Friday, December 09, 2022

RIP Jet Black


The Stranglers are one of my most listened-to groups ever - initially because at a time when I had about 5 vinyl albums in total, tapes of my friend Mark's copies of the first four 'Glers LPs got a lot of play. Then there was a long period of  not listening at all. I suddenly got back into them in the early '90s - started with picking up the vinyl, used and cheap, and then there was a box set  of the six UA albums plus singles that I leaped at the chance to review (during which I confidently proclaimed that they were a fascinating if troubling anomaly with zero legacy in terms of subsequent groups - only for Elastica to pop up on Top of the Pops within weeks to disprove that contention). They also got a lot of re-listening when doing a chapter on punk misogyny for The Sex Revolts -  the 'Glers being half the chapter in question (McLaren was the remainder). Since then,  there's rarely been a year when there's not been a bout of Stranglers. It's a shared favorite for me and Joy, despite the male chauvinist blemishes across the discography. Oddly, though, for all my deep familiarity with their songbook (well up to The Raven - after that it's more the remaining singles up until "Skin Deep"), I struggle to think of specific songs that showcase Jet Black's ability. He was simply a vital integral part of their brooding yet propulsive sound - and their baleful aura of malevolence. The fact that Jet - already old and a successful enterpreneur when he joined the group - owned a fleet of ice cream vans and that one of these vehicles was repurposed as the group's transport in the early pre-punk years of hard gigging up and down the country adds to the legend wonderfully.

I wonder when Jet joined whether he had any inkling he'd end up playing so many songs with a waltz beat. 

Now this vindictive little ditty has a terrific revving-up drum bit in it... 

He did some reggae-ish beats now and then - "Peaches" and this one. 

They put out some odd singles - not in the sense of "weird" but like, where's the tune? 

Another one bereft of a hook but double A-sided

But then they could be so so pretty