Saturday, September 22, 2007

Bands who deserve to be stinking rich (an occasional series): Stiff Little Fingers

It was only when Just A Cool Cat was asking about Stiff Little Fingers yesterday that I realized I haven't been living up to my mandate of periodically featuring bands who should have been way more famous than they were. That oversight has got to stop right now and if there is any band who deserves the limelight, it is Stiff Little Fingers.

Stiff Little Fingers were arguably one of the angriest bands formed during one of the angriest periods of Northern Ireland's history. Formed in 1977, they were originally a cover band known as Highway Star, but upon discovering punk they began writing original material and realized they needed a more punky name. They took the name Stiff Little Fingers from a Vibrators' song.

The band caught the ear of BBC Radio One DJ (and musical visionary) John Peel when a friend sent him a limited pressing of "Suspect Device" and "Wasted Life". Peel played those songs nightly, and the exposure allowed the band to score a distribution deal in England.

Stiff Little Fingers have been accused of having pro-IRA sentiments, but if you listen to the lyrics, you quickly realize that nothing could be further from the truth. With their highly political and highly charged lyrics, Stiff Little Fingers have also faced accusations of exploiting the Troubles, but essentially they wrote about the reality in Belfast at the time. As frontman Jake Burns put it, they couldn't very well write songs about American highways when they lived in Northern Ireland.

Stiff Little Fingers broke up in 1982 and reformed in 1987. They have been through a series of personnel changes and Burns remains the only consistent member of the band.

Take a listen to some of their songs and tell me they didn't deserve to be stinking rich:
Wasted Life.mp3
Suspect Device.mp3
Alternative Ulster.mp3
"If it wasn't for your stiff little fingers
nobody would know you were dead."


Allison said...

I've been listening to them tonight, as Mel reminded me of them with her Friday Playlist.

I couldn't agree with you more, they do deserve to be stinking rich. The first song I ever heard from them was Suspect Device and I was hooked. Barbed Wire Love is also another favourite. This spring I listened quite a bit to Inflammable Material. I'm always in awe of a song that can say everything in under 3 minutes. Their music always had a glimmer of hope too.

Toccata said...

Never heard of them before your post. Thanks for the introduction. I would like to see the lyrics for Suspect Device. I had trouble catching all the words.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Barbed Wire Love is another gooder,Al. Very clever lyrics and catchy tune.
I've been listening to Inflammable Material a lot this past week. We've got the UK import version which ends with a 17 minute interview with Jake Burns. One day I will listen to more than the first five minutes of that.

I feel as though I have done my good deed (I hope) for the day then, Toccata/ It is hard to catch all the lyrics with them being screamed like that.

Here they are:

Inflammable material is planted in my head
It's a suspect device that's left 2000 dead
Their solutions are our problems
They put up the wall
On each side time and prime us
And make sure we get fuck all
They play their games of power
They mark and cut the pack
They deal us to the bottom
But what do they put back?

Don't believe them
Don't believe them
Don't be bitten twice
You gotta suss, suss, suss, suss, suss out
Suss suspect device

They take away our freedom
In the name of liberty
Why don't they all just clear off
Why won't they let us be
They make us feel indebted
For saving us from hell
And then they put us through it
It's time the bastards fell


Don't believe them
Don't believe them
Question everything you're told
Just take a look around you
At the bitterness and spite
Why can't we take over and try to put it right


We're a suspect device if we do what we're told
But a suspect device can score an own goal
I'm a suspect device the Army can't defuse
You're a suspect device they know they can't refuse
We're gonna blow up in their face

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

I'm loving you for posting this. I came to SLF late but now that I'm on board I love them like a fat kid loves cake.

Dale said...

I always loved their name and remember Alternative Ulster from my roomie's collection in university. I'll have a listen and see if I remember the others. You and I also deserve to be rich, just saying.

She's Crafty said...

Seriously hey...if only we were the ones responsible for making bands "big" (in the pocket - rather than the head!).

See Mom - SUSS is a word! Apparently, it's too "street" for my mom. She wasn't very impressed with my vocab. Hilarious.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I love them like Fiddy loves a fat kid who loves cake!
I came to SLF rather late too, Dr M. Once again, I owe it all to my kid.

And you do stand a pretty good chance of becoming rich, Dale, the way you are climbing up that Blog Interviwer ranking. How sad is it that I continue to vote for myself every day?
Have fun reliving your university debauchery days (as opposed to your current debauchery days) through some SLF.

"Suss" gets used pretty regularly around here, Serah. Your mom would be shocked.
I guess we do what we can to line the pockets of the good bands, don't we, but so many more millions with questionable musical taste are doing the same.

justacoolcat said...

Very punk indeed. Thanks. As you know I've never heard them before and "Suspect Device" made a refreshing addition to the cello concerto coming from the other side of the room.

Beth said...

Great post, Barbara! Isn't it frustrating when a great band exists in semi-oblivion?

And thanks for including the MP3s; all my SLF albums are still on vinyl, so I don't have any digital versions.

Toccata said...

Hey, thanks for writing out the lyrics. I really didn't expect you to do that. I'm now going to take another listen with the words in front of me.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Suspect Device goes perfectly with a cello concerto, Just A; they are practically identical.
If you need a little punk, you need look no further than Stiff Little Fingers.

You are hard coreBeth! All your Stiff Little Fingers albums are on vinyl? I bow to your musical goddessness!
On the one hand though, there is part of me that likes keeping those awesome bands as a bit of a secret.

It was my pleasure, Toccata and really just a matter of copying and pasting.

mellowlee said...

Great post Barb :O) The first time I heard them was when I was compiling punk xmas tunes for my mix. I agree, they should be stinkin' rich for sure!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

They sure were perfect on your mix too, Mel. That was a great mix!