Friday, September 21, 2012

No More Heroes-track by track

Thirty five years after the release of the band's second album No More Heroes, JJ revisits the album's tracks:

I can't actually remember a thing about I Feel Like A Wog! Hand on heart, I don't know who originated it. It feels like a JJ bassline as it's an easy bassline on the E and the A. The lyrics were Hugh's and they were based on our experiences when we went to Hamburg. After we played a gig there, we went to a club in St Pauli, which is quite a cool part of Hamburg where the Reeperbahn is. Something happened and we were made to feel very alientated. The term 'wog' is a fantatstic word, very emotive. When we played the Roundhouse five years ago, the Guardian reviewer said he felt even more uncomfortable about the word now than he did 30 years ago. It's a very emotive word, it works...One thing I can remember is that the National Front had a magazine called British Bulldog and apparently, in one issue, they said that we were a cool band because we had a song called I Feel Like A Wog. Completely misunderstanding the point of the song! It's the antithesis of that. That's all I remember now...

Bitching was written after our visit to Amsterdam with Fred Grainger (landlord of the Hope and Anchor) who tour managed us when we went there for a week. It's about our experiences with the produce that you can purchase in Amsterdam and various aspects of that trip, about being impoverished and having copious amounts of grass. I do especially remember that one night in a pub there that Dave was sick. He puked up into three pint mugs perfectly without spilling a drop and it was all purple!

Dead Ringer was my riff with Hugh's comments about all the hypocrites in the scene at the time including 'Saint' Strummer and people like that who were turncoats. People who'd been mates only a few months before and then suddenly they didn't want to know us because we were successful and it being politically incorrect to have anything to do with The Stranglers. It was about that bullshit...

Dagenham Dave was my lyrics about a guy who was our earliest mentor. Unfortunately, on one amazing night, he took on the whole of the Finchlies at the 100 Club. We did see him a few weeks later at Aylesbury, where they had all made up. After that he wasn't right, he threw himself off Tower Bridge and into The Stranglers' mythology. Enough's been written about that over the years...

Bring On The Nubiles was funny and very clever. It was my riff which I nicked off Miles Davis' Bitches Brew album. It's a seminal album as it's the first album where jazz & rock combined. I nicked that bass riff unashamedly. Hugh's slightly tongue in cheek lyrics were very funny and annoyed a lot of feminists all over the world. They took it at face value which so many people did all the time with Stranglers' lyrics. Irony?

Something Better Change was my lyrics with Hugh's riff. This was written in the summer of '76. It was about the zeitgeist that was happening around then. Something was obviously afoot...

No More Heroes probably epitomised the feeling of Something Better Change perfectly. I did the music for Heroes while I was still living at Wilko's (Johnson-Dr Feelgood guitarist) flat. It was Hugh's lyrics.

I wrote Peasant In The Big Shitty a few years earlier. I wanted it to be a Beefheart type thing. Absurdist but the lyrics meant a lot to me, I knew exactly what I was talking about which were events that happened to me on acid. It's a 9/4 rhythm which is not very rock and roll. I had the idea in the ice cream van coming back from somewhere. I could hear the rhythm of the engine which was about to blow up at the time and wasn't running straight. I remember asking Jet 'what's this rhythm?' and he worked it out and I said 'Great, I'll write a song with that...'! Peasant In The Big Shitty was all me.

Burning Up Time was all my lyrics. It was all about burning ourselves out, taking speed and dying young! Doing everything very fast and to the limit with the Finchley Boys and everything.

English Towns was kind of a filler. For No More Heroes, we needed one more song. But, in fact, it kind of summed up my thinking about life in England for us at the time.

School Mam was my riff but Hugh's lyrics about his experiences at a prep school in Guildford. He was sacked for being too friendly and taking acid with his students which might be frowned upon! It was a nod and a wink to a song by the Velvet Underground called The Gift, which was about someone receiving a gift in the post, little knowing that there was a person wrapped up inside. They couldn't open it so they just stabbed it open with scissors and killed the person inside.

Straighten Out was about the impending doom that was going to befall us all and the atmosphere at the time-kind of nihilistic...

Five Minutes were my lyrics and Hugh's riff I think. It was about what happened at the apartment I was sharing with Wilko and a girl. She got raped one night. There were five black guys who did it and the main point, in the middle eight, was 'some say that I should hate them all' about all black people which was absolutely ridiculous and obscene. I just wanted to find those guys, I didn't use it as an excuse for hating all black people. How would you? I mean, if you have a bad experience in France, you say 'French bastards!' I find that all the time, I don't think they really mean it but it is easily done.

Rok It To The Moon was a B side which I can't remember anything about! It was my riff though and it was prepared way after No More Heroes at Bearshanks at the end of '77.

JJB/21st September 2012


  1. Thanks for this JJ.It's interesting to know the thoughts & ideas that went into making the songs. Next time I listen to the album it will make more sense to me!

  2. Does Dave not get pissed off the way JJ and Hugh always go on about how they wrote everything? No More Heroes is a the classic example of a song which would be boring rubbish without Dave's bits!

  3. Love this band. My first insight to music back in the 70,s.
    Glad they are still going strong....

  4. This is my favourite band.
    it reminds me of the good music of the 70's.
    Glad they are still going strong.

  5. Can you explain why the album cover is a wreath of Carnations? Is it for Dave?

    Great album by the way.

  6. JJ you are such an interesting, deep and talented guy. Love you and love the Stranglers. Keep writing amazing music. Looking fwd to a 2013 tour with Jet back in the fold and a new album. Giants is fantastic!


  8. Cheers JJ. Fantastic album. Dead Ringer is absolutely brilliant, used to find it scary when I was a kid, but strangely compelling :)

  9. Thanks JJ, interesting to note the connection between school mam and the gift. That takes me back to university where my house mates alternated between the VU and The Doors every night. I had to retreat to my room to listen to The Stranglers and The Damned!

  10. You've heard Hugh play it live then! - Oops - slap wrists. Not just the song - the arrangement. Think about it, there's not much Bacharach and David would recognise in the way the Stranglers arranged Walk on by is there ?

  11. Although a lot of Heroes had been played live already, it was a continuation of a fantastic year captured on vinyl in it's prime. The Stranglers have always been very different "Live" and on disc especially as the years have rolled, but I think Heroes (& Rattus)captures the essence of 77 as it was. Big, Bold, Loud & in yer face. A new generation wanted to be heard & this music gave us a flag to wave - still up there to this day infact.

    It was incredible at the time as I moved from the NW to the SW - the youth were united in getting the message wherever they were. There was this insatiable hunger to move on & create new things, new sounds, new images. The MiBs as they became known were prime movers in getting us there.

    Thank you

    Still Proud in 2012.

  12. It may be 35 years old but No More Heroes still sounds everything it was back then - original, innovative rock n' roll that was catchy and melodic, dark and menacing. A classic punk album released at the height of the 1977 scene, it sounded nothing like any of its contemporaries. The Stranglers may have used a rat as their logo but they were never part of any pack.

  13. I never thought of English Towns as a filler. It's one of my favourite songs from the first 2 albums.

    John Pidgeon

  14. My very 1st album.Unforgettable.I'm an amateur musician & my music is constantly referred to as 'stranglersy',no influence on my life there then ! lol Viva the MenInBlack - No more heroes is one of the brilliant 5 or 6 albums.

  15. Great JJ! I hope to see you again for a gig in Italy! All of you are great musicians. Great songs, great energy on stage, i'm 26years and Straglers influenced so much my development as bass player, but you know, i feel like a little boy over giant's shoulder! ;) Long life to The Stranglers! Cheers from Parma

  16. JJ Go and join Hugh on his Heroes tour, that should spice things up a bit, go on one last time you guys, kiss and make up, the world would be a better place for it!

  17. Great comments JJ. Hope to bump into you again at Jack Lilley!

  18. John Mangan, StockportSeptember 27, 2012 at 10:03 PM

    Tremendous stuff about Australia and New Zealand. If only I could afford that trip, having seen the band all over Europe, I'd be there.

    Just one thing. Sounds as though the 2013 UK tour could well be the last in the current format. So do the honourable thing - a greatest hits non-stop set. None of the recent extremely average albums, please. Walk On By!

  19. Thanks JJ. Excellent piece once again. All the best.

  20. Alrite JJ are these snippets from your up and coming biography? Dont ask (again) you dont Get!

  21. The police reunited.So come on stranglers, just do it !

  22. Just saw them in Glasgow...claimed my position right at the very front for the first giant guys standing in front of me..just some pissed geordies behind that severely pissed me off due to their inability to remain upright without grabbing at my time...the teeth will be used have been warned and I may well meet you again at the Carlisle gig but I won't be the nice wee Weegie lassie this time..anyroad what was I saying?....oh aye....they were fucking brilliant and to my delight Jet came I was chuffed to fuck...sooooo looking forward to seeing them at Carlisle as they played brilliantly in yourself a favour...see The Stranglers live any time you can make will NOT regret it...bring it on..BOOGIE !!