Burns, in a 2006 promotional photo for Stiff Little Fingers
|Birth name||John Burns|
|Born||21 February 1958|
Belfast, Northern Ireland
|Labels||Chrysalis, Rough Trade, Rigid Digits|
|Associated acts||Stiff Little Fingers (1977–1982, 1987–present)|
Jake Burns and the Big Wheel (1982–1987)
Burns started off his career at Belfast Boys' Model School with a rock covers band, Highway Star, which consisted of Burns, Gordon Blair, Henry Cluney, and Brian Faloon. Gordon Blair subsequently left the group to join Rudi, and Ali McMordie joined, about the time the band discovered punk.
They were briefly named The Fast, but as there was already a group of that name they changed it to Stiff Little Fingers, taken from the song of the same name that had appeared on Pure Mania, the 1977 album by The Vibrators.
They recorded "Suspect Device" their first single in 1977. The single was packaged 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 and asked for another copy, as they'd thrown the first one in a bucket of water for fear that it was a real bomb.
A copy of the single was sent to John Peel. He played it repeatedly leading to a distribution deal through Rough Trade.
Inflammable Material to Now Then
Stiff Little Fingers' debut album, Inflammable Material entered the UK Albums Chart as the highest new entry and, coincidentally, the first ever completely independent album on 21 February 1979, which also happened to be Burns' 21st birthday.
In 1981, Burns made his acting debut in an episode of the BBC's Play For Today series entitled Iris in the Traffic, Ruby in the Rain, written by Belfast-born poet and playwright Stewart Parker, which also featured the rest of Stiff Little Fingers effectively playing themselves as 'The Band'.
In 1982, came a four-song EP called £1.10 or Less and then their fourth studio album, Now Then... (although their fifth album, as they had released a live LP, Hanx, between Nobody's Heroes and Go for It). By this time they had diversified musically, and Now Then had an almost pop feel about it in places. This led some of their more hardcore punk fans to feel alienated, and in the face of low sales and concert attendances, they broke up in 1983, when Burns said: "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." The band later revealed the original split had been somewhat acrimonious, with band members apparently having fistfights rather than talking through their differences.
Jake Burns and the Big Wheel
After the breakup of SLF, Burns formed Jake Burns and the Big Wheel. The band consisted of Burns on Vocals and Guitar, Steve Grantley on drums, Sean Martin on bass guitar, and Pete Saunders on keyboards. Big Wheel recorded a total of three singles, "On Fortune Street", "She Grew Up" and "Breathless". A compilation album, also called On Fortune Street, was released after the band's demise.
In 1987, Burns disbanded Big Wheel, and Stiff Little Fingers reformed, because they were "skint and wanted to make a bit of cash to get back to Ireland for Christmas". They released some live albums and did short tours towards the end of the 1980s, and by 1990 were thinking of reforming permanently.
Flags and Emblems
Ali McMordie decided he could not commit the time to tour full-time or record, and so left, being replaced by Bruce Foxton (previously bass guitarist in The Jam) in time to record 1991's Flags and Emblems. In the UK, the single from this album, "Beirut Moon", was withdrawn from sale on the first day of release, allegedly because it criticised the government for not acting to free hostage John McCarthy, who had been held in Lebanon.
In 1993 Burns made what he described in the book Song by Song, as one of the hardest decisions of his life, and asked Henry Cluney to leave the band. The trio of Jake Burns, Bruce Foxton and Dolphin Taylor continued for the next four years, joined on live shows by either Dave Sharp or Ian McCallum.
Get a Life
In 1994, they released Get a Life in the UK, releasing it in the U.S. in 1996. By the end of 1996, Taylor left due to family commitments, to be replaced by Steve Grantley, who had previously been the drummer with Jake Burns and the Big Wheel.
Tinderbox, Guitar and Drum, Drinkin' Again
The trio of Burns, Foxton and Grantley recorded 1997's Stiff Little Fingers album, Tinderbox with help from Ian McCallum who joined as a full-time member for 1999's album And Best of All...Hope Street. This same line-up recorded 2003's Guitar and Drum
On 27 March 2006, Burns released a solo album titled Drinkin' Again.
No Going Back
Stiff Little Fingers released their tenth studio album, No Going Back in March 2014, eleven years since the release of Guitar and Drum, their last studio album. "No Going Back" became their first charting album since the retrospective "All The Best", eventually reaching number one on the Official BBC Rock Album Chart. Burns remains the only member to be present in all line ups of the band since their formation. A world-wide tour followed in early 2014 including the now annual event at the Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow which Jake has said on many occasions is his favourite night of the year.
3 Men and Black
Since 2001, Burns has also been involved in a side project with Pauline Black of The Selecter, called 3 Men and Black. This involves Black touring with three male artists from the late 1970s, early 1980s doing acoustic versions of songs they are famous for, and talking a little about how they came to write the songs etc. The line up for the concerts is fairly fluid, and has included such people as Bruce Foxton, J.J. Burnel, Eric Faulkner and Nick Welsh.
In 2009, Burns formed a Chicago punk rock super group called The Nefarious Fat Cats to raise money for local charities. Notable members include John Haggerty (Pegboy, Naked Raygun), Joe Haggerty (Pegboy), Joe Principe (Rise Against), Scott Lucas (Local H), Herb Rosen (Beer Nuts, Right of the Accused) and Mark DeRosa (Dummy). Mr. Burns also contributed guitar and vocals on a track of The Black Sheep Band charity record for Children's Memorial Hospital, A Chicago Punk Rock Collaboration for the Kids, Vol 1.
Outside of music, Burns is an avid football fan, supporting Newcastle United.
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- Ansill, Laura (20 February 2014). "Interview: Jake Burns of Stiff Little Fingers on Songwriting, Bernie Madoff and Audience Faith". mxdwn.com. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
- Burns, Jake; Parker, Alan (2 August 2003). Stiff Little Fingers: Song By Song. Sanctuary Publishing. ISBN 1-86074-513-X.
- DeRogatis, Jim (25 August 2009). "This weekend: Bye-bye M.O.T.O., hello Jake Burns". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on 13 August 2011. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
- "The Black Sheep Band". Jaded in Chicago. 22 February 1999. Retrieved 2 August 2017.