Stiff Little Fingers – Live at Paris Theatre, London – April 25, 1981 – BBC Radio 1 –
Stiff Little Fingers in concert this week. Recorded live at the BBC’s Paris Theatre in London on April 25, 1981 by the venerable BBC Radio for In Concert.
Prior to becoming Stiff Little Fingers, Jake Burns, vocals and guitar, Henry Cluney, guitar, Gordon Blair, bass, and Brian Faloon, drums, were playing in a rock music cover band, Highway Star, in Belfast. Upon the departure of Blair (who went on to play with another Belfast group, Rudi), Ali McMordie took over on bass. Cluney had by this time discovered punk, and introduced the rest of the band to it. They decided that Highway Star was not a punk enough name, and after a brief flirtation with the name “The Fast”, decided to call themselves Stiff Little Fingers, after The Vibrators song, which appears on the album Pure Mania.
Stiff Little Fingers, especially the lead singer and main songwriter Jake Burns, were heavily influenced by The Clash’s first album. “What the Clash’s first album did more than anything else was give me the confidence , through its lyrical subject matter, to realise it was OK to write about my own life and experiences” (Jake Burns, Stiff Little Fingers). The group started to write songs about growing up in the Troubles in late 1970’s Northern Ireland. Among the first Stiff Little Fingers songs were “State of Emergency” and “Breakout”.
“Suspect Device” was released in February 1978. A copy of the single was sent to John Peel. He played it repeatedly leading to a distribution deal through Rough Trade. The single was released on the band’s own Rigid Digits label, re-released a month later with the support of Rough Trade records and sold over 30,000 copies.
Live footage of SLF performing “Suspect Device” at Belfast’s Pound Club on 17 January 1978 – the first time the group played the song live – appeared in an Ulster TV Revue programme ‘It Makes You Want to Spit’ about punk in Belfast. The programme was broadcast on 6 March 1978.
SLF built up a big following among young people in Belfast: “As a 14 or 15-year-old schoolboy back in the late Seventies, I wasn’t at all concerned with who had written (or contributed to) the lyrics of their songs. To me, it was crystal clear that the band meant what they were singing and even better, they were singing about my life and offering me alternative points of view. Their initial burst of raw energy on the Ulster Punk scene was captivating and as soon as they transferred that energy to vinyl they were truly off and running.” (Sean O’Neill, co-author of It Makes You Want To Spit – The Definitive Guide to Punk in N.Ireland).
In 1982 came a 4-song EP called £1.10 or Less and their fourth studio album, Now Then… (actually their fifth album, as they had released a live LP, Hanx, as their official third album between Nobody’s Heroes and Go for It). Now Then was the first album for former Tom Robinson band’s drummer Dolphin Taylor. In the face of low sales and concert attendances, they broke up in 1983, when Burns said: “Our last LP Now Then was to my mind the best album we have made. But it is also unfortunately the best I think we will ever make. So I have decided to call it a day”. The band later revealed the original split had been somewhat acrimonious, with band members apparently having fistfights rather than talking through their differences.
In 1987 the band reformed. Despite some critics who had said “Nobody would be interested in coming to see you” the band had a successful tour including Germany with shows selling out night after night. The band changed their plan of it just being a temporary re-union and decided it was to be permanent and they been reunited and performing ever since.
For a reminder of the earlier period, here is that Paris Theatre gig (four songs from it) as it was recorded on April 25, 1981.
Crank it up.
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