Wednesday 16 January 2013

Thats When Your Blood Bumps

The year is 1984.  Captain Sensible has just released "Glad It's All Over", and I've been to Our Price and bought it.
The A Side is pretty good - better than "Happy Talk" obviously.
The B Side - that is a discovery for my formative ears.
The flip side was "Damned On 45" - one of those "of the time" megamix things (well, just past the time as these were doing big business around 1981/82).  This took a series of Damned tracks and layed them against a monotonous drum track.
Ignoring the drum track, here was some decent new music that I'd discovered on my own, and now wanted to hear some more.
Definitely more of the Damned, and by association more of this "Punk Rock thing"

Pretty soon, nestling in the collection alongside albums from Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, The Jam and the ubiquitous copy of Paul Young's 'No Parlez' (surely everyone owned this in 1983 - I thought it was the law.  And that's why every charity shop in the land is full of old copies of this and Boney M's 'Night Flight To Venus') was the Punk Starter Kit of "Damned Damned Damned", "The Clash" and "Never Mind The Bollocks".
Add to this a series of compilations, and the Punk/New Wave odyssey was on the road.

From The Ramones to Wreckless Eric, from Killing Joke to The Cockney Rejects, I was listening to anything punk/new wave related I could find (some good (Wire, The Vibrators), some very good (Dr Feelgood, The Buzzcocks), some atrocious (The Business, The 4-Skins))

One such compilation that entered the collection was 'The Vinyl Solution', and Side 1 Track 5 was a band I'd never heard of at the time: Stiff Little Fingers - Straw Dogs
On first hearing I thought that it was sung by Shane MacGowan.  Further investigation showed the song writers as 'Fingers/Ogilvie'.  The only reference points for these names were the keyboard player in the Boomtown Rats and the actor in The Return Of The Saint.

By the end of the next week, I owned the Singles compilation ("All The Best") and the live album ("Hanx").
Visits to the local library , and reference to the Encylopedia Rockipedia (it was an actual book, I'm not making the title up, honest) filled in the story of the band and it's members (no reference to Shane MacGowan, Johnny Fingers or Ian Ogilvy, so my initial thoughts were incorrect).

Their first single was the self-financed/self released "Suspect Device" / "Wasted Life", released in 1978.
It received numerous plays from John Peel and constantly appeared in the Festive 50 over the next five years, they also had 3 tracks in the All Time Festive 50 of 1982.  Their first album ("Inflammable Material") was the first independent album to make the UK Album Chart, and when they signed to Chrysalis in late 1979, they requested, and were granted, virtually full artistic control and ownership of their music.
Despite all this, the band never achieved that elusive commercial breakthrough into the wider public consciousness.

They released three further albums on Chrysalis ("Nobodys Heroes", "Go For It" and "Now Then" and a clutch of singles (including the '£1.10 Or Less' EP (from where the above title comes from)) and split up in 1983.

After 4 years away, and having seen the Tom Robinson Band reform,  the band re-formed for a series of shows designed to get them home to Belfast for Christmas.
The reception received on that mini-tour suggested they could maybe do a bit more than the Punk Cabaret circuit, and a temporary idea eventually became a permanent arrangement, with new material on the way.
5 studio albums ("Flags & Emblems", "Get A Life", "Tinderbox", "Hope Street" and "Guitar and Drum") have been released , as well as 5 new live albums and another couple of compilations.

From that first listen, Stiff Little Fingers became a complete musical obsession.  In time I have built up a collection of all the albums on vinyl (originals & re-issues) & CD, a complete set of singles (including the first pressing of "Suspect Device"/"Wasted Life" (limited to 500, on Rigid Digits Records, red label, catalogue number on right of label, handmade picture sleeve)), several ropey bootlegs, a couple of good quality bootlegs, solo releases, books, DVDs - in short anything Fingers-related I can find.

25 years after the reformation (which is 5 times longer than the band existed in their original incarnation), they are still going strong, touring usually twice a year and taking over Glasgow Barrowlands every St Patricks night.

There is reported to be a new album in the offing for 2013.
If it is released, I'm sure you will find yourself reading about it in these very pages.

In the meantime:

The Song That Made My Blood Bump - Straw Dogs :

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