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Saturday, 28 January 2017

40 Years of Punk & New Wave: 1977 - (Get A) Grip (On Yourself) / London Lady - The Stranglers

Grip / London Lady
United Artists
Produced by Martin Rushent
Released 28th January 1977
UK Chart #44
New Zealand Chart #35



The Stranglers
Left To Right: Jet Black, Hugh Cornwell, Jean Jaques Burnell and Dave Greenfield

One of the most striking things about The Stranglers back at the start of their recording career in January 1977 was how old they all looked! In comparison to many of the young bands that were continually cropping up and aligning themselves with the whole Punk and New Wave Scene, The Stranglers looked like dinosaurs! least to the 13 year old kid I was back then when if you were over 25 you were old!

But what they maybe didn't have in looks they certainly made up for in attitude! They were brimming over with more hostile emotion and pent up aggression than a festival full of young upstarts!

Of course, The Stranglers were never really a Punk band as such but the attitude and swagger that came through their songs attracted many a young punk toward them, including myself. They found themselves as part of movement by association as they had opened for both the Ramones and Patti Smith in 1976 and played live at many of the venues that were known for their promotion of the early Punk scene like The Nashville and the Hope and Anchor in Islington.

Whilst often viewed with suspicion by some quarters of the music press on account of their age and their obvious actual musical ability, 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." Their manager Ian Grant once said, "In one way they were the true punks because they didn't give a hoot who they offended...JJ and Hugh were always obnoxious because they thought they should be. It was mischef, but it wasn't malice".

As I said one of the things that stood out with them was their musical ability, they were way more gifted and experienced than many of the youngsters who had only just picked up an instrument to play. Jett Black had been a Jazz drummer, Hugh Cornwell had been a blues musician (even at one point been involved with Richard Thompson!), Jean Jaques Burnell was a classically trained guitarist who had performed with Symphony Orchestras! Dave Greenfield had played on Military bases and also in a prog-rock band!

1977 was to be a good year for The Stranglers and the debut single, a Double A-Side was one of the first major Punk and New Wave releases of the year. Their Debut Album would arrive in April and three Top Ten singles would follow along with their second album in September.

(Get A) Grip (On Yourself) featured coal miner Eric Clark on Saxophone and contains a couple of my favourite lines in a song by The Stranglers:

 "Committed for insanity and crimes against the soul
The worst crime that I ever did was play some rock 'n roll"

"Stranger from another planet welcome to our hole
Just strap on your guitar and we'll play some rock 'n roll"

London Lady, the other A-Side sees Jean Jaques take the lead vocal and offering up a daft tale of a groupie!

My friend Brian McGill, who is a huge fan of The Stranglers said, "If I'm to be honest I wasn't a major fan of Grip!!! I preferred London Lady with it's immortal " with a sausage have you ever been to Liverpool " line!!
Of course I love it now,  especially live. I even love the fairly recent rerecording with Simple Minds"

I'd asked another friend, Ronnie Carnwath (and no stranger to this blog) for his thoughts on it and his response was so good I'm going to post it as a stand alone piece that will follow this one (Check out Ronnie's Post here).

UK Charts #33
Cover Versions of Grip

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