Legendary seventies Belfast punks, Stiff Little Fingers return to Australia this month, so here are half a dozen of their songs to get you in the mood.
Inspired by The Clash and The Sex Pistols, and born out of the Troubles in Belfast in 1977, Stiff Little Fingers weren’t part of British punk’s first generation (indeed they took their name from a song on the first Vibrators album). Still, they weren’t too far behind, and they had an authenticity – a reason for their disenchantment – that was undeniable. While the Pistols were revelling in their Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle, and The Clash were copping flack for hiring an American hard rock producer for their second album, SLF stepped up to the plate in 1979 with an album that was full of energy and big on hooks, and undeniably the real deal. Seen by some in the too cool post-punk world as punk nostalgia - things moved a lot faster back then - the kids loved them anyway.
Inflammable Material, the first album released on Rough Trade Records and the first independent album to sell over 100,000 copies in the UK, followed on the back of two singles that were as exciting as punk gets. “Suspect Device” and “Alternative Ulster” were the kind of records that changed people’s lives, and they did just that, giving the band a massive audience across Britain and one that expanded out into the US and also into Australia, where Stiff Little Fingers were community radio favourites. While the band never bettered those two singles, they came close a couple of times, and their run of albums into the early 80s was packed solid with strong material. Even more recent records have the goods. We finish our selection of favourites below with the brilliant “My Dark Places”, from their 2014 album No Going Back.
A cursory listen to this stuff reveals the massive influence the band has had on subsequent outfits like Rancid, Green Day and Dropkick Murphys. We’d be surprised if The Living End weren’t fans too. The band, still fired by the impassioned rasp of Jake Burns and featuring original bass player Ali McMordie, still sound great, as anyone who witnessed their sell-out Australian tour in 2018 will attest. We’ve included some recent live footage below for you doubters.
“Suspect Device” (1978)
“Alternative Ulster” from Inflammable Material (1980)
“Nobody’s Hero” from Nobody’s Heroes (1980)
“Gotta Getaway” - Rockpalast live version from Nobody’s Heroes (1980)
“At the Edge” - Top of the Pops appearance from Nobody’s Heroes (1980)
“My Dark Places” from No Going Back (2014)
Also, check out this short documentary piece – an excerpt from a BBC documentary on the band’s label Rough Trade – that covers their beginning and early success and features some great early footage.
Alternative Ulster, Isle of Wight Festival (2015)