The Stranglers

 The Stranglers

 Hugh Cornwell – circa 2003

 “I was always told at school everybody should get the same” – ‘Always The Sun’ (Jet Black, Jean-Jacques Burnel, Hugh Cornwell, Dave Greenfield)

“Guildford University never represented Guildford.  We won’t play to elitist audiences!” Hugh Cornwell, vocalist and guitarist for The Stranglers, yells at the crowd.  He then leads the rest of this U.K. punk rock band offstage.  It is 20 October 1978.  The Stranglers are playing a gig at the University of Surrey in Guildford, Surrey.  It is filmed for the U.K. television program ‘Rock Goes to College’ (1978-1981), a series featuring up-and-coming bands playing at small venues.  The Stranglers play five songs (‘Ugly’, ‘I Feel Like A Wog’, ‘Bring On The Nubiles’, ‘Burning Up’ and ‘Hanging Around’) before ‘the concert is aborted when The Stranglers walk off stage, refusing to play to elitist audiences, after a dispute when an agreement to make tickets available outside of the college was not honoured.’  Bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel sets out the band’s philosophy this way: “Rock ‘n’ roll is about c**ks and jiving and the odd b****y nose…and about people like us talking seriously about the social order.”

Hugh Alan Cornwell is born 28 August 1949 in Tufnell Park, North London, England.  His father, Vic, is a draughtsman in the airline business during the Second World War.  Hugh attends a grammar school.  One of his classmates is Richard Thompson, later to become a guitarist in 1960s British folk rock band Fairport Convention.  Cornwell and Thompson form a schoolboy band called Emil & The Detectives.  They play some gigs at Hornsey School of Art where Richard Thompson’s sister is employed as a secretary.

Hugh Cornwell goes on to obtain a degree in biochemistry from Bristol University.  “Science teaches you to question things,” avers Cornwell, “and to go back to the fundamentals of life.”  Hugh Cornwell undertakes postgraduate research at Lund University in Sweden.  While he is working in a local laboratory, Cornwell makes the acquaintance of Hans Warmling (22 July 1943 – 12 October 1995).  Warmling is working as a nurse at the hospital.  With Cornwell on vocals and guitar and Warmling on guitar and keyboards, around 1972 they get together with some Swedish lads as a band called Johnny Sox.

In 1973 Hugh Cornwell ends his studies in Sweden and returns to England.  He finds employment as a teacher.  Johnny Sox is reincarnated in England in 1974.  Some of the line-up consists of Swedish émigrés (like Hans Warmling), others are British musicians.  Cornwell is described as a ‘blues muso’.  In mid-1974 Jet Black joins Johnny Sox as the drummer.

Jet Black is born Brian John Duffy on 26 August 1938 in Ilford, Essex, England.  He becomes a drummer in jazz groups, but music is only a sideline for him.  He is a successful businessman with a fleet of ice cream trucks.  “I was the one who actually woke up one day and said, ‘I want to form a band’,” claims Jet Black.  “But of course it wasn’t a band until there were people in it.  And, although I was looking for people with musical ideas that were interesting…all my searching for people came to nothing…The people [who eventually made up The Stranglers] were kind of met by accident.”

The next to join the group is Jean-Jacques Burnel, who is born 27 February 1952 in Notting Hill, London, England.  It may be noted that Burnel is younger than his bandmates.  His exotic name is due to his parents being born in France, though Jean-Jacques is born in Britain.  The family moves to Godalming, Surrey, when Jean-Jacques Burnel is 12.  He attends the Royal Grammar School at Guildford, and then goes on to read history at the University of Bradford and Huddersfield, Polytechnic.  Musically, Jean-Jacques Burnel plays classical guitar.

In 1974 The Guildford Stranglers are formed with a line-up of: Hugh Cornwell (vocals, guitar), Hans Warmling (guitar, keyboards), Jean-Jacques Burnel (bass, vocals) and Jet Black (drums).  The band actually hails from the Southern England village of Chiddingford, which is near Guildford.  “I had an ice cream business and decided to sell it to start a band, but kept one of the vans,” Jet Black explains.  This van is used for transport to gigs until about 1977.  Black’s second wife, Helena, leaves him ‘following several arguments over The Stranglers rehearsing in their home in the early days of the band.’

In 1975 Hans Warmling is replaced by Dave Greenfield.  Warmling later dies in a boating accident on 12 October 1995.

David Paul Greenfield is born 29 March 1949 in Brighton, England.  He plays at military bases in Germany in a prog rock band called Rusty Butler.  “I was in Germany,” says Greenfield.  “We used to play a lot in Germany and [I] went back over to have a holiday with my girlfriend…And my aunt, who used to help me out, keep an eye on the music papers, saw an ad in ‘The Melody Maker’, ‘Organist wanted to join soc./pop group’, I believe the phrasing was.”  Unlike his predecessor, Hans Warmling, who played guitar and keyboards, Greenfield plays only keyboards.

In 1975 The Guildford Stranglers move to London and abbreviate their name to The Stranglers.  The membership reshuffle produces the definitive line-up of: Hugh Cornwell (vocals, guitar), Dave Greenfield (keyboards), Jean-Jacques Burnel (bass, vocals) and Jet Black (drums).

At this point, punk rock did not yet exist in Britain.  The Stranglers try to fit in with the pub rock crowd, but that scene is dying.  When Patti Smith, a punk singer from New York in the U.S.A., tours the U.K. in 1975, The Stranglers are her support act.  When more New York punks, The Ramones, visit the U.K. in July 1976, The Stranglers open shows for them.  By this time, Britain is spawning its own punk bands like The Sex Pistols and The Clash.  Paul Simonon of The Clash has a nervous tic that makes him spit on the ground.  It annoys Stranglers’ bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel, so he thumps Simonon.  “We were thrown out by bouncers and it continued in the courtyard,” claims Burnel.  “On one side were The Pistols, The Clash, The Ramones and a load of their journalist friends.  On the other side was us, a few of our fans and me, nose to nose with Paul.  Dave [Greenfield] had [Sex Pistols’ vocalist] John Lydon [better known as Johnny Rotten] up against the ice cream van.”

On another occasion, Jean-Jacques Burnel muses, “I don’t know if we ever became a punk band.  Certainly some of the attitudes of punks crossed over into the way we actually felt and behaved.  I don’t think we were really considered to be a punk band.”  For some years, rock has been dominated by long-haired hippies.  Burnel points out, “There were very few places for people like us with short hair, straight jeans and leather jackets to hang out.  The only other people were the punks…and more and more people with short hair were coming to our shows in early 1976.”

‘During 1976 The Stranglers play more than two hundred gigs, mainly around London, and build up a reputation as a powerful live act.’  Hugh Cornwell states, “In the mid-1970s, when I was trying to do something new and establish a base, then I was angry because I was fighting for a recognition of something.”  Some idea of the group at this time can be gleaned from the later album, ‘The Early Years ’74, ’75, ’76 Rare Live And Unreleased’ (1992).

The Stranglers secure a recording contract with United Artists in the U.K. (the material to be released on A & M in the United States).

Although there is some discussion about whether The Stranglers are really a punk band, it is the category in which they are most often placed.  Punk is not simply a fashion movement about short hair and leather jackets.  It aims to strip rock back to its fundamental basics and dispense with pretensions.  The anger and brutish sound of The Stranglers is in keeping with punk.  What separates them from The Sex Pistols, The Clash and their ilk is that The Stranglers are ‘too old, they are too musical, and they are too technically proficient.’  The Stranglers are undeniably older than their punk rock peers.  In countering the cults of personality that sprang up in the 1960s-1970s around individual musicians, punk rockers take perverse pride in their lack of anything beyond the most basic musical abilities.  With members of The Stranglers coming from blues, prog rock, classical and jazz backgrounds, they fall foul of that prohibition against musical prowess.

The Stranglers influences are also a bit different than most punk acts.  The influences most often cited for The Stranglers are U.S. bands The Velvet Underground (1967-1970) and The Doors (1967-1971).  What the Velvet Underground and The Doors have in common, and what is picked up on by The Stranglers, are songs documenting sexual deviance, drugs, and the dark underbelly of existence.  Musically, Hugh Cornwell’s dry vocal delivery and sinewy guitar calls to mind Lou Reed of The Velvet Underground while Dave Greenfield’s surging, throaty, organ tones are reminiscent of Ray Manzarek of The Doors.

Additionally, The Stranglers appear to have little concept of political correctness.  Lyrics, themes and attitudes from the band cause various parties to take offence.  Yet, ‘much of their lyrical prowess is built around the darkest hued of black humours’ and ‘is actually hysterically funny – as they themselves intended it to be.’  Drummer Jet Black acknowledges, “People often said we were deliberately provocative.  Guilty!  Absolutely correct! Of course we were.  That was the name of the game.”

Almost all of The Stranglers’ songs jointly credit the four members as composers.  Without denying that, the suspicion is that Hugh Cornwell has the largest role in the songwriting, followed by Jean-Jacques Burnel.  “The priority for me has always been to create, to write, to express and do as many things as possible,” says Cornwell.  Speaking of the band’s output, he says, “It’s songs that I contributed to, either wrote or co-wrote.  I feel they’re just as much mine as Stranglers’ property.”

Jet Black observes, “I think by the time we’d actually got a record release and we were gigging furiously, almost every night of the week, our music was beginning to take on a very aggressive tone.”

The Stranglers’ first single, released on 29 January 1977 is ‘(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)’ (UK no. 44).  Rife with headlong cynicism, Hugh Cornwell belts out the band’s declaration, “I admit I even stole / The worst crime that I ever did was playing rock ‘n’ roll / But the money’s no good / Just get a grip on yourself.”  This track is also included on the subsequent full-length album.

The Stranglers’ debut album is released in April 1977.  ‘Rattus Norvegicus’ (1977) (UK no. 4) (the second word is pronounced nor-VEE-ja-cus) is produced by Martin Rushent, who produces the first three Stranglers albums.  Rattus Norvegicus is the Latin name used as the biological classification of the brown rat.  The double A sided single from the album is ‘Peaches’ (UK no. 8, AUS no. 54) backed with ‘Go Buddy Go’.  ‘Peaches’ has a fat bass sound and addictive riff.  Hugh Cornwell’s narrator is “Walking on the beaches / Looking at the peaches.”  This is The Stranglers’ best individual song.  It sounds so distinctive, unique and beyond imitation.  The sheer musical undertow sweeps away any arguments with its leering lyric.  ‘Go Buddy Go’ is a ‘mindless boogie’ (and is not on the album).  ‘Hanging Around’ is marked by a dry surge as Cornwell points to a “Big girl in a red dress / She’s just trying to impress us.”  The album also includes ‘London Lady’ (lyrics Jean-Jacques Burnel, music Hugh Cornwell) about a journalist and Jean-Jacques Burnel’s ‘Ugly’.  ‘Rattus Norvegicus’ is The Stranglers’ best album because it’s just plain nasty.  Named after a rodent, packed with suspect sexist postures, and a sound that is both savage and thick, this is The Stranglers at their most basic and unfiltered.  It is as refreshing as the best punk rock of the era because it is so defiantly irreverent and full-bodied.

The Stranglers go incognito for a side project.  ‘Money Money’ b/w ‘Mean To Me’ is credited to Celia & The Mutations.  Celia Collin is the woman providing the deadpan vocals but The Mutations are actually The Stranglers.  A follow-up single later in 1977, ‘You Better Believe’ b/w ‘Round And Round’, has only Jean-Jacques Burnel doing The Mutations’ work.  ‘Neither [single] get anywhere’ commercially.

The Stranglers’ second album, ‘No More Heroes’ (1977) (UK no. 2), comes out in September, just five months after their debut album.  The title track, ‘No More Heroes’ (UK no. 8), is a brisk run through, bristling with punk attitude.  Hugh Cornwell lists those he admires: “Leon Trotsky…Dear old Lenny, the great Elmyra and Sancho Panza.”  Trotsky was a communist leader; ‘Dear old Lenny’ was U.S. comedian Lenny Bruce; Elmyra Hory was an art forger; and Sancho Panza was the sidekick to ‘Don Quixote’ (1605) in Miguel de Cervante’s tale.  Although Cornwell may look up to them, the overall attitude of the song is that the time for heroes has passed and they are no longer wanted or needed.  “All the Shakespearos / They watched their Rome burn,” he sneers.  ‘Something Better Change’ (UK no. 9) is released on a double A side single with ‘Straighten Out’.  ‘Something Better Change’ is wiry agit-pop.  Cornwell snarls in this song, “Don’t you like the cut of my clothes / Don’t you like the way I seem to enjoy it? / Stick my fingers right up your nose!”  ‘Straighten Out’, which is – unfortunately – not included on the album, possesses a dark, bustling energy.  It starts with Hugh Cornwell delivering a mock sermon: “And the first commandment reads that human flesh and blood is sacred…until there is no more food.”  He goes on to pronounce, “What a fate for little girls / British boys’ minds in whirl / Tell you things that’ll make your curls / Straighten out.”  Cornwell’s vocals hiccup on “girls..whirl…curls” like the ghost of 1950s rocker Buddy Holly.  ‘No More Heroes’ includes such provocative titles as ‘I Feel Like A Wog’ and ‘Bring On The Nubiles’.

‘5 Minutes’ (UK no. 11) is a stand-alone single issued in February 1978.  “5 minutes and you’re almost there,” sings Hugh Cornwell in this battering, angry track.  Over a pounding beat, he advises, “Some say that I should hate them all, but I say that wouldn’t help at all.”

On 16 March 1978 The Stranglers embark on their first concert tour of the United States.

The Stranglers’ third album, ‘Black And White’ (1978) (UK no. 2), arrives in May.  This set features ‘Nice ‘N’ Sleazy’ (UK no. 18), a track based on a staccato guitar riff, which showcases a protruding bass and an ozone-bound keyboard solo.  The lyric, though vague, seems to be about Viking travellers: “We came across the west sea / We didn’t have much idea of the kind of climate waiting.”  However it diffuses into more general imagery, asserting that “Nice ‘n’ sleazy / Does it every time.”  A rocked-up cover version of Dionne Warwicke’s 1964 hit ‘Walk On By’ (UK no. 21) is included on a free EP with the album – but is then released as a single in its own right in July 1978.  This may be the best of all The Stranglers’ cover versions because it is so unlikely.  A sophisticated adult pop song is worked over into something grimy and harsh.  ‘Black And White’ is the ‘last Stranglers album to even flirt with the socio-sexual shock troop imagery.’

On 16 September 1978 The Stranglers play a controversial show at Battersea Park.  “The Battersea Park incident was completely misrepresented,” claims Jean-Jacques Burnel, as he attempts to set the record straight.  “I was living with my girlfriend, Tracy, who shared her flat with a stripper called Linda.  When we became the focus of attention, right-on shops such as Rough Trade banned our records, saying they were sexist and misogynist.  Linda said, ‘Look, I’ve got some friends who’d love to strip for you – to show we’re in control of our bodies.’  So these girls stripped off in Battersea during ‘Nice ‘N’ Sleazy’ and, of course, everyone thought we were being exploitive.”  The Stranglers suffer the wrath of women’s groups, London’s local council and the police.  Jet Black chortles, “The police inspector wanted everybody arrested but he couldn’t find his coppers.  They were all in the front row watching the show.”

On 20 October 1978 The Stranglers play the ‘Rock Goes to College’ gig at the University of Surrey in Guildford.  This is the show where they deliver the anti-elitism rant and storm off after a few numbers.

‘Live (Xcert)’ (1979) (UK no. 7), from February, is a concert recording to commemorate some colourful Stranglers’ performances.

‘The Raven’ (1979) (UK no. 4), in September, sees The Stranglers ‘moving towards psychedelia and radio-friendly pop.’  A shift is probably inevitable since punk is fading and its successor, new wave, is rising.  Since The Stranglers’ punk credentials were always questionable, such a shift may affect them less than other, more hardcore, punk acts.  ‘The Raven’ is co-produced by The Stranglers and Alan Winstanley.  ‘Duchess’ (UK no. 14) is filled with small explosions of musical fireworks and lyrics such as these: “Duch of the terrace / Knows all her heritage / Says she’s Henry’s kid.”  The song, ‘Don’t Bring Harry’ (UK no. 41), hovers about a sinister piano line.  “Harry and me, we live in a dream / With a friend like him I don’t need enemies,” intones Hugh Cornwell.  ‘Harry’ is, allegedly, another word for heroin in the context of the song.  ‘Nuclear Device (The Wizard Of Aus)’ (UK no. 36) is about Joh Bjelke-Petersen, then Premier of the Australian State of Queensland and a noted ultra-conservative.

Two members of The Stranglers take time out for side projects in 1979.  ‘Nosferatu’ (1979) is a Hugh Cornwell album on which he collaborates with Robert Williams.  The word ‘nosferatu’ is another term for vampire.  Jean-Jacques Burnel’s solo album is ‘Euroman Cometh’ (1979) (UK no. 40).

Hugh Cornwell is said to have ‘had dalliances with such rock divas as Kate Bush and Hazel O’Connor.’

On 7 January 1980 Hugh Cornwell is sentenced to two months in jail for possession of heroin, cocaine and marijuana.  Cornwell recalls the circumstances of his arrest: “It was a routine police check at Hammersmith Broadway, and my driver happened to have some cocaine on him.  So they searched everything and that was that.”  The officers find a bag full of grass, speed, etc., drugs that fans had pressed on the rock musician.  “The people I ended up sharing a cell with [at Pentonville jail] were people who hadn’t paid their parking tickets or had defied court orders to stay away from estranged wives.”  Cornwell is released on 25 April 1980 after serving only six weeks.  The singer and guitarist philosophically regards his time in prison as “a learning experience.”

‘Who Wants to Rule The World’ (UK no. 39) is a non-album single released in 1980.  It is marked by its stop-and-start arrangement and the emphasis placed on Dave Greenfield’s organ playing.

On 21 June 1980 The Stranglers are arrested for allegedly starting a riot at Nice University in France.

While working on their next album, the four members of The Stranglers decide to take heroin for a year.  “Jet [Black] and Dave [Greenfield] were sensible and quit after a day,” acknowledges Jean-Jacques Burnel.  “Hugh [Cornwell] and I didn’t – we headed into a surreal, dark, necromantic abyss.”

‘The Gospel According To The Meninblack’ (1981) (UK no. 8) is released in February.  This set is the first of two albums The Stranglers issue through Liberty Records.  The recording sessions are produced by the band.  It may be thought that the album’s title refers to the musicians own habitually dark attire, but Jet Black reveals the true origin: “[It] was based on this phenomenon back then known only to a small coterie of U.F.O. [Unidentified Flying Object] obsessives – the people who saw U.F.O.s were visited by strange people wearing black to shut them up.”  The album includes such songs as ‘Thrown Away’ (UK no. 42) and ‘Just Like Nothing On Earth’ (UK no. 81).

By this time The Stranglers are in a sort of limbo.  ‘From 1979 to the beginning of 1981, the band seems to slip from the limelight somewhat.’  Punk is over, new wave is also dying out and The Stranglers appear fated to only be catering to a niche market that is rapidly shrinking.  However, any thoughts of writing them off prove premature.

‘La Folie’ (1981) (UK no. 11) arrives in November.  Production credit is shared between The Stranglers, Tony Visconti and Steve Churchyard.  ‘Golden Brown’ (UK no. 2, AUS no. 10), the song that revives the band’s fortunes, is a ‘gentle, floating summery waltz that appeals to many who had never before bought Stranglers records.’  Dave Greenfield plays what sounds like a harpsichord and the song has an unexpected mannered air.  The subject matter of the song is debatable.  Here are some excerpts from the lyrics: “Golden brown / texture like sun…Never a frown / With golden brown…Golden brown / Finer temptress / Through the ages /She’s heading west.”  One theory is that ‘golden brown’ is a sun-tanned woman.  Another view is that the song is about the drug opium, whose burnt residue is a golden brown colour.  A third interpretation is that golden brown is the colour of properly prepared toasted bread.  Outlandish as that last theory may seem, Jean-Jacques Burnel offers that interpretation some support: “’Golden Brown’ is about human failings really.  To put it in a nutshell, burning the toast.”  ‘La Folie’ (UK no. 47), the title track, takes its name from the French words for ‘the folly’, or delusion or madness.  Through gauzy musical colours, the lyrics are mumbled in French by Jean-Jacques Burnel.

The compilation album ‘The Collection 1977-1982’ (1982) (UK no. 12) includes a new song, ‘Strange Little Girl’ (UK no. 7), that is released as a single in July 1982.  ‘Strange Little Girl’ welcomes a one-time return for Hans Warmling, from the early Guildford Stranglers line-up, as co-writer with the four current members.  “One day, see a strange little girl look at you,” intones Hugh Cornwell over a backing that sounds like a twisted music box.  “She didn’t know how to live in a town that was rough,” he subsequently observes, “It didn’t take long before she knew she’d had enough.”

The Stranglers’ 1980s sound, ‘more mature and less urgent’, continues to develop on ‘Feline’ (1983) (UK no. 4).  Their first album on the Epic label, this set is released in January and co-produced by The Stranglers and Steve Churchyard.  The album’s best known track is the slinky and arty ‘European Female’ (UK no. 9), powered by Jean-Jacques Burnel’s stuttering bass.  “I don’t always understand her / I love her any ways,” goes the lyric.

Later in the year, Jean-Jacques Burnel steps out for another side project, this time partnered with keyboardist Dave Greenfield.  The result is ‘Fire And Water (Ecoutez Vos Murs)’ (1983) (UK no. 94).

‘Aural Sculpture’ (1984) (UK no. 14) is the next Stranglers album.  It is co-produced by The Stranglers and Laurie Latham.  The highlight is the neon bright ‘Skin Deep’ (UK no. 15, AUS no. 11).  In this light and airy piece, Hugh Cornwell warns, “Many people tell you that they’re your friend…Make sure that you’re receiving the signals they send.”

‘Dreamtime’ (1986) (UK no. 16, US no. 172) is co-produced by The Stranglers and Mike Kemp.  ‘Always The Sun’ (UK no. 30, AUS no. 21) is smooth; it is perhaps the closest The Stranglers get to a mainstream pop song.  “Who has the fun? Is it always a man with a gun?  How many times have you been told if you work too hard you can sweat?” are amongst the questions posed by the lyrics.  ‘Big In America’ (UK no. 48) is a wry commentary on the vicissitudes of commercial returns for a rock group.

A cover version of the 1964 Kinks’ song ‘All Day And All Of The Night’ (UK no. 7) has its title adapted to name The Stranglers’ in concert recording ‘All Live And All Of The Night’ (1988) (UK no. 12).  The focus of The Stranglers is divided for the rest of the year.  Hugh Cornwell issues the solo album ‘Wolf’ (1988) (renamed ‘First Bus To Babylon’ for the U.S. market).  Jean-Jacques Burnel issues ‘Un Jour Parfait’ (1988).  He then teams with John Ellis and Stranglers’ keyboardist Dave Greenfield as The Purple Helmets for ‘The Purple Helmets Ride Again’ (1988).  The trio return the following year with the similarly titled ‘The Purple Helmets Rise Again’ (1989).

‘10’ (1990) (UK no. 15), released in March, is the appropriate title of The Stranglers’ tenth studio album.  It is produced by Roy Thomas Baker.  The single from the album is ’96 Tears’ (UK no. 17), a cover version of the 1966 hit by ? And The Mysterians (i.e. Rudy Martinez and friends).  It gives Dave Greenfield a chance to play some 1960s organ tones.

Tensions have been rising in The Stranglers.  They reach a climax in August 1990 when Hugh Cornwell leaves the group.  “It was unfortunate because I left at an awkward time,” admits Cornwell.  “We were just at the point of signing a renegotiated contract.  The others speak very bitterly about me still, and I think it’s very silly of them.  I think you have to move on and embrace change.”

Hugh Cornwell releases a series of solo albums: ‘CCW’ (1992), a collaboration with Roger Cook and Andy West; ‘Guilty’ (1997), retitled ‘Black Hair, Black Eyes, Black Suit’ in the U.S.; ‘Mayday’ (1999), a live album; ‘Sons Of Shiva’ (1999) with poet Sex W. Johnson (A.K.A. John W. Sexton); ‘Solo’ (1999); ‘Hi Fi’ (2000); ‘Footprints In The Desert’ (2002); ‘In The Dock’ (2003), a live, acoustic set; ‘Beyond Elysian Fields’ (2004); ‘People, Places, Pieces’ (2006); ‘Hooverdam’ (2008); ‘New Songs For King Kong’ (2010); ‘You’re Covered’ (2011), an album of cover versions; and ‘Totem And Taboo’ (2013).

The Stranglers carry on in 1990 with two new members replacing Hugh Cornwell: Paul Roberts (lead vocals) (born 31 December 1959 in Chiswick, London) and John Ellis (guitar, backing vocals) (born 1 June 1952 in Kentish Town, London).  Paul Roberts was the leader of new wave act Sniff ‘N’ The Tears who had a hit in 1978 with ‘Driver’s Seat’.  John Ellis worked with Jean-Jacques Burnel and Dave Greenfield in the side project The Purple Helmets.

The revised version of The Stranglers records ‘Stranglers In The Night’ (1992) (UK no. 33) on Psycho Records; ‘About Time’ (1995) (UK no. 31) and ‘Written In Red’ (1997) (UK no. 52) both for the When! label; and ‘Coup De Grace’ (1998) (UK no. 171) on Eagle.

John Ellis leaves The Stranglers in 2000.  Taking over is Baz Warne (guitar, vocals) (born 25 March 1964 in Sunderland, England).

The next Stranglers album, ‘Norfolk Coast’ (2004) (UK no. 70), is released by EMI.

Jean-Jacques Burnel works with Kasamatsu Koji on ‘Gankotsou: The Count Of Monte Cristo Soundtrack’ (2005).

Paul Roberts leaves The Stranglers in 2006.  The group continues as a four-piece with Baz Warne assuming most lead vocals, though Jean-Jacques Burnel continues to sing some tracks.

‘Suite XVI’ (2006) (UK no. 89) on EMI is followed by ‘Giants’ (2012) (UK no. 48) on Absolute Ear Music.

Jet Black’s health suffers in later years.  Problems with arterial fibrillation require him to miss some shows and tours and to scale back his involvement.  Touring drummers Ian Barnard (2007-2012) and Jim Macaulay (from 2013) stand in for Black.

“I think it’s a bit mad that they’re still calling themselves The Stranglers ‘cos there’s only two of the originals in the band now,” says Hugh Cornwell.  “I might as well go and call myself The Stranglers, but I don’t particularly want to.”

The Stranglers days of rabble-rousing against elitism and the social order seemed largely a part of their 1970s output.  That was when the band was at its peak, creating controversy as much as music.  There is something to be said for the more considered, yet still intriguing, output of the 1980s as well.  The Stranglers were ‘one of the key rock bands of the punk era.’  They went ‘from bad-mannered yobs to purveyors of supreme pop delicacies…[Their] music may have been ugly and might have been crude – but never boring.’


  1. ‘The Stranglers Documentary – Part 1’ (U.K. television program – BBC Choice Network) – Narrator: George Melly, Producer/Director: Angus McIntyre (29 August 2009?)
  2. as at 14 April 2014
  3. ‘New Musical Express’ (U.K. music newspaper) – quote reproduced on (8) below
  4. ‘The Independent’ (U.K. newspaper) – ‘Something Never Changed’ – Hugh Cornwell interview conducted by Donald McLellan (9 May 1998)
  5., ‘The Stranglers’ by Dave Thompson as at 3 June 2014
  6. ‘Record Mirror’ (U.K. music newspaper) – Hugh Cornwell interview conducted by Nancy Culp (7 September 1985) (reproduced on
  7. ‘The Guardian’ (U.K. newspaper) – ‘The Stranglers on 40 Years of Fights, Drugs, UFOs and “Doing All the Wrong Things”’ – interview with Jean-Jacques Burnel and Jet Black conducted by Dave Simpson (13 March 2014) (reproduced on
  8. – no credits – as at 4 June 2014
  9. ‘The Illustrated New Musical Express Encyclopedia of Rock’ by Nick Logan, Bob Woffinden (Salamander Books, 1978) p. 226
  10. ‘The Illustrated Rock Handbook’ edited by Roxanne Streeter, Ray Bonds (Salamander Books, 1983) p. 206, 207, 220
  11. ‘Rolling Stone Rock Almanac’ by the Editors of ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine (Papermac, 1984) p. 258, 266, 282, 308, 311, 313
  12. Vancouver, Canada, radio interview with Hugh Cornwell conducted by Stephen (surname unknown) and George Strobolopoulos (October 2013)
  13. ‘Peaches – The Very Best Of The Stranglers’ – Anonymous sleeve notes (EMI Records Ltd, 2002) p. 3, 7
  14. as at 29 May 2014
  15. as at 29 May 2014
  16. as at 29 May 2014
  17. as at 4 June 2014
  18. as at 29 May 2014
  19. ‘The Stranglers: Song by Song’ (2001) by Hugh Cornwell, Jim Drury via (2) above
  20. ‘The Stranglers Documentary – Part 2’ (U.K. television program – BBC Choice Network) – Narrator: George Melly, Producer/Director: Angus McIntyre (29 August 2009?)
  21. as at 7 June 2014
  22. ‘The Virgin Encyclopedia Of Eighties Music’ – Edited by Colin Larkin (Virgin Books, 1997) p. 122

Song lyrics copyright Complete Music Ltd. with the exceptions of ‘Always The Sun’ (EMI Songs Ltd); ‘Something Better Change’ (Albion Music Ltd); ‘Golden Brown’ and ‘Strange Little Girl’ (both EMI Music Publishing Ltd / Complete Music Ltd); ‘European Female’ and ‘Skin Deep’ (both Plugshaft Ltd / Complete Music Ltd / EMI Music Publishing Ltd.)

Last revised 22 June 2014


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