Tag Archives: Stiff Little Fingers

Stiff Little Fingers – Portsmouth

Once again it has been a busy weekend of concert going.  Friday night (February 26) saw me make the one-hour trip along the motorway to see my all-time favourite band.  It is no exaggeration to say that Stiff Little Fingers changed my life.

The Belfast punk-rock movement of the mid-late 1970’s gave me the courage to get the hell out of Northern Ireland at the height of the “troubles” and I never looked back.  As a result songs like “Alternative Ulster” and “Suspect Device” have always been dear to my heart and so have the Stiff Little Fingers.

Back in March last year I made the 1000 mile round trip from Poole to Glasgow for what should have been an epic two nights of entertainment in Glasgow’s Barrowlands.  St Patricks Day saw Stiff Little Fingers play the venue and the following evening Drop Kick Murphy’s and The Mahone’s brought the Celtic Punk Invasion Tour to Glasgow.  Sadly Barrowlands lived up to it’s reputation for awful sound quality and over the two nights you could barely tell one band from the other much less distinguish between songs.  Without question these gigs were the worst sound quality I have ever heard.

Slf portsmouth-3

By contrast the sound at Portsmouth’s Pyramid centre is never less that perfect and so it proved on Friday.  Ricky Warwick’s band played a lengthy opening set which was full of energy and high-quality rock music.  Whilst I am aware of Ricky’s work with Thin Lizzy and Black Star Riders this was the first time I had seen him with his own band.  I was impressed, it was good old-fashioned power rock and I enjoyed it immensely.

I was a little concerned to hear that Stiff Little Fingers Jake Burns had taken ill after the opening night of the tour the previous evening so it was with some trepidation that we awaited Stiff Little Fingers appearance. Jake did allude to the fact that he had spent most of the day throwing up so that probably explains why we had a lightly shorter than normal set.

Slf portsmouth-2

In total we had about 75 minutes and 19-songs but what we did get was awesome.  Jake may not have been as animated as usual but Ali McMordie and Ian McCallum more than made up for that.  As you would expect the bulk of the set featured the bands most popular songs from the late 1970’s and early 1980’s heyday and it was an excellent set.

It is perhaps dispiriting to find that many of Stiff Little Fingers songs are just as relevant now as when they were written over 30 years ago.  We live in a different era, an era where we should perhaps be even more angry, about the state of the country and the state of the world, than we were when the punk movement exploded.  We need to recharge our activism and direct our anger.  A visit to a Stiff Little Fingers gig is a great reminder of the injustices we face.  It is always amazing to see people from all walks of life united under the banner of punk rock.

If Stiff Little Fingers are playing anywhere near you make an effort to get out and see them.  You won’t regret it


Daily Prompt – Teen Idol

Todays daily prompt asks who did you idolize as a teenager?

Sadly I don’t often find the time to participate in Daily post prompts these day but I couldn’t miss out on this one.

I was born in 1961.  My dad was a cabaret singer and I grew up with the music of Neil Diamond, dads favourite artist.  I love Neil’s music to this day but it was the early 1970’s that saw we stretch my musical wings.

The first album I ever bought was David Bowie‘s Aladdin Sane, it was my introduction to alternative music, a love that lives with me to this day.  I still have that LP, carefully preserved in my collection of vinyl.

It was however the late 1970’s that threw up my real idols.  bands I love to this day include the Clash, the Ramones, Sex pistols and a host of other punk bands.  It was however Irish punk band Stiff Little Fingers who actually changed my life.

I grew up in Northern Ireland during the height of “the troubles.”  It was Stiff Little Fingers that helped me to see that there was another, better way of life.  The bands breakthrough record “Alternative Ulster” is to this day the best song I ever heard.

Stiff Little Fingers

Stiff Little Fingers – Glasgow Barrowlands – 17 March 2015

2015 saw the 24th edition of Stiff Little Fingers annual St Patricks day gig at Glasgow’s Barrowlands.  The venue is a real old school standing only venue in a less than salubrious part of Glasgow’s East End.  Frankly both the venue and the area have seen much better days.

This particular gig is no less than legendary among punk fans and it is one that I have always wanted to attend.  Sadly a combination of work commitments, distance and a lack of opportunity meant that this was the first time I actually managed to get there.

I met up with some friends and looked forward to a couple of great days of great company and great music.  We met up at the hotel and headed off for a few beers before heading down to the East End for the gig.  We stayed in the pub a little bit too long and missed the opening act, “Electric River” but we arrived in time to catch the second of the support acts “Love Zombies”.

Love Zombies were good fun in a female fronted,seen it all before, punk band.  I enjoyed watching them and they were a good warm up for the main event, but I and most of the crowd were there for Stiff Little Fingers.

After Love Zombies finished the setting up of the stage for SLF seemed to take forever and frankly it should not have taken as long as it did.  The delay seemed to cause the atmosphere to go a bit flat.  When SLF did emerge the sound was just not up to scratch and this did not help the atmosphere either.

SLF played a very good set-list with songs from across their extensive back catalogue.  The opening of the set was strong with a popular trio of songs in “Nobody’s Hero’s,” “At The Edge” and “Roots, Radical’s, Rockers and Reggae.”  SLF aficionados will have appreciated a run of lesser known songs that followed the openers but a run of six less well known songs meant that people could be seen drifting off to the bar or the toilet.

I personally love to hear less well known songs but on nights like this people are there to hear their favourites and such a long run of less familiar tunes depressed the atmosphere still further.  “Bits of Kids” and “Straw Dogs” lifted the atmosphere a little but it really took to the last couple of songs “Tin Soldiers” and “Suspect Device” before the gig really exploded into life and by then the band were leaving the stage.

SLF returned with a cover of Elvis Costello’s “Peace, Love & Understanding” before finishing the set with “Wasted Life” and “Alternative Ulster” and suddenly it was all over.  It was an enjoyable gig with a decent set-list but it didn’t really hit the heights that a St Patricks night gig at Barrowlands deserves.

As we left the venue and headed back down Argyll Street we all felt pretty much the same.  A good gig but not one of the best SLF gigs we had seen. No matter I suspect that we will all be back to do  it all again next year for the silver anniversary gig.

Stiff Little Fingers Inflammable Material

75 Essential Albums – #3 Stiff Little Fingers

After over six weeks of providing a rundown of 65 albums that I believe everyone should own we come to the final 10.  In the days between now and Xmas I will give a run down of my personal take on the top 10 albums ever released.  Hopefully I have given you some thoughts as to new albums to check out and I hope that the final 10 will have you rewriting your Christmas lists and picking up a few of these brilliant albums.

Stiff Little Fingers – Inflammable Material

Inflammable Material is the 1979 debut album by the Northern Irish punk band Stiff Little Fingers. It is arguably the best album the band ever released  and it offers a no hold barred look at the grim realities of life in Northern Ireland with the songs containing themes of teenage boredom, sectarian violence, police oppression, and the realities of growing up in a province torn apart by sectarian violence, where the army where on the streets and on every street corner, where you couldn’t enter Belfast City centre without being subjected to numerous searches.  The album paints a very bleak picture, it is an angry album, it bristles with resentment and a sense of injustice.  As a kid growing up in Northern Ireland it was the soundtrack of my life.  it is no exaggeration to say that this album changed my life.

I first heard the record in the Good Vibrations record store in Great Victoria Street, Belfast.  The store was just a few minutes walk from my grandmothers house and from where my mother was living at the time.  The shop and record label of the same name were owned by Terri Hooley, the Godfather of Irish punk music.  I was in the ‘store’, a couple of upstairs rooms in a rundown building opposite the Europa Hotel when the album was put on.  From the first few bars of ‘Suspect Device’  I was hooked.  I couldn’t believe that this great record was by a group of guys from Northern Ireland.  The impact of that should not be forgotten because at the time no-one was coming to play in the province, bands couldn’t get insurance and because of the bombings they couldn’t come without it.

Sadly for SLF they were on an independent label and, although the album was the first on an independent label to break into the top 20, they were up against the biggest names in punk.  Bands who were big names, were on big labels and had big A&R budgets.  Whilst SLF were championed by John Peel and highly regarded by their contemporaries they didn’t quite hit the heights their talent deserved.

Despite the bleak subject matter of many of the songs Inflammable Material was an album of hope, it was a call for change urging people to “grab it and change it, it’s yours” in what became their signature song “Alternative Ulster”.  The song “Rough Trade” is about the band’s view of the music business as being dishonest but have since claimed it is not about the record label which happens to have the same name. State of Emergency & Law and Order railed against the oppressive policing in the province.  Wasted Life, No More of That and Barbed Wire Love were urging people to break away from sectarianism and the paramilitary groups who had such a grip in Northern Ireland.

The bands cover of Bob Marley’s ‘Johnny Was’ is sublime and when that closes out you get hit by Alternative Ulster in a 1-2 thats is simply breathtaking.  The album should have ended there but for some bizarre reason they added ‘Closed Groove’ a track completely out of keeping with the rest of the album.  Inflammable Material is quite simply one of the greatest albums ever made, a remarkable pice of work and a remarkable piece of social history.  If you don’t own this album you should hang your head in shame.

As always thanks for dropping by my blog.  if you like what you read please hit the like button or leave a comment.  If you don’t like what you read then please leave a comment explaining why 🙂

That Friday Feeling – Suspect Device

That Friday feeling is a place to share something with the world.  It could be a song, a poem, a painting or a photograph, anything at all.  There is but one rule.  Whatever it is must touch you on an emotional level.

Either drop me a note with a link and I will post here or leave a comment with a ping back to your own blog.  Join in and share that Friday feeling 🙂

This week I am sharing a song by my all-time favourite band and from an album that undoubtably changed my life and the way I think.  Suspect device by Stiff Little Fingers

Writing 101 – 3 political songs

Wow!  So today I have been set a challenge to write about the three most important songs in my life and to explain what it they mean to me.  Quite honestly I almost ignored the challenge.  3 songs, seriously.  Just for a moment let me give a little context to the size of the task.

My CD collection is at a minimum 5000 discs.  In addition to that I have cupboards full of vinyl and tapes that haven’t seen the light of day in over 20 years.  I listen to music almost constantly, not a single day ever passes in my life when I don’t listen to music, not one, ever!  I have boxes of discs that have never been listened to, I have 30k songs on my iPod and I am being asked to pick 3 songs.  It is an impossible task, my favourites would change on a day to day, if not an hour to hour basis.

However, in the UK today we are seeing a political frenzy as we get ready for the people in Scotland to go to the polls in the referendum on Scottish independence.  I am an Ulster Scot, a unionist by tradition and yet I am hoping that the Scots will vote for independence.  There is no doubt that  a yes vote will tear down the entire British political system and this is the real outcome that I want to see.  Why?  Because the whole political system in the UK is corrupt from the bottom to the top.  So what has all this got to do with the 3 songs I am going to pick to complete my task?  well I believe that music can be a power for good, that it can make people think, that it can challenge the establishment, that it can generate an interest in Politics.

So what songs have I picked?

1.) Alternative Ulster – Stiff Little Fingers

2.) Battle of the Beanfield – The Levellers

3.) Criminal Justice – Ferocious Dog

Alternative Ulster is a song from my youth and is the song that awakened my ability to question the status quo, to examine and to be sceptical about what we are told by the arms of state and politicians, to realise that vested interests are at play and that society at its heart is deeply unfair.

The battle of the Beanfield by the Levellers tells of how the Police and the state criminalised people in the UK simply for wanting to visit Stonehenge to celebrate the Summer Solstice.  There was a an anti government movement in the UK at the time, a campaign of civil disobedience.  This was primarily based around the introduction of the ‘Poll Tax’ a tax that was seen as deeply unfair as there was no means testing, The mega rich paid the same as the person on benefits.  People in their thousands were being criminalised and sent to jail because they couldn’t pay.  Thatchers Government used the Police to smash the resistance.  The Police were accused of being heavy handed and of extraordinary levels of violence towards protesters.

The lead singer of Ferocious Dog worked until very recently as a miner in Nottinghamshire.  The song Criminal Justice explains how the Police and arms of state were used to crush the miners during the strikes in the mid 1980’s.  Thatchers Government were forcing UK mines to close whilst at the same time importing millions of tons of coal from Poland and elsewhere.  Thatcher set out to crush the trade unions, to undermine workers rights, collective bargaining and to make it easier for employers to sack employees.  She was ultimately successful.  In the years sine we have seen poverty in the UK increase.  In 2014 there are an estimated 2m people in the UK who are dependent on food banks, this at a time when taxes are being cut for the richest in our society.  Once again the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.

So those are my three songs for today, politically charged songs for a politically charged atmosphere.