BASS, HOW LOW CAN YOU GO?

It was Jonny the Friendly Lawyer who took on the tough task of compiling an ICA for The Stranglers. He did an excellent job that incorporated familiar material (hit singles) and some album tracks whose worthiness was articulated eloquently by a true fan.

JTFL is, as we all now know, something of a dab hand as a bassist and so it really is something of a surprise that he left this off his ICA:-

mp3 : The Stranglers – Nice ‘n’ Sleazy

It was the band’s sixth single, released in the UK in April 1978.

This was a period in which they had released three hit albums – Rattus Norvegicus, No More Heroes and Black and White – in a little over a year, It was also a time, however, when some elements of the music press, and indeed a number of their peers in the punk/new wave movement, were creating something of a backlash with accusations of misogyny and racism being levelled at the band.

It wasn’t easy to dismiss such accusations with evidence such as some live shows being accompanied by strippers doing their act while the band played. But those who championed the band said that such gestures and some of the provocative stuff being said in interviews was satirical rather than serious and that they were actually doing everyone a favour by bringing certain issues to wider attention. It’s not the most convincing of defences and there’s no doubt that if the sort of social media we have today had been around in the late 70s then The Stranglers would most likely have not enjoyed any sort of mainstream success as record labels and promoters would have been terrified of being caught up in any angry backlash.

It didn’t help matters with the image chosen to adorn the sleeve of the new single. It was the picture of what was clearly a female murder victim and although it was impossible to determine the cause of death from the image, the fact that the ‘The Stranglers’ was printed underneath the image and the reverse had the words ‘Nice ‘n’ Sleazy’ and ‘Shut Up’ beneath what could accurately be described as ‘drawings of the accused in court’, felt a bit tasteless to say the least.

The three and bit minutes of vinyl on the other hand were extremely tasty. It’s driven along initially by the most hooky of hooky bass lines in which Jean-Jacques Burnel confirmed he was the worthy winner of the title of best four-string player of the punk world; I’ve no doubt that JTFL would have practiced this daily in his bedroom or parent’s garage until his fingers were just about bleeding. I loved it as a teenager and still think of it as one of the most enduring singles of the era.

The b-side was an out-and-out shouty, punk record that is less than 90 seconds in length. It was quite possibly the band’s message to those journalists who were quick to castigate them.

mp3 : The Stranglers – Shut Up

JC

8 thoughts on “BASS, HOW LOW CAN YOU GO?

  1. I featured the Stranglers a year or so ago
    The hints of racism and misogony hit me then whereas they hadn’t necessarily done at the time
    Probably a bit like TV shows like Rising Damp and Love they Neighbour.
    Things have moved on in a positive way to the extent that my 11 year old nephew was very upset and angry when one of his friends was offensive to a Chinese classmate

  2. JJB turns up every now and again on 6Music. He’s got such a potty mouth, I can’t believe they invite him back as often as they do. Mrs S and I usually hold a sweepstake to guess how long he’ll get into an interview before dropping an f-bomb.

  3. I loved this, bought with pocket money, I was fourteen and all the dodgy undertones associated with it and the sleeve completely passed me by then! It’s strange now to think of it as I can’t imagine how I would feel about it all if it were new to me now, not the same I’m sure. Then again I loved ‘Peaches’ and happily sang along with the lyrics as well as a couple of other Stranglers’ songs mentioning nubiles (I didn’t know what that meant) and a word beginning with ‘w’…. As CC says, hints of racism and mysogyny didn’t really hit at the time.
    As you say, though, those three and a half minutes are extremely tasty – JJB’s basslines always reeled me in.

  4. “Different times.”

    Perhaps one reason for the anodyne nature of today’s charts is that no band dares to do anything shocking or controversial anymore for fear of a social media backlash. Coldplay is the only reaction to this brave new world.

  5. JC, you’re right – Nice n Sleazy is a great example of Burnel’s signature aggressive sound and I always did love this bass line. But, truth be told, that’s all I like about this song. The guitar does barely anything and Greenfield plays an absolutely horrible organ bit about halfway through. That said, like Burnel, my weapon of choice is a Fender Precision and that’s what I’ll be playing in England.
    As an aside, today is the very first time I ever saw the picture of the single sleeve. Early Stranglers’ LPs were hard to find in the US (all the ones I bought were imports). Stranglers’ singles weren’t released in the US; they were incredibly rare and would have been too expensive for me anyway. Easy to see how this particular sleeve would have added to their nasty public image.

  6. Still touring and selling out decent size venues.
    Never frightened to push their musical style and in my mind thats why they have lasted so long.
    Never frightened to bring issues to the fore and take all the flack face on.
    At a normal gig (not a festival ) you’ll get around 2 or more hours of non stop Stranglers.
    Seen ever line up and the 4 pc now is my Favourite.

  7. Nice n Sleazy and Bring on the Nubiles were the first two songs I heard by the Stranglers via a comp called No Wave found in the budget bin as a 13 year old. I think the Stranglers are the perfect ICA because I probably like about 10 songs by them.

  8. Yes. everything that can be wrong about the single is true. Also true, a brilliant single.

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