One of the tunes I use when warming up prior to rehearsal or practice is this one. Only the intro, but it gets the fingers and hands moving well I think. The sound is unmistakably The Stranglers, and is a really dirty, grungy tone which I love. I’ve written before about how much I like JJ Burnel’s playing, and this is one of the classic examples that illustrate why. The first few notes are enough to give me goosebumps. I hope you enjoy it too!
I didn’t get to post this last night as it was pretty late by the time we got home. Dee and I had been to see The Stranglers, who were playing much of their album Black and White on this tour. Regular readers will know that I’m a big fan of JJ Burnel, bassist with The Stranglers, and he didn’t disappoint last night. I can honestly say that it’s the first time I’ve felt my nostrils close due to the bass vibrations! It was weird but awesome at the same time, and only for about 30 seconds during one song.
The support act was The Alarm, who I’d last seen back in the 80s. Mike Peters, their lead singer, was still flying the flag and going strong. I’d seen him sing with Big Country several years ago, but it was good to see him belting out his own tunes again.
By a weird coincidence, the last time I saw SLF in Glasgow before last week was in 1983: The Alarm were their support that night. Don’t you just love this circular world we live in? :O)
OK, so last week I wrote about having an earworm which was all about The Stranglers and JJ Burnel’s basslines in particular. The only way I could stop it was by playing a lot of their songs and booking tickets to see them next month. Tonight I’ve just started several earworms off at once.
I went to see The Blockheads at their first gig this year. It’s fair to say it was an intimate venue, and I was by no means the oldest person in the audience! Three words to explain the earworms which I know are coming: Norman Watt-Roy. Much as I love SLF and Ali McMordie’s playing, and JJ Burnel’s basslines for The Stranglers, I’m left in total awe of Norman’s energy, fretwork, speed and accuracy. As you can see from today’s image, I struggled to get a picture where his hands weren’t a blur! I do wonder sometimes whether he regrets having written such complicated and beautiful riffs in his youth.
If you’ve not heard much of The Blockheads (with or without Ian Dury), I can recommend starting off with Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick (which has been on my Bucket List of basslines to play and I can’t even get close), Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll, What a Waste and Reasons to be Cheerful. Those and others are going to be rolling round in my head for quite a while I think!
As a band they obviously love what they do, and there’s a lot of interaction between the various members. There were a couple of hiccups but they dealt with them really well, laughing and joking with each other while continuing to knock out brilliant (and very familiar) tunes. As Dee said, it’s a bit surreal watching people you’d heard in your teens or even younger, some 30 or more years later, but they were brilliant!
Ever had an ear worm? Not the invertebrate kind, but the piece of music that just goes round in your head and you can’t get rid of it? I’ve had one for the past couple of days, or rather, I’ve had a selection, all from The Stranglers.
While listening to a couple of tracks with Dee the other day, I apparently became very animated and passionate about the music. Maybe it’s because I insisted on playing (Get A) Grip (On Yourself) pretty loud, or because I was singing along to it, but I think what clinched it was the fact that I really love the following lines:
Stranger from another planet, welcome to our hole
Just strap on your guitar, and we’ll play some rock and roll
It’s hard to believe that any beings would travel the vast distances across space and time to visit us (sorry, but my logical, rational mind takes over sometimes), and a) they would have a guitar where they were from and b) they’d know how to play it! But if you suspend that belief for a bit isn’t it a wonderful thought? Music makes the world go round, all cultures have it, so why not extra terrestrials too?
As well as the lyrics, I think The Stranglers have been as successful and are as good because their keyboard sound is so very distinctive and leading edge. I’d go as far as to say that Dave Greenfield (the keyboard player) was one of the first experimental synthesiser players, pushing the boundaries with weird sounds and effects (just listen to Waltzinblack for example).
In tandem with the revolutionary keyboard sound and riffs, JJ Burnel’s bass playing is majestic. He has a gritty, dirty, full sound that is just awesome, and on the likes of Walk on By and Mercury Rising it just sets my hairs on end. I’ve tried a number of times to recreate the sound, but without the same bass, valve amps etc it’s practically impossible. Here’s JJ in action, the image has been copied from shukerguitars.co.uk.
Anyhow, if you want to give yourself earworms that’ll stick for days, check out the tracks named above, rejoice in the lyrics, and figure out some suitable songs to play for when that guitar weilding alien arrives!