They were four men dressed in black who were older than their contemporaries when Punk first appeared on the horizon and thus were considered outsiders. Yet they often clashed with the law, councils and even other bands. They are still going though without founder lead singer Hugh Cornwell who left back in 1990. This radio show recently broadcasted again on BBC 6 Music was presented by Glen Matlock that set out to unlock the truth according to the band members. The Stranglers were formed back in 1974 in the suburban town of Guildford.
The drummer Jet Black had seemed old to me when I first became aware of them back in 1977 and he is still hitting the skins. Whilst karate fanatic Jean-Jacques Burnel, who had French parents, played a wicked bass. Many a time I had seen him either kick or smash his instrument on an annoying punter at a gig. Then there was Dave Greenfield the keyboard player which set them apart from all other Punk bands. I believe it was probably one of the underlying reasons why they survived well past their sell date, when other bands fell by the wayside.
What I did liked about the band was they could show aggression in their music yet it was melodic too. They also did not conform to the three-minute tune of the time, with such epics as ‘Down In The Sewer‘. I tended to like their non single tracks and often would make up a great compilation cassette of them. They drew negative attention with such songs as ‘Peaches‘, deemed sexist, or tracks about racism but in-fact they were ridiculing the subject matter. Hugh did spend eight weeks in prison for drug possession and they were all fell foul of the law in Nice a few years later too.
The band never sat on their laurels and surprised everyone with ‘Golden Brown‘, the most requested record on BBC Radio 2. They were not afraid to do a cover or two like The Kinks ‘All Day And All Of The Night’, which had a sleeve that was withdrawn before being banned, something I have in my possession. They wrote about Shah’s, buying a tank and had a weird obsession with aliens. The latter was fuelled whilst taking alot of drugs. They shone with such enlightening tunes as the classic ‘Always The Sun‘ and ‘Skin Deep‘. But where they scored was playing live, I saw them on every tour from 1979 up to the mid 90’s. That included their gig here in Corby that cost just 35p, in aid of the steel works closing. I also saw them with support in the shape of a man just playing the spoons. I did witness the infamous gig at Hammersmith Odeon when they came on stage played a few songs, stopped and would not play again until the bouncers left. There was a long break until Hugh came back and said they had agreed with the hall’s management that the fans would behave.
Well all hell ensued as fans upstairs, a far bigger seating area, came downstairs and rows seats got trashed. It was also the only time I have ever been punched by a woman. This happened when our row of seats gave way and I fell forward head butting this girl. When she saw what happened she apologised but boy could she hit. I remember coming back into the venue after it had finished as I had left my coat. What devastation I saw and my mate was also going the following night, that did not happen as it was cancelled.
I attended the Alexandra Palace concert in 1990 when Hugh decided to call it a day after the final song he quit the band. The account of the split is of very interesting listening. I did see them a few times after this with Paul Roberts originally a fan on vocals. Hugh started a solo career and both factions have not spoken since. This hour-long programme was a well presented piece and did evoke all these memories for me. They were a class act that alot of people did not really get but as they once sang “life shows no mercy“. 10/10.
What Hugh Cornwell Is Upto: