What better place for a tribute to The Stranglers to play?
The Hope and Anchor played an important part in the early career of The Stranglers.
In November 1977 the live recording of ‘Tits’ from the White EP was recorded here at the session that would later be released as 'Live at The Hope and Anchor’. And then-landlord ‘Fred Grainger’ (who gave the band a much needed ‘break’) was name checked as ‘Grainger man’ in the song ‘Bitching’.
For those neither old enough nor fortunate enough to have seen The Stranglers here during this period, this gig presented a perfect opportunity to hear the MK1 songs played live in this setting.
A fair number of 'fansinblack' filled out this little basement venue to be greeted by the band kicking off with a lively ‘Burning Up Time’. Treating us to a set packed with classics like: ‘Toiler on The Sea’, ‘Goodbye Toulouse’, ‘Sometimes’ and ‘Princess of The Streets’ to name a few. The band seemed tight and on form and there was a good banter with the crowd. And the sound…
…The sound was fantastic and very ‘very’ authentic, from the Snarling vocal and biting guitar, to the swirling keyboard* via the growling bass and relentless pounding drums. If you had closed your eyes it could’ve been 1977.
The set was like a ‘best of’ compilation compiled by real fans. We were treated to ‘The Raven’, ‘Who Wants The World’, ‘Go Buddy Go’, ‘London Lady’ and many more. Some of the material in this set rarely gets played by the actual band these days, songs like ‘Tramp’ and the wonderful ‘Peasant in The Big Shitty’.
The crowd responded in kind with energetic revelry and word perfect accompanyment, just as if they were actually seeing The Stranglers. At one point the band took a quick poll of the audience to see if they wanted ‘Down in The Sewer’ or ‘Genetix’ to be played… I requested both but ‘Sewer’ won the day and it did not disappoint!
Before we knew it the band had left the stage. Then one enthusiastic crowd member got on the mic to stir up the crowds appreciation for what they had just witnessed. The crowd didn’t need much encouragement here as they were cheering and howling for an encore. An encore was duly given; a rousing ‘No More Heroes’ followed by a brilliant ‘Tank’. Then it was all over and the fans slowly began to file out of the venue with big fat grins on their faces.
*The inclusion of a Hammond organ and other period keyboards gave a real authenticity to the sound – Stunning!
Like many rock fans, I dislike the utter concept of the tribute band. Occasionally though I’ll concede, original emotions can be re-animated with an authentic sound & vibe. But of all bands, replicating the Stranglers must be a challenge and a half with their unique blend of Jet’s pounding drums, Dave Greenfield’s swirling keys, JJ’s rumbling bass and Hugh’s driving rhythm & lead guitar sound, never mind those distinct vocals, personalities and stage manner. One look at the kit onstage for Straighten Out showed that this outfit were seriously dedicated. 2x Fender Tele’s awaited Hugh, a massive HIWATT stack JJ, an all black Gretsch/Pearl/Sabian kit/snare/symbals for Jet and a bank of five keyboards for Dave. Cued by “Waltzinblack”, it was judgement day at the Greyhound. Opting for a middle ground start, their opener was the instrumental Longships from The Raven LP. Potential pogoers had to restrain themselves for now, as the band naturally blended into the melodic title track. In character, Mickey P (as Jet) set the beat, Mick the Doc perfectly layered the squeals, buzzes and notes of Dave’s Keys but it was our bass master Shaggy that brought it all back with his neatly perfected bass rumble, JJ kicking antics & whispered vocal style. For the punks growing impatient for some anger, an unmistakeable “Oh Oh Oh” from Phil signalled Hugh’s arrival on vocals for Dagenham Dave. Riot averted, our cast was complete. Stumbling awkwardly through the dawdling melancholy of Tramp (from La Folie), they recovered some pace with 5 Minutes and Nuclear Device, filled space with the overlong Toiler on the Sea and gave grace with Princess of the Streets (at last – some Rattus). Moving on with the less-familiar Second Coming from the MeninBlack LP was a difficult affair. The drop off and rebuild of this tune would have worked well with hundreds of compacted all knowing festival heads but the impact was lost on a passing small venue crowd. Rescued by Mickey P’s improved drum start to Non-Stop Nun and followed by Hanging Around (with JJ on the move again), the Greyhound perked up, sang and danced along to the immortal Peaches but lost faith with the elongated intro to Let Me Introduce You to the Family and the lumbering sway of Thrown Away. Phil asked the audience what they wanted to hear and clearest of shouts was unsurprisingly Walk on By. In typical Stranglers style, they didn’t play it and instead gave us the church-like Baroque Bordello, a great version of the rarely heard non-album single Who Wants the World and the indifferent The Man They Love to Hate from La Folie (No chance of playing Tits then!). The call “Anybody fancy stripping off?” for Nice and Sleazy gave one male punter the cue to writhe onstage bare-chested (until the landlady pulled him down), then Mick the Doc took on vocal duties for a commendably accurate version of Genetix. Nearing climax now and it was a menacing Curfew (from Black and White), a petulant Duchess, a reasonable (but out of era) Always the Sun and a solid Tank that brought us to revered classics Something Better Change and No More Heroes to end. Despite warm applause, a dwindled late night crowd was insufficient to encourage an encore and so the band slipped quietly into the night. In verdict, Straighten Out pulled it off with fanatical attention to detail and in that Mick the Doc deserves special mention for replicating Dave Greenfield’s keyboards so well. The set see-sawed at times trying to balance the pensive rhythms of later LP’s against the thrust of the earlier stuff and major favourites were omitted (Straighten Out, Sometimes, London Lady, Grip, Go Buddy Go, Down in the Sewer) but they did cover 25 songs spanning six albums plus and thankfully spared us the torture of reviving Golden Brown.
Great to see all the gang, a brilliant, brilliant, evening and I must reiterate your point Sid, it really was a great shame that the turnout was so poor…….and a lot of people missed out on something very special last night……..BUT If you would have told me 35 years ago that I would have been standing in the basement of the Hope and Anchor on an evening in June 2011 listening to a Strangler’s tribute band I would have thought that impossible beyond anybody’s wildest dreams, but last night I was and I have to say that it was truly amazing. When I initially thought about going I had some reservations, but any doubt about the quality of this band were ‘blown away’ in seconds as they launched into their set. Straighten Out are simply brilliant. They are the first ‘Tribute’ band I have ever seen, ever, and the word ‘Tribute’ suddenly takes on a new resonance with me because that’s exactly what they did, they paid tribute to some of the greatest British songs that, in my opinion, have ever been written and played them with consummate skill, style and passion. The level of their musicianship was astonishing as they brought these incredible songs ‘back to life’ in a venue that holds so many memories for me personally and I want to take this opportunity to thank Shaggy and all the boys for a memorable step back in time, evoking some fantastic recollections. For any Stranglers fan this band are simply unmissable and I wholeheartedly endorse them without reservation and can’t wait to see them in action again. I had not been to see a band play at the Hope and Anchor (Although I have been in the bar upstairs a few times) since the Front row festival in 77, and walking down the stair case to enter the gig I must admit to having more than a few ‘flashbacks’. I needed a few minutes to re-orientate myself and quickly realised that the original stage had been moved and would have been on my left as I faced the band. The room seemed smaller than I remembered and as I looked around, images of 1977 flickered into my mind, the smells, the faces, powerful images of the Front Row Festival flooding my mind in black and white and sometimes sepia and of course, visions of The Stranglers. I watched, I listened and occasionally I closed my eyes. Straighten out ‘delivered’ last night and once again all I can add is………………. Thank you
P.S .If someone can remember the set list and post it, that would be great, because it really was a great set.
[Webmaster - Thanks Alan! As a lifelong Stranglers fan, your kind and honest comments are greatly appreciated by the band. We're pleased to hear that they exceeded your expectations! We look forward to seeing you at a future gig...]