Al's tribute to

The Cornwell Years 1974-1990

"Did someone say WANKER?"




Nice 'n' Sleazy in Battersea Park 1979

Band Biography

One of the longest-surviving groups from the British new wave explosion of the late 70s, the Stranglers first rehearsed in Guildford as early as 1974. Two years later, the full line-up emerged, comprising Hugh Cornwell (Guitar/Vocals), Jean Jacques Burnel (Bass/Vocals), Jet Black (Drums) and Dave Greenfield (Keyboards/Vocals). Following a tour supporting Patti Smith during 1976 and some favourable press reports (the first to bring comparisons to the Doors), the group were signed by United Artists Records.

Courting controversy from the outset, they caused a sensation and saw their date at London's Roundhouse cut short when Cornwell wore an allegedly obscene T-shirt. In February 1977 the Stranglers' debut single, '(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)', reached number 44 in the UK charts and inexplicably dropped out after only one week. According to the chart compilers, the sales were inadvertently assigned to another record, but it was too late to rectify the damage. 'Grip' saw the group at their early best; bathed in swirling organ and backed by a throbbing beat, the single displayed Cornwell's gruff vocal to strong effect. The b-side, 'London Lady', was taken at a faster pace and revealed the first signs of an overbearing misogynism that would later see them fall foul of critics. Initially bracketed with punk, the Stranglers owed as much to their pub-rock background and it soon emerged that they were older and more knowing than their teenage contemporaries. Nevertheless, their first album, Rattus Norvegicus, was greeted with enthusiasm by the rock press and sold extremely well. The blasphemous lyrics of 'Hanging Around' and the gruesome imagery of 'Down In The Sewer' seemingly proved less acceptable than the women-baiting subject matter of their next single, 'Peaches'. Banned by BBC radio, the song still charted thanks to airplay for the b-side, 'Go Buddy Go'.

Rather than bowing to the feminist criticisms levelled against them, the group subsequently compounded the felony by introducing strippers at a Battersea Park, London concert. Journalists were treated in an even more cavalier fashion, and the group were renowned for their violent antics against those who opposed them (karate black belt Burnel would attack writer Jon Savage after one unhelpful review). Having initially alienated the press, their work was almost universally derided thereafter. The public kept faith, however, and ensured that the Stranglers enjoyed a formidable run of hits over the next few years. 'Something Better Change', and the faster-paced 'No More Heroes' both reached the UK Top 10, while 'Five Minutes' and 'Nice 'N Sleazy' each entered the Top 20.

In the background there were the usual slices of bad publicity. Burnel and Black were arrested for being drunk and disorderly before charges were dropped. Cornwell was not so fortunate and found himself sentenced to three months' imprisonment on drugs charges in January 1980. Within two months of his release, the group found themselves under arrest in Nice, France, after allegedly inciting a riot. Later that year they received a heavy fine in a French court. The group's uncompromising outlaw image tended to distract from subtle changes that had been occurring in their musical repertoire. Their brave cover version of the Burt Bacharach / Hal David standard, 'Walk On By', reached number 21 in spite of the fact that 100,000 copies of the record had already been issued free with Black And White.

Equally effective and contrasting was the melodic 'Duchess', which displayed the Stranglers' plaintive edge to surprising effect. Their albums also revealed a new diversity, from The Raven (with its elaborate 3-D cover) to the genuinely strange The Meninblack. The latter was primarily Cornwell's concept, and introduced the idea of extra-terrestrial hit-men who silence individuals that have witnessed UFO landings - an ever-vengeful music press delighted in pulling it to pieces. For their next album, La Folie, the group were accompanied on tour by a ballet company. The album spawned the group's biggest hit, the evocative 'Golden Brown', with its startling, classical-influenced harpsichord arrangement. It reached the UK number 2 spot, resting just behind Bucks Fizz 's 'Land Of Make Believe'. Even at their most melodic the Stranglers ran into a minor furore when it was alleged that the song was concerned with heroin consumption. Fortunately, the theme was so lyrically obscure that the accusations failed to prove convincing enough to provoke a ban. Another single from La Folie was the sentimental 'Strange Little Girl', which also climbed into the UK Top 10. The melodic influence continued on 'European Female', but in spite of the hits, the group's subsequent albums failed to attract serious critical attention. As unremittingly ambitious as ever, the Stranglers' 1986 album Dreamtime was inspired by Aboriginal culture and complemented the band's outsider image. Just as it seemed that their appeal was becoming merely cultish, they returned to their old style with a cover version of the Kinks' 'All Day And All Of The Night'. It was enough to provide them with their first Top 10 hit for five years. Increasingly unpredictable, the group re-recorded their first single, 'Grip', which ironically fared better than the original, reaching the Top 40 in January 1989. Despite their small handful of collaborative ventures, it seemed unlikely that either Cornwell or Burnel would ever consider abandoning the group for solo careers. Perpetual derision by the press finally took its cumulative toll on the lead singer, however, and in the summer of 1990 Cornwell announced that he was quitting the group. The lacklustre 10 was written specifically for the American market, but failed to sell, in light of which Cornwell called time on his involvement. Burnel, Black and Greenfield were left with the unenviable problem of finding an experienced replacement and deciding whether to retain the Stranglers' name. The band recruited vocalist Paul Roberts and guitarist John Ellis (formerly of the Vibrators and a veteran of Burnel's Purple Helmets side project). Stranglers In The Night was arguably a return to form, but still failed to recapture old glories. A second set with the band's new line-up then emerged in 1995, with strong performances on tracks such as 'Golden Boy', but with Cornwell's absence felt most acutely in the unadventurous songwriting. Written In Red, released in 1997, was a better effort. The band celebrated their 21st anniversary with a concert at London's Royal Albert Hall, incongruously backed by a string section.


Back to top


The Albums


Rattus Norvegicus - 1977

Sometimes / Goodbye Toulouse / London Lady / Princess Of The Streets / Hanging Around // Peaches / (Get A) Grip (On Yourself) / Ugly / Down In The Sewer

No More Heroes - 1977

I Feel Like A Wog / Bitching / Dead Ringer / Dagenham Dave / Bring On The Nubiles / Something Better Change // No More Heroes / Peasant In The Big Shitty / Burning Up Time / English Towns / School Mam

Black and White - 1978

Tank / Nice 'n' Sleazy / Outside Tokyo / Hey! (Rise Of The Robots) / Sweden/All Quiet On The Eastern Front / Toiler On The Sea // Curfew / Threatened / In The Shadows / Do You Wanna?/Death And Night And Blood (Yukio) / Enough Time

Live (X-Cert) - 1979 - Live.

(Get A) Grip (On Yourself) / Dagenham Dave / Burning Up Time / Dead Ringer / Hanging Around / I Feel Like A Wog // Straighten Out / Curfew / Do You Wanna?/Death And Night And Blood (Yukio) / 5 Minutes / Go Buddy Go (note: recorded live at The Roundhouse, London, UK: 06-77; 11-05/06-77; and Battersea Park, UK: 09-78)

The Raven - 1979

Longships / The Raven / Dead Loss Angeles / Ice / Baroque Bordello / Nuclear Device (The Wizard Of Aus)/Down Under // Shah Shah A Go Go / (Don't Bring) Harry / Duchess / Meninblack / Genetix

Stranglers IV - 1980

(US Issue)

The Raven / Baroque Bordello / Duchess / Nuclear Device (The Wizard Of Aus)/Down Under / Meninblack // 5 Minutes / Rok It To The Moon / Vietnamerica / G.m.b.H. / Who Wants The World? (note: G.m.b.H. is a Bear Cage re-mix)

The Men in Black - 1981

Waltzinblack / Just Like Nothing On Earth / Second Coming / Waiting For The Meninblack / Turn The Centuries, Turn // Two Sunspots / Four Horsemen / Thrown Away / Manna Machine / Hallow To Our Men

La Folie - 1981

Non Stop / Everybody Loves You When You're Dead / Tramp / Let Me Introduce You To The Family / Ain't Nothin' To It / The Man They Love To Hate // Pin Up / It Only Takes Two To Tango / Golden Brown / How To Find True Love And Happiness In The Present Day / La Folie

The Collection 1977-82 - 1982 - Compilation.

(Get A) Grip (On Yourself) / Peaches / Hanging Around / No More Heroes / Duchess / Walk On By / Waltzinblack // Something Better Change / Nice 'n' Sleazy / Bear Cage / Who Wants The World? / Golden Brown / Strange Little Girl / La Folie

Feline - 1983

Midnight Summer Dream / It's A Small World / Ships That Pass In The Night / The European Female (In Celebration Of) // Let's Tango In Paris / Paradise / All Roads Lead To Rome / Blue Sister / Never Say Goodbye

Aural Sculpture - 1984

Ice Queen / Skin Deep / Let Me Down Easy / No Mercy / North Winds Blowing // Uptown / Punch & Judy / Under The Name Of Spain / Laughing / Souls / Mad Hatter

Off the Beaten Track - 1986 - B Side Compilation.

Go Buddy Go / Top Secret / Old Codger / Maninwhite / Rok It To The Moon / Love 30 / Shut Up // Walk On By / Vietnamerica / Mean To Me / Cruel Garden / Yellowcake UF 6 / 5 Minutes

Dreamtime - 1986

Always The Sun / Dreamtime / Was It You? / You'll Always Reap What You Sow / Ghost Train // Nice In Nice / Big In America / Shakin' Like A Leaf / Mayan Skies / Too Precious

All Live and All of the Night - 1987 - Live.

No More Heroes / Was It You? / Down In The Sewer / Always The Sun / Golden Brown / North Winds Blowing // The European Female (In Celebration Of) / Strange Little Girl / Nice 'n' Sleazy / Toiler On The Sea / Under The Name Of Spain / London Lady (note: all cuts except All Day And All Of The Night recorded live at Le Zenith, Paris: 04-29-85; Hammersmith Odeon, London: 03-31-87; The Reading Festival: 08-30-87) / All Day And All Of The Night

Rarities - 1988 - Compilation.

Choosey Susie / Peaches (Radio Play) / Mony Mony (by Celia & The Mutations) / Mean To Me (by Celia & The Mutations) / No More Heroes (promo edit) / Walk On By (promo edit) / Sverige/Jar Är Insnöad På Östfrönten // (N'emmenes Pas) Harry / Fools Rush Out / Bear Cage (Extended version) / Shah Shah A Go Go (Extended version) / The Meninblack (Waiting For 'Em) / La Folie (promo edit) Rok It To The Moon / Shut Up / Old Codger / Yellowcake UF 6 / Vietnamerica / Love 30

Singles (the U.A. Years) - 1989 - Compilation.

(Get A) Grip (On Yourself) / Peaches / Go Buddy Go / Something Better Change / Straighten Out / No More Heroes / 5 Minutes / Nice 'n' Sleazy / Walk On By / Duchess / Nuclear Device (The Wizard Of Aus)/Down Under / (Don't Bring) Harry / Bear Cage / Who Wants The World? / Thrown Away / Just Like Nothing On Earth / Let Me Introduce You To The Family / Golden Brown / La Folie / Strange Little Girl

Ten (10) - 1990

Sweet Smell Of Success / Someone Like You / 96 Tears / In This Place / Let's Celebrate // Man Of The Earth / Too Many Teardrops / Where I Live / Out Of My Mind / Never To Look Back

Greatest Hits 1977-1990 - Compilation.

Peaches / Something Better Change / No More Heroes / Walk On By / Duchess / Golden Brown / Strange Little Girl / The European Female (In Celebration Of) / Skin Deep / Nice In Nice / Always The Sun / Big In America / All Day And All Of The Night / 96 Tears / No Mercy

The Singles.


Grip/London Lady - 1977.

Peaches/Go Buddy Go - 1977.

Something Better Change/Straighten Out -1977.

No More Heroes/In The Shadows - 1977.

5 Minutes/Rok it to the Moon - 1978.

Nice 'n Sleazy/Shut Up - 1978.

Walk On By/Old Codger/Tank - 1978.

Duchess/Fools Rush Out - 1979.

Nuclear Device/YellowcakeUF6 - 1979.

Don't Bring Harry/Wired/Crabs/In the Shadows - 1979.

Bear Cage/Shah Shah a Go Go - 1980.

Who Wants the World/The Meninblack - 1980.

Thrown Away/Top Secret - 1981.

Just Like Nothing on Earth/Man in White - 1981.

Let Me Introduce You to the Family/Vietnamerica - 1981.

Golden Brown/Love 30 - 1981.

La Folie/Waltz in Black - 1982.

Strange Little Girl - 1982.

European Female/Savage Beast.- 1982.

Midnight Summer Dream/Vladimir & Olga - 1983.

Paradise/Pawsher - 1983.

Skin Deep/Here and There - 1984.

No Mercy/In One Door - 1984.

Let Me Down Easy/Achilles Heal - 1985.

Nice In Nice/Sice You Went Away - 1986.


Always The Sun/Norman Norman - 1986.


Big In America/Dry Day - 1987.

Shakin' Like A Leaf/Hitman - 1987.


All Day and All of the Night/Viva Vlad! - 1987.


Grip 89/Waltzinblack - 1989.


96 Tears - 1990.

Sweet Smell of Success - 1990.


Hugh Cornwell leaves the band August 12th 1990.

Back to top

Last Revised: 10th June 2000

The Official Stranglers Information Service