February 13, 2010

Stiff Little Fingers

Holy crap! I just found footage of the Stiff Little Fingers 1982 show in NYC that I was at.
The young and athletic Nazz was pogoing his lil old heart out right by Jake Burns for this show. My memories of the show are vivid... my buddies picked me up from the gas station job that I had that summer and we drove the hour trip to New York City's Peppermint Lounge. Fortified by Ballantine's 40 ounce torpedo's, I reeked of petroleum fumes and we got there just in time for the start of the show. The band was just killer... Ali McMordie on bass was amazing. I remember that we sorta really "picked" on one older guy with our enthusiasm. That "older guy" was probably 25!
I've seen em since, but nothing beat that first time!
SLF are on the "desert island" band list for me. Their first two albums "Inflammable Material" and "Nobody's Heroes" are punk classics. The stupidity of war and tribalism was their forte; with such songs as "Straw Dogs", "Suspect Device", "Wasted Life" and "Tin Soldiers", SLF took The Clash's "heart on their sleeve" politics and stayed on the rock n roll path, rather than the multi-cultural route The Clash took after their first two albums. In 2004, SLF released a tribute song to Joe Strummer, aptly title "Strummerville". Sure, SLF played some Reggae and Ska (covering the Specials' "Doesn't Make It Alright" and Bob Marley's "Johnny Was"). However, they "rocked" them, rather than the "rolling" The Clash preferred.

"Johnny Was" is Stiff Little Fingers' tour de force... with the senseless murder of Marley's Jamaican character transferred to "The Troubles" in Northern Ireland. SLF, as an Irish band, certainly experienced the senseless violence that they sang about. "Johnny Was" is a song close to me, as I think of my fallen friends whenever I hear it.

In a top floor flat in the
middle of the night
There's a man with rifle and
Johnny in his sight,
I said oh no, we can't let
that kind of thing happen
here no more
Oh no
Johnny, Johnny, Johnny...

A single shot rings out in a
Belfast night and I said oh
Johnny was a good man

The balance of Stiff Little Fingers' oeuvre is well worth checking out. The live "Hanx", "Go For It", "Now Then" (all early 80's product with their original line-up all have great moments. They reformed in the 90's and came out with some albums worth checking out as well (the best of which are "Hope Street" and "Get A Life".
They still tour, and have several dates in the UK coming up in March. Hopefully, they'll get back over to The States soon too!


Denier said...

Spot on, Nazz. Don't know how I missed that '82 show at Peppermint, a venue right up my alley. Never saw SLF in their prime, but did see 'em twice after they got back together, including a memorable one a few days before 9/11. Still a great live band, with Bruce Foxton of Jam fame on bass now.

Their early albums hold up as well as anything punk had to offer, and I really dig most of what they released after reforming in the early '90s, esp. GET A LIFE and HOPE STREET.


KevinB said...

Peppermint Lounge was such a great club...both locations were great

jeffen said...

Never seen SLF but those records mean the world to me. "Is That What You Fought the War For" from Now Then is actually one of my favourite tracks of theirs.

Nazz Nomad said...

jeffen- the 90's and 00's output from SLF is terrific.

kevin - the downtown pep was a wonderland- 3 floors of fun!

warden - if slf tours again, the beers are on me!

gomonkeygo said...

Jealous! Two of my favorite albums! Never saw them live though.

Ever see DOA, the Canadian band? I remember thinking when I saw them that this was as close to a SLF show as I'd ever get.

Nazz Nomad said...

I saw DOA in the early 80's a few times. AND, for bonus points, my dad used to drive a taxi can back than and had Joey Shithead in his cab. Joey had just gotten ripped off buying a watch on the streets on NYC.

Piley said...

last time I saw the Damned headline (have since seen them as support for Motorhead) their support acts were 80's rockers The Alarm and Henry Cluney from SLF. I wasn't expecting much from him, especially when you could see how nervous he was early on, but he was great, and gre in confidence during his set. Well worth a look if you see him around.