Good morning, I’ll be a little short with the early post as it’s the anniversary date of when I met Ms. Clashblog (the woman who performed miracles to make the site look how I’d hoped) so I need to be at my best.
This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this but Jean-Jacques Burnel is still insisting that Joe Strummer was keeping an eye on the Stranglers for ideas back in 1976. I didn’t give that statement much credence when I first heard it and he’s still regurgitating it 30 years later. I know Strummer attended early Stranglers concerts and the 101′ers even shared the bill. Don’t neglect the fact that the Stranglers did get an earlier start and a following than other bands on the scene that was yet to come . The correlation between seeing them live and it being inspiration for The Clash (or Joe in particular) is beyond me. Perhaps I’m missing something. I’ve been to Guildford many times, it’s a beautiful even pastoral town. The kind of place I’d like to retire or attend a church jumble sale, it’s not the birthplace of punk.
I always saw a clear association between the sound/energy between the Clash and The Damned, Buzzcocks and to a certain extent the Sex Pistols. Not so with the Stranglers. The entire London scene including the periphery and fans was a very small number of people during the initial months. As you look at the earliest days of Mick Jones writing music and the people he was spending time with; it was a fairly limited list of names. If you saw a similar formative scene in your own town you’d have hardly noticed it. In a city the size of London it was a select group. I’ll write more in the weeks and months ahead about those links and connections in 75-77 and when you weave the thread it emphasises the unique circumstances that created what was to follow.
Back to the Stranglers, I always saw them as a pub rock band who morphed into punk when it was ideal. That sounds very simplistic but the same has been leveled at Joe Strummer over the years. Pub rock spearheaded by Dr. Feelgood was a good old rock and roll blues based sound that while offering entertainment value in a live setting wasn’t exactly breaking any new ground. You also have to remember that the origins of the Stranglers go back to 1974-75 and 2 years was a lifetime in the music circuit back then. Strummer was often labelled as ‘too old to be punk‘ often lied about his age and/or downplayed it.
Strummer was 24 when he met Mick and Paul and 25 when the wheels started turning. Burnel of the Stranglers was born the same year as Joe (The Strangler being 8 months older) and Hugh Cornwell was 3 years the senior of both of them. The Stranglers found themselves supporting Patti Smith and The Ramones in the UK prior to being categorised as punk, and not the other way round. There’s also alleged bad blood between the bands stemming back to the very early days, a cynic might say that issue leads Clash fans to be be a dismissive about the Stranglers. Not true, I found their music to be uninspiring long before I knew some of those inside stories of the punk scene.
Maybe it was those keyboards, maybe it was the vocals or maybe it’s perpetuated by the belief that they were leading the charge of the new wave in London. Burnel certainly is keen to keep banging this drum.
I didn’t mean for this to become a Stranglers rant but after years of hearing who inspired who I wanted to dig a bit deeper. Strummer as a songwriter and performer was never one to dismiss who influenced him, in fact it was a badge of honour. I just don’t think a band who were contemporaries of the 101′ers would ever top that list.