Our guest author this week is Rob Endeacott who explains why he has written about the Stranglers and how he went about finding the right angle for Peaches. You can catch Rob speaking about music writing this Thursday as part of a panel event along with Chris Nickson and Peter Mills at Jackrabbits Pottery, LS8 4BA.
Pardon the rambling here but I sometimes can’t help myself and this could well be one of those occasions. Rambling is better than reticence I suppose, which is very similar to whenever I’m asked what my occupation is, I nearly always feel an involuntary pause taking over, before finally muttering the reply ‘Writer’. Using that description has never felt really appropriate to me, like writing is not a proper day job or it’s somehow a description meant to deceive whoever’s asking the question… but then again, it sounds better to me than ‘Novelist’ which is a word we should ban, I have just decided! The trouble there is, I am normally a novelist, I nobble you not, though my latest book is definitely not a novel, it is in near fact a biography, about the early years of my favourite band The Stranglers.
When I say they’re my favourite band, there have been a few contenders over the years but The Stranglers have been my favourite band for the longest time, other than The Beatles and I don’t think you can genuinely class a group as your favourites if you haven’t seen them play or you weren’t old enough to buy their records when they – the band – still existed. And when it came to reading matter, so much has been written about The Beatles it would have been disingenuous of me to even think about adding to the pile of Fab Four literature. With The Stranglers though… well that was different: one excellent biography, No Mercy, which I could only dream of improving upon anyway, managed just a solitary print run due to some mysterious legal challenge after the first edition. Another, also a great read, was The Men They Love To Hate which was an exclusive part of a superb 4 CD retrospective of the band called The Old Testament. That book makes a fantastic package even fantastic-er! Again, no false modesty here, I doubt I could have written anything better, and I certainly wouldn’t have gained the access to as many lovely photos and iconic images that that publication did. More of that later. Two other books are still available, both written by The Stranglers’ original front man and main songwriter, Hugh Cornwell. I wholeheartedly recommend them both: Song By Song and A Multitude Of Sins.
So… if I was going to fulfil my years’ long ambition of writing about the band, I had to think of something different and something relatively original. A major task in writing a good biography is, I expect, obtaining quality information from the main ‘players’ involved in your subject. I was done for in that respect too! Hugh left the band in 1990 and there has been too much ill feeling between him and the original mark one line-up ever since. And to be frank about it, I didn’t want to get mired in all the negative nonsense anyway, I just wanted to write about their brilliant music and iconography and how we as fans were exhilarated by it all. It took me a while to decide, and it took just as long to convince myself the idea was good enough and the self-confidence high enough. So the chronicle idea was born, thanks in large part to the encouragement of Stranglers fans who frequent a website forum I post on called ‘Burning Up Time’, oddly enough created in Leeds too.
What makes a band brilliant? The band members of course. What makes them successful? The fans of course! So I set about seeking help from hardcore fans of the band, some of whom have seen The Stranglers in concert hundreds of times, across their 40 years and counting career. So what if the band’s management weren’t interested in helping or even allowing the use of copyrighted photographs? There were/are so many bootleg recordings of the band’s gigs and early demoes stemming from the mid 1970s up to the point of Cornwell’s exit that I had lots of material to work with. I spent a small fortune on bootleg tapes and CDs but the Stranglers Community has been very helpful too by providing a fair few gig recordings for free. And very few of the gigs are incident-free or without some acerbic verbal gems from Cornwell as he antagonises audiences or just takes the pee out of all sorts of things. And why did I call it Peaches? Well that’s thanks to Mr Cornwell too, he used to have a very amusing habit of changing a certain line of their ‘Peaches’ song, to comic effect too, so I set about ‘collecting’ these new lyrics. And I also enlisted the help of a lot of fans by asking for their reviews and anecdotes of the band’s performances or recordings over the years, and I consider their contributions as lovely little peaches too!
I hope to see you at the panel event at Jackrabbits Pottery on Thursday evening where I can ramble on even more. Full details are here. For now, thanks for staying awake, I mean reading, thanks for reading! The Stranglers are touring again, next year, and Hugh Cornwell is appearing at The Wardrobe in Leeds on November 30th this year. The quality of both tours – Hugh’s and The Stranglers’ – are bound to be very high indeed, I’ll put my money on it.
You can buy Peaches – A Chronicle of The Stranglers, 1974-1990 here.