Wednesday, June 21, 2006
It's official summer starts today, we were even treated to an overcast morning here with some drops of rain falling but nothing of substance and the temperature is way up in the thirties. One of my favorite summer songs more by association than by subject mater is 'Peaches', a softer version was a bit UK hit in '77, by the Guilford Four better known as the Stranglers. When I say association I mean above all the years 1977 to 1979 where the band were to play a large roll in the soundtrack to my life, these were the years that took me from being a spotty 16 year old punk schoolboy to a 19 year old college drop out. Now don't get me wrong other bands were to play an important part in this period of my life including the almost opposite to the Stranglers the over politically correct Clash. My association with the Stranglers was very much by chance, a friend of mine who was also mad about music, though our paths were to separate as he stayed firmly on the path of prog rock, was at school with a boy called Anthony. Now Anthony's father had an old ice cream van and had the habit of calling himself Jet Black, indeed it was the moody/miserable drummer of the at this stage unknown Stranglers. Through this new acquaintance we got to see the band on several occasions, including a local nurses home, before the release of their classic neo psychedelic punk debut album 'Ratus Norvegicus'. We had the good fortune of being invited along to the press party for the albums release, held at a London Pub called the Water Rat or something similar, we even managed to leave with a large amount of press kits which we were to go on to sell to local second hand record shops. Imagine how all this was heady stuff for an impressionable 16 year old. And it didn't stop there either, as months later we were at the Round House to see them, they had Cherry Vanilla and the Jam as opening acts and the hells angels as special guests/security advisors, and they certainly scared us shitless in the dressing rooms after the gig. As was often the case at this period their first Album was swiftly followed up by it's successor, 'No More Heroes' in the same year, what was slightly less common was that the quality was still there for the second album as can be heard on 'Something Better Change'. Hardly resting they came up with their third long player 'Black and White' in 1978 a much more experimental album with a slower pace but a huge success never the less. Despite their popularity the band were beginning to find it difficult to get a gig in London as the towns governing body the GLC was opposing license requests, their were fears of violence coupled with the bands ever present bad boy image in the press; drug arrests, sexism, obscene language on T shirts. This led to the bands decision to promote their own show at Londons Battersea Park in the summer of 1978, they invited the decidedly un punk Peter Gabriel as special guest. Now as if this was not enough band bassist Jean Jacques Burnel invited some of his friends along to party on stage with the band, only they were strippers, now who mentioned sexism, and the young ladies boogied along to tunes from the quartets latest release such as the appropriately named 'Nice And Sleazy'. Ofcouse the press loved it, they were falling over themselves to find excuses to print photos of the gig while strongly condoning their non politically correct attitude. Another song played at the gig was their menacing reworking of the Bacharach/David classic 'Walk On by', which was initially relegated to a limited edition 7" single with the 'Black And White' album. The Stranglers of course went on to have more chart success in the years that followed but for me those first three albums and those heady two years really sum up the essence of the band. Now I guess any 16 olds reading this won't understand what I'm on about but I'm sure there are plenty of you that do.