Stiff Little Fingers

From Academic Kids

Stiff Little Fingers are a punk band, originally based in Belfast, Northern Ireland, formed in 1977.



Prior to becoming Stiff Little Fingers, Jake Burns, Vocals and Guitar, Henry Cluney, Guitar, Gordon Blair, Bass, and Brian Falloon, Drums, were playing in a cover band, Highway Star, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Upon the departure of Gordon Blair (who went on to play with another Belfast group, Rudi), Ali McMordie took over the duties on Bass. Henry had by this time discovered punk, and introduced the rest of the band to it. They decided that Highway Star wasn't a punky enough name, and after a brief flirtation with the name The Fast, decided to call themselves Stiff Little Fingers, Jake taking the named from a Vibrators track. It was while they were doing a gig at the Glenmachin Hotel that they met up with Gordon Ogilvie, who was a journalist with the Daily Express newspaper. He suggested they play material based upon their experience of the troubles, giving them the words to their first single, Suspect Device, which when it was released, was sent out to record companies, in the form of a cassette, with a cover depicting a cassette bomb, apparently causing great hilarity in the group, when one record company phoned them back and asked for another copy, as they'd thrown the first one in a bucket of water for fear that it was the genuine article! One copy of the single was sent out to John Peel who liked it so much, he played it repeatedly thereby leading to a distribution deal through Rough Trade. A tactic Peel has used before in promoting another famous Northern Irish band The Undertones.

Jake Burns, lead songwriter for the group, wrote politically charged anarchistic songs influenced by the world around him, namely events occurring in Northern Ireland at the time (see The Troubles). The bands second single, Alternative Ulster, was an anthem demanding change:

Take a look where you're livin'
You got the Army on your street
And the RUC dog of repression
Is barking at your feet
Is this the kind of place you wanna live?
Is this where you wanna be?
Is this the only life we're gonna have?
What we need is
An Alternative Ulster...

In the autumn of 1978, they toured with the Tom Robinson Band, and in 1979, they released their first album, Inflammable Material. This inspired their move to London, which in turn led to the departure of Brian Falloon. Jim Reilly was installed on the drum stool in time to make his debut on the Gotta Gettaway single, and play in that springs Rock Against Racism tour. In the summer of 1979, Stiff Little Fingers signed to Chrysalis Records, and in 1980 released their second album, Nobodys Heroes. 1981's Go For It followed hard on its heels. Soon after the Go For It tour, Jim Reilly left the band. His place was taken by Brian 'Dolphin' Taylor, who Jake had remembered from Taylors days with the Tom Robinson Band. In 1982, came the third studio album (although it was their fourth album, as they had released a live lp Hanx between Nobody's Heroes and Go For It), Now Then.... By this time they had diversified musically, and Now Then had an almost pop feel about it in places. This led to some of their more hard core punk fans feeling alienated, and in the face of low sales, and lower concert attendances, they broke up in 1983, with ( quoting Burns: "Our last LP Now Then was to my mind the best album we have made. But it is also unfortunately the best I think we will ever make. So I have decided to call it a day." They reformed in 1987 according to Jake, cos they were skint and wanted to make a bit of cash to get back to Ireland for Christmas. The response from the fans was overwhelming. They released some live albums and did the occasional short tour towards the end of the 80's, and by 1990 were thinking of reforming permanently. Ali McMordie decided he wouldn't be able to commit the time to touring full time, or recording, and so left to be replaced by The Jam's ex bass guitarist Bruce Foxton in time to record 1991's Flags and Emblems. The single from this album, Beirut Moon, was banned in Britain because it criticized the government for not acting to free hostage John McCarthy in the Lebanon. In 1993 Jake made what he describes in the book Stiff Little Fingers-Song by Song as being one of the hardest decisions of his life, and asked Henry Cluney to leave the band, and the trio of Jake Burns, Bruce Foxton and Dolphin Taylor continued, for the next four years. On live shows they were joined by Dave Sharp or Ian McCallum. In 1994 they released Get a Life in the UK, releasing it in the States in 1996. By the end of 1996 Dolphin's family commitments had become such that he felt he could no longer commit the time he needed to the band, and he left. Jake called in Steve Grantley who had played drums for Jake Burns and the Big Wheel in the late 80's. Ian McCallum has also joined them on a permanent basis, and this line up recorded 2003's Guitar and Drum.



  • Suspect Device, 1978
  • Alternative Ulster, 1978
  • Gotta Gettaway, 1979
  • Straw Dogs, 1979
  • At The Edge, 1980
  • Nobody's Hero, 1980
  • Back To Front, 1980
  • Just Fade Away, 1981
  • Silver Lining, 1981
  • Listen, 1982
  • Talkback, 1982
  • Bits Of Kids, 1982
  • Price Of Admission, 1982
  • Beirut Moon, 1991
  • Get A Life, 1994


External links and references - very extensive official siteno:Stiff Little Fingers pl:Stiff Little Fingers


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