THE SUPPORT SLOT can be a double-edged sword for many lesser known acts backing the big boys onstage. Exposure to a broad audience can be just the break - or breaking point - a band needs (or doesn't).
But no support act wants to play the potter's wheel interlude to a disinterested and restless mob. Or even bottled off, like Johnny Rubbish. Or do main acts really want their special guests to be too special?
I gigged in a band where we played second fiddle to one of these big boys: we sat for an hour and a half on top of instrument cases waiting for our wonderful headliners to perform their ENTIRE SET FOR THEIR SOUNDCHECK! With no time to do ours, the lights went up and we blew them offstage! But it's not always the way as Gary Kent discovers with these Stranglers back-up bands:
Rubber blubber blackout…
You could say 1980 was quite an eventful year for The Stranglers: a drugs bust, crowd riots in Nice, two prison spells, a cancelled tour of the Far East - and their lorry-load of uninsured equipment (the policy was later found to be invalid) gets swiped during first their US tour for two years. With hired gear, they played out the eight-week trip in the face of adversity.
Support slot for the Dallas gig was nascent Texan New Wavers - The Telefones – and comprised of brothers Jerry Dirkx (guitar/vocals), Chris Dirkx (drums) and Steve Dirkx (bass) plus sax/synth player Will Clay. According to this email just in – the gig did not pass without incident:
My name is Chris, and I played drums in a Dallas, TX band named The Telefones back in the day. We opened for The Stranglers at the Hot Klub in Dallas, around 1980. Do you guys remember that gig at all? Here’s one thing that might spur your memory. I also played in a punk band called the Teenage Queers, during that time. Our "illustrious" lead singer named Bobby Soxx (RIP), had a drunken brawl with one of your crew, and was kicked out of the club after slamming a bottle over his head backstage. That was ugly to witness, by the way. Bobby then proceeded to knife the tires of your equipment truck. Unfortunately, I heard the mischief going on outside, but before I could stop him, the deed was done. Sorry! Yeah, the guy was a few cans short of a 6 pack. I split the scene buzzed and with some folks, and went on about my way. But I am curious as to what happened to you guys and your truck after that. Can you tell me your side? And does anyone have any pictures of that night?
If ex-crew members recall the night, email us. Meanwhile, the ‘Fones went on to release a brace of LPs before the line went dead. Final word comes from drummer Chris:
PS - love the site! I happened upon it as I was searching for anything on one my fave ska groups from the time – Headline - who, unfortunately (or fortunately) didn't make it to Dallas, that I am aware of. By the way – The Stranglers f**kin rocked that night!
U2 me are everything…
Bono no doubt recalls the political situation in Ireland back in 1978 – notably backstage at the Top Hat Ballroom in home town Dublin. But the world’s biggest rock band were just an another aspirant, unearthed combo back then, and in support of The Stranglers who, not only turned up late, but proceeded to enjoy the luxury of an over extended sound check. (Ooh, that sounds familiar - Ed.) Not only that, but the support band realised there wasn’t a dressing room for them - and the headliners had two. Enraged at having to use a changing space behind the Marshall cabs, U2 came onstage, and guitarist Edge breaks a string during the opening number which throws all the tuning out of kilter. Afterwards, Bono burst backstage to remonstrate with our man Burnel:
“What’s all this ‘No More Heroes’ bullshit? Do you know what we’ve just gone through - and do you give a fuck?”
An Unforgettable Fire raged. Heated philosophy prevailed in the ensuing debate… but according to one key band witness, the mullet-donning vocalist beat a hasty retreat with tail firmly tucked between Cuban-heeled pins. On the way out Bono cheekily swipes a bottle of wine from the next room. Little did he know this was the Green Room – a space easily adapted into support band dressing room and after-show den of drunken debauchery. All That You Can’t Leave Behind was literally round the corner, in the shape of 75cl bottle of white for the bus journey home. Did Bono feel Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of..? Word has it Bono met wife #1 at a Stranglers gig? Aawww… now that’s The Sweetest Thing!
Official U2 Website HERE
Re viva revolution!
An eclectic array of special guest fluffers to The Stranglers range from enchanting snake charmers to some questionably funny alternative comedians – and from dodgy dance troops to bands you probably ended up embracing forever. Although the incident involving Bambi the Transvestite was one TV ‘appearance’ The Stranglers might wanna forget! Ball-breaking Goldblade however, bagged many new fans on the Norfolk Coast tour...
Old-style punks prove guitars and microphones are not toys.
IF YOU HAVEN’T seen Goldblade, you need to.
Stoically hoisting the Punk Rock flag in the 21st century, Goldblade use their instruments like weapons of mass destruction - ticking the right boxes and making all the right noises. Based around the mid-girth of England, ex-Membrane John Robb leads a pack of rebel-rousing sky-punching pec-beating rock ‘n’ rollers. They are also EXTREMELY LOUD! Just behind Johny Skullknuckle’s extensive sideburns, I spot fluorescent earplugs in situ. I look around and half the crowd are donning them too. What with Brother John’s sandpaper timbre Panzer-attack on the mic, it’s no wonder I lose my hearing for three days!
But in the post-gig foyer, it is hard to believe it’s the same John: this one’s quietly chewing the cud, chuckling and exchanging pleasantries with strangers who pat him on the back, saying: “You’re the best Stranglers support band ever!” This dictum of approval is repeated over and over by fan upon fan. I lost count how many times it was said at Cambridge’s Corn Exchange.
“Every gig was great,” says mob orator Brother John. “It was a great tour - and I loved every minute of it!”
Along with the sonic health warning, Goldblade should come with a no-quibbles, money-back guarantee. A pure Punk rock catharsis of Oi! with Rockabilly culture mashed up in a molten amalgam of the finest bits of The Clash, The Stooges, Sham 69 – and Crass, even. But unlike the latter, Goldblade’s insane live shows are friendly - sweat-soaked and frenetic all the same – with John’s incitement of the front row mosh by high-fives and reeling in and out of the microphone into the chanting disciples’ mouths. This is what it’s all about – with catchy anthem-busting tunes. And yes, I DO believe in the power of rock ‘n’ roll! What a team they make: hooky, lunatic riffs courtesy of Pete G.E.O.R.G.E.O.U.S and the aforementioned Skullknuckles – with drummer Rob Haynes teasing us with the opening beat to ‘Nice ‘n’ Sleazy’ (he even did a nifty ‘Peasant In The Big Shitty’ especially for me at Bilston last year, complete with Keith Curtiss’ bass.) These guys are in it for the crack and it shows in every show.
While John works his nuts off for the masses, he is also no stranger to media: a former Sounds scribe as well as author to the amazing tome: ‘An Oral History of Punk Rock’ - and contributor to The Burning Up Times. Many also know him as a TV presenter and the smartest talking head in “TV’s Top 10…” nostalgia series; possessing Superhero chiselled-cheekbones your average telly presenter, actor or model, would surely die for.
“JJ was only practising – but you wouldn’t wanna cross the feller!”
And The Stranglers love Goldblade: one night, JJ Burnel hurls John across the floor in a friendly backstage muckabout. Luckily, JJ was displaying his nouveau 6th Dan Black Belt expertise. Muscle-toned John is a keen exponent of martial arts himself, but his take on the event had some Grasshopper-style advice for the uninitiated:
[LOL] “Yeah, yeah – JJ was only practising – but you wouldn’t wanna cross the feller!”
With more gigs in the pipeline, more tunes on the way festivals lined up, John sums up the Norfolk Coast Tour of 2004:
“The Stranglers are a cool bunch of people. I’d already met them a couple of times interviewing them so I knew they would be. They were very easy to tour with, making sure we had a proper soundcheck every night. (That’s the spirit! – Ed.) You might be disappointed to hear that there was absolutely no bullshit! They were totally decent blokes, very easy going. Most nights they were not around too much as they would do their soundcheck and go back to the hotel, coming back to the gig and kick ass onstage and leave. But we did bump into them a few times and have a laugh, with some good chats about Stranglers stuff. They were really on fire on that tour as well. Norfolk Coast had just come out and everyone knew it was their best album for years, so there a celebratory feel about the whole affair. Stranglers fans were cool as well - they gave us plenty of space to do our thing, and it could have been difficult, but they were very open, and we met a lot of really cool people on that tour.”
There you have it. Goldblade are great – The Stranglers are cool. What else do you need to know?