|Stiff Little Fingers in Seattle: Jake Burns, top, Ali McMordie below. (ALL ANDY PHOTOS)
(The following piece flowed easily after being inspired by Stiff Little Fingers' raucous gig last Saturday at El Corazon in Seattle.)
When my big brother's friend came over to our house with a stack full of albums under his arm in 1981, everything changed.
The Stiff Little Fingers records, "Inflammable Material" and "Nobody's Heroes," immediately caught my attention, and once I placed the needle on the vinyl, I was introduced to my new favorite band. I remembered hearing a few of the tracks on Rodney Bingenheimer's radio show in Los Angeles, but never caught the name of the band. Now I knew. And Jake Burns' gravely and yet melodic voice has never been far from my ears over the last 34 years.
SLF is all about raw passion, emotion and solid songs that can both fuel your anger and leave you with a smile on your face. You will find yourself wanting to punch walls or even dance around the room. It's about being human. It's life.
When listening to SLF, then and now, we've learned about screwed-up world issues (and shook our heads in a chorus of disapproval), but also given insight into how people deal with personal relationships, which can sputter out or give you the courage to stand up and shout.
SLF has attacked those topics with crackling rage and honesty: A style and edge that drew me into their world ... and I wasn't going away.
They were and are a band that you want everyone to know about. You need this band in your life.
At least that's what I think because they've been an uplifting force for me and those who have joined me along for the ride, including my wife Cat, who is also an ardent fan.
If a band had a secret handshake amongst fans, SLF would be the one. The people who are drawn to them are dedicated and spread the word like wildfire. When you see someone wearing an SLF shirt or hear them talking about the band, it's like a magnet pulls you in their direction. You go with the flow and know that people feel the same way you do. It's a prestigious club to be part of.
One night after a party in Santa Barbara, a friend and myself sat inebriated on a curb and listened to someone blasting "Nobody's Heroes" out of their second-story window. I knew the album front to back, of course, but you can't pass up that situation, right? When will that ever happen again... at least being on the receiving end of an SLF stereo barrage? I knocked on the door to get the fan's attention, and even shouted up to the window, but didn't connect with them on a personal level. In essence, the connection was already made. Victory.
It was hit and miss trying to get people into SLF in high school in the early 1980s. Those who knew about punk were won over instantly, but every once in a while I'd take a chance and try and get some new wave or rock friends into the mix. Once at a party, I slipped "Inflammable Material" into a friend's tape deck, but SLF didn't make it past a few songs and was replaced by Ozzy or Def Leppard -- damn! I also made an SLF tape for another friend, who liked a few of the "Now Then..." songs, but not the harder-edged earlier tunes. Another triumph, but I wanted the girl to appreciate the entire catalogue. Oh, well, you give it a shot and hope for the best, right?
And that's really what SLF is all about for me: Making the most of life, gaining friendships and knowledge along the way. You road-trip it a few hundred miles to see SLF, not just to rock out, but to be with family, friends and other SLF fans. We're all linked.
On Saturday night in Seattle, some people were seeing SLF for the first time and others were marking another killer set to add to their SLF experiences from the early 1980s onward. We all stood together side by side and raised our voices and fists in the air. Another memorable night.
Cheers and hanx, SLF!