Jet’s new updated account
of being banged up in the south of France. Originally
appearing in 1981 as Much Ado About Nothing - see below
– Seven Days In Nice is a reminder of what happened when
The Stranglers played Nice University on 20th June 1980:
the hall descends into darkness due to an inadequate
power supply, the band make an announcement before
walking off and the crowd go garrity, aiming their
frustration at the hall’s glazing. The University had
already made it hard for the band to play all day long
by forcing the crew to handball 10 tons of equipment
across the campus, not allowing the band’s mini-bus
inside and not allowing them a dressing room. Was this
all a set up?
The French authorities
need a scapegoat, The Stranglers get arrested, accused
of inciting a riot under a law that had come into effect
following the political riots in France in the late
1960s. Students, riot. University. This sounds familiar…
The Meninblack are taken to their medieval cells where
conditions are dire although Jet keeps his tongue firmly
walls were predictably covered in graffiti, mostly in French and
Arabic. What a drag, I can’t even get a laugh out of the
Remaining resolute in a
shit-stinking cell, he takes to sniping cockroaches to pass the
time between being questioned, dodging a bout of food poisoning
and having his civil liberties contravened by being forced to
have a blood test for syphilis!
Seven Days In Nice is an
informative read and tacked on to the end is a diary of
political unrest bubbling away in the French higher education
system in the lead-up to the gig. A set up it is, but had the
band known this then - and not been preoccupied forging a music
career, as Jet explains - would things have turned out any
Of course, foresight is a
wonderful thing, as this book could just well have been too, if
only with the inclusion of some of the tabloid shock horror punk
headlines mentioned. I’m sure I recall several column inches on
a Sunday People verso. I think I still have it. I bet Jet has
too, stashed inside one of his famous scrapbooks buried in some
Similarly, did the picture editor
die or something? Surely it’s not too much to expect the odd
dog-eared image unearthed for this revamp – seeing as flash
bulbs flashed, and front page news all week, it says here – an
omission that doesn’t quite let the reader fully engage: for
fans who rejoice in just how big the band was once upon a time,
the fans were also a part of it. The sole concession is the
front cover image, familiar to many already as the sleeve of The
Stranglers’ 1986 single, Nice In Nice.
There is one more thing: why is
the band manager always left un-named whereas tour manager Andy
Dunkley isn’t. Same thing appeared in the original. Anyhow, it’s
also captivating reading, 152 pages, but in a very large-font.
Fans will like this, especially those around at the time. But
hopefully this re-jig will fuel Jet’s creative desire to put pen
to paper again and recall the definitive Story of The
June 20th 1980 was the final date of The Stranglers’
tour but there was a venue change. Nice University
became the place the band would never forget. Jet relays
how word came back from the road crew in the afternoon
that things were not right: the University won’t allow
the truck into the grounds, and the crew haul 10 tons of
rig along footpaths, up steps, across a quadrangle and
down into the outdoor arena. Furthermore, the power
supply is inadequate. When the band arrive in a mini-bus
they are forced to alight at the gates, to then be
locked out of their dressing room.
Making do with fewer lights, the band hit the stage but
soon the electricity overloads in their set forcing them
to make an explanation to the audience before leaving
the stage. The crowd erupt, smashing of thousand of
francs-worth of plate glass windows, and the band are
arrested for inciting a riot. For seven days, their home
is prison. Apart from Dave that is, who is released as
he had not spoken to the crowd that night. For the three
others, conditions are horribly squalid – down in the
sewer almost - but Jet keeps a level-head during his
not depressed as I had many brushes with the law as a
Liberation finally comes, and the band press on with recording
and touring, with the final verdict swinging in the balance.
Seven months on from the incident, they are handed a suspended
prison sentence and a fine on the morning of January 13th 1981.
‘You mean to tell me that all that fucking about was just to
get two grand out of us?’
As one of the happy helpers at SIS at the time, I regret not
supplying the artwork requested by editor Paul at the time.
Still, a 31 page booklet of tiny typewritten font made available
by the former Stranglers Information Service.
‘We were stopped in a routine roadblock which was a
complete Sweeney-type blockage, on main thoroughfares in
the middle of the night, with arc lights and a about
fifty policemen and eight squad cars involved. We were
stopped in Hammersmith Broadway which is aboput four
lanes wide, with the squad cars diagonally across the
road, cutting all the traffic down to one lane. They
were stopping every vehicle, and checking every detail
and, where anything looked a bit suspicious to them,
they were searching the driver or the contents of their
It was the start of Hugh’s nightmare. Following the gig
at Cardiff at the end of the successful Raven Tour, Hugh
is passenger in a hire-car driven by promoter Paul
Loadsby, with two French fans sitting in the back. The
coppers search a rucksack. It belongs to Hugh:
‘I think you’d better come over here, Sarge. I think
we’ve found Harry.’
bag are mushrooms. Magic Mushrooms. Two wraps of Cocaine too,
which equates to 1½ grams, half an ounce of dope, some resin,
some grass wrapped in a tissue, and 90mg of Heroin. The
mushrooms are ignored, and a copper cops Hugh’s autograph. Judge
McNair dishes out an eight-week spell in Pentonville Prison to
Hugh in March 1980 to teach pop stars a lesson in how to play
nicely. As tours are cancelled and recording shifted about,
inside, Hugh knuckles down. In the first week he develops a
nervous rash. He’s allowed to send two letters [solicitor, and
manager Ian Grant] each week, and two visitors [Ian, and
girlfriend Hazel O’Connor] and one day, Hugh asks the warden for
‘We’ve got bus drivers in here, and they can’t have buses,’
is the reply.
A great read. 28 page booklet, tiny-typewritten, made available
by the former Stranglers Information Service.
Former Record Mirror scribe Barry Cain dusts down his 1977
archive interviews of Messrs Lydon, Scabies and Cornwell and
revisits the chief Punk protagonists 30 years on to prod them
with their musings. Trumpeting his Famous Five - Pistols, Jam,
Clash, Damned and Stranglers - ’77 Sulphate is a marvellous
first-hand account of the year music exploded and it’s hard to
put his book down. The witty, tongue-in-cheek text is fluid,
informative and infectious – like amiable Barry himself, who was
there at the start - and it’s difficult not to love him and get
wrapped up and speeding alongside. Never mind the bollocks –
here’s all the excess, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll you’ll need
without the aid of a Tardis. Thank God there’s a follow-up fix
in the pipeline.
(Can’t possibly imagine who Hugh refers to at the bottom
of page 301 – Ed!)
NB. Barry has given his first ever interview – for The
Burning Up Times – see Issue 3.
Rarely can an author so quickly lose a reader’s faith by
his inability to get facts right as Chris Wade does with
his fulsome companion to Hugh Cornwell’s Hooverdam album
Hugh Cornwell: The Hooverdam Companion.
Call this reviewer a nit
picker, but details count. And if the reader distrusts
your words, you’re lost. It took four lines for Wade to
claim that Keith Floyd died the day after the television
screening of the “Keith Meets Keith” documentary. Floyd
famously, and sadly, died at home hours before the
Details count. I know what
Wade meant, but details count.
The author then goes on to
play another dangerous game: passing on one’s own
opinions as fact. On the same page we get the bold
statement: “Hugh Cornwell is, in short, an icon.”
Maybe… But not really…
“…but it is only when you
stop and think about the many things he has achieved…”
Such as song writing,
playing music and er… remind me?
“… that you fully realise
how important he really is to British culture.”
Now he’s taking the piss
Sad though it is, but these
statements about cultural icons are more fitting of Johnny
Rotten and the Sex Pistols and the Punk movement as a whole.
Owing to the Stalinist rewriting of music history in the 70s by
such journalists as Tony Parsons and Jon Savage, to the Great
British public Hugh Cornwell and the Stranglers are just
sidebars in the great story of those times. And it pains this
reviewer to admit that.
There can no argument that Hugh
and The Stranglers are important to British music, but the
country’s culture as a whole? That’s going too far.
And this is the problem all the
way through this book. Wade so desperately wants to correct the
history books; is so keen for his hero to be seen as the
greatest songwriter of the age.
“Great periods in music like this
don’t come very often” he continues, and this reviewer is
reaching for the sick bag… but all of sudden he reins it in, and
confesses that this book is really just “a fan’s account of this
era.” Thank god, a fact at last…
So, we’ve made it through the
first two pages, and if you haven’t put it back on the shelf, or
back on the counter at one of Hugh’s gigs with the words: “How
much!?” there is actually a bit to admire in this book.
Strangely lacking original
interviews with either Hugh himself or the drummer Chris Bell
and a very brief and shallow piece with bass player Caz
Campbell, the chatty, amateurish style of writing suits the
Apalling font choices,
photocopy-quality images, and a cover whose laminate peals off
far too easily, is topped off by a Cornwell logo where the
background doesn’t match the rest of the cover (see above). Was
this designed in Word, or Microsoft Works?
On the content side though, Wade’s
unfettered enthusiasm for the album, more often than not called
Hoover Dam rather than the correct Hooverdam (those damn details
again), does get quite infectious. Some of his song-by-song
summaries do a good job and I found myself reaching for the iPod
to discover if I could see “the images of fingers frantically
typing on keys, the papers moving up quickly and the return bar
of a typewriter slamming after each complex line” in Philip K
Ridiculous. I could. Kind of.
The summaries on the whole, tell
us more about Wade than the music: he loves this album! It’s the
best ever made! It’s the soundtrack to his life!
The interview with record
label boss Charles Kennedy is easily the highlight. It’s
fascinating to hear about the music business and get a
more balanced assessment of Hugh’s place in the world.
Wade asks all the right questions (even if he did use
the “icon” word again) and he is blessed with a subject
willing to talk.
There are some pretty
average live reviews and some re-hashed Cornwell
interviews from other sources, and an extensive set of
those badly reproduced photos spread throughout the
book, so it’s a nice enough package – were it be given
away free at a gig, or for £3…
It would be much stronger
obviously with an original Cornwell interview.
All in all, by the end,
your reviewer found it hard to be too tough on a guy who
has gone to a great deal of effort to get all this off
his chest and into the hands of a few fans.
With a decent editor, a
designer, some new fonts, and a cup of tea and a chat
with his icon this could really have been worth a spot
on any fan’s bookshelf.
After years of gathering dust unpublished, Chris
Twomey’s epic work, The Men They Love To Hate finally sees the light of
day, albeit within EMI Records 4 CD Stranglers box set, The Old
Testament. Thorough and painstakingly researched, the booklet covers the
years 1974 to 1982.
No Mercy, The Authorised and Uncensored Biography of The Stranglers
The book flits at break-neck speed from scene to
scene, but do we ever get to find out who the real Hugh Cornwell is
in the rush? He has his own energetic style, but it only really
comes alive on the stage when Hugh reels off the golden nuggets,
interspersed by the related golden oldie hits of yesteryear.
512 pages of punks key figures, featuring interviews
from over 100 contributors including Hugh Cornwell, JJ Burnel, John
Rotten, Glen Matlock, Mick Jones, Don Letts, Captain Sensible, Jah
Wobble, Penny Rimbaud, Slash and Billy Bragg:. 'To see the Clash on
the White Riot tour was like discovering how to be a rock star: you just
did it yourself. You didn't wait for someone to come and discover you.
That was the most important thing that came out of punk...We came home
and we cut our hair and bought skinny trousers. It was year zero. That
was the moment for me.'
Rock" is a book like no other. It is an oral history of a radical
movement which exploded in Seventies Britain. With its own clothes,
hair, artwork, fanzines and radical politics, Punk boasted a DIY ethos
that meant anyone could take part. The scene was uniquely vibrant and
energetic, leaving an extraordinary legacy of notorious events,
charismatic characters and inspirational music.
Now, for the first time, we can read all about events
such as the Sex Pistols' swearing live on the "Bill Grundy" TV show and
staging their anti-Jubilee riverboat party on the Thames, famous gigs at
the Roxy and 100 Club, and the groundbreaking records by the Pistols,
the Clash, the Damned and others. From the widely debated roots of punk
in the late-Sixties through to the fallout of the post-punk period in
1984, and the ongoing influence on today's bands, "Punk Rock" is the
definitive oral history of an inimitable and exciting movement.
Readers of The Observer will have seen
excerpts from the book by Burning Up Times contributor John Robb.
To get your copy, go to:
The author has dutifully and lovingly chronicled this revealing
biography of one of New Wave’s most endearing characters. Collated from
a broad range of friends, family and former band mates, the book ends
with a meet with the man himself prior to his sad death in March 2000.
Obscure pub rockers Kilburn & The High Roads are here – as are the band
we all know and love, The Blockheads, Detail is painstakingly
researched, ‘though not without error: “The Stranglers had been
formed by Hugh Cornwell, Jean Jacques Burnel and Jet Black, after they
met at college in 1974…”
Should have come to us for Stranglers’ formation facts! As Ian may
himself be saying: “Oi! Oi!”
Canvey Island’s high octane R&B band Dr. Feelgood stormed the mid 70’s
pub rock scene and took on the world, unknowingly paving the way for
Punk with their hard, uncompromising sound and style. Down By The Jetty
author Tony Moon (initiator of Strangled fanzine) writes with fluency
and affection about his first love, with the co-operation of all band
members, past and present. Damned fans might be forgiven for thinking
the front cover is a Grave Disorder rip-off; it’s the same artist, Vince
Ray. Recommended purchase.
More Heroes - the complete history of UK punk 1976 - 1980
A good reference book for all old punks, profiles of over 400 bands
including an extensive chapter on the Stranglers. The author is a bit of
fan of the band and for once they get a good press! Highly recommended -