Barbed Wire Love

Posted in brought, caught by juliobesq on October 23, 2009

Blasted by your booby traps
I felt the blow in both knee-caps
Your eyes did shine
Your lips were fine
And the device in you pants was out of sight

All you give me is barbed wire love
All caught up in barbed wire love
Tangled up in barbed wire love
Throw my leg over barbed wire love
Barbed wire love snags my jeans


Thirty years a go Stiff Little Fingers released ‘Inflammable Material’, featuring their incendiary paean to teenage lust ‘Barbed Wire Love’: a raw marriage of punk and doo-wop.

Both musical movements share another legacy, that of prolific reproduction. Punk with it’s do-it-yourself aesthetic and a fan base centred around live gigs with direct contact to the groups, spawned for a short while a huge number of record releases. Anyone who saved enough money from their Saturday job could put out a record. And with Geoff Travis deciding to form Rough Trade to wrest control of distribution away from the majors anyone had a chance too.

But independent record production has an unsung birth, in the vocal harmony groups of the 40s and 50s, a genre which became popularised as Doo-Wop. Across America in black neighbourhoods groups of friends would gather and vocal harmonise together. With no musical instruments and need for overdubs or mixing levels these groups found it simple to to pitch up at a recording studio, complete their song in a single take, and purchase a pressing of perhaps a hundred records. It is estimate that over it’s 25 year span doo-wop gave birth to 30,000 songs. Shaaa-bop!

The 70s saw a revival in vocal harmonies (Manhattan Transfer anyone?) and Stiff Little Fingers ripped the pastiche apart from the inside and hurled it into present. Their blue print lay dormant for thirty years till Glasvegas picked up the mantle.

Punk was largely posturing and the main players sang of revolution but it was SLF coming up from the streets of Belfast who gave anger of revolt it’s true voice. Buy the album from and listen to the righteous paint-blistering anger of Suspect Device. And then there is their finest moment…

People occasionally cover a Bob Marley song, and usually with a ‘why bother’ result. To equal Saint Bob is something, but to better him…? SLF take Rita Marley’s ‘Johnny Was’ and transpose the senseless shooting of the protagonist from the electoral violence of Jamaica’s Kingston to the occupation and civil war in Northern Ireland. Shedding along the way any pretence of authenticity of reggae and playing it out it a white heat of guitar noise. Still, when Jake Burns rasps “a single shot shot rings out in the Belfast night” the hairs on my neck stand on end, thirty years on.

Is it that good? Buy the album and see for yourself.

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