I’ve often thought that The Stranglers would be very worthy of an ICA or to be a band on whom there should be a specific series looking at the 45s over the years…well, the period from 1977 to 1983 with maybe the occasional later single also worthy of praise. But I’ve never quite got round to either…..
In lieu of that, I thought it would be worth giving an airing to what I think, with the benefit of hindsight, is their most enduring few minutes of vinyl:-
mp3 : The Stranglers – Duchess
The Stranglers had been prolific in their output since 1977. They had enjoyed a run of Top 20 singles while releasing three albums that had all gone Top 5.
The thing is, The Stranglers were not and never had been a punk outfit. The reliance on keyboards and the bass lines being at the forefront of their sound had always laid bare their pub roots which they wrapped around various punk attitudes such as aggression, violence and confrontation. They were older and more experienced than most and they hadn’t, till this point, really worried about what folk said or wrote about them, but seeing punk’s metamorphosis into new wave, and that many of their peers and contemporaries were getting rich, seemed to bring about a change of attitude.
Duchess was released on 10 August 1979. That’s 39 years ago which is a truly terrifying realisation. This was an era when lead singles were an important precursor to what was to follow on a subsequent album and this 45 had a few folk scratching their head as it is power-pop at its purest, tailor-made for daytime radio with its catchy verses and chorus striding a colossus of a tune which is perfectly produced to allow all four members to demonstrate their playing abilities. And at two-and-a-half minutes in length, with an immediate beginning and no-fade ending, it enabled producers to have their DJs slip it in at any point in a show when there was a need to make up some time from the news, adverts or a bit of idle chat leading to a potential overrun. It should have been massive….and yet it only reached #14.
The general public, clearly, still wasn’t ready to embrace The Stranglers but things weren’t helped by the UK tabloid newspapers taking aim at the band, labelling them as blasphemous thanks to them dressing up as choirboys for the promo video, from which a still was used as the sleeve.
It was all the proverbial water off a duck’s back for the men in black, but it must have been galling for the record label as countless sales were lost with some of the chain stores refusing to put the sleeve on display. It really was a non-story turned into something…..and it shows how easily offended some folk were back in those days.
Worth noting that the American label, keen to avoid a similar controversy, issued the single in a completely different sleeve.
Here’s yer reasonable enough, Stranglers-by-numbers, b-side.