With the sad news tonight that Dave Greenfield, keyboard player with The Stranglers, has lost his life to the virus, I’ve been breaking out my Stranglers albums and playing them all night in chronological order. What a difference he made to this most unusual of Punk bands. Although he might have been musically responsible for their jump into the mainstream with his memorable playing on the hit Golden Brown, followers of the band had been guiding them into the charts since their debut in 1977 with Rattus Norvegicus. Despite their un-PC leanings it was difficult to be 19 years old and not love Peaches with it’s fuzzed up bass.
It seems like a life time ago, but in 1982 (or was ’84) the ex band played in Paris and there we met The Stranglers’ bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel. I don’t remember that much about it, but I remember him being there, care of our road manager who knew him from a previous tour. I had the solo album he put out in 1979 called Euroman Cometh where he was standing outside the Pompidou Centre. Although it is pretty obvious I’m not sure how many people knew he was French, because this too was odd. I also remember reading somewhere that he was a black belt and the band had quite a reputation for hell raising. I remember thinking that he might have to be careful not to seriously hurt someone if he got into a fight and had martial art skills. But he didn’t seem aggressive to me, just a guy, the aggression was in the sound of the bass. The club we were playing at was called Rose Bon Bon. I remember having the club and its phone number written down on a piece of paper. I remember that later on my partner at the time found it and asked, so who is Rose Bon Bon? Ha ha classic.
With the death of Greenfield, Jean-Jacques Burnel is the only active original member. Drummer Jet Black retired from playing live in 2016 (he is 81) and original singer/guitarist Hugh Cornwell left the band to go solo in 1990 after ten albums. I discovered that the main missing album in my Stranglers collection is La Folie (the album with Golden Brown). I also don’t have 10 from the original band and only have the first CD after Cornwell left (Stranglers in the Night) and nothing since 1992. The band continued with John Ellis on guitar who left also in 2000 and Paul Roberts on lead vocals who stayed for 16 years (longer than Cornwell was there), leaving in 2006. They reverted back to a four-piece with Baz Warne who replaced Ellis and both Burnel and Warne took over vocal duties when Roberts left. In their life time The Stranglers had an unlikely 23 top 40 singles and 17 Top 40 albums in the UK, their sound shifting from edgy to smoother as they occupied a unique place in the history of Punk. Tonight I listened to: Rattus Norvegicus (1977), No More Heroes (1977), Black And White (1978), The Raven (1979), The Men In Black (1981), and The Collection 1977-1982 (1982).
In other news of the day Dare and I were in the studio today working on the tenth Space Summit track. It’s a tricky one with lots of odd chords and we were skyping Jed for reminders. In the end he had to dig out my original recording where I was explaining exactly what strings I was hitting and where my fingers were. It’s so easy to come up with something on the spur of the moment and forget it by the time you get to the studio. The lesson, always record it – slowly, and say what you were doing, otherwise your brilliant idea might be lost forever, it would have been for us tonight. When Jed found the original recording, the verse chord shapes were completely different to what all three of us thought they were.
I was looking at my calendar today and noticed that on Wednesday I’m probably rehearsing with Anekdoten in Stockholm in preparation for the Canada trip. I guess not. As musicians, the worst part of all this is that not only are most of the shows for the rest of the year cancelled, but we are having trouble re-booking them, for two reasons. First of all we simply don’t know when the lockdown is going to end. Secondly all the acts that were playing March to say, August, need to re-book their gigs for the same period next year because the gigs that might not be affected are already booked. This means that if we were planning to play this autumn, it might be autumn 2021 before we can get out there. I also have a finished album waiting for a release date so we can have a crowdfunding campaign to pay for it, that is all up in the air. MOAT’s Poison Stream just sits there, done, frustrated, anxious to get out into the world.
Song Of The Day today is Surrounded from Noctorum’s Offer The Light (2006). Something with a little edge on Stranglers night. RIP Dave Greenfield. Condolences to friends and family.
I got so excited when you said you had the key
I thought it might unlock this complex knot
That’s got to you and me
If it hadn’t been so goddamned rusty
And the teeth hadn’t a been so broke
If you hadn’t run away with the Sugar Plum Fairy
Then you know there might have been some hope
Well if you’re gonna park your car in my private thoughts
Then you’d better know how to drive
Because sifting through all of this grit and dirt
Might just lead you to giving up trying
If you think there is a goldmine hidden and lost
Just waiting for discovery
Then you’d better be attentive to the shining jewel
Hereby known as me
The junkyard heaps
Yeah the hill’s too steep
Hmmmh you got me surrounded
Girl you got me surrounded
Yeah you got me surrounded
You can throw around poetry like a dog has fleas
Until your heart breaks down
But all of your intelligence is emotionally motivated
And I’m afraid that you’re emotionally drowned
Black black heart attack never ever ever going to ever come back
To somebody as smart as you
But if you ever loved me as much as I want
I’d have to find someone new
Yeah junkyard heaps
And the hill’s are too steep
Oh you got me surrounded
(Willson-Piper / Mason)
Noctorum – Offer The Light (2006)