Three decades of the Meninblack – what more is there to wish for? You’ll be surprised…

Stranglers Longship

The Long
And Short Of It

Strangled’s Inbox always produces entertainment as well as inspiration. Thanks to each and every one of you for your continued feedback and support of Strangled and The Burning Up Times PDFs.

Also, thnks again for your donations which help to keep this ship afloat, and once again, on behalf of Strangled and all who sail in her, a very big thank you!

In the past week or so, a couple of emails have stood out, so we asked the authors if we could publish their missives. And they said yes. Here they are:

“Hi, just wanted to say that ‘The Burning Up Times’ is f*cking brilliant and I hope there'll be more to come... :) Kev”

Short and sweet! And thanks for the PayPal donation, Kevin! Now Chris types in with several points:

“Dear Ed:

Congrats on the Burning Up Times. Having been an original subscriber to Strangled all those years ago, I only discovered this excellent on line variant a few weeks ago and haven't been able to tear myself away since.

Just a quick point: having read the excellent article on Dave Greenfield's keyboard rig in your Second Coming issue, I note your writer refers to the scale Greenfield employs for a line in "Hallow to Our Men" as being eastern sounding (or words to that effect). Whilst I have no quibble with referring to the mode used by Greenfield in this way - it is resonant of Russia / Turkey the Urals (etc) - I also note that there is no mention in your writer's essay of the fact that the keyboard line in question is in fact an obvious lift from an earlier number in the first place! Try giving a listen to the vocal melody line of "Nature Boy" (the Nat King Cole Version) and see what you think. Bit to close for this to be a coincidence to my ear but, unless I've missed it, (quite possible) I've never yet seen reference to this in print.


Hope there are plans for an edition of the Burning Up Times to be devoted to "The Raven". Given your previous issues I imagine this is likely?

Further to this, "Nosferatu" is certainly as deserving as "Euroman" in having an edition devoted to it also when you get around to it.

On this point ("Nosferatu"/"Euroman"), can I just say that, whereas, in my opinion, John Robb is quite correct in his identifying "Black and White" as being one of the first (if not the first) Post Punk album - consider, for example, that the album certainly has its aural foundations (so to speak) in a similar European tonality as that being explored by Bowie throughout the same period (Bowie being one of the Gods of Post Punk of course and perhaps being even more essential at this point than he was through the Punk era per-se) and certainly owes very little - if anything - to the predominant American R+B roots of modern popular music of that (or this) time. However, I would go further than Rob on this issue in believing that "Black and White" shouldn't be held in isolation when considering the import of the Stranglers' work in its significance and import to the Post Punk era. Indeed, I would suggest that the output of the Stranglers, beginning with "Five Minutes, concluding with the final roar of "Hallow To Our Men" and encompassing all singles, their B.Sides and solo work in between is as distinct, original and innovative a body of work as any produced by any artist(s) of the post war era. If these epithets: "distinct", "original", "innovative", are the criteria by which we measure the worth of works of art however it is by the influence on proceeding generations that we seemingly currently measure the worth of the artists themselves in this poptastic world. That we can see many an obvious Beatle's influenced band though, that we can equally see bands who are the clear offspring of, say, the Velvet Underground or the Byrds (these progenitors producing work "distinct", "original" and "Innovative" all) we don't see any lineage from the Stranglers (and certainly not of the era I am discussing) and thus the band is diminished; faded from black to invisible in the public perception.

But this is a slight of hand and has no reflection on the true worth of the work produced in and of itself. Q: remembering that this band was the most successful - in chart terms - of all the Punk Rock bands in "the year of Punk", 1977, when was the last time you remember seeing a full and in depth article on the heyday of the Stranglers in Mojo or Uncut despite the modern fascination with all things "punk"? Q: Now, when was the last time you saw a full and in depth article on the Clash in Mojo or Uncut? D'ya see what I'm getting at? (Just for the record, I love the Clash and I'm aware there was a perceived "pecking order" with the music press even back then - probably running from the Pistols at one end and say, to the rank and file of the Lurkers and the like at the other end. Again, I'm aware too that the Stranglers were usually out of favour with which ever inner circle existed at any given time back in the day also. My point is that in the current era - the post rock era, if you will - when everything depends on an artists critical re-appraisal - the Stranglers still seem to be sidelined and ignored. The practical affect of such disregard of course, is that the work is missed also.

And this is where we are. It's ridiculous! (Perhaps the Stranglers are luckier than the Damned in one respect however: along with The Pistols/ Clash/ Stranglers and Jam, generally considered one of the "Big Five" of the English Punk era, the Damned still have had no serious or "proper" biography written about them)

Now, I'm no sycophant - (at least where the Stranglers are concerned!) I had more or less given up on the band by the time "Dreamtime" was released having experienced diminishing returns since "La Folie" and "Feline" (although, I do actually like those two albums). I have very little interest in the post Hugh Cornwall band (Jesus, who was that "Paul" guy?) and about the same amount of interest in post band work of Hugh Cornwall. I like the first two Stranglers' lps and 1977 singles a lot but the run from "Five Minutes" through to the end of the "Meninblack" material however (again, I stress, inclusive of singles, their B. Sides and the solo work of the era): who ever sounded like this?

I can identify, certain musical roots common to the 1976 / 1977 material for example ("Punked Up" Doors / R+B) and I don't feel it would tax me too much to identify commonalities between the post "Meninblack" era output of the band and the work of other artists either. Between 1978 and 1981 however, work was produced by the Stranglers that - irrespective of changes in studios and production approaches record to record - is not only possessed of a common aesthetic sensibility (Re this: Try using the magic of Apple to compile a play list on your Ipod beginning with "Five Minutes", ending with the last of the "Meninblack" era material - singles/B. sides/solo - and then let the play list play on shuffle. You may (or you may not) be surprised at how cohesively all of this material fits together; there's a very clear dividing line to the output of the band either side of this era I've posited which is quite evident if you try to shoehorn anything more onto the play list outside of the given time frame), but is as unique a catalogue of music as anything produced by any other artist (from any era) producing work normally held up as being "distinct", "Original" and "Innovative".

At a remove of over thirty tears on the low side of the estimate (Jesus! Thirty Years!!!) and with all the politics, back biting and nonsense died down, why this period of originality and essential musical creativity hasn't been acknowledged a number of times in the mainstream music press is beyond me.
It should be a trope by now.

The "Rock 'n' Roll era" being, I believe, largely over (there'll always be popular song of course but I believe Rock 'n' Roll will, with the perspective granted by the passing of time, eventually be seen as an encapsulated and - largely - definable "era" of popular song and concomitant culture covering the four or so decades proceeding the Second World War, just as the "Jazz era" encapsulates a - largely- definable "era") I believe this deserved re-appraisal of (at least) this period of the Stranglers' work will come, If only due to the law of diminishing returns: if Rock is finished then the future of Rock journalism will lay with the likes of Mojo and not the NME after all! (However, given that the staffers that the Stranglers pissed off in the 1970s are possibly all publication editors now the band and fans may have to wait a few decades longer before this re-appraisal comes given the track record so far!!!). And when this re-appraisal does come the work must be seen for what it was. What it is: a sustained peak of creative originality of the highest order; not just internally and in relation to the Stranglers own work but generally and as an example of creative originality that could be thrown into the hat when any discussion on the topic of such arises. Again, I believe that the two solo albums should be essentially included in any consideration of the band's output throughout this period - indeed, for quite some time when I was younger - and much to the annoyance of my mates - I would obstinately insist that I could never decide between "The Raven" or "Nosferatu" whenever asked to chose my favourite Stranglers' album! - as these solo albums are as a part with the actual Stranglers albums and singles of the period, in my opinion, and, collectively, form a coherent body of work.

(N.B.: But my real point, of course, is that I'd like an issue of the Burning Up Times devoted to "Nosferatu" - and a separate issue devoted to "The Raven"...... Any chance?).

Cheers, Chris.”