Rattus Norvegicus – The Stranglers

The Stranglers started life in 1974 as The Guildford Stranglers. None of the band came from Guildford. The connection comes from their drummer, Jet Black (real name Brian Duffy – ha!), who at the time ran an off-licence in Guildford that became a base for The Stranglers. Jet Black also had an ice cream round and the band used to travel to gigs in his ice cream van. This first track is called Goodbye Toulouse and is from the Rattus Norvegicus album…

The three founding members of The Stranglers are Jet Black (drums), Jean Jacques Burnel (bass and vocals) and Hugh Cornwell (guitar and vocals). The keyboardist Dave Greenfield joined the band shortly after they were formed, and this was the line-up of The Stranglers for the next 25 years. Their early influences were from bands such as The Doors. Jet Black had been a jazz drummer, Hugh Cornwall a blues musician, and Jean Jacques Burnel a classical guitarist. In their early days, The Stranglers were sure as hell not punk rockers. From Rattus Norvegicus this next track is called Hanging Around

The Stranglers just sort of fell into the punk rock phenomenon that happened in Britain during the latter part of the 1970s. From the two tracks we’ve played so far you may have noticed that The Stranglers signature is Jean Jacques Burnel’s driving bass line and Dave Greenfield’s whirling keyboards. I wouldn’t call The Stranglers a punk rock band – they completely changed their musical direction in 1979 – but they did make one of the best albums of the genre: Rattus Norvegicus, which is their first album, and is probably one of the best debut albums in the history of pop music. The music critics didn’t like The Stranglers, though, because their lyrics were perceived to be sexist and racist. These next tracks are called Sometimes (which opens the Rattus Norvegicus album) and London Lady

The Stranglers were an intelligent band, both musically and lyrically, and I tend to think that they were taking the piss out of blokey stuff (Peaches and Ugly are two of the more overt tracks on the album. You can find a post about another overt Stranglers song, Bitching, here). Who knows. The critics might have hated them at the time, yet The Stranglers had no shortage of fans. This next track from Rattus Norvegicus, called Get A Grip On Yourself, was their first big hit, reaching number 8 in the UK chart…

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

Rattus Norvegicus was one of the biggest selling albums of the punk era. It peaked at number 4 in the UK and spent 34 weeks on the chart. The last (and longest) track on the album is called Down in the Sewer. For me, Down in the Sewer is The Strangler’s finest moment (in some respects it reminds me of The Doors’ When the Music’s Over). They don’t make ’em like this anymore…

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