Whatever happened to…
The shock of the new. Watching Top of the Pops on BBC 4 from 1977, it is amazing to see how the Punk bands stuck out like big sore thumbs that have just been pricked by safety pins. I think regular TOTPs watchers must have thought the Stranglers, performing No More Heroes, were from another planet, as young fans we all knew that they were indeed from another planet. Watching the rest of the show, it seemed abysmal, and these bands brought a breath of putrid air to the show (apart from Ram Jam doing Black Betty, which was particularly excellent).
Where can I go with this album, it’s very special. The first Stranglers Album I ever heard (I still remember the brown crimplene trousers with the elasticated waist that I was wearing, I was anti-fashion even then) and the first time I saw them on TOTP. Putting aside my personal connection to this album, I still think it is quite a patchy album. But it does end well with the magnificently dark School Mam.
An aside: I never realised this until a few years ago, but the first three tracks on this album are sung by different people (Call yourself a fan!)
Hidden gem: English Towns, considered a filler by many, but it is a great track.
Stranglers fans (I am including myself here) are a funny bunch, we wear our band t-shirts with pride and must acknowledge the wearing of this apparel by others when out and about in our daily lives (I had a ‘nice t-shirt mate’ once, but more often it is a knowing nod of the head). There is an elephant in the room here though, that is the wearing of band t-shirts by people over 40, my wife says it is the manifestation of my mid-life crisis, but at least we wear them because of our love for the artist. I spent a couple of minutes talking to someone in a pub once (friend of a friend) about the Ramones (he was wearing a t-shirt) only for him to say, ‘Oh, were they a band then’
TheMeninBlack (that is how you have to write it) is a great album. I can just imagine the conversations with the record company and the band in the late 70s. Band; OK, we are going to make a concept album about UFOs and religion. Record company; OK guys, could you list here what drugs you are currently taking?
I love the track Turn Centuries Turn, an ambient punk (if there is such a thing) instrumental around guitars (lots of guitars) and bass, with an almost backwards drum pattern from the mighty Mr Black. Obviously the classic WaltzinBlack is fantastic and still opens the band’s gigs 30 odd years later. My favourite track on the album though is Manna Machine, I really don’t know how to describe this track (more ambient punk rock?) other than to call it very odd, I guess you just need to listen to it.
Hidden gem; Second Coming (prog, punk, reggae space music, with religious overtones)