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The Stranglers - Down in the Sewer

As a bit of a breather from politics (although it is political), there’s one track that still really vibrates with me.

Younger readers might think I’m trying to sound like some kind of hipster. Nope, I was in my teens in the late 70s and living in London, and I loved music. I saw bands like the Sex Pistols, the Clash and all the rest, before they were well known, playing in joints like the old Marquee Club on Wardour Street and the 100 Club on Oxford Street, etc. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

I could name lots of (famous) tracks here, but for some reason there’s one track that still resonates strongly for me across the decades. For the record I never got to see The Stranglers live in concert, even though their music pervaded the late 70s era that I’m talking about.

There’s a whole story behind Down in the Sewer (not least that The Stranglers were never really punk rockers). If interested crank up the volume and have a listen…

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The Stranglers’ keyboards were always my favourite element. I think the last album of theirs that I took any notice of was called Aural Sculpture. Did see them live once, it was their ‘European Female tour’ mid 80s at the Birmingham Hippodrome… not exactly spit and sawdust, but fun anyway.

This must be the 12" version, giving lots of extra JJ and Dave.

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KarenEliot, you and I are about the same age. What were your favourite bands from this era?

With regard to The Stranglers, I agree that the keyboards, and also the heavy bass rift, were a signature sound. Even if you listened to a piece of music, and weren’t told who you were listening to, you could always tell it was The Stranglers from these signatures. Their cover of ‘Walk On By’ is a good example of this…

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I don’t wish to bore people with all this, but must add that all this wonderful creativity died a death in the 1990s and 2000s, when it came under corporate control. McDonalds music then became the depressing norm.

However, in the 2010s there was a real kickback against this (at least in the British music scene) and real creativity started humming again. I could name a lot of bands here. I’ll just stick to one for the moment: Public Service Broadcasting, and in particular their track called Spitfire (released in 2012). Spitfire has so many echoes of Down in the Sewer (released 35 years earlier); or at least it seems that way to me. Have a listen and see what you think…

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Such an ace song, Rob! I love the whole LP - No More Heroes too - both LPs released in '77 - what a salvo! My eldest brother was bringing all the punk stuff into the house, and of all the bands I heard at the time, The Stranglers excited me most. As I mentioned in that earlier thread, Nice and Sleazy, and B&W were the first 7" and LP I bought with my own cash, aged 12 (I raked in the coin working with my dad at weekends, painting/decorating). Their first 4 LPs are utter classics imo - La Folie is superb, but thereafter their LPs gradually detriorated imo. I did see them several times - they were spectacular live - especially JJ, he was fabulous. I never saw them after Hugh left - it just didn’t seem like The Stranglers without him.

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Bloody hell, I do wish I had an innate delight in this sort of music; obviously it has huge content for those who can tune into its wavelength. I can’t, sadly. Beethoven and bagpipes are what grabbed me, even as a tot, and still do. :laughing:

It’s as if the whole world is having a wild music and dance party, and me and the other Beethoven-and-bagpipes Pathetic Sharks are the only ones not invited. Bugger!

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…there’s a wealth of live footage of The Starnglers…this is by far my fave…Stranglers in Paris '79

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Hey Rob… difficult to choose but Stranglers certainly rank highly, I used to like the Jam a lot, Siouxsie & The Banshees, most of the Factory label bands, and many more including some of the early rap stuff. Ruts have always been underrated. Kraftwerk and This Heat kind of bookmark the era.

I still listen to lots of new stuff, and contemporary UK bands who have that down and dirty style are Warmduscher and Fat White Family, Meatraffle, they are all good fun. I also rate Shame who remind me of Gang Of Four.

I’ve been reading the Hugh Cornwell ‘Song by Song’ book and he has a fair bit to say about Down In The Sewer. He reveals that when he told Dave Greenfield his keyboard style was just like Ray Manzarek he got a mystified look: “Who?”. Hugh and JJ (known to the band as John in those days) were both big Doors fans.

This second I’m listening to Nas ‘Kings Disease II’.

And you?

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Song by Song is great - really enjoyed that book - - Multitude of Sins too - Hugh did a signing at Wstones in Sheffield so I had my copy of MoS signed, along with the Walk on By 7" (chose that one because there’s a large scrawling-field of white) - - later that night he did some readings and an acoustic set at the now sadly deceased Boardwalk (formerly the Black Swan/Mucky Duck - famously the venue for The Clash’s first gig) - - gotta say it was a piss poor turnout that night - 30 people, tops! Though Hugh didn’t seem to mind - he joined the stragglers in the bar afterwards and did the rounds speaking to everybody - I’m not at all the starstruck type, but I was thrilled that night.

This Heat, and a lot of other bands from that ‘post punk’ era passed me by - Swell Maps, early Scritti, ACR and whatnot - there was just so much to go at, and by late '79 the Crass/Poison Girls scene was all that mattered to me. Simon Reynolds, Rip it Up remedied that - it was a revelation and a real joy going back and discovering all that stuff…was it Copey that said, ‘ignorance of ones culture is uncool’? - probably a paraphrasing…

I must own up to not listening to much new music nowadays - I’m still mining the vast archives of old stuff and having a blast.

I’ve been churning-over David MacGowan’s Weird Scenes Inside The Canyon thesis and doing my best to dispell its notion from my mind - as plausible as it is, the thought of having to reject the music that’s had such a large influence on my trajectory is just too much.

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Rhis, it’s not an easy one to describe, I mean the music stuff, except that it does come into the esoteric. I can also listen to, say, Bach’s St Matthew Passion and feel the same energy in it.

By any standards 1977 was an extraordinary year, because of all the debut stuff that was released (I’ve never seen anything like it before or since). One of those tracks was by a newly formed band called the Buzzcocks and was called Orgasm Addict. This track was of course immediately banned by the BBC, even though it got quite high in the charts.

Imagine yourself (as a younger person) in a small club; no seats, everyone packed standing in front of the stage, with spilt beer on the floor and sweat, and all the rest, and the amps at full volume (you’d often be deaf for two days after one of these gigs) as a band like The Buzzcocks let rip.

I was never one of the music tribes (although I did on occasion dress like a pratt). What interested me most was the energy involved, which is why I mention the esoteric.

Orgasm Addict lasts for almost exactly 2 minutes. If you make it to the end don’t forget to lay back and light-up a cigarette. This is the vinyl version. Imagine listening to this live in a small, packed club, at full amps…

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Karen, I don’t think we will be seeing Rhis anytime soon wearing bin liners and safety pins and a Mohican multi-coloured haircut.

I also really liked The Jam. Particularly Going Underground (because of its London vibe) and Walls Come Tumbling Down, and the video they did for it in Cold War Warsaw.

With regard to what’s happening at the moment, thesedays I’m always at least five years out of the loop.

Helios seem like a good band (brief live session here), although it all depends on your musical tastes.

I think that any musos, pop or classical, who haven’t sold out to corporate interests are worth supporting.

There’s been a surprising number during the 2010s, and I think that during the 2020s, what with covid, etc, there’s also going to be a lot of good music that will come out of it.

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I’ve yet to read Weird Scenes… and it’s quite possible that there’s stuff in there I’d rather not find out. Haven’t heard of Multitude Of Sins and sense yet another visit to Abe in the offing. ( I got a copy of From Carnac to Callanish btw, £18ish. I really have to go see Carnac… when I looked on Maps app, satellite view, the array of stones looks like it covers a small town’s worth of land. I’d never quite grasped the scale. )

Rip It Up is enormous fun. I don’t recognise the quote but it’s def time I reread Head-On.

An audience of 30 is dire, though I once attended a performance of Educating Rita, in that cultural melting pot known as Chatham. There were three of us. The cast did the whole thing with great zest, in any case, and it was memorable.

I seem to recall a Peter Hook story about a Joy Division gig where one person turned up. Years later he met the audience and unless my memory deceives me the bloke barely remembered it, having turned up on the wrong night intending to see someone else… I do enjoy a good rock bio and very much recommend Viv Albertine’s books, and the first Brett Anderson one. I forget the titles.

Such a great song. A habit that sticks, what a line.

Much as I enjoy Buzzcocks I enormously prefer Magazine, even their reunion album, Know Thyself, is pretty good. Howard Devoto’s solo stuff and with Luxoria is not bad, but nothing of this calibre. The whole band are maestros, John McGeoch perhaps most of all, but Barry Adamson has kept active over the years and produced some fine solo stuff.

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I’ll try some more Haelos, liked what I saw. They’re a little like Kosheen in their quieter moments based on the two songs I played. Have downloaded one of their albums for a more careful listen: I use Apple music as a kind of try before you buy platform. Stuff can disappear without warning from the digital services but a lot of artists only release digital/vinyl nowadays so it’s worth the tenner a month. The recommendations algorithm is actually quite good and I’ve discovered some worthwhile bands that way, including some older acts.

I just do not believe you let the Incredibles pass you by. . . And the Velvets. (not to mention the Shadows :face_with_open_eyes_and_hand_over_mouth:)

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I know Alan, but what can I do? De gustibus non est disputandum. We can’t help what we like and what we dislike. It’s built in. In the present state of music, it’s obvious that people with my narrow taste band are being excluded from a huge outpouring of potent art. But there it is: it leaves me cold, when it doesn’t leave me wanting to get out of its hearing… I wasn’t joking when I said it’s a world-party from which I’m excluded. It’s a bastard.

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Rhis, if you have the inclination give us a link to what you like as good music.

I have no problem mixing hardcore punk rock with beautiful classical music.

For me it all has the same kind of energies; just perhaps on different wavelengths.

The ‘Weird Scenes Inside The Canyon’ book that NewSi has mentioned here does kind of negate a lot of rock/pop. As far as I’m aware, the three British bands I’ve mentioned here - The Stranglers, Public Service Broadcasting and The Buzzcocks were all completely genuine outfits.

KarenEliot, I know I probably drive you all mad; but one of the best things I like about these sort of threads is that you discover new music.

Really enjoyed Magazine’s ‘Song From Under The Floorboards’. Keep 'em coming.

You know what I will end this thread with: 1977 and probably the most infamous debut single in pop history.

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It all started, Rob - as far back as I can remember when I was around 3, but probably already before birth - with, as indicated, Beethoven and the great Highland bagpipes; sounds which still produce the very same spine-shivers today, and every day between, particularly the pipes (it’s the drones that do it…)

It branched out into an array of great composers. The ones who get to me particularly are Beethoven (above all, even ahead of Bach), Schubert, Brahms, Bach, Shostakovich, Sibelius, Tchaikovsky, and a crowd of just slightly lesser names who write in that great symphonic and chamber-music European tradition. I regard, for example, Bach’s Ciaccona, at the end of the D Minor Partita for solo violin, and Beethoven’s Late Quartets, plus the Big Fugue, as amongst the greatest ever creations of the human soul. Just thinking about them right now, as usual, makes “…mine eyes dazzle…” (Duchess of Malfi), and my breath catch a little.

I became unhappily aware, particularly in my teens, of the absence of my invite to the great global music-fest exploding at that time, when I realised that the major efflorescence of people like Bill Haley (and the Comets :slight_smile: ), Elvis, the Beatles, etc., etc., ad nauseam, left my either coldly indifferent, or even actively repelled! (sic!) The same, almost though not quite across the board, with jazz.

I recognised that these were serious professional artists, making genuine, respect-worthy art. But - alas! - I just didn’t like it.

I now regard this as a serious glitch in my musical susceptibility, but - as I’ve said - what can you do? It’s always just how it grabs you that dictates personal taste, isn’t it? Unfortunately, mine seems to be very patchy and picky. It’s an actual handicap, rooted in Aspergery, I suspect. An autistic boy whom I looked after during one of my ‘resting’ periods from showbiz had exactly similar leanings about the sounds he’d collected on his tape recorder.

A music teacher in my teens insisted that hearing something often enough would likely make it grow on you, and demonstrated his idea by playing, over a whole string of lessons, the same Haydn symphony over and over again. And he was right. That’s what turned me on to Haydn’s prodigious output of symphonies. And I have a little clutch of jazz favourites too, forced on me by constant repetition by my rock-climbing mates at grammar school: Miles, Coltrane, Jimmy Giuffre’s ‘The Train and The River’, and a few others…

But the constant - unavoidable! - re-hearing of all the music popular on the airwaves and the vinyl in my youth never had the same effect. Still absolutely cold to it - at best. Ochone!

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Here you go, Rhis - some more jazz that might float your coracle…

New Jazz Orchestra

Extremely lush British stuff from 1968

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