Burns limbering up for Stiff Little Fingers’ furthest north gig

Stiff Little Fingers are playing Mareel on Saturday night.
Stiff Little Fingers are playing Mareel on Saturday night.

Tomorrow sees one of the seminal punk bands of the 1970s play at the Mareel auditorium, brought to the isles by Klub Revolution.

Stiff Little Fingers, previously known as Highway Star after a Deep Purple song and originally from Belfast, came to national prominence on embracing the first wave of punk rock in 1977 along with the Sex Pistols, Clash and Jam. Their best songs were inspired by the “troubles”, like Alternative Ulster.

At the time they had a public spat with another Irish group the Undertones who accused them of sensationalising Northern Ireland’s conflict. Snce then this has been resolved although not with Feargal Sharkey, the Undertones’ former lead singer. But alledgedly, not even Sharkey has smooth relations with his former band members.

Stiff Little Fingers frontman Jake Burns has always passionately sung in what he believes. Now, after many a line-up changes, which even saw the former Jam bassist Bruce Foxton play for them for a number of years, Burns remains the only original member.

His singular vocal prowess has set the band apart from their contemporaries. He spoke to The Shetland Times yesterday after “flying in from the states” where he lives now, the band’s manager told me. How come no-one just flies from the states? He left his native Belfast in 1978, living first in London and then Newcastle before moving across the Pond.

I asked him about his phenomenal voice and how he kept it in shape. He said that honestly he did very little – his voice soon got used to touring. I had heard, like him, of Rod Stewart and sergeant majors using brandy and port to look after the old vocal chords.

We both agreed that one glass was enough and in fact gargling then spitting it out was the right thing to do, if sometimes difficult reconcile.

Before this gig the furthest north Burns has played is Inverness. He would have preferred to have come by ferry, but time was prohibitive.

In his early 50s now, he doesn’t feel like slowing up; in fact now he is busier than ever, not only playing to his original fans but to their children as well.

The touring is still extensive. He says it takes a year to tour the world and later this year sees the band go into the studio to record an album.

Tomorrow night they will be supported by the isles’ own Wind Up Projectiles and Dirty Lemons.

On the phone Jake sounds down to earth with a gentle Irish lilt, not much like his stage persona.

Hopefully Stiff Little Fingers, or known affectionately as the “Stiffs”, will be “flying in” from Aberdeen for what promises to memorable gig for old and new fans alike.

Stephen Gordon


Add Your Comment
  • Harry Dent

    • July 26th, 2013 12:54

    Gutted I can’t be there.

  • Shirley Sexton

    • July 27th, 2013 17:17

    Several errors in this piece. Most importantly, Jake is not the only original member in the band. Ali McMordie, bass player, is also an original member. Hanx.


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