK and became one of The Stranglers’ signature songs.

Elvis Costello – ‘Less Than Zero’

He may have a reputation as an avuncular troubadour 40 years later, but Elvis Costello’s initial works dealt frequently with fascism, prejudice and justice. Inspired by the disgust he felt after seeing former British Union of Fascists leader Oswald Mosley appear on television to attempt to deny his racist past, Costello said his first single ‘Less Than Zero’ was “more of a slandering fantasy than a reasoned argument”.

Managing to subsume influences of reggae but without mimicking its syncopation, the slow and sinister melody driving ‘Less Than Zero’ is one of the most clever and subtle debut singles in the canon. Three singles later by the end of 1977, Costello was a mainstream star and increasingly bore little resemblance to punk as his career blossomed.

READ MORE: Elvis Costello // ‘My Aim Is True’ at 40 years old

XTC – ‘Science Friction’

A slightly tenuous inclusion here as ‘Science Friction’ was actually withdrawn as a single in the UK in October 1977, seeing a release in the rest of the world on the 3D EP, but few other bands illustrate the rapidly evolving nature of punk as Swindon’s XTC.

More casual and detached than most British punk, they actually had more in common with art-rock and the nascent synth-pop scene, but the kinetic sound of their earliest releases demonstrated an unmistakable punk attitude, with their ever-underrated songwriter Andy Partridge yelping about aliens on the group’s debut single. It launched a lengthy and illustrious career in which XTC frequently skirted on mainstream success but never quite broke through.

Wreckless Eric – ‘Whole Wide World’

Memorably promoted by Stiff Records through a series of ‘Wreckless Eric Bricks’ being mailed to pop journalists, Eric Goulden is another significantly overlooked character in the story of punk. Highly unusually for a pop song, his debut single ‘Whole Wide World’ consisted of just two chords (E and A), making it an extremely reductive song even by the ideologically stripped-down dictats of punk.

But what makes it so winsome is Eric’s infectious enthusiasm for his music, coupled with its everyman nature and DIY delivery. When audiences heard Goulden, they heard themselves. ‘Whole Wide World’ was never a chart hit at the time, but has soundtracked so many films and been covered so often that it’s now one of punk’s most famous standards.

The Saints – ‘This Perfect Day’

Hailing from Australia and technically predating the likes of The Damned and the Pistols, The Saints were well-placed to critique and subvert the British punk scene, a lot of which they saw as empty posturing – they were “punk before it was fashionable”, as lead singer Chris Bailey put it.

It was a close call between this and ‘(I’m) Stranded’ for inclusion on this list, but ‘This Perfect Day’ edges it out as The Saints’ masterpiece. Driven by clattering, breathless drumming and with an unmistakable melancholy underlying the energy, it remains one of the most singular visions for what punk could be that 1977 produced.

Iggy Pop – ‘Lust For Life’

As the lead singer of the often violently debauched Stooges, Iggy Pop was frequently dubbed as ‘The Godfather of Punk’, and at the close of 1977 he returned to reap a part of the harvest he had helped to sow with this distinctive calling-card of a track.

Celebrating his personal and professional rehabilitation as well as positioning himself as dignified elder statesman, ‘Lust For Life’s iconic opening drumbeat soundtracked the adrenaline-pumping opening sequence to Trainspotting two decades later.

READ MORE: Iggy Pop // ‘Lust For Life’ at 40 years old

Sex Pistols – ‘God Save The Queen’

The quintessential punk single in the wider British public’s consciousness, ‘God Save The Queen’ is surrounded by myths and rumours. Recorded under the aegis of A&M before being dropped, and then released with Virgin, there are apparently as few as 10 copies of the original test pressing in existence, fetching more than £12,000 in auctions today.

Released in June 1977 to coincide with the Queen’s jubilee, the Pistols performed it on a barge floating on the Thames on Coronation Day itself before being raided by the police. Banned from the nation’s airwaves by both the BBC and the Independent Broadcasting Authority, it was effectively blacklisted, but it didn’t prevent it from reaching no.2 in the official BBC charts behind Rod Stewart’s ‘I Don’t Want To Talk About It’ – though the NME charts had it as no.1, provoking rumours of a conspiracy…

As intriguing as all the controversy was, it detracted from the excellence of ‘God Save The Queen’ as a piece of cultural confrontation. It delivered the riot that their 1976 debut single ‘Anarchy In The U.K.’ had promised, and saw the Pistols seize their very own perfect pop moment, capturing the essence of the time better than anything else, rather perversely, crashing the nation’s street party with a moment of incision.

However, Johnny Rotten has always been at pains to explain that the track wasn’t created just because of the jubilee, and wasn’t just a flick of the ‘V’ sign at the authorities. “You don’t write ‘God Save The Queen’ because you hate the English race. You write a song like that because you love them, and you’re fed up with them being mistreated,” he said in 2007.

It’s best understood as an urgent wake-up call to the population at large, with Rotten’s bitter taunt “there is no future in England’s dreaming”, this was a call-to-arms against complacency. In 2017, with the calumny of Brexit looming ever closer and a worryingly large amount of the population distracted by royal weddings, its message is as relevant as it was four decades ago.

Furthermore, the production makes it a veritable wall of sound, expanding to up every conceivable space, and there is no room for the listener to ignore it. You either turn it up, or turn it off – either way, it provokes a reaction, which is what all great art should do. Though many Pistols fans argue that ‘Anarchy In The U.K.’ was more accomplished track and more of a manifesto, there can be no greater illustration of the social impact of punk than ‘God Save The Queen’.

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Hugh Cornwell – Books

Future Tense (2020)

An old-school noir crime novel set in a futuristic world of sentient robots, self-driving cars and drugs to die for. It is a future that is recognizable from our present and not too far away. Amidst pollution, apocalyptic climatic disasters and draconian new laws, the government has decided to get tough on obesity by taxing the overweight. When a mild-mannered young doctor in Miami does a small favour for his new, and very overweight, client, he suddenly finds himself the preferred doctor of the members of an organised crime syndicate.

Window on the World (2011)

Botanical writer James Thornberry’s life is irrevocably changed when he meets up-and-coming artist, Katherine Gaunt. Falling madly in love with her, he begins to collect her paintings secretly and obsessively, until his relationship with them and her merge into delusion, and the paintings take on a life of their own…

Arnold Drive (2014)

Arnold Drive, the timid vicar of St Tobias’, is thrust out into the world when his church is sold off to property developers.

He is about to discover that modern life is a testing business as a series of moral dilemmas cause him to question his faith, his judgement and his understanding of human nature.

The Stranglers: Song by Song (2001)

The Stranglers have outlasted and outsold virtually every other band of their era, recording ten hit albums and releasing 21 Top 40 singles. Their list of hits, including Golden Brown, were written against a background of spectacular success, dismal failure, drug dependency, financial ruin, infighting and misfortune. Hugh Cornwell, founding member and songwriter, is determined to set the record straight, displace the myths and explain for the first time the real stories behind The Stranglers, his departure and the origins of all their songs.

A Multitude of Sins (2004)

This will be the first autobiography by any leading figure from the punk era and the first to be written by the author, drawing from his own unique and unforgettable experiences. Hugh was lead singer, guitarist and main songwriter with The Stranglers, and now brings his unique style, humour and insight to describe the story of his life.

Books

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Landlord says his pub is haunted after a disconnected jukebox played music

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Tanyel MustafaMonday 1 Aug 2022

Sounds creepy (Picture: SWNS)

For those who love a ghost story, there’s a pub in Canterbury worth visiting.

A landlord says a spectre is haunting his historic pub.

Jeremy Stirling, 62, who runs the Maiden’s Head in Canterbury, says spooky events have taken place in the converted attic, leaving visitors ‘freaked out’.

He started to believe the property was haunted after guests and staff reported seeing glasses fly across the air and the jukebox turn on by itself.

Chillingly, the song that played when the jukebox came to life – while turned off by the mains – was by The Stranglers.

Keys have also vanished from locked rooms and cleaners have said they suddenly felt cold in the spooky area.

The pub building dates back to 1446, if not even earlier.

maiden's head pub
It’s hundreds of years old (Picture: SWNS)

Jeremy says of the apparent paranormal activity: ‘A woman said she was lying on the bed and the glass flew and hit the wall.

‘And one of the staff says that the jukebox has started playing music when it was switched off at the mains – Golden Brown by The Stranglers.

‘We’ve also had two sets of car keys, which were in locked room, and never accessed by our staff go missing.’

the haunted room
The haunted room (Picture: SWNS)

He added: ‘There must be an explanation for everything, but I can’t explain it.’

Jeremy took over the tenancy of the pub six years ago.

At the time, builders who were renovating the attic said they noticed a strange aura – this was the start of it.

He said: ‘The building is 750 years old. We had a very large void roof space, which we transformed into B&Bs with ensuite bedrooms.

‘During the transformation, the guy who was in charge said a couple of the boys were a bit uncomfortable up here in this space.

‘They couldn’t put their finger on it, but they said they didn’t feel right up there.’

One builder apparently soon refused to go up there and found another job, as he was so scared.

maiden's head pub
The pub is in Canterbury (Picture: SWNS)

Once the conversion was finished and functioning as a B&B, guests began to notice strange events happening in room four of the pub.

He said: ‘It’s mostly been in the one room. We’ve also had two sets of car keys, which were in locked room and never accessed by our staff, go missing.

‘There was no rhyme nor reason why the keys went missing.

‘And then we had one lady who was sitting in the room watching TV, and a water glass exploded on the side.

‘Another time, a woman said she was lying on the bed and the glass flew and hit the wall.’

A hunted pub (Picture: SWNS)

A member of cleaning staff was left ‘a bit freaked’ after suddenly feeling cold in the room, despite the central heating being turned on.

While the historical provenance of the Grade-II listed pub isn’t know, it’s possible that someone died in it – given its age.

Jeremy said: ‘It’s over 750 years old, so of course people must have passed away in the building over the years, but I don’t know of any of such.’

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