AND THE RODNEYS ARE QUEUING UP

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.

mp3 : The Stranglers – Fools Rush Out

JC

11 thoughts on “AND THE RODNEYS ARE QUEUING UP

  1. There you go!!! Evidence that I can’t keep track of all the things that have been written over the years.

    Apologies to JTFL for my lapse in memory.

    At least Duchess wasn’t part of ICA 64……

  2. Totally agree it should have been massive – there is a strange attitude towards the stranglers which other bands of the era don’t receive…on the singles alone they were one of THE bands of the late 70’s/early 80’s.

  3. Brilliant song and, sleeve-wise, far more responsible and less controversial to showcase the band wrapped up in plastic sheeting.

  4. Good Lord! As much as I love The Stranglers, having hopped on the bus in ’78 when I heard “Tank,” this is my absolute favorite Stranglers song. Greenfield’s keyboards roll on for days in that three minute window and it is the kind of evergreen song from the New Wave era that I will never tire of! When I finally saw Hugh Cornwell five years ago, thank god he played this one so i could finally hear it live. Even without its distinctive keyboards, it was immensely gratifying to hear.

  5. They were such an amazing singles band. Never could get with the albums all the way through, but what an incredible run of 45’s. I love the sad melody and lyrics in Duchess. It’s got that strange contrast between the epic victorious music and mournful subject.

  6. No worries, JC–that was over 100 ICA’s ago! When I compiled that list more than a few folks (notably Echorich) lamented that I had left off ‘Duchess’. Even more agreed that they considered the Stranglers a singles band. That’s not the case for me as I really got into the album tracks and still love most of their early ones. Today’s post is especially interesting to me because I always wondered what Cornwell’s lyric was. He actually is singing “the Rodneys are queuing up,” and as I sit here I have only a vague impression of what that means.

  7. Jonny….I’ve read before that JJ Brunel once explained it was really about about a woman on a street close to him who was a bit of an eccentric who was convinced she was a distant part of the royal family. The Rodneys was the nickname given to her ‘commoner’ male friends as you just couldn’t ever imagine a Duke or Prince to have been given such a name at birth….

  8. I have to agree with JC, I have read that JJ Brunel story before. In any event, Duchess has a permanent position in my All Time Top 50. The muted gatling gun drums, the “harpsichord,” the Beatlesque “ahhs,” muscular bass and Hugh’s languid vocals make for a perfect Punk Pop song. It sits next to Blondie’s Shayla and that has always seemed exactly right.

  9. This song is great. I never knew it was by the stranglers. I thought it was a My Life Story song. The original is better.

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