The Dirty Strangers were born in the mid ’80s – led by singer, prime motivator and chief songwriter Alan Clayton. Based in Shepherd’s Bush – one of West London’s most cosmopolitan boroughs: a bit rough around the edges though once home to the BBC, forever the land of HMP Wormwood Scrubs and Queens Park Rangers FC… The band were on a mission: carrying a torch for rootsy rock’n’roll as invented by Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent and Chuck Berry but laced with a little bit of Otis Redding soul and a side order of punk attitude.
Clayton has remained the band’s heart and soul ever since, being one of those rare stars whose profile is somehow inversely proportional to the respect granted him by others. The list of famous names who have worked alongside him is long and impressive.
In the early days of The Dirty Strangers he recruited both sometime Chuck Berry sideman ‘Scotty’ Mulvey to play keyboards (the Irishman is still in the band to this day) and guitarist Paul Fox (the man who made all that noise in the seminal punk outfit The Ruts, and who sadly passed away in 2007). The self-titled Dirty Strangers debut album (awarded 5Ks by Kerrang! magazine and heralded as “the sleaze album of the 80s” on its release in 1987) featured guest appearances from Rolling Stones Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood, as well as contributions by Mickey Gallagher of Ian Dury And The Blockheads. Also featured were stunningly soulful vocals by Angie Brown – who would tour with the band and later see top 10 action as a member of dance legends Bizarre Inc and Motiv8.
When The Dirty Strangers released West 12 To Wittering (Another West Side Story) – album number three in 2009 – Clayton’s appeal hadn’t dimmed at all as Richards and Wood again chipped in on tracks alongside a third legendary guitar player, former Damned man Brian James plus English rock’n’roll legend Joe Brown on banjo.
Away from the Dirties, in 2012, Clayton wrote and played alongside with 1960s and ’70s counter-culture icon John Sinclair – manager of Detroit’s legendary band the MC5 and founder member of the White Panthers party – when he came to the UK to make his Beatnik Youth album, produced by Killing Joke bassist Youth.
He also assembled an all-star cast as The D’Martinis to make Learnin’ The Blues – the debut album by his then 82-year-old father Johnny Clayton. Among their number were Keith Richards once again, Keith’s legendary saxophone buddy Bobby Keys, Tyla (Dogs D’Amour), Jim Jones (Jim Jones Revue), Gary Stonadge and Mallett (The Rotten Hill Gang), Dave Tregunna (Lords Of The New Church), Cliff Wright (Eat This), Barrie Cadogan (Little Barrie), the chanteuse Amy Nelson and his own son Paul Clayton. Clayton mixes such projects with an ongoing role in The Brian James Gang. If not quite a cast of thousands, added to the Dirty Strangers themselves Alan Clayton’s circle of talented friends is certainly a wide and varied set…
In 2016, he “went back to his day job” fronting The Dirty Strangers who released their fourth studio album Crime And A Woman. On it Clayton – having taken on all the band’s guitar duties – was backed by Mulvey, John Proctor (bass) and drummer George Butler (who had played with the Lightning Raiders, Ian Dury, Alex Harvey’s Giant Moth and Anteeeks among others).
After recording and touring the album, injury forced George to retire and he sadly passed away on January 28, 2018. His place in the band was taken first by Danny Fury of The Tango Pirates (ex-Lords Of The New Church) and now by Lol Fox – son of Paul. Meanwhile, with Proctor part of the touring band put together by his old friend, former AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd, Cliff Wright (a long-time associate of Clayton’s who has on his cv work as a guitar tech for Marc Bolan and David Bowie) now plays bass.
With this line-up in place 2018 began with the fabulous news that the Dirty Strangers had secured a residency for the year at the Troubadour– the legendary Earl’s Court venue that in the past has hosted such legends as Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin.
The Dirty Strangers story continues…