At the start of 1979, the band ventured further afield to tour some new territories as well as working on solo projects. Towards the middle the year, they were keen to get back to their UK audience and also to air new tracks from their forthcoming studio album.
Two large dates, one at a Scottish festival and the other at a stadium as guests to The Who, gave them the opportunity to do just that…
History – Summer ’79 gigs
Back in mid ’79, the band returned to the UK live scene for their first gigs since the Black and White tour in the autumn of 1978. They played two gigs- the first at the Loch Lomond festival in Scotland in May and the second as part of the bill of guests for The Who’s Wembley Stadium gig in August. They debuted brand new material from the yet-to-be released album The Raven at these gigs.
It was early 1979 and, having witnessed my first two Stranglers gigs the previous year at Stafford Bingley Hall in May and Sheffield Top Rank in September, I was eager, no desperate, for more…
Gig wise, it had been all quiet on the UK front. The band had toured both Japan and Australia earlier in the year and JJ’s Euroman Cometh solo tour had taken place in April, but there had been no Stranglers’ gigs in Britain.
Then came the good news! The press announced that The Stranglers were to headline the first ever Loch Lomond festival on May 26th. So, that’s it, my mind was made up. I was off to Scotland!
I needed someone to go with… My immediate friends didn’t really fancy it so I asked a lad I know called Lorne (a regular on the punk scene in Derby) and he agreed to go.
It was late evening when we caught the train to Crewe to get the connection for Glasgow. It was about 10 at night as we arrived in Crewe and had a few hours to wait as the Glasgow train wasn’t until the early hours, so we waited in the cafe/bar. There seemed to be quite a few others who were going to the festival as well, the majority appeared to be a bit older than us (we were only 17!) and quite a few looked like they’d been enjoying the refreshments–if you know what I mean.
We set off in the early hours bound for Glasgow Central. It was a slow train with several stops and a couple of lads (whose names I forget) got on at Wigan and they sat with us. They were both the same age as us and big Stranglers fans so we decided to stick together. We arrived in Glasgow at about 6 in the morning, it was quite busy with plenty of festival goers waiting for the train to Balloch, which is about 15 miles away.
Once we got to Balloch, we had a walk around the village and then went on to the festival site. The gates opened about midday and I had never been to anything like that before. It was a bit of an eye opener!
The bands started about 2 o’clock. First up was Blood Donor, followed by Hi-Jacks then Edge-I didn’t know a lot about these bands and the crowd was pretty quiet. The weather was shit too and it had already rained a couple of times! Next up was Glaswegian band Sneaky Pete, they weren’t too bad actually. We made our way to the front as the UK Subs were on next–I had seen them a few times and they had quite a good following in Derby having played several gigs in the city. Some of our Derby friends had formed the band Anti-Pasti and they had toured as support to the Subs a few times. That was more like it! A cracking set from the Subs and the crowd had certainly livened up. On next were the Dickies– I don’t know too much about them either, but they went down well. There was another downpour but we’d got to the front so we weren’t losing our place before the Stranglers came on. Third World appeared next and, considering it was probably not their sort of audience, they went down quite well.
It was absolutely pissing down just as the Skids came on. Most of the crowd stayed in place and witnessed a cracking show, the best of the day so far. They played ‘Into The Valley’ and ‘Masquerade’ and the crowd really went for it. Only one more band before The Stranglers, namely Dr. Feelgood, who were pretty good and played a very lively set which the crowd really enjoyed.
Then went off at about 9.30. We were all wet, tired and hungry but what we were there for was about to happen…
Finally, at 21.45, the lights dimmed and on came Dave a few seconds ahead of the rest of the band to great cheers from the crowd, which was about 20,000. Hugh, who’s was wearing an extremely baggy pair of trousers, informed us that ‘This is a warm up gig so you’d better warm up’-if only we could have done! Myself and Lorne only had the clothes we were wearing and they’d been soaked a couple of times, but we were all packed in tight and were raring to go.
Jet started proceedings with what was obviously a new one with a rather different drum beat and which was sung by Dave. The track was called Genetix with some great guitar work from Hugh, it speeded up towards the end with a superb bass solo from JJ. Great start to the gig. Next up was Burning Up Time swiftly followed by I Feel Like A Wog. The crowd loved it. Hugh took off his guitar and put on a bass–very strange– it was another new one, sung by Hugh, called Dead Los Angeles.
Then Dave was back on the mic for Peasant In The Big Shitty and, as it finished, JJ launched straight into the classic intro for No More Heroes and the crowd really went for it. As everyone was wet from the earlier rain, huge clouds of steam rose up into the air.
JJ stepped up to the mic for another new one with a bass intro, joined by Jet then in came Hugh and Dave. Intricate guitar weavings from Hugh and superb keyboard runs from Dave–JJ was actually singing. It was called The Raven and ended with Dave’s keyboards swirling away.
All the individual instruments could be heard clearly but blended together superbly. If that was to be the future, then I couldn’t wait! It was definitely more melodic and, although musically The Stranglers were always ahead of their contemparies, this took them to another level.
Then, just to remind us why we loved them so much in the first place, it was my personal all time favourite–Down In The Sewer. Absolutely brilliant, Hugh and JJ stalked the front of the stage staring menacingly into the crowd.
Hugh quipped ‘There’s a lot more to come yet…’ After they’d showcased those new tracks, we then got a great blast of the first three albums and the crowd loved it! Next it was Bring On The Nubiles and Dead Ringer and then it was on to Black and White with Do You Wanna and Death and Night and Blood. The steam started to rise again… Straighten Out was next, which is the track that started my love affair with this remarkable band, I loved it and didn’t want the set to end…
Then it was back to Black and White again, with Nice n Sleazy, with its great bass and synths, followed by a powerful version of Tank. Hugh asked ‘Are there any Welsh Cypriots out there? If there are, this is for you’ and they launched into Sweden. They slowed it down a bit with the ever brilliant Threatened. It was the energy and power that first attracted me to this band, but I will always love this slower but still extremely powerful track.
Jet started thudding his bass drum and in they all came for Five Minutes. JJ was at full throttle and we even got some special effects as a few explosions went off. Next up was Curfew with the intro, a la Battersea Park, starting slowly and gradually building up. JJ really gave it some with plenty of one legged posing. For me, this track is simply brilliant.
Unfortunately we were nearing the end of the set and off they went. The crowd then started to chant ‘STRANGLERS, STRANGLERS!’ and, after a couple of minutes, they were back and went straight into the superb intro for Hanging Around. Talking of superb intros, next was another one-Toiler On The Sea. There were yet more special effects with fireworks and searchlights as the band left stage one by one. JJ disappeared off the side of the stage still playing, Hugh then departed followed by Dave, his synths were still swilrling away just leaving Jet playing the last few beats.
Now that really was it. We were wet, sweaty, tired, hungry and thirsty but it had been an absolutely brilliant ninety minutes or so. It was then time to head home, it was a two day festival but we weren’t remotely interested what was on offer the following day.
So, it was home time and we stupidly decided to walk/hitch back to Glasgow –why I really don’t know–not a very wise move! After a couple of miles, I managed to flag a taxi down and we arrived at Central station in the early hours. We grabbed a few hours sleep on a bench before our train back to Derby via Crewe again. We got back to Derby at about 5 in the afternoon, absolutely knackered having not had a decent sleep since the Thursday night but it had been well worth it and I was already eagerly awaiting the next gig.
The more I saw them, the more I loved this band. Could we have some more please? Where would be next? The band went off to record the new album then announced they were going to support The Who at Wembley Stadium on August 18th. A good friend Steve agreed to come with me and we sent away for tickets which cost £8.
Wembley Stadium, London 18th August 1979
Match day – the team line up outside Wembley
The Saturday morning arrived and we caught the train to London along with a large crew of the Derby punks that were off to see UK Subs, who were playing in Camden the same night. They gave us a bit of stick for actually going to see The Stranglers, but it was all good natured banter. I actually liked a lot of punk bands but had long decided the boys in black were the ones for me.
We got to Wembley Stadium early afternoon, as the gates opened at 2, so we could get to the front. As we walked around, we get stopped by a guy who had come over from Italy for the gig. He informed us his favourite band was The Stranglers followed by Crass-quite a difference don’t you think! We managed to get to the front but couldn’t see a great deal of the stage. I stood on the barriers and looked back at the crowd–WOW! There was just a sea of people.
First on at 4 o’clock was Nils Lofgren–who I’d never heard of –and I’ve not heard much of him since. Next on were AC/DC. I didn’t really like heavy rock, but I must admit they put on a heck of a show. At one stage Angus dissapeared off the stage and was next seen on a roadie’s shoulders storming up the terraces still playing away.
It was nearly time for The Stranglers and I looked around the crowd. There were quite a few clad in black but the crowd must’ve been 90% there for The Who and I wondered what sort of response they would get.
Phil’s photos from Wembley-talk about restricted view!
At 6.30 they appeared on the stage. We could hardly see Dave or Jet and couldn’t see a great deal of Hugh and JJ either! Anyway, Dave got the show going and was quickly joined by the others. It was a new one called Nuclear Device quite fast and powerful–as Jet finished he then went straight into the more familiar Genetix, it was very impressive again with JJ’s superb bass at the end. There wasn’t a great response from the crowd, but we weren’t really surprised.
JJ set off with the familiar intro that we’d heard at Loch Lomond for The Raven. Great keys and guitar work and again ending with Dave’s synths swirling away. Brilliant, those new tracks were different to what us Stranglers fans had been used to, but the end result was the same– CLASS.
Hugh strapped on the bass for Dead Loss Angeles, which wasn’t as good as The Raven but was still impressive. A few scuffles broke out in the crowd and Hugh said ‘If you want some bother, go to a football match!’ That got a big cheer and slowly, but surely, the crowd seemed to become a bit more appreciative of what the band were trying to do. They weren’t exactly going mad, but any early abuse had stopped and they were starting to get a better response. Next was another new one called Baroque Bordello which was top notch. It was sung by Hugh with all the band playing a big part, but JJ’s bass was amazing.
Well, they’d opened with five tracks from the forthcoming album to a crowd for whom the vast majority had probably only heard Peaches and No More Heroes. It was a brave move but, as I mentioned earlier, the crowd liked what they were hearing. A bit of an oldie came next, the ever brilliant Tank, which was delivered superbly.
Then they were back to new tracks, with Shah Shah A Go Go, sung by Hugh which started with Dave wailing into the mic. JJ and Dave came in and were then joined by Hugh and Jet, great stuff. The more I heard of those new songs, the more I liked them. As Shah ended, it led into the next song Ice, which was sung by JJ and I mean SUNG! It wasn’t as immediate as the other new tracks but was still very likeable.
Next came Down In The Sewer, need I say more! Hugh and JJ prowled the front of the stage as it gradually built it up to that wonderful crescendo with JJ’s bass and Dave’s great solo. Brilliant! Then it was Bring On The Nubiles. Trust The Stranglers to play that song somewhere like Wembley stadium in front of 80,000 people–classic!
Hugh then said ‘This is about my old duch’, introducing the new single Duchess, which was a short and quite ‘pop’ sounding track. Then JJ came near to the front of the stage and started thudding away on his bass. He was joined one by one by the others for the superb intro to Toiler On The Sea. What a brilliant ending to a brilliant hour of entertainment. Then fireworks started going off, some even spelt ‘The Stranglers’ and formed a firey image of the raven’s head.
That was it. There was no encore, there was probably too much smoke around anyway! It had been a bold move to play all that new and unheard material to somebody else’s audience. Judging by the reaction though, it had paid off and even warranted good reviews in the music press.
So with that, Steve and I were off. We didn’t stay to see The Who–no thanks. We made our way up to Camden to join up with the rest of the Derby lads to see UK Subs. From Wembley Stadium to Camden, it had been a very varied day but absolutely fantastic.
A short but poor quality clip from Wembley Stadium that day is available here
So, in a pair of gigs, playing to a festival crowd and another band’s audience, The Stranglers had debuted 8 of the 11 tracks from their forthcoming album. It was an audacious move especially considering they pretty much avoided playing any ‘hits’ either (the exception being Heroes at Loch Rock). They even decided to segue some of the new tracks together! Barely a month after the Wembley gig, The Raven was unleashed on the world…
Thanks again to Phil for his memories (and his memorabilia!).
The band’s eye view…