Bruce Lawson’s personal site

Stiff Little Fingers!

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When I was 13, my mates and I would go to my house at school lunchtime and listen to punk records that one of the lads had "borrowed" from his older brother. The most exciting of all the punk records was Inflammable Material by Stiff Little Fingers.

By 1979, the Clash were wising me up to leftish politics but their music was pretty cerebral; the Sex Pistols had turned into post-Rotten vaudeville – but SLF were the real deal – 4 guys from Belfast singing anti-IRA songs were almost certainly risking danger and singing about what they really believe. I was hooked and bought all their albums, but never saw them live – until last night.

The venue was just as a punk gig should be; no seating, walls painted black, the whole place smelling of sweat, beer and cigarettes. It was reassuringly full of 40 year olds (I was worried there might be teenie punks with Green Day T-shirts and skateboards) and the band looked greyish haired and chunky-stomached, much like me.

But fucking hell, could they play! Suspect Device and Alternative Ulster had all the energy that I remembered (even though the band must’ve played them every night for two and a half decades). They sang the songs that helped form my social views: Fly The Flag and Roots, Radicals, Rockers and Reggae on social justice, Doesn’t Make It All Right on racism, Bits of Kids on social deprivation, and one of my favourites Is That What You Fought The War For? that my band covered (to loud booing) on the eve of the first gulf war. There was a spine-tingling version of a song about how Americans helped bankroll terrorism in Ireland (before they realised that terrorism was, you know, a bit unpleasant after it happened to them):

EACH DOLLAR A BULLET
Jake Burns

Oh it must seem so romantic
When the fighting’s over there
And they’re passing round the shamrock
And you’re all filled up with tears
"For the love of dear old Ireland"
That you’ve never even seen
You throw in twenty dollars
And sing "Wearing of the Green"

(Chorus:)
Each dollar a bullet
Each victim someone’s son
And Americans kill Irishmen
As surely as if they fired the gun

I wished they’d played Hits and Misses, but they didn’t. To make up for it, the encore, to my great delight, was a cover of Bob Marley’s Johnny Was. I drank Guinness, smoked roll-ups, jumped up and down, sang along and wondered why I’d waited 23 years to see this excellent band play. They were energetic, entertaining and their lyrics should be compulsory reading in schools.

OK, so they don’t have a thought-out political agenda – these people are musicians, not philosophers, but the great rage against injustice in the lyrics speaks just as much to me now as it did in 1979. If you’re a Green Day/ Blink 182 fan, ask your mum to buy you a ticket for an SLF gig near you to see the real spirit of protest and punk rock, from men old enough to be your grandfather and still angry. As the Irish poet W.B. Yeats wrote, why should not old men be mad?

73 Responses to “ Stiff Little Fingers! ”

Comment by Murat Kılınç

I’m an 18 year old punk fan from Turkey. I like your website.’I was worried there might be teenie punks with Green Day T-shirts and skateboards’ ha ha,especially this sentence is what I like.Pistols,SLF,Clash,x ray spex are the real punks,not green day or sum 41.Thank you for still being a punk at the age of 40!

Comment by Murat Kılınç

Bruce,I want to ask you some questions about the ‘punk generation’ in Britain in late ’70s.What happened to them?What are they doing now?Are they workers,farmers or bosses?When they think about their past,what do they feel? If you answer my questions,I’ll be pleased.

Comment by Ped C

Bruce it is wrong to say that SLF where singing anti-IRA songs. Their songs where a comment on both sides of the divide in Northern Ireland and also about the British Army and all armies in general. To single out one particular group is incinuating that SLF had a political grievance with just that one group, which is untrue, and potentially dangerous for a band in their position.

Comment by bruce

Well, Ped, I don’t say that they sang exclusively anti-IRA songs. Undeniably “Wasted Life” is anti-IRA, though.

Comment by Aitor

Hi! I also am a punk! I’m from the Basque Country and here there are a lot of punk people. We use punk to fight again Spain and France. My favourite groups are SLF, Clash, Peter & the Test Tube Babies, Dictators, Cocney Rejects, Cock SParrer… And I also hate groups like Green Day, sum 41, Blink182. I think it isn’t punk. The real one was that in the 80’s.
Thank you!
Independence for the Basque Country!

Comment by markie

i have just found your web site and love slf and i am 40 i was never allowed to see them live back in the 70s and 80s but went with my mates 3 years ago and loved them. just last night i found my 13 year old daughter playing a game on the tv and slf was playing in the background i asked her did she know who they were.she said i love them i am a bit of i rock chic.good breeding i think, dont you

Comment by Martin

SLF are as good now as they where 20 years ago!! i saw them in 85 when i was 20 and last week in Morecambe . if u havent seen them u dont know what ur missing. check em out

Comment by Sara

Hi Bruce!
i was glad to read what you´ve written about SLF!
I´m soon 40, and the band meant so much to me when I was 13 and some years after that. They still mean a lot, and have done all the time, the lyrics are really great. Some of it I havent´t understood untill some years ago, like “What you see is what you get”, while other songs like “Silver lining” – “the world has got money enough”, I want an equal share even if it means I have to give” and so on helped me learn about the world. Noone had before that told me so much – in my ears- TRUTH. SLF spoke to a part of me that hadn´t found it´s way out yet.

And, like you and som others answering you, I hadn´t the possibility to se them then, but they played in Stockholm (only 70 km from my home) in 1982 I think. It was hard for me I couldn´t go, and shortly after the band split.
but I got my second chance! After hoping some years they would come to Sweden, I went to England, Portsmouth, to see them last week and it was great!
also dark painted walls,a small and intimate place, at last I got what I wanted! That gig can´t be compared to any other I have been to, SLF just are the greatest with their energy, personality, and lyrics that just gives more and more!
Thank you Bruce and Markie for writing what they mean to you!
Sara

Comment by allan

SLF Tinsoldiers, Suspect Device, Bits of kids, Bad wire love. What can I say absoltley superb got my tickets for St. Patricks day 17th of March 2007 Listen to the fingers when I was 13 now 42 there still as good if not better this shall be the seventh time I have seen them along with The Clash, The Pistols, Sham 69 and The Stranglers they are absolutley fantastic, I hope they keep going for many years to come. To all SLF fans enjoy the gig.

And not to mention Nobody’s Hero, Go for it.

Yours Allan (SLF Fan)

Comment by Steve

Superb. I haev just read your stuff and I can relate to it so much. I was 12 in 1979 and we used to go to my mates house playin alternative ulster.

I was 35 before I first saw the finger play at the Accademy in Manchester. I see them every time they this this venue (and King George’s hall in Blackburn) and the energy does not diminish.

I know all you fingers fans will understand when I tell you how the hairs stand up the back of my neck at the intro to Alternative Ulster.

What a great feelin at a fingers gig when a couple of hundred forty somethings forget their age and re live those original feelings we first felt in out teens.

Comment by joe

great to see many stiff fans alive and kickin.ive been a fan since late seventies and still blast out thier albums when feelin down.seen them 20 years ago and goin again in march[ulster hall].”see you up there”HANX!

Comment by Darren Matthews

Hi there. I was well pleased when I googled Stiff Little Fingers and found your site and all the great things you said about the band.

I am 21 and I still love the songs even though i only discovered them when i got into punk in my teens. I am also lucky enough to be heading away to work on the upcoming Stiff Little Fingers tour starting tomorrow night in Belfasts Ulster Hall.

See you up there

Comment by Porter

How ya doin,
Just found yer website the noo cos i was googlin SLF.
I’m off to see them tonight at the Lemon Tree in Aberdeen to see them for the 3rd time, it will be my mate Fritz’s 24th time (loser)!!!.
Aparently they will be playing the whole of Inflammable Material as its their 30th aniversary (apparently).
Just thought i would let yez all know!

Oh and to the foriegn punks at the top of the page… whats wrong with Greenday???

I’ve seen them live a few times too, at various festivals and they are one of the best bands i’ve seen, and believe me i’ve seen a lot!

To appreciate music you have to listen to all kinds!

Anyway i have the afternoon off work so i’m off to get hammered before the gig!

seeyaz

Comment by steve dodds

cuaght fingers at dublin last week. did play all the inflammable material gear. jake’s still got it.don’t mess with the fan base.

Comment by allan

Bruce just been on stiff little fingers website. They are playing the 6th of May at Birmingham Academy. Was at the Barrowlands gig on saturday in glasgow absolutly superb my seventh time i have seen them. The sang the boys are back in town superb, all inflammable material can’t wait until next time. Cheers Stiff Little Fingers Fan (Allan)

Comment by Fiona

Agree to some of the above; didn’t listen to them on a lunchtime it was the whole day when I was skiving.
Ped c, yep one of the first voices to look at both sides, which became apparent in later life.
Little bit scared that the punks in Europe are using SLF as a voice – I hope they stick to the gigs & never use the bullets.
Went to SLF gig at Sheffield Leadmill 8 years ago, met my hero back stage ‘Jake Burns’ went all girly & sooooo embarrassed myself – hey ho!
My Mothers day pressie was Newcastle Carling Academy last sunday (19th) my ribs still hurt now!! I shall be 40 this year so can’t wait for my pressie!!
We have moved on & we now question wars, in most parts of the world, & I thank SLF for bringing those questions to me so long ago & the other side I was ignorant to.
The gig was fantastic, how does he do it? Tequila kills me……….
What chances do you think a 40 year old groupie has?
Replies please?

Comment by darrin

go on to my web page i think you will like it I am 13 and i am a big slf fan i probley know every song i once waited outsid the wegwood room from 10 till 5 and i got soked buti got jake’s guitar strings (it was fun)well any way soz for going on !!!!
(keep the flame burning)

dazerslf

Comment by allan

great work daz just been on your site was at SLF gig in glasgow at the barrowlands 17 march they just get better and better but you keep up the good work well done wee man and all the best 2 u cheers SLF FAN ALLAN.

Comment by darrin

hi allan
1 more sleep till i see the lads for 3 night can not wait and hanx for going on my site i will be updating it on the weekend with loads of pics ect…

hanx
dazerslf

Comment by Trauko

I just came across this site, I am 44 and SLF were the first band that really got my adrenalin flowing and my brain engaged, though I am a Clash fan I agree with the comment that they were the more cerebral, but SLF really made you want to “let go”. I have seen them in ten different venues and never been dissapointed, though these days I start pogoing at the front and gradually move to the back as my breath fails me! SLF are real punk, there were many other genuine punk bands but none as resilient as the boys from Belfast, I can’t imagine that many bands that I wouldn’t mind seeing together when they are in their 60’s and so am I, certainly not the bloody “kiss upper class arse” Rolling Stones or “lets try make more money” Who, but SLF? I will be going to their gigs for as long as I can crawl there!

Comment by rae

firstly they are not anti ira songs,they are anti war songs to both sides of the divide,i take it u havnt read song by song by jake burns.slf have never taken sides on the irish issue,just sung about the stupidity of religious bias.a great band who ive seen over 25 times,but they dont support any sides of the political divide,they just want peace and normality in ireland

Comment by Ian Mair

The muslims have Mecca, the Fingers have Barrowland.All Fingers fans must go to Barrowland to see them, they are truely awsome. I have never been to a Fingers concert with that much energy.I now know what they mean by a hive of actiity.

Comment by henderson proudfoot

as a veteran of many fingers gigs i reckon the line up now is the best ever, a group who are still in touch with their fans and appreciate they would be nothing without them. jake’s voice gets better with age or lager steve and ali are top musicians and ian must be one of the best guitarists on the planet plus he is a massive rangers fan (as jake announced in aberdeen.

Comment by Jimmy

All the old punks are are now the interesting people you see in the street. SLF helped make this in a big way.These people are the ones who can think and act for themselves. Please all take another listen to Flags and Emblems remember to stand up and shout, you may be 40ish but you are not dead yet.

Comment by Colin

Just to pick up on a point someone else made and you replied to. Wasted Life is not and never was a specifically anti IRA song and to like a band because specifically they sang songs anti one side or another shows a dangerous leaning I think.

I’m a protestant Irishman and personally, I think and always have thought that both sides of the conflict are and were arseholes and when SLF broke out I find out so liberating and brave.

Jake has spoken many times on how ‘Wasted Life’ is and was a statement on how the youth of Belfast, incl jake and his pals, and me, were almost being pressurised into joining either side of the paramilitary divide and as such always was a condemnation of both sides of the terrorist divide in Belfast and NI. It was not an anti IRA song anymore than it was an anti UDA, UVF etc song.

SLF, as was well known back then, contained 2 catholics and 2 protestants and I think it is fair to say, did their best to represent the feelings of the majority of the youth of both religions ie not wanting anything to do with the violence and looking for their own ‘alternative ulster’.

See you up there!

Comment by Mouse

Wasted Life is NOT specifically an anti IRA song. Its actually a song opposing all paramilitary groups both republican and loyalist.

Comment by matt

can you see oasis , kaiser cheifs ,snow patrol,and all the rest of that pish lastin 30 and more years. no fuckin chance. GO FOR IT. STIFF LITTLE FINGERS

Comment by fozzy

Slf are ten times better than the ” pop punk ” shity bands like blink 182 etc and we will see in years to come if they are anywhere in sight .

Comment by jans panties

hi bruce, my punk friends tricked me into giving up ska to embrace their scene thru slf (doesn’t make it alright)and boy i havent looked back. now 40 and still one of my favs. im one of those australians (1992) who went to ole blighty for 2 years. however my focus was to explore the punk world, where you folks are so spoilt. luckily i saw slf twice, once with peter and test tubes, just wished my oz friends cud have been there, especially for ‘tin soldiers’. can someone tell them it is time they came to oz. i have been trying to enter the official web site pub and just cant seem to get in, does anyone else have probs. maybe they dont like my accent.

Comment by kevin

saw them first in 1979 at edinburgh playhouse saw tier farewell concert 1982 glasgow apollo saw them at liquid rooms edinburgh last week and must have saw them over 10 times since best on the planet bar none

Comment by steve dodds

saw them at middlesbough couple of weeks ago. impressed that jake decided to go through the board playing stuff, besides the crowd pleasers,that i ain’t heard of (never heard harp before- since then bought get a life cd). history of some of the lyrics was interesting to.

Comment by magoo

HAD NOT SEEN THE BAND SINCE 1979 EDINBURGH CLOUDS.GOT TO SEE THEM LAST MONTH AT THE LIQUID ROOMS AND WAS VERY IMPRESSED..CANT WAIT TILL THEY PLAY THE BARROWLANDS NEXT YEAR…STRUMMERVILLE IS SUPERB

Comment by b mac

I’m a irish american kid from new jersey and i think slf is great.I agree with what they say for the most part.Its seems to me that they dont really like us irish americans though,and that is a let down.

Comment by Shinny

Hi Bruce,
I just stumbled across yous site after googling slf and am really pleased to hear that so many fingers fans are still looking them up!!!
I’ve been a fan since 1978 and have seen them every year since(apart from the 5yr split).
The Robin 2 at Bilston, Wolverhampton have had slf gigs as have the carling academy. The best night I ever had though was in the early eighties when the band played Hull Tower and sold too many tickets. They got around the problem by playing two gigs in one night!!!! Talk about looking after their fans. I was lucky enough to catch BOTH gigs and I can tell you now that the second gig was just as energetic as the first.
Long may Jake and the boys keep thrilling audiences with their brilliant lyrics and catchy tunes that are as relevant today as they’ve always been. I do wish they would play gotta getaway live again though as this is a real fans favourite!!!! Hanx and all the best.

Comment by Jodie

Hey.
I am a 14 year old girl and went to the SLF 30th anniversary gig last year. I have to say it was the posssibly the best gig I have been to.. comes close to the pistols re-union gig though. I am going to see SLF again tonight and can’t wait 🙂

Comment by bruce

Hi Jodie – good for you! You’re about the same age I was when I got into the Fingers and the Pistols.

Good to see a new generation carrying the torch.

Now grab yourself some Clash and Dead Kennedys CDs.

Comment by Stuart

Hi,

Loved your comments, just goes to prove when you are good at what you do age is immaterial.

I first saw Stiff Little Fingers as a fresh faced 15 year old in 1979. I last saw them in London, last Friday, aged 43, and it was probably the best SLF gig I have seen, and I’ve seen a few.

Stiff Little Fingers rule, the rest(Green Day etc) are cheap imitations, let’s see if they last 30+ years!

Comment by trev

took my daughter to see stiff at bolton albert halls shes a 100% slf fan can’t wait to see them again … and also its nice to have somewere you can chat about proper music top site well done

Comment by joasey

just been to see slf at the carling academy in the toon …newcastle on tyne lol.. great gig.. brings back many memories long live slf jxx

Comment by oboeSLF

joasey,
I was there as well. Did what it says on the tin and did’nt disappoint. Never stopped for the after party though.Only gripe was £3.20 for less than a pint of watered down larger and a few nuggets chucking plastic glasses.

Comment by WILSON

wATCHED THE BOYS AT BLACKBURN LAST FRIDAY,NOW THATS A PROPER CONCERT,GREAT ATMOSPHERE FIRST TIME SEEN THEM FOR OVER 20 YEARS,THE WIFE LOVED IT

Comment by Jan

Hi,

Could someone tell me the exact release date of the album ‘Nobody’s Heroes” by Stiff Little Fingers.
1980 moth ??? Day ???

Regards,
Jan

Comment by K evin Mc

I was reading the local paper the other day and came across an article saying SLF were comming to town (Christchurch New Zealand). I couldnt believe what I was seeing as Ive been a fan for too many years! I still listen to them regularly.
After I had read the item a few times to make sure I wasnt mistaken I went out and got myself and my son a ticket. Never thought i’d get a chance to see them play!
Cant wait to see them in may, hope they play the old stuff, I reckon the opening bars to Alternative Ulster are going to be awesome live, bring it it on!!!

Comment by adam

they are coming to auckland aswell. I got 2 tickets as soon as i heard (YUSS!!!!) this is going to be sweet.

Comment by craig gordon

I always thought it was after the realease of Nobody’s Heros I saw SLF in the Capitol. Obviously this must have been 1980.
Where did they play to the recorded CD 1979 in Aberdeen?

Comment by Gerry

‘Well, Ped, I don’t say that they sang exclusively anti-IRA songs. Undeniably “Wasted Life” is anti-IRA, though.’

I don’t agree – I’ve listened to SLF from the beginning and seen ’em loadsa times – That song Wasted life is about ANY paramilitary group not just about IRA to quote “Stuff the Fuckin’ ARMIES! , Killin’ isn’t my idea of fun”

Comment by Bruce

Gerry – which paramillitary groups do you think were uppermost in people’s minds in Northern Ireland in the late 70s?

Comment by Jim O'Donnell

The UDA, the UVF and the IRA? I can’t really remember who was killing who in Northern Ireland back then, but I remember Protestant paramilitary killings in the news on RTE when I was over in the South on holiday as a kid. I always thought Wasted Life was sticking two fingers up at the Irish paramilitaries in general, not the Republicans specifically. They were all as bad as each other.

Comment by becky

just found this website and love it have seen fingers three times lately its brought all the old teenage memories back. ikissed jake b when i was nineteen my claim to fame am now forty four my eldest son is called jake loved themusic so much, cannot wait till next week going to festival hall.fingers fingers?????. 14 06 08

Comment by bruce

Bezza

good to hear from a teen punk fan. I can’t comment in Goldblade – never heard of them, let alone heard them – but are they *really* better than The Clash or the Dead Kennedys?

Comment by rab g

I have just discovered my old record collection and foung suspect divice / wasted life on Riged Digits label – 1978 it also has signed on the lable JOE.F I cant rembember about what this name is, does it mean anything to anyone is the record special to SLF fans?

Comment by mandy

Took my 13 year old son to see SLF at the Ironworks Inverness this weekend, he absolutely loved it. I was thirteen when I first saw them play and they are just as raw and energetic now as they were some 25 years ago.

Comment by Gerdy

Lmao! ANTI IRA SONGS??!?!?!
Seriously man, youve got it all wrong. the stiffs were from both sides of the community & they didnt bias the RA as “terorists” or anything.
they just seen the two sides of the conflict in the north of ireland as a stupid share of bastards & gave the voice of the youth of belfast & other suburban towns in the north like bangor, newry & coleraine

Comment by Rab

Just discovered my old record collection and have
suspect divice / wasted life on Riged Digits label – 1978 it also has signed on the lable JOE.F I cant rembember about what this name is, does it mean anything to anyone is the record special to SLF fans?
Is anyong going to the Stiff’s on mon 16 feb09 in the Ulster Hall??

Comment by steve

yeah, me and my son are coming over from sunderland to see them,and yes i know they’re playing newcastle two days later but thats what i do.over the years i’ve went all over the country to see the lads and i class it as going to an away match to jusify the expense.wife’s not amused but she always gets asked if she wants to go so i’ve been more than fair with her!

Comment by Rab

Well Steve did you enjoy the stiffs at the Ulster hall, although I dont have a clue what you look like I tryed to spot you (thats an irish one), were you up middle front going mad shirt off not slim and a few off you were picking the young lad up and doing a bit of surfing?? just wondering if I got it right?

Comment by Phil B

I have loved, and love even more tonight in 2011, this band for their honesty and music since i got my first ever album – Infammable Material (& still got it) – from my beautiful girlfriend as a birthday present in 1988ish – Liz Lawson, you are a legend!

Comment by kev

read jimmy,s comment Qoute 33 that says it all jimmy made me a better peson listening to SLF THROUGH THE YEARS

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