The Stranglers – live at The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto Ontario – April 14, 1978 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
The Stranglers in a (reasonably) early concert this week; performing live at The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto on April 11, 1978.
From 1976 the Stranglers became associated with the burgeoning punk rock movement, due in part to their opening for the first British tours of American punks the Ramones and Patti Smith. Notwithstanding this association, some of the movement’s champions in the British musical press viewed the band with suspicion on account of their age and musical virtuosity and the intellectual bent of some of their lyrics. However, Burnel was quoted saying, “I thought of myself as part of punk at the time because we were inhabiting the same flora and fauna … I would like to think the Stranglers were more punk plus and then some.”
The band’s early albums, Rattus Norvegicus, No More Heroes and Black and White, all released within a period of 13 months, were highly successful with the record-buying public and singles such as “Peaches”, “Something Better Change” and “No More Heroes” became instant punk classics. Meanwhile, the band received a mixed reception from some critics because of their apparent sexist and racist innuendo. However, critic Dave Thompson argued that such criticism was oblivious to the satire and irony in the band’s music, writing: “the Stranglers themselves revelled in an almost Monty Python-esque grasp of absurdity (and, in particular, the absurdities of modern ‘men’s talk’).” These albums went on to build a strong fan-following, but the group’s confrontational attitude towards the press was increasingly problematic and triggered a severe backlash when Jean-Jacques Burnel, a martial arts enthusiast, punched music journalist Jon Savage during a promotional event.
In February 1978 the Stranglers began a mini-tour, playing three secret pub gigs as a thank-you to those venues and their landlords for their support during the band’s rise to success. The first was at The Duke of Lancaster in New Barnet on Valentine’s Day, with further performances at The Red Cow, Hammersmith, and The Nashville Rooms, West Kensington, in early September.
During their appearance at the University of Surrey on the BBC TV program Rock Goes to College on 19 October 1978, the group walked off stage because an agreement to make tickets available to non-university students had not been honored.
In the later half of the 1970s, The Stranglers toured Japan twice, joining the alternative music scene of Tokyo, which was evolving from the punk sound of Kyoto-based band 村八分 (Ostracism), whose music influence spread to Tokyo in 1971. The Stranglers were the only foreign band to take part in a landmark scene focussed around S-KEN Studio in Roppongi, and The Loft venues in Shinjuku and Shimokitazawa from 1977 to 1979. The scene included bands such as Friction, and they became friends with the band, Red Lizard, who they invited back to London, where the band became known as Lizard. In 1979, while still in Japan, Burnel also became close friends with Keith, co-founder and drummer for ARB. At the end of 1983, ARB’s bassist was imprisoned, leaving the band with a problem for their forthcoming tour. Burnel took time out from The Stranglers to fly out to Japan at short notice and join ARB to cover the tour, including appearing at the ‘All Japan Rock Festival’ at Hibaya park, becoming the first non-Japanese to ever appear at the festival. Burnel toured with ARB for 5 weeks and played on two studio tracks, “Yellow Blood” and “Fight it Out”, both of which appeared on the RCA Victor ARB album Yellow Blood.
For a sample of the band during their landmark 1978 period, crank up this concert from Toronto in 1978 and enjoy the high-voltage energy coming from your speakers.