There Goes The Charabang: The Stranglers in Iceland

There Goes The Charabang

Jill Furmanovsky
© 2019 Hanging Around Books

Jill writes: "The two-day trip to Iceland was certainly one of the most unusual press junkets I’ve ever attended. On May 2nd around 50 of us left Heathrow Airport on a chartered plane heading for Reykjavik’s Keflavik Airport. Over the next 48 hours, the party seemed to be constantly on the move in our designated Stranglers bus. There was a press conference where the gathered Icelandic journalists failed to ask a single question, a play-back of the new album at an out of season, snow-starved ski resort, visits to volcanic springs, pony trekking and photo shoots with the band in a bleak but striking landscape comprising of solidified lava and glaciers. Pennie Smith (my esteemed colleague from the NME) and I managed to get the band to ourselves for a short period and many of the images featured here are from that time away from the press pack.

Finally, one of our party made the error of challenging Jean-Jacques Burnel to a drinking competition. While Burnel’s bottle of VAT 69 whisky contained water, the journalist’s did not. The result was the comatose loser being confined to a wheelchair and despite the band wheeling him to check-in, boarding the return flight to London was refused. He was left behind to sober up – yet another journalist falling victim to gentle retribution from The Stranglers."

Available HERE

57 Varieties of Talk Soup

57 Varieties cover

Barry Cain
© 2016 Red Planet Books

Does what it says on the tin...

BARRY CAIN IS a soup-erstar! Here he continues his tasty music memoirs on from '77 Sulphate Strip with his enviable and unique knack for bashing out a smart sentence as others waste paragraphs trying. Again at breakneck speed, Barry rips through the late Seventies to the late Eighties as Record Mirror and Flexipop journalist, publisher and PR man to the stars with insightful interviews as Barry self-deprecatingly and hilariously lifts the lid on the rock, punk and pop entities of the day. What's more, you feel like you're there. Once again with a cool title - christened by Mr. Lydon - Strangled can't recommend 57 Varieties of Talk Soup enough. If Life's a Minestrone, then this is a filling, satisfying 362 pages of Heinz Big Soup. Go out and get it. You won't regret it. It's hard to put down, once shaken vigorously and opened with care. Strangled's BOOK OF THE YEAR!

Ingredients: The Stranglers, 10cc, Andy Williams, The Damned, Bethnal, Blondie, Boney M, Bob Marley, Dan Hartman, Bruce Springsteen, David Essex, David Johansen, Don McLean, Devo, Earth Wind & Fire, Dr Feelgood, Frank Warren, Ian Dury, Gerry Rafferty, Inner Circle, Joan Armatrading, Kevin Keegan, Madness, Malcolm McLaren, Meat Loaf, Mike Oldfield, Mink De Ville, Motorhead, Paul Cook, Pere Ubu, Public Image Ltd, Queen, Smokie, Sham 69, Squeeze, Steve Jones, Sting, The Beach Boys, The Buzzcocks, The Clash, Bill Shankly, The Jam, The Selecter, The The Shangri-Las, X-Ray Spex, Thin Lizzy, AC/DC, Alex Harvey, Barry White, Blue Oyster Cult, Hot Gossip, Iggy Pop, John Miles, Linda McCartney, Marc Bolan, Paul McCartney, Ronnie Wood, Sex Pistols, Sylvester, Spandau Ballet, The Hollies, Adam and The Ants, The Specials, The Village People, UFO, The Who, Wayne Fontana and Whitesnake.

Available HERE

Peaches: a Chronicle of The Stranglers 1974-1990

Peaches cover

Robert Endeacott
© 2014 Soundcheck Books

Nice 'n' Easy read...

BOB HAS AMASSED input from other Stranglers fans and played of dozens of live gig tapes to make a choking good read, focused on Hugh Cornwell's ever changing lyric swap on the many live versions of Peaches: "I could think of a lot worse places to be..." and Hugh fills the gap, mostly linked to the venue location and always witty. Is it a book for the completist? Possibly, and you may think 1974 is a bit far to go back to considering us fans only get to know about the band in 1977. But it's all here in diary-look format, right up to Hugh's departure in 1990. In fact, Bob has made all 180 pages a nice light read you can pick and put down time after time. Factually, it's near-perfect!

Available HERE

Seven Days In Nice

Seven Days In Nice

Jet Black
© 2011 Coursegood Books

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 in cheek:

‘The walls were predictably covered in graffiti, mostly in French and Arabic. What a drag, I can’t even get a laugh out of the graffiti.’

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 differently?

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 bank vault.

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 Stranglers.

Available HERE

Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado ABout Nothing

Jet Black
© 1981 SIS

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 incarceration:

‘I was not depressed as I had many brushes with the law as a Strangler.’

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.

A captivatingly good read.

Inside Information

Inside Information

Hugh Cornwell
© 1980 SIS

‘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 car.’

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.’

In the 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 a guitar.

‘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.

’77 Sulphate Strip

'77 Sulphate Strip

Barry Cain
© 2007 Ovolo ISBN: 978-0-9548674-9-2

‘Strangled’s ‘must get’ book of the year…’

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.

Available HERE

Hugh Cornwell: The Hooverdam Companion

Hooverdam Companion

Chris Wade
© Wisdom Twins Books: WT001

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 screening.

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 surely?

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 shoddy presentation.

Hooverdam Companion back

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.

2012 Edition available HERE

The Best Of The Stranglers

>The Best Of The Stranglers

© 2008 Music Sales Own ISBN: 978-1847724939

Features lyrics and guitar tabs to nineteen Stranglers tunes including Grip, Hanging Around, Nuclear Device, Let Me Down Easy and Norfolk Coast.

Available HERE

The Stranglers: Song By Song

The Stranglers: Song By Song

Hugh Cornwell and Jim Drury
© 2001 Sanctuary ISBN: 978-1860743627

An enthralling insight into the stories behind each Stranglers song. Recommended, in fact, essential reading, even though Hugh had to take out all the song lyrics...

Available HERE

The Men They Love To Hate

The Men They Love To Hate

Chris Twomey
© 1992 EMI The Old Testament CD box set CDSTRANG1

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

No Mercy

David Buckley
© 1997 Hodder & Stoughton ISBN: 0 340 68062 8

Informative read, in what should have been the definitive Stranglers tome, amid claims of unfair bias against Hugh, and Buckley’s detracted writing, Essential purchase, nevertheless.

A Multitude of Sins: Golden Brown, The Stranglers and Strange Little Girls

A Multitude of Sins

Hugh Cornwell
© 2004 Harper Collins ISBN: 0 00 719082 4

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.

Available HERE

Punk Rock: An Oral History

Punk Rock

John Robb
© 2006 Ebury Press ISBN: 0091905117

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.'

"Punk 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.

Available HERE

Sex & Drugs & Rock 'n' Roll: The Life of Ian Dury

Ian Dury

Richard Balls
© 2011 Omnibus Press (3rd Revised edition) ISBN: 978-1849387729

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!”

Available HERE

Down by the Jetty: The "Dr Feelgood" Story

Down by the Jetty

Tony Moon
© 2010 Grand Records (3rd Revised edition edition) ISBN: 978-0956460004

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.

Available HERE

No More Heroes - the complete history of UK punk 1976 - 1980

No More Heroes

Alex Ogg
© 2006 Cherry Red ISBN 978-1901447651

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 - James Greenfield.

Available HERE

Have we missed out anything? Want to add your resume?