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35 – Tribulation, Strangulation And Adulation

January 26, 2013 Leave a comment

 

The first time that I didn’t go to see the Stranglers was when I was a very young, naïve and innocent fifteen year old.

Punk had just been dragged spitting and cursing into the world and suddenly my peer group was transformed from a bunch of high-waisted-flare-bottomed-trouser wearing, wedgie shoe’d, do-good schoolboys with sensible haircuts into a snarling, rebellious pack of plastic bin-liner clad, safety pin and razor blade adorned, Mohican’ed, violent anti-socialites with no jobs, no hope and no future. Apparently. The music was loud, raucous, disliked by parents everywhere and just plain fucking awesome, but I wasn’t so sure about this sub-culture that seemed to have sprung up around it… it was just a tad too far out of my comfort zone.

And so, when it became known that they, The Stranglers, would be playing in their home town of Guildford, which just so happened to be my hometown at the time,  some of the more adventurous and outgoing of the aforementioned peer group announced it would be great for us to go to the gig. I suddenly became very aware of reality. After a brief struggle with my inner psyche, against which I didn’t stand a chance and was soon hopelessly overpowered, I came up with a plausible excuse as to why I would be unable to go to the gig, as much as I actually wanted to..

I don’t remember the actual excuse, but it must have been quite convincing and I’m sure it saved me from such atrocities as acute bodily violence, spittle-drenching and character perversion. And I regret that I didn’t go to this day still.

I didn’t go to see The Stranglers lots of times after that. Until I was 35 in fact.

Apart from that very first time, it’s not as though I deliberately avoided going to see them. The opportunity just never arose again like it did then. Once the punk paranoia had petered out, The Stranglers kind of faded into the background and I was overtaken by the need for metal and rock. There were far too many other exciting bands to be seen and the works of Mr. Cornwell and his crew were consigned to the dimly lit recesses of the record collection, only to shown the light of day on very random occasions. But I never lost my affection for them.. they were, after all, part of the package that plucked me from my pubescent pop purgatory and I would always remain faithful.

By the time I was in my mid thirties I found myself. Literally.

Cast out from a marriage and the family environment, I unexpectedly became a bachelor and, in the true spirit of bachelordhood, I began overcoming my sorrows by living life to the full, starting with reliving my youth. This of course meant beer, music and parties, in no particular order but preferably all at once.

Part of my healing process involved the friendship of long time buddy, Ian.

Like me, he was also a stalwart Stranglers fan, even though I once heard him proclaim that the Stranglers were the only band that actually devolved.

He rang me one day. Come and visit next week, he said. Stay over, we’ve got Stranglers tickets, he said. Got you one too, he said. See you next week! I said.

And that’s how I came to be in the Derngate Theatre, Northampton, aged 35 and seeing the Stranglers for the first time, some twenty or so years since I had turned down the opportunity to see them in their prime.

Perhaps it was the guilt, or deep-rooted embarrassment that had subconsciously kept me away from seeing them over the years, but by the time they appeared on stage in 1997 I finally put all that behind me and got on with enjoying the show.

The only downside of the night was being in the upper tiers of a seated venue. Stand up or sit down was the full extent of our mobility and crowd participation, which did somewhat detract from the full gig experience.

Fast forward another fifteen years and I’m now in possession of tickets to see them again toward the end of March.

This time I am completely absolved of any past misgivings. This time I saw the opportunity myself and seized it gladly. I bought the tickets and I’ll get myself there. With a bit of luck I’ll pogo my way to the front row where I can get full benefit from the spittle showers and maybe come away with a bruise or two because there’s nothing more rebellious or anarchic than a middle-aged punk rocker.

I wonder if I can grow my Mohican back in time for it?

 

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