The Stranglers–(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)

If there’s one thing rock and roll has always been great at, it’s self-mythologizing.  The Stranglers did it right out of the gate with the brilliantly bizarre (Get A) Grip (On Yourself).  The bandmates weren’t your normal punk upstarts.  They were highly trained as professional musician and it shows.  Only someone with a firm, and I mean firm, grip on music would attempt to meld such ridiculously disparate elements into a cohesive and catchy punk song.  At times, the dead sounding bass is borderline out of a hardcore song.  The keyboards sound like totally over the top, early-psychedelic, high speed button mashing, that is when they’re not being oppressive and plodding.  There is a flitting, Skylark-eqsue saxophone lick (apparently played by a Welsh miner).  And the whole thing is topped off by sneering, snotty vocals that can be seen as a response to the decision by founding member Jet Black to start a punk band in his 30s after having already become a successful businessman.  “The worst crime that I ever did was play some rock and roll/But the money’s no good/Just get a grip on yourself.”  The band sometimes took flack for being high-minded and well trained, but they flew the flag for the punk ethos as well as anyone.  The song pounces on the necessity of the music, brushing off those that ill never understand.  At the advent of an epochal scene, it was exactly the type of bold statement that was needed: simultaneously insouciant and confident, and utterly unique.

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