Continuing from where I left off on the first part, this section looks at filling the gaps of two of Northern Ireland’s finest – Stiff Little Fingers and Therapy?
Stiff Little Fingers
Formed in Belfast in 1977 at the height of the Troubles, they were the first punk band in Belfast to release a record, Suspect Device which came out on their own label Rigid Digits. John Peel got a copy of it to play on his show which led to a distribution deal with Rough Trade, re-releasing the single a month later.
Jake Burns (lead singer/main songwriter) was heavily influenced by The Clash, and they wrote quite a lot about their experiences from the political situation in Northern Ireland. They released four albums between 1979 and 1982 – Inflammable Material, Nobody’s Heroes, Go for It and Now Then.
I was too young to experience Stiff Little Fingers first time round in 1978 and I only really came aware of them when I went to secondary school seeing the initials “SLF” carved into the desks by the fans of the band. By that stage it was 1982 and the band were no more.
Prior to going onto to Discogs, the only Stiff Fingers albums I had were the above albums along with the Hank! Live album which was part of a box set in the original album sleeves. The last two albums I bought were 2014’s No Going Back and the Best Served Live album in 2016.
So, I had a look at their discography and took note of the albums I needed – three studio albums and the rest a mixture of best of albums and live albums.
The first best of album released by the band came after their demise in 1983. All The Best featured the singles with b sides and EPs recorded and released between 1978 and 1983.
Originally released to coincide with the band’s final single, Price of Admission and their two farewell shows that took place in February 1983.
Anthology is basically All The Best plus all their material since the band reformed in 1987 and a third disc which was a live recording from Brixton Academy in London.
The bands live shows are legendary and there a quite a few live albums out there that were worth getting.
I bought the BBC Radio 1: Live in Concert album which was released in 1995. Not a complete set but eight tracks that would have been broadcast on the radio at the time. This concert was recorded at the Paris Theatre, London on 8 April 1981.
There was another BBC Live in Concert album that I am trying to get but haven’t had any luck so far. It is the same as the 1981 concert and includes another radio broadcast from a show recorded at the University of East Anglia, Norwich on 02/02/82.
The live 1988 album, Greatest Hits Live came out following the bands reformation on the Go For It Again reunion tour and was recoded at the National Ballroom, Kilburn on 17 December 1987.
The copy I bought was quite good as the seller also included a ticket stub from one of their concerts at the Barrowland in Glasgow which I thought was a nice touch.
I picked up Pure Fingers from other seller, this was recorded on St Patrick’s Day in 1993. For an Irish band they really made Glasgow their second home city with these concerts were becoming an annual event for the band.
This album featured old favourites as well as newer songs since they reformed. For the encore the band are joined by Ricky Warwick from The Almighty who was guest vocalist and guitarist on the two encore tracks Tin Solders and Alternative Ulster.
Another interesting addition is Bruce Foxton on Smithers-Jones, a song he wrote while he was in The Jam and was becoming a new addition to the setlist.
The most recent live album I picked up was Hand held and Rigidly Digital which was released in 2008. Recorded during the Hope Street Tour and was a 15-song collection of all the fan favourites. One for being a completist I suppose.
The bands reformation in 1987 which the comeback shows was not a one off and they decided to give it another go, releasing Flags and Emblems in 1991.
The only change in line up being that bassist Ali McMordie was unable to commit to tour full-time or record, so he left and was replaced by Bruce Foxton from The Jam. This was a hard album to get hold off, but I managed to get a copy at a reasonable price.
The album featured the single Beirut Moon which was withdrawn from sale on its day of release in the UK allegedly because it criticised the government for not acting to free hostage John McCarthy who had been held in Lebanon. On the extended best of Anthology there is an interview track with Jake Burns who talks about the song and his frustration with those in government who failed to act to get the release of their citizens.
I also bought Fly The Flags and it is more of a live companion album recording from Brixton Academy in 1991. Released in 1992 and it captures the band on tour performing old favourites as well as new tracks from the Flags and Emblems and an unfamiliar bass player, Bruce Foxton. This album is testament to how well everything was received from the fans especially the new songs.
In the sleeve notes, Jake Burns notes that they better not drop any of the new songs or the fans would kill them. This album does well to capture the new era of the band with new songs and a new bass player.
One minor point regarding this album is that my copy has 19 tracks on it instead of the listed 18. It was only when I was about to hear Beirut Moon for the first time that I realised it was Tin Soldiers that came on instead. I can’t find anything online that explains this at all.
Tinderbox came out in 1997 and it was my most recent addition to the collection. This was the third post reformation album, and I was familiar with one or two tracks from it and really liked it. I now only have three studio albums to find – Get a Life, Hope Street, Guitar and Drum to complete the studio albums.
Therapy? were probably the first Irish band apart from U2 that I took a more active interest in at the beginning.
Formed in 1989 by guitarist vocalist Andy Cairns from Ballyclare and drummer vocalist Fyfe Ewing. Early demos had Cairns filling in the bass guitar bits, but the line-up was complete when they recruited Larne bassist Michael McKeegan.
My introduction to Therapy? was in 1992 at the height of the grunge revolution. Therapy? we’re not grunge but their influence owed more to the US underground rock scene with bands like Helmet and the Jesus Lizard.
Having followed the band since there isn’t anything I don’t have that they have released or is there? A quick search on Discogs revealed there were about three releases that I don’t have in my collection, and they are all compilations.
The completist in me thought, well got to add them but without paying over the odds.
Caucasian Psychosis is a compilation album of Babyteeth and Pleasure Death. Both mini albums were underground successes hitting no.1 in the UK indie charts This was enough to earn them a major label deal with A&M.
Released on 13 April 1992 via Quarterstick Records in North America. Southern Records released the album in Europe. Both mini albums had been previously released in Europe on Wiiija Records.
Caucasian Psychosis was put together for the American market when they went over there for their first US tour in October 1992.
Why buy this when I already have both mini albums? Good question. First, the sleeve is different, and it feels more like a long player rather than two single mini albums. I had seen this over the years and never really bothered until now. I purchased the album from a seller in Dublin which didn’t cost much. Think it was about 6€ (roughly £5) and a nice little addition to the collection.
The next two purchases were probably completely pointless seeing that I had most of the material from the original CD singles or the deluxe edition of Troublegum.
Born in a Crash was a European only release from August 1993, sporting a different cover (a much close version of Face the Strange EP. It is a compilation of two their two UK EP releases Face the Strange EP which feature the first four tracks. The remaining tracks are from Opal Mantra EP featuring the lead track plus three live cuts.
Hats Off to the Insane was released in the US and Japan in September 1993.
All the tracks featured were previously European EP releases with tracks 1, 2 and 3 from Shortsharpshock, and tracks 4, 5, and 7 from Face the Strange with track 6 coming from the Opal Mantra EP.
It was fun hunting out these Therapy? releases and while probably not very important to have when you have all the tracks already in the first place but three different releases and unique covers it felt worthwhile buying costing no more than £4 each. They were probably much dearer when they were first released.