“Skin Deep”

THE STRANGLERS – “Skin Deep” / “Here And There” (Epic A 4738) September 1984

The Stranglers “Skin Deep” – This single was the last truly great single from the original line-up and I kind of gave up on the Stranglers after it. Weak and tedious cover versions of “96 Tears” and “All Day And All Of The Night” followed but they won’t be under the spotlight here.

“Skin Deep” is an exceptional piece of music, all four musicians are for perhaps the last time working as a unit / team and with this disc were serious chart contenders, even without much publicity. No studio production nonsense of gated drums and over-the-top ’80s Roland synths evident on this recording, the latter combination of hideousness wrecked so many records back then.

I have been unable to locate any period music press record reviews but have unearthed an interview Hugh Cornwell gave to Smash Hits magazine, published in October 1984. A brief excerpt below:

. . . . . But just as suddenly they were out of favour again. The moment the 2-Tone bandwagon pulled into view, everyone turned their attention to groups like The Specials, Madness and The Selecter, and The Stranglers began to seem rather old-fashioned and a bit tame.

And by the time Duran Duran, Visage and Spandau Ballet arrived in 1981, The Stranglers had disappeared abroad and were making new friends in places like Australia and Japan.

Which was probably not a bad thing for all concerned, as Hugh declares the entire frilly blouse and lipstick movement to have been “a bit airy-fairy, wimpy and shmaltzy”.

And he’s not a lot kinder about the charts in 1984.

“People are attending more to the glamour of it all that to the content. They’re forgetting what they originally used synthesisers for – which was to compliment the song. The song is becoming the reason for the synthesisers in the same way as the video is becoming the excuse for the song.”

About all he has time for is Frankie Goes To Hollywood – “they’ve got balls” – and, perhaps more surprisingly, Culture Club.

“I was amazed a transvestite character could get on the cover of Woman magazine. That’s great. If you can’t take yourself lightly you’ve got no future at all. But the more you dress things up, the more drab it becomes. People end up being ‘skin deep’ without meaning to be.” he adds, a reference to the group’s current single.

“Skin Deep” is about, yes, superficiality. You encounter The Skin Deep in every walk of life.”

And the prime examples of ‘The Skin Deep’ for The Stranglers are, quite clearly, the poor souls who get sent to interview them, though Hugh admits he’s grown a little softer over the years.

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