Monday, February 22, 2010

Jet Black's Raven Recollections

I have an idea that this might just prove to be the oldest Ratter of them all. To date for sure, but possibly the future too.

It's not just the senescence of the author - which is sadly beyond doubt - that forms the qualifying factor here, but the subject matter, which can be traced back to an incident in 449 AD.

In June of that year, Hengist and his brother Hersa with fellow mercenaries, departed from Jutland and crossed the North Sea in their longships to set foot on the shores of Kent at Ebbsfleet (near Ramsgate) and established the first Anglo-Saxon kingdom and what most historians consider the beginning of English history.

So what, I hear you say, has all this got to do with The Stranglers?

Many of you will already know part of this tale because it was touched upon within the pages of Dr David Buckley's book 'No Mercy'. I am of course referring to the Viking ship 'Hugin' which appears on the cover/sleeve of the 'Raven' album.

In 1949, a re-staging of the 'invasion', with a newly constructed exact replica of Hengist's ship, was organised to commemorate the 1500th anniversary of that historic landing.

The occasion was considered by the authorities at the time, to be of sufficient educational and historical importance to warrant the mass attendance of every school within a certain distance of the site chosen for the re-enactment, Broadstairs, in Kent.

Now, it so happens that some 18 months of my formative years were spent at a school in Broadstairs. I had been sent there for health reasons. At the time, I was a chronic Asthmatic, and medical opinion in the 40's held that a 'fresh air' environment was the most suitable locale for children with the condition, and so I was sent to the Holy Cross school which stood on top of the cliffs overlooking Broadstairs, and within view of the French coast on a clear day.

This also meant that on the allotted day, I was bussed into the town and onto the beach along with thousands of other school kids. I was within a few feet of the 'Hugin' as it swept onto the shore line and the fearsome looking (at the time) Vikings came ashore.

Of course, this may be of little interest to some of you, maybe none to others, but what makes it slightly more interesting nonetheless, is news - discovered by our percussionist pal, Neil Sparkes (a near resident) - that someone has found the actual footage of the event and posted it on You Tube!

There are two links here. One takes you to footage of the arrival on shore of the 'Hugin' on 29th June 1949, and the other covers the dedication ceremony, attended by HH Prince Georg of Denmark, at a later date (at which I was not present) when the great ship was erected on concrete pillars at Pegwell Bay near Ramsgate, where it still stands today. It can be viewed free of charge at the roadside off Pegwell Bay.

Readers following this story, who may have wondered how the 'Hugin' came to be on the 'Raven' album, will now know. As for why, that relates to the original concept behind the album and the title track. Inspired by the Norse sagas, 'The Raven' recounts the Viking quest with their inseparable longships. They are said to have taken ravens on board their longships to go ahead and seek out land. Quite how they might have conveyed that information to their masters, I can't imagine.

As I said in my interview with Dr David Buckley, I had no idea in June 1949, that one day I would stand inside this ship and that it would feature on the cover of a Rock 'n' Roll album.

How could I, Rock 'n' Roll hadn't been invented!

Jet Black

The videos:
Arrival on shore of the 'Hugin' on 29th June 1949

The dedication ceremony, attended by HH Prince Georg of Denmark


  1. Jet,

    As ever, a great read, and some intersting footage on YouTube.

    Regarding: "Quite how they might have conveyed that information to their masters, I can't imagine."

    My understanding is that the reason ravens were chosen by the Vikings is that not being seabirds, they can't swim. So, on release from the ship thay would soar to approximately 5000 feet and did one of two things: spotted land and buggered off towards it (and the ship followed) or did not spot land and came back down to the ship, not wanting to get their feet wet.


  2. Dear Jet,
    They are interesting footages.
    The cover sleeve of the 'Raven'='Hugin' in the footage
    What a amazing!

  3. Hi Jet

    A very interesting read - didn't know David Buckley was a 'Dr' though! I'll have to read the book again...

    'The Raven' is definitely one of my favourite albums, so it's nice to get some more background information on it.

    Keep the blogs coming! Hope you make it to Leuven...


  4. Hi Jet

    Hope you are well. Well preserved footage on you tube. Ain't t'internet a wonderful thing.

    The Raven-Greatest and most foreboding!

  5. Hi there Jet, interesting blog with a great story, thanks! Hope to see you tomorrow in Liverpool. Coming all the way from the netherlands to see youre gig over there. I hope it's gonna be a good one en that there will be some time for a meet & greet with the band.
    Thanks for all the decades with great rock'n roll music!!!

  6. loved the Liverpool gig. As much in awe now as I was first time around. Hope my daughter gets to the newcastle gig. Thank you all so much - you get sexier as you age boys!!!!!!

  7. Tim Bacon... Last night in Bristol Academy was awesome. This is the first time I've seen The Stranglers with Baz. He's brilliant. An all round great night!I haven't heared 'genetics' for years. JJ is the best bass player in the world by a long way.

  8. as always a great gig last night in brighton but with all this talk of the raven and of course being one of the finest songs of all time,where was it ? thought it was a banker for this tour or is it just waiting in the wings to put in a special and very fitting appearence on what will i'm sure,be a triumphant return to hammersmith.
    an interesting artical and video footage but are you visable at any point on it mr black ?
    anyway,thanks for many years of great songs and gigs and long may it that the raven i see heading for hammersmith ?
    all the very best.paul

  9. Followed the links. Like mrpaul24 I was also wondering if you had scanned the film looking for the young you. Good to watch these old films. I'm gonna spend some time looking through the Pathe stuff on youtube. Thanks. DT