Friday, 31 July 2009

Every gig I've Ever Seen #2. The Stranglers.

The Stranglers. 1978

The Stranglers. For some reason they were huge at my school. Their brand of black attire, Doors-esque keyboards, big bass sound and nasty demeanour appealed to us Grammar Skool boys. Misogyny was mentioned in the press but we knew it was all a joke. And if Bob Dylan could slag the lay-deez then it must be alright! I spent most of my O-Level summer (1980, proper O-levels!) listening to the “Black and White” album. This was my first indoor gig and only my second gig ever. I had butterflies for weeks beforehand.

We got to Portsmouth hours before the doors opened. Sunday afternoon in Portsmouth in 1978. Not a lot to do. Time dragged as we waited. I got gobbed on by a scary Big Kid – although I was 6’2” by then and probably could’ve duffed him up. Still, it got the adrenaline pumping. Gigs were scary in those days. There was always a group of Skinheads up for aggro. Portsmouth was/is hard. “Hello, Hello, Pompey Aggro, Pompey Aggro!” as the football chant went. National Front graffiti everywhere. 

Met an American lady who was “with the band” and seemed very nice. Went for a pee and met The Skids getting out of their van. Richard Jobson, the singer, was only 17 then but seemed really grown up. Stuart Adamson, the guitarist, later formed Big Country, had big hits, then committed suicide. Sad.

Went for another pee behind the venue and there was Hugh Cornwell getting out of his Ford Estate! “Have you got a pen?” I asked. “Yes, thanks”, came the sarky reply. He signed my ticket which was then taken at the door. Put in a box with all the others to be counted later. Oh no! I wrote to the venue afterwards and asked them to look for my ticket. They posted me one back but, alas, no autograph. Years later I met Hugh at a book launch and told him the story. He laughed and was a complete gentleman, weirdly enough.

The Skids were supporting and did a great version of “Walk On The Wildside”. We were right down the front, getting squashed, pulled from side to side. I had a 3-inch band of belt dye on my stomach afterwards.

The Stranglers came on and for the first 10 minutes I couldn’t make out a thing! It was the loudest thing I’d ever heard. Steam was rising off bodies. The bass sound was enormous. Jean Jaques Burnel did his standing-on-one-leg dance and between songs picked at a scab where his bass kept rubbing on his arm. Hugh threw Dolly Mixtures out while singing, “would you like a sweetie?” I kept some for years. Strobe lights! “Hanging Around” and “Down In The Sewer” were immense, all swirling Hammond organ and HUGE drums. Strippers came on for “Nice’n’Sleazy”. Real breasts but no lady rug and, hey, isn’t that the nice American lady?!

A proper rock gig. I’d entered another world. Powerful, exciting stuff and a complete rite of passage.

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