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.