the stranglers 'peaches'Listen to this track by punk-cum-pub rock BBC-baters The Stranglers. It’s their 1977 single “Peaches”, a lascivious tale of girl-watching (leching?) on a summer’s day, bolstered by one of my favourite musical elements – the tenacious bassline, this time courtesy of bassist JJ Burnel, who plays his instrument close to the bridge, and with a plectrum, for a rattling, trebly sound that makes that bassline one of his best contributions to the band’s oeuvre .

The song was released as a double-A-side with another song – “Go Buddy Go”. But, it’s this one that stands as one of the key tracks from this band, who mixed the snottiness of punk with ’60s garage rock during a time just before punk rock became fodder for the British tabloids at the end of the ’70s.

Indeed, even if the Stranglers were in competition with the Sex Pistols in 1977, they contained as much ? & the Mysterians as they did modern punk rock, complete with piles of 60s-style organ which was quite out of fashion in the ’70s punk era. This proved to be something of a rebellion against the rebellion, where expectations of a punk sound was concerned.

“Peaches” is a classic untrustworthy narrator tale which may or may not be an inner monologue by some weird guy in a trenchcoat perving at all the young bodies soaking up the sun. Yet, there again, maybe it’s the look inside the mind of someone who may seem perfectly respectable outwardly, but with a carnal side.

Burnel’s signature bass sound is a blunt instrument here, balanced against organist Dave Greenfield’s keyboards, and vocalist Hugh Cornwall’s nasty spoken-word narrative.The whole time, expletives, blatant sexual references, double-entendres, and a general air of ickiness pervades. This certainly captured the zeitgeist, and joined the Sex Pistols in another sense; being banned by the BBC.

Where to start with this song where being banned is concerned?

First, there’s the subject matter of lechery, and suggestions of sex. Then, the ‘Oh SHIT!’. Then the use of the word ‘clitoris’ (or is that clitares, a French bathing suit?). Oddly, the word ‘bummer’ was also problematic. And this of course goes without mentioning the word peaches (asses? breasts? pudenda? all of the above?), and all of the imagery that sets a young, impressionable, radio-listener’s mind running wild. So, the BBC banned it. It reached #8 on the charts anyway, with a radio-edit version that cleans up the offending words and phrases.

This is my favourite song by this band, which is saying something considering the quality of pop song they were able to produce, from “Golden Brown”, to “No More Heroes”, to “Skin Deep”, all straddling stylistic lines, but always managing to be be both varied and interesting, and undeniably their own.

Still, despite the issues surrounding the single that caused it to raise the ire of the Beeb at the time, it does have a quality that every radio single must – it’s catchy. Say what you will about punk being music that was designed to provoke, but the best of the lot understood the importance of this.

For more information about the Stranglers, be sure and check out the Stranglers official site.

Enjoy!

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7 thoughts on “The Stranglers Perform ‘Peaches’

  1. This, Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams, Nobody Does it Better by Carly Simon, Fanfare for the Common Man, Oh Lori by Alessi and Donna Summer’s I Feel Love sum up the summer of 77 for me.
    No fucking wonder I’m mixed up.

  2. Got a listening-to-Stranglers story for you.
    For years, my cousin was trying to convince my brother to listen to the Stranglers. Every time we’d see him, he’d say to my brother “Hey cous, you gotta listen to Rattus Norvegicus. You gotta.”
    And my brother would always say “Nah, Stranglers suck.”
    This went on for more than a decade. This started in the 80s. And it would never stop.
    Then… One day when I was in college (early 00s, yeah it went on for that long) I was house-sitting for my cousin. Bless him for working afar for months at a time and living near the college. He had no cable TV. He was working in Victoria or Winnipeg or somewhere so what did he need cable in Toronto for? I was there. I was bored. Studying is only fun so long. I needed some entertainment. I took a peek at his CD collection. Most of the same stuff I had: Bowie, STP, the Cult and so on. Then I noticed the Stranglers.
    “Hmmm… How bad could it be?”
    I put on Rattus Norvegicus.

    The next time I talked to my brother, I said the following. “You know how Tony is always saying ‘Cous, you gotta listen to Rattus.’ Bro, you gotta listen to Rattus.”
    Then I handed him my just purchased copy of Rattus.

    Later I would learn that Rattus is the only listenable record the Stranglers have ever made, but I’m okay with that. It’s a great record. My favourite track is Ugly, because it’s hilarious.

    1. This story made me chuckle: ‘Later I would learn that Rattus is the only listenable record the Stranglers have ever made…’
      Soon after I moved to Calgary I was introduced to another guy in a pub. Our first conversation was a debate about the Stranglers; we have remained friends for some 20 years.

  3. I was unaware of this song until I saw the movie “Sexy Beast” about 8 or 10 years ago. Never understood the lyrics or the meaning “Is she trying to get out of that clitares”, Haha! I thought it maybe was an exotic sports car or something.

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