Friday, 6 November 2015

My People, Not His

The Stranglers - Golden Brown (1982) (Courtesy Wikipedia)

Preamble: This should have been post number one and was the first to be written, but it got forgotten in the process of building a series of early drafts in Notepad++. I do not know how to insert a missing post into the correct place in Blogger.

While having a bath, following a run, I was enjoying a soak in the bubbles and listening to the local radio station when they played Golden Brown by The Stranglers. It was one of the band’s later hit singles from the original Hugh Cornwell line-up, around the time they were becoming more refined and commercial. As a result, there is something incongruous about the abrasive punk band of Nice n Sleazy employing a jangling harpsichord, dreamy vocals and jazz-inspired guitar solo, but it works. Of course The Stranglers rose up on the coat tails of punk, but started out as a hippy band(1) and, even at their commercial peak, employed heavy and progressive elements, such as J.J. Burnel’s strutting Rickenbacker bass, Dave Green’s keyboards to the fore and lengthy tracks like Down in the Sewer.

What motivated me to mention the song in the first place and made my ears prick up at the time was Cornwell singing the words ‘last’ and ‘past’ with an English accent, in the same way we would pronounce tom-ah-to rather than the American tom-ay-to. Few could deny that singing with an American accent oils the delivery for many British or European rock vocalists, but it makes me cringe when some use a ‘back home in New York City’ style even though they are from Solihull in the West Midlands. All credit goes to John Lennon and Ray Davies for retaining their accents and integrity, and now to the list, in my consciousness at least, can be added Hugh Cornwell.

Soul star Lionel Ritchie was this evening’s subject of Piers Morgan’s Life Stories, a chat show series in which the host is known for teasing out revealing anecdotes. Piers Morgan gently goaded Richie with references to the corny video for Hello, featuring a terrible clay sculpture, and the nonsense lyrics(2) from All Night Long, consisting of, ‘Tom bo li de se de moi ya, yeah jambo jambo’. Throughout, Richie remained self-assured and unflappable, secure in the knowledge that, underneath it all, were great songs which had made him a household name around the world as well as incalculable sums of money (both also touched upon in the discussion). Spiky rock band Faith No More knew exactly what they were doing when they covered Richie’s Easy, along with Robin Gibb’s I Started a Joke and En Vogue’s Free Your Mind.

While jogging the pavements and dodging cyclists without lights, I listened to the Hoodoo Voodoo album by Krautrock and Brain label pioneers, Birth Control (on my mp3 player). Top heavy with Hammond organ, the record is reminiscent of Atomic Rooster’s first three albums, but lacking their melodic focus and hard rock attack.

It is not often you see a Terry Bozzio DVD in a charity shop, but this is what happened to me earlier in the week. This morning, I returned it to the shop from whence it came, following my first and only listen. I should have known better because, although Bozzio provided astonishing drumming to UK’s second album Danger Money, he soon drifted into the avant-garde of his sister Dale’s band and swiftly from my awareness. Live with the Tosca Strings DVD (2008) is not really avant-garde, it is more of a dreary classical/jazz hybrid. It is funny how some musical heroes can let you down, while others, like Hugh Cornwell, can restore one’s faith in human nature.

(1) I cannot provide evidence for this assertion, but read a contemporary ‘accusation’ that The Stranglers started as a hippy band and would like to think this was the case.
(2) Nonsense lyrics were good enough for Quantum Jump, Jon Anderson and The Beatles, so why not Lionel Richie? Here’s a link to a site which highlights some more nonsensical wordplay:


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