The Stranglers

The Stranglers are an English rock band, formed in 1974 by guitarist–singer Hugh Cornwell. They rose to prominence with the 1977 albums Rattus Norvegicus and No More Heroes and the UK hits “Peaches,” “Grip,” “Something Better Change,” and “No More Heroes.” Their early sound is characterized by grimy guitar tones, arpeggiated keyboard runs, and the thick, trebly bass of JJ Burnel, whose guttural vocals contrast the fluid voice of Cornwell on select tracks.

In 1978, The Stranglers charted with “5 Minutes” and a cover of the Bacharach–David classic “Walk On By.” They reached No. 2 with Black and White, their third album in thirteen months. After Cornwell and Burnel cut solo albums, The Stranglers regrouped with The Raven, an album with multi-layered keyboards and harmonic, polyrhythmic counterpoint.

Members: J.J. Burnel (bass, vocals), Jet Black (drums), Hans Wärmling (guitar, keyboards, 1974-75), Hugh Cornwell (guitar, vocals, 1974-90), Dave Greenfield (keyboards, vocals, 1975-2020)


Background

The Stranglers assembled in early 1974 as The Guildford Stranglers. Guitarist/singer Hugh Cornwell (b. Aug. 28, 1949) had recently returned to England after a several-year stay in Sweden, where he studied biochemistry and gigged in the band Johnny Sox with several locals, including keyboardist Hans Wärmling. As a teenager, Cornwell played in a garage band called Emile and the Detectives with a (pre-Fairport) Richard Thompson.

The Stranglers initially used the “Guildford” prefix in ode to their stomping ground, where drummer Jet Black — aka Brian Duffy (b. Aug 26, 1938) — owned a liquor store. Black had been a jazz drummer during the late ’50s and early ’60s before breaking from music to build his business profile. After running a home brewery and a fleet of ice cream vans, he was looking to return to band life when he met the recently repatriated Cornwell.

Black and Cornwell were soon joined by Jean-Jacques Burnel (b. Feb. 21, 1952), a classically trained guitarist with an orchestral background. Since they needed a bassist, he took up the instrument. Soon thereafter, Wärmling visited England and decided to join the band. This lineup gigged for a year and cut three group-composed demos: the retro-rocker “Wasted” and the ballads “My Young Dreams” and “Strange Little Girl.”

In May 1975, Wärmling was replaced by keyboardist Dave Greenfield (March 29, 1949 — May 3, 2020), who hailed from a series of bands in the UK and Germany, including beatsters The Blue Maxi, which cut the 1970 single “Here Comes Summer.” His arrival completed the classic Stranglers lineup that would hold for 15 years.

The Stranglers gigged constantly over the next 18 months, recurrently playing the trafficked London haunts (The Roundhouse, The Red Cow, Hope & Anchor). In early 1976, they cut demos of several live favorites, including “Grip,” “Bitching,” “Go Buddy Go,” and “Tomorrow Was the Hereafter.”

On March 30, The Stranglers alarmed London concertgoers with a promo poster that showed an image from crime scene where the Boston Strangler (Albert DeSalvo, 1931–1973) slayed one of his victims. That night, The Stranglers played The Nashville Room, a North End pub where The Snakes (with future Wire drummer Robert Gotobed) held the opening slot.

In the summer of 1976, they opened select dates for Patti Smith and were drawn into the new wave punk scene. In December, The Stranglers signed to United Artists.


1977: First Two Albums

The Strangers got their first publicity blast after a January 30 appearance at Rainbow Theatre, a venue owned by the pious Greater London Council. Several songs in, Cornwell removed his jacket to reveal a backward shirt that spelled FUCK in the style of the Ford logo, which prompted the GLC to shutter the band’s power supply. The little-reported headline act was veteran rockers the Climax Blues Band, who recently scored their first chart hit (UK No. 10) with “Couldn’t Get It Right” from their eighth studio album Gold Plated.

In June, the Stranglers backed French singer Celia Gollin on the single “Mony Mony,” a Tommy James & the Shondells cover backed with the Stranglers-penned “Mean to Me.” The single appeared on UA under the moniker Celia & The Mutations in a sleeve with a silhouetted Stranglers on the back.

Celia issued a second single in October with two monikers: Celia & the Fabulous Mutations (“You Better Believe Me”) and Celia & the Young Mutations (“Round And Around”). The Fabulous Mutations were Burnel, ex-Dr. Feelgood guitarist Wilko Johnson (JJ’s then-roommate), and ex-Man drummer Terry Williams. The Young Mutations involved members of A Raincoat but no Stranglers.


“(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)”

On January 28, 1977, The Stranglers released “(Get A) Grip (On Yourself),” backed with “London Lady.” Graphic artist Kevin Sparrow designed the Stranglers logo: a lower-case cursive brushstroke based on Filmotype Harper, a fifties American font sold locally by the UK firm Photoscript. The logo (typically red) appears on most Stranglers releases henceforth.

Two Stranglers fans, T. Moon and P. Jac (aka The Welks), printed and distributed Sideburns, an amateur Stranglers fanzine with interviews, reviews, and coverage of the band’s activities. The first issue contains a December 1976 interview with Jet Black and articles on Darts, Dr. Feelgood, and Eddie & the Hot Rods. The reviews section discusses singles by Richard Hell & the Voidoids, Canned Heat, Graham Parker, The Vibrators, Little Bob Story, the Velvet Underground, and the Flaming Groovies, plus a five-paragraph feature on Zoot Allures by Frank Zappa. As an ode to the anyone-can-do-it ethos of the punk movement, page 2 contains a diagram that reads “This is a chord (A)… this is another (E)… this is a third (G)… now form a band.”

After three issues, Moon linked with Stranglers publicist Alan Edwards and launched Strangled. Issues 1–4 appeared in 1977 with ongoing group coverage and features on 999, Ian Dury, The Jam, John Cale, Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers, The Lurkers, Squeeze, and other new wave acts.


Rattus Norvegicus

The Stranglers released their debut album, Rattus Norvegicus, on April 15, 1977, on United Artists. It features both sides of the pre-released single and seven further group-written numbers. Burnel’s voice — shouted on “London Lady” and “Ugly”; deep bass on “Princess of the Streets” — contrasts the fluid modal mid-range of Cornwell, who sings the remaining tracks.

Sometimes

Goodbye Toulouse

London Lady

Princess of the Streets

Hanging Around

Peaches

(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)

Ugly

Down in the Sewer” 

Sessions took place during January–February 1977 at T.W. Studios in Fulham with producer Martin Rushent, a seven-year soundman whose prior credits include albums by Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso, Badger, Curved Air (Air Cut), Danny Kirwan (Second Chapter), Gentle Giant (Octopus), Groundhogs (Hogwash), Osibisa, Premiata Forneria Marconi (L’Isola Di Niente), Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Tonton Macoute, and Zzebra. Most recently, he engineered theatrical rock albums by Roderick Falconer (New Nation) and David Essex (Out In the Street).

The engineer on Rattus, Alan Winstanley, worked on a recent album by Beggars Opera. Rattus was mixed at Olympic Studios by Doug Bennett, a soundman on 1974–76 albums by Armageddon (self-titled), Hawkwind, Man (Welsh Connection), Moonrider, The Neutrons, The O Band, and Stomu Yamash’ta‘s East Wind (One by One).

Rattus Norvegicus is housed in a black-framed cover designed by Paul Henry with photography by Doug Bennett. The cover shows the band standing near and far inside the Old Knoll, an 18th century mansion on Eliot Hill in Blackheath, London. Greenfield and Burnel (foreground) are both styled with thick cosmetics. The inner-sleeve shows The Stranglers grouped before the arched corridor with orange tints. Greenfield (seated) has a cat in his lap while Cornwell hold hands with an antique child statue. The silhouette of a rat at sunset appears on the back cover, sleeve, and labels. Henry and Bennett also did recent visuals for UA titles by Alkatraz, George Hatcher, and Feelgood’s recent live chart-topper Stupidity.

On May 21, The Stranglers lifted “Peaches” as the album’s second single, backed with the non-album Burnel rocker “Go Buddy Go,” an R&B–boogie with party score-keeping lyrics. Radio copies of “Peaches” (cat# FREE 4) replace select words: “clitoris” becomes “bikini” and “oh shit” becomes “oh no!” This helped the song bypass censors and create surprise for customers who purchased the single and/or album based on BBC airings.

Rattus Norvegicus reached No. 4 on the UK Albums Chart, where it spent seventeen weeks in the Top 10 between May and August 1977 amid albums by 10cc (Deceptive Bends), ABBA, Electric Light Orchestra, Fleetwood Mac (Rumours), and Yes. It ranked No. 21 on the year-end chart. The album is sometimes referred to as Rattus Norvegicus IV or simple IV due to the presence of the Roman numeral on the front cover and labels (a reference to their quartet status).

The first 10,000 copies came with a bonus 7″ with the studio rarity “Choosy Suzie” and the live favorite “Peasant in the Big Shitty.”

On May 26, 1977, The Stranglers made their first appearance on the BBC music program Top of the Pops, where they mimed “Go Buddy Go,” which radio favored over the lyrically coarse a-side. TotP aired this directly after a solo Bryan Ferry number (“Tokyo Joe”) and twice reaired it on the June 9 and 23 broadcasts. “Peaches” reached No. 8 on the UK Singles Chart.


“Something Better Change”

On May 22, 1977, The Stranglers released “Something Better Change,” one of multiple leftover tracks from the Rattus sessions. It appeared as a double a-side with “Straighten Out.”

The Stranglers mimed “Straighten Out” on the August 4 broadcast of TotP between segments by segments by Television (“Prove It”) and Deniece Williams. A fortnight later, they opened the Aug. 18 TotP broadcast with “Something Better Change.”

“Something Better Change” and “Straighten Out” jointly reached No. 9 on the UK Singles Chart.


No More Heroes

The Stranglers released their second album, No More Heroes, on September 23, 1977, on United Artists. Cornwell, in his direct baritone, sings one song on Side A (“I Feel Like a Wog”) and three on Side B (“No More Heroes,” “English Towns,” “School Mam”). Burnel, in his gruff, shouted voice, sings three songs on Side A (“Bitching,” “Dagenham Dave,” “Something Better Change”) and one on Side B (“Burning Up Time”). Greenfield debuts his garbled, twisted tone with one song per side: “Dead Ringer” and “Peasant in the Big Shitty.”

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

Four songs — “Bitching,” “School Mam,” “Something Better Change,” and the studio version of “Peasant in the Big Shitty” — were cut during the winter Rattus sessions. The Stranglers recorded the rest of No More Heroes at T.W. in June–July 1977 with Rushent, who worked on this album in succession with titles by Eddie & the Hot Rods (Life On the Line) and Trickster (Find the Lady). The tapes were then mixed at Olympic by Bennett, who also worked on 1977 albums by Kansas (Point of Know Return) and Racing Cars (Weekend Rendezvous).

Henry and Bennett handled the cover visuals with a gold plate engraved by Steven Stapleton (later of Nurse with Wound). It appears at the center of a red wreath surrounded with rat tails. The red-framed back cover shows each Strangler tinted, solarized, and framed in lightning with the Rattus silhouette at the bottom center. The inner-sleeve shows a rat inside the wreath and a down-angled shot of The Stranglers live. The solarization is credited to one Eamonn O’Keefe. UK copies show the wreath on the LP labels, which again identify the band as Stranglers IV.

No More Heroes reached No. 2 on the UK Albums Chart, where it edged past new releases by Steely Dan (Aja), Thin Lizzy (Bad Reputation), and live double-albums by Genesis and The Rolling Stones.

A week before the album’s release, The Stranglers issued “No More Heroes” as the second single. The b-side, “In the Shadows,” is a Corwell-sung night-alley blues with sirens and tremors over a deep, guttural fuzz-bass riff (in A). Though a non-album track for the time being, “In the Shadows” reappeared on their third album.

The Stranglers mimed “No More Heroes” on TotP, which aired their segment on September 22 right before “Best of My Love” by The Emotions and reaired it on October 6. “No More Heroes” reached No. 8 on the UK Singles Chart.


1978: Singles, Third Album

In May, The Stranglers released their third album in the span of thirteen months. With nine non-album sides from this same period, they amassed roughly four album’s worth of output in the sixteen months since their first single. In late 1978, Cornwell and Burnel each worked on solo albums.


“5 Minutes”

On January 27, 1978, The Stranglers released “5 Minutes” / “Rok It to the Moon”. The song was recorded during an exclusive New Year’s T.W. session with Rushent, who also produced the self-titled debut album by Generation X.

March 9, 1978, broadcast of TotP, which re-aired the segment on the 23rd between numbers by The Real Thing and the Manhattan Transfer (their cover of “Walk In Love” by David Batteau).


“Nice ‘n’ Sleazy”

On April 26, 1978, The Stranglers released “Nice ‘n’ Sleazy,” backed with “Shut Up.”

The Stranglers mimed “Nice ‘n’ Sleazy” on the May 4 and 18 broadcasts of TotP, which reaired the segment ahead on the 18th ahead of songs by Elkie Brooks and X-Ray Spex. “Nice ‘n’ Sleazy” reached No. 18 on the UK Singles Chart.


Black and White

The Stranglers released their third album, Black and White, on May 12, 1978, on United Artists. It’s split into a White Side (A) and Black Side (B) with the inner-sleeve and labels coded accordingly. Cornwell sings all six White Side tracks and two (“In the Shadows,” “Enough Time”) on the Black Side, which features one Greenfield vocal (“Do You Wanna”) and three songs led by Burnel, who shout-sings “Curfew” and employs his bass-tone on “Threatened” and “Death and Night and Blood (Yukio).”

Tank

Nice ‘n’ Sleazy

Outside Tokyo

Sweden (All Quiet on the Eastern Front)

Hey! (Rise of the Robots)

Toiler on the Sea

Curfew

Threatened

Do You Wanna

Death and Night and Blood (Yukio)

In the Shadows

Enough Time

Black and White is the last of three-consecutive Stranglers albums recorded at T.W. Studios with Rushent. Sessions for the eleven new tracks (barring “In the Shadows”) took place in February–March 1978 between Rushent’s work with recent UA signees the Buzzcocks, who released three standalone singles and two albums that year, including their recent debut Another Music in a Different Kitchen. As Rushent focused on that band, he handed The Stranglers to Winstanley, who engineered this album amid titles by 999, Jona Lewie, and Bette Bright & the Illuminations, a Deaf School spinoff with Rich Kids ties.

Black and White has a two-tone cover with the band against stark white background posed in all black with two exceptions: Burnel’s two-tone top and Greenfield’s two-tone shoes, a footwear style recently re-popularized by The Jam. The photographer, Ruan O’Lochlainn, had earlier visual credits on albums by Andy Fraser, Brinsley Schwarz, Jericho, Jethro Tull (Benefit), Man (Back Into the Future), Rick Wakeman, and Shawn Phillips. As a multi-instrumentalist, he played saxophone for Anthony Moore and Bryan Ferry. At the time of this album, he played bass in Riff Riff with future folkie Billy Bragg.

In the UK, the first 75,000 copies contained a free maxi-single: “Walk On By,” a cover of the Burt Bacharach–Hal David song made famous by Dionne Warwick. It’s backed with the comedic blues-rockers “Old Codger” (with blues singer George Melly and harpist Lew Lewis) and “Tits.”

The single appeared on white vinyl with a label warning that it was not to be sold separate from copies of Black and White. However, a separate version did appear in July with “Tank” in lieu of “Tits.” This version has a picture sleeve that replicates the album cover with a joking reference to the legacy of “Walk On By” — the head of a Dionne Warwick lookalike superimposed on Cornwell’s body.

With “Walk On By,” The Stranglers opened the August 17 broadcast of TotP, which then cut to the Justin Hayward ballad “Forever Autumn” from Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds.

Black and White reached No. 2 on the UK Albums Chart, where it was held off the No. 1 spot by the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. In North America, the album appeared on marble vinyl without the bonus single.


1979: Live, Solo Projects, Fourth Album

In early 1979, UA filled the Stranglers album-release gap with a live disc. Meanwhile, Burnel and Cornwell completed their solo albums, which appeared respectively before and after the fourth Stranglers studio album. On the side, Burnel produced the self-titled debut album by Lizard, a London-based Japanese new wave band.


Euroman Cometh

In April 1979, J.J. Burnel released Euroman Cometh, a synth-based solo album on UA. Burnel self-performed most of the songs, which are set to a speed-manipulated beat box. The album — semi-titled after the 1946 dead-enders play The Iceman Cometh by American playwright Eugene O’Neill — focuses on themes of a united Europe.

In addition to bass and vocals, Burnel handles guitar and keyboards on Euroman Cometh. Three songs (“Freddie Laker,” “Deutschland Nicht Uber Alles,” “Do the European”) feature Drones drummer Peter Howells. The album’s one non-original is the Beat Merchants cover “Pretty Face,” a punk raveup recorded with Lew Lewis, Chelsea drummer Carey Fortune, and ex-Damned guitarist Brian James. Rushent and Winstanley co-produced the album with Burnel, whose leather-clad figure appears on the cover next to the blue-tubed entrance of the Centre Georges Pompidou, a recently opened Paris arts center.

“Freddie Laker (Concorde and Eurobus)” appeared as a single, backed with the non-album “Ozymandias.” Burnel promoted Euroman Cometh with an April tour, backed by Howells, ex-Vibrators guitarist John Ellis, and keyboardist Penny Tobin. He drew upon the influence of Can and Kraftwerk on this album, which became a key release at the juncture of synthpunk and electronic art-rock alongside early titles by Chrisma, Tuxedomoon, Thomas Leer, and “Warm Leatherette” by The Normal.


Live (X Cert)

In February 1979, United Artists issued Live (X Cert), a document of their late-1977 setlist with three additional songs from the Battersea event.


“Duchess”

On August 10, 1979, The Stranglers released “Duchess,” a review song of their upcoming album, backed with the exclusive “Fools Rush Out.”

The Stranglers mimed “Duchess” on the August 30 episode of TotP, which then gave a fourth airing to “We Don’t Talk Anymore,” the current No. 1 by Cliff Richard. “Duchess” reached No. 14 on the UK Singles Chart.

(Months later, Genesis issued Duke, which contains a hidden suite of songs, including a rousing anthem titled “Duchess,” about a diva’s rise and fall.)


The Raven

The Stranglers released their fourth studio album, The Raven, on September 15, 1979, on United Artists. Cornwell sings five songs in his newly refined, angelic modal range. Burnel, in a revised style, employs an airy tone on “The Raven” and whisper-sings “Don’t Bring Harry.” He also sings the “Meninblack,” a cryptic, vocally-treated track with themes they’d revisit on subsequent releases. Greenfield sings “Genetix,” a rhythmically varied track that closes the album.

Longships

The Raven

Dead Loss Angeles

Ice

Baroque Bordello

Nuclear Device (The Wizard of Aus)

Shah Shah a Go Go

Don’t Bring Harry

Duchess

Meninblack

Genetix

Sessions took place in June 1979 at Pathé Marconi Studios in Paris, France. The Stranglers co-produced The Raven with Winstanley, who also worked on 1979 albums by Amii Stewart, Joe Jackson, Lene Lovich (Flex), Trickster (Back to Zero), and the Deaf School spinoffs The Planets (Goon Hilly Down) and Clive Langer & the Boxes. Winstanley and Langer subsequently formed a production partnership.

The Raven was mixed at AIR Studios, London, by Winstanley and Steve Churchyard, an engineer on 2nd Honeymoon and recent albums by Trevor Rabin, Tarney & Spencer (Three’s a Crowd), and ex-Family frontman Roger Chapman.

The Strangers conceived the holographic cover concept: an idea used by The Rolling Stones on their 1967 album Their Satanic Majesties Request. The three-dimensional raven was photographed by one Toppan. Later copies dispensed with the 3D holograph for a more conventional black-framed raven photo. The designed firm Shoot That Tiger! is credited with the inner-sleeve, which has song lyrics accompanied by illustrations, including one of then-Queensland premiere Joh Bjelke-Petersen, who had it removed from subsequent pressings. The back cover shows The Stranglers on the prow of a Viking longship, photographed by Paul Cox, who also has visual credits on 1979–80 albums by Magnum, Motorhead, and Sky.

In October, The Stranglers released “Nuclear Device (Wizard of Aus)” as the album’s second single, backed with the exclusive “Yellowcake UF 6.” In late November, they issued a 7″ four-song maxi-single of “Don’t Bring Harry,” Cornwell’s solo track “Wired,” and live versions of “In the Shadows” and Burnel’s “Crabs.”

The Stranglers appeared on the December 6 TotP, where they mimed “Don’t Bring Harry” beside a white grand piano — slotted between M‘s year-end hit “Moonlight and Muzak” and a Legs & Co dance routine for the title-track to Off the Wall, the breakthrough solo album by Michael Jackson.

The Raven reached No. 4 on the UK Albums Chart.


Nosferatu

In November 1979, Hugh Cornwell released Nosferatu, a collaborative effort with drummer Robert Williams of Captain Beefheart‘s Magic Band. Musically, it meshes the Stranglers’ harmonic motifs with the roaming fills and polyrhythms of Beefheart’s work.

Cornwell and Williams met during the Stranglers’ 1978 US tour when Hugh attended three consecutive Beefheart shows in San Francisco. The impromptu sessions occurred in Los Angeles during the 1978–79 winter season and wrapped in April (in London) after Cornwell completed a pre-booked Stranglers tour.

The pair developed the album’s seven joint-credited originals in the studio, where they took inspiration from the title-sake 1922 German film — an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula —  newly popular via Werner Herzong’s just-released remake Nosferatu the Vampyre. Since the original Nosferatu is a silent film, Cornwell and Williams created this album as an unofficial soundtrack. The album’s cover features an image still from F. W. Murnau’s 1922 film.

Williams conceived the arrangement for the one cover, “White Room,” a 1968 Cream evergreen by Jack Bruce and Pete Brown. Cornwell lone-wrote the album’s closing two numbers, “Wrong Way Round” and “Puppett.” For the arrangement of “Irate Caterpillar,” he drew inspiration from guitarist Fred Frith, recently of avant-rockers Henry Cow.

Nosferatu features guest appearances by Frank Zappa keyboardist Ian Underwood (four tracks) and Williams’ guitarist friend David Walldroop (two tracks). “Rhythmic Itch” gives prominence to the frontal pair of Devo: singer–keyboardist Mark Mothersbaugh and his guitarist brother Bob. Ian Dury (as “Duncan Poundcake”) is the fairground barker on “Wrong Way Round.” Mick Jones of The Clash (credited among “Various people”) partook in the “Puppett” chant.

Just as Nosferatu hit shelves, Cornwell was arrested for drug possession after a random spot check.


1980: Prison, Benefits

In 1980, the Stranglers released two non-album singles and completed their fifth studio album during the first half of the year. They were booked for March dates in Thailand and India (foreign territories to most UK rockers) and a headline slot of a week-long festival in honor of the Rainbow Theatre’s fiftieth anniversary.

However, Cornwell was sentenced to five weeks in Pentonville prison due to charges stemming from the November 1979 drug bust. His March–April imprisonment nixed their Indochinese tour and placed the Rainbow event in jeopardy. To help The Stranglers honor the shows, calls poured in from numerous guitarists and singers.

The April 3 and 4 shows later appeared on the archival CD The Stranglers and Friends Live In Concert. Burnel’s recent touring mate John Ellis plays guitar on most numbers, which alternately feature second guitarists Robert Fripp (“Tank,” “Threatened,” “Toiler On the Sea”), Steve Hillage (“Something Better Change,” “Down In the Sewer”), Cure leader Robert Smith (“(Get a) Grip (On Yourself),” “Hanging Around”), and Steel Pulse head Basil Gabbidon (“Nice ‘N’ Sleazy”).

The vocalists include Toyah Wilcox (“Something Better Change”), Peter Hammill (“Tank”), Skids frontman Richard Jobson (“Bring On the Nubiles,” “No More Heroes,” “5 Minutes”), Members singer Nicky Tesco (“Nice ‘N’ Sleazy”), and Cornwell’s then-girlfriend Hazel O’Connor (“(Get A) Grip (On Yourself),” “Hanging Around”). (Hazel would cut a studio version of “Hanging Around” on her 1981 third album Cover Plus.) Singer–actor Phil Daniels, star of the recent film adaptation of The Who‘s 1973 rock opera Quadrophenia, sings “Toiler On the Sea.”

The second night’s lineup was colloquially dubbed the ‘Strangled Blockheads’ due to the presence of singer Ian Dury (“Bear Cage” “Peaches”) and two members of his backing band the Blockheads: guitarist John Turnball (ex-Skip Bifferty, ARC) and saxophonist Davey Payne.

Meanwhile, the Stranglers Information Service issued “Tomorrow Was the Hereafter,” a 1976 demo pulled from the vaults. The b-side, “Nubiles (Cocktail Version),” is a minimal version of “Bring On the Nubiles” where Cornwell half-remembers the lyrics as Greenfield plays simplistic stops-start motifs with a synth-harpsichord setting.

After Cornwell’s release from prison, The Stranglers embarked on a French tour. On the fifth night out (June 20), the group were arrested in Nice when fans rioted over faulty sound equipment and caused a purported $250,000 in damage. Cornwell, Burnel, and Black (but not Greenfield) spent time in a French jail. Cornwell later wrote of his prison experiences in the book Inside Information.

With legal hassles cleared, The Stranglers completed their upcoming album, which UA held over as EMI acquired the label. Meanwhile, Cornwell and Burnel produced singles for the UA subsidiary Mainly Modern Records, which issued five 1980 singles with the catalog numbers STP 1–5.

Cornwell produced the a-side of STP 1 and both sides of STP 3. The first is “Keep On Running (Big Noise From the Jungle),” a post-punk Spencer Davis Group cover by the Tea Set. STP 3 is “Runaway” (b/w “Yeah,Yeah,Yeah,Yeah”) by the new wave one-off Ouida & the Numbers. Hugh placed an earlier Tea Set side, “Tri-X Pan,” at No. 4 on his All Time Top Ten list in a 1981 issue of Smash Hits.

Burnel produced the a-side of STP 5: “It Really Doesn’t Matter” by the one-off act Sirens. For the Belgian label Sandwich, he produced “Nagasaki Mon Amour” (b/w “Hiroshima 1945”), the second single by Brussels electro band Polyphonic Size.


“Bear Cage”, “Who Wants the World”

On March 7, 1980, The Stranglers released “Bear Cage,” backed with the Raven track “Shah Shah a Go Go.”

On May 29, 1980, The Stranglers released “Who Wants the World,” backed with “The Meninblack (Waiting For ‘Em).”


IV

In the US, where the Stranglers’ post-1978 output had gone unreleased, I.R.S. Records issued IV, a compilation with the two latest a-sides (“Bear Cage” is identified as “G.m.b.H.”) and another new non-album track, “Vietnamerica.” IV also contains both sides of the “Five Minutes” single and five Raven tracks: “The Raven,” “Baroque Bordello,” “Duchess,” “Nuclear Device,” and “Meninblack.” 


1981: Fifth and Sixth Album

The Stranglers released two albums on Liberty, UA’s new name under EMI.

Polyphonic Size – P.S.


The Gospel According to the Meninblack

The Stranglers released their fifth studio album, The Gospel According to the Meninblack, on February 9, 1981, on Liberty. Cornwell sings lead on six tracks, including the nucleus of Side A, which is bookended by the instrumentals “Waltzinblack” and “Turn the Centuries, Turn.” Side B features a lead vocal apiece by Burnel (“Thrown Away”) and Greenfield (“Four Horsemen”).

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

Sessions occurred piecemeal between January and August 1980 at Pathé and five additional studios: Musicland Studios (Munich), Startling Studios (Berkshire), RCA Studios (Rome), Pebble Beach Sound Studio (Worthing), and Eden Studios (London). The Stranglers self-produced Meninblack, which credits four engineers: Winstanley (“Waiting for the Meninblack,” “Two Sunspots”), Aldo Bocca (“Just Like Nothing on Earth,” “Turn the Centuries, Turn”), Laurence Diana (“Waltzinblack,” “Four Horsemen”), and Churchyard (the rest). Bocca worked on albums by Joe Jackson (Look Sharp), Fischer-Z (Word Salad), and assisted Burnel and Churchyard on Lizard. He also co-engineered Punishment of Luxury with Diana, who worked on recent albums by Modern Eon and Orchestral Manoeuvres In the Dark (Organisation).

Meninblack is housed in a marble gatefold with the song titles and credits in Roman font calligraphy by Jim Gibson. The back cover features the lyrics to “Hallow to Our Men” with each line justified with tiny meninblack icons. The inner-gates display the 1498 Leonardo Da Vinci mural The Last Supper as it appeared in the 1970s (before its modern restoration). The band members are identified thematically as Hughinblack, JJinblack, Daveinblack, and Jetinblack.

“Thrown Away” appeared two weeks in advance as the album’s first single, backed with the exclusive “Top Secret.” The Stranglers mimed “Thrown Away” on the January 29, 1981, broadcast of TotP, aired directly ahead of Madness and the breakthrough Ultravox hit “Vienna.” Liberty lifted a second single, “Just Like Nothing on Earth,” with the non-album b-side “Maninwhite.”

The Gospel According to the Meninblack reached No. 8 on the UK Albums Chart. In North America, the album appeared in a single sleeve on Stiff Records.


La Folie

The Stranglers released their sixth album, La Folie, on November 9, 1981, on Liberty. Burnel sings the two side closers (“The Man They Love to Hate,” “La Folie”) and co-sings “It Only Takes Two to Tango” with Cornwell, who sings the remaining eight songs.

Non Stop

Everybody Loves You When You’re Dead

Tramp

Let Me Introduce You to the Family

Ain’t Nothin’ to It” has lyrics credited to American jazz clarinetist Milton “Mezz” Mezzrow (1899–1972).

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

Sessions took place in August–September 1981 at Manor Studio, a mansion facility in Shipton-on-Cherwell owned by Virgin co-founder Richard Branson. The Stranglers co-produced La Folie with Churchyard, who worked on recent albums by the dB’s, Riuichi Sakamoto, Taxi Girl, and UFO. The album was mixed at Good Earth Studios by owner Tony Visconti, a longtime David Bowie soundman who worked on recent recordings by Afraid of Mice, The Boomtown Rats, Dexys Midnight Runners, Hazel O’Connor, and Private Lives.

La Folie came in a single sleeve with a water-logged image of the foursome by photographer Phil Jude, who tool the Live (X Cert) and IV covers as well as earlier visuals for Automatic Fine Tuning, Budgie, Colosseum II (Electric Savage), Gary Boyle (The Dancer), Isotope, Kraan, Neil Ardley, Patrick Moraz (The Story of i), and Seventh Wave. The back shows a blurred, pink-framed live shot of The Stranglers by one Ava Carrier. Shoot That Tiger! did the inner-sleeve, which lists the album’s credits according to the diagram of a human heart. The other side contains lyrics with correlating graphics, including images of Che Guevara (“Everybody Loves You When You’re Dead”) and Marilyn Monroe (“Pin Up”). Tiger graphics also appear on the Polydor version of Worlds Apart, the 1981 fourth album by Saga.

“Let Me Introduce You to the Family” appeared one week earlier as the album’s lead-off single, backed with the IV rarity “Vietnamerica.” The second single, “Golden Brown,” appeared in January 1982 with the non-album b-side “Love 30.”

“Golden Brown” reached No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart, where it crested under “Town Called Malice” by The Jam. The Stranglers mimed “Golden Brown” on the Jan. 14 broadcast of TotP, which aired the song between hits by Altered Images and Kool & the Gang and reaired it on the 28th (between Haircut One Hundred and Stiff Little Fingers) and twice in February on the 11th (between Bananarama+Fun Boy Three and Bow Wow Wow) and the 18th (between Soft Cell and “Precious” by The Jam).

La Folie reached No. 8 on the UK Albums Chart. “Tramp” was tapped as the third single but Burnel lobbied for the title-track, which Liberty backed with “Waltzinblack.”


1982: Comeback, Single, Label Change

Epic

Polyphonic Size – Live For Each Moment / Vivre Pour Chaque Instant


“Strange Little Girl”

On July 9, 1982, The Stranglers released “Strange Little Girl” / “Cruel Garden” (1982)

The Stranglers mimed “Strange Little Girl” on the July 22 broadcast of TotP, which re-aired it on August 5 between numbers by Bad Manners and Dexys.


1983: Seventh Album

Burnel and Greenfield Fire & Water (Ecoutez Vos Murs),

six parts of a “series” about a man named Vladimir


Feline

The Stranglers released their seventh album, Feline, on January 22, 1983, on Epic. Burnel sings “European Female” and “Paradise” in his now-patented airy whisper.

The Stranglers recorded Feline in September 1982 at ICP Studios in Brussels, Belgium. Churchyard co-produced the album in succession with titles by Alice Cooper, Classix Nouveaux, Cliff Richard (“Please Don’t Fall In Love”), Dave Davies, and Status Quo.

Feline sports an embossed black cover with the outline of a panther. The art director, Nick Marchant, also has visual credits on Epic titles by the Nick Straker Band, The Only Ones, and Bruce Woolley and the Camera Club (English Garden). The inserts include promo material for Strangled, now in its sixth year. Early European copies include the bonus one-sided 7″ “Aural Sculpture,” a spoken-word piece cut with Visconti at Good Earth.

The Stranglers previewed Feline with the Christmas 1982 single release of “European Female,” backed with the exclusive “Savage Breast.” The Stranglers mimed “European Female” on the January 6 broadcast of TotP, which slotted them before a singer they once covered, Dionne Warwick. “European Female” re-aired on the Jan. 10 TotP broadcast ahead of a current charting cover, “You Can’t Hurry Love,” the Supremes evergreen cultivated by Phil Collins. “European Female” reached No. 9 on the UK Singles Chart.

Feline reached No. 4 on the UK Albums Chart and went Top 20 in New Zealand and Norway. “Midnight Summer Dream” appeared in a secial single mix, backed with part 1 of the Vlademir series, titled “(The Strange Circumstances Which Lead To) Vladimir and Olga (Requesting Rehabilitation in a Siberian Health Resort as a Result of Stress in Furthering the People’s Policies).” A third single, “Paradise,” appeared in July 1983 with the non-album b-side “Pawsher.”


1984:

Playgroup – Play Group ‎


Aural Sculpture

The Stranglers released their eighth album, Aural Sculpture, on November 5, 1984, on Epic.

Sessions occurred at ICP with producer–engineer Laurie Latham, a onetime soundman for Ian Dury (New Boots and Panties!!) whose recent work included titles by Jacqui Brookes and Paul Young. Aural Sculpture features additional engineering by IBC staffers Christian “Djoum” Ramon (Chris Craft, Cos, Sunhouse) and Erwin Autrique (Elton Motello, Jo Lemaire).

A three-piece brass section — trumpeter Paul Spong (I Level, Wham, Working Week), trombonist Paul Nieman (Centipede, Mike Westbrook, National Health), and saxophonist Tim Whitehead (Ray Russell, Harry Beckett, Loose Tubes) — augments “Ice Queen”, “Punch and Judy,” and “Mad Hatter.” The last of those, along with “Let Me Down Easy” and “No Mercy,” feature backing vocals by George Chandler, Jimmy Chambers, and Tony Jackson. Chandler (Olympic Runners, Gonzalez) and Chambers (Dada, Batti Mamzelle) harmonized twenty years earlier in the Four Kents (along with Charles Hilton Brown) and recently partook in Brit funksters Central Line. Chambers and Jackson cut two singles in the disco-funk trio Midnight.

Photographer John Kisch took the Aural Sculpture cover image, which shows The Stranglers positioned like statues near a giant stone-carved ear by sculptor (and Cornwell’s brother-in-law) John King. The album’s title is engraved at the base of the sculpture. The back cover features ear pics of each member by photographer Brian Griffin, whose imagery also appears on titles by Bill Nelson, Dire Straits, Echo and the Bunnymen, Peter Hammill (The Future Now), Random Hold (Etceteraville), and The Teardrop Explodes.

“Skin Deep” appeared in September as the album’s lead-off single, backed with the exclusive “Here and There.” The Stranglers mimed it on the October 4 broadcast of TotP. A third track, “Vladimir and the Beast (Part III),” appears on a 12″ version of the single. “Skin Deep” reached No. 15 on the UK Singles Chart and also went Top 20 in Australia, Belgium, Ireland, and New Zealand.

“No Mercy” was the second single, backed with the non-album “In One Door.” A special shaped-picture-disc edition recreates the aural sculpture. A 12″ version includes a third track, the instrumental “Hot Club.”

“Let Me Down Easy” appeared as the third single in February 1985, backed with the exclusive “Achilles Heel.” A 12″ version includes three additional tracks: “Plaice de Victoires” (instrumental), “Vladimir Goes to Havana” (part 4 in the Vladimir series), and “The Aural Sculpture Manifesto.”

Aural Sculpture went Top 20 in the UK, Germany, and New Zealand. It also reached the Swedish and Dutch Top 40. In the US, the album made inroads in select urban markets, including San Francisco, where The Quake (KSOL, 98.9 FM) rotated select Aural tracks.


1985:

“One In a Million” “Siren Song”

The Revenge – Wartime

A Marriage of Convenience – My Young Dreams


1986:

Cornwell

Nigel Planer – Rough With The Smooth (Theme From King & Castle)

X Mal Deutschland – Matador

Burnel

Laurent Sinclair – Devant Le Miroir 

Beranek – Daylight In The Dark

The Dave Howard Singers – Rock On

Ping Pop – Just Another Lazy Day


Dreamtime

The Stranglers released their ninth album, Dreamtime, on October 27, 1986, on Epic.

Sessions took place in March–April 1986 at ICP and three English studios: Spaceward Studios (Cambridge), Crescent Studios (Bath), and Farmyard Studios (Little Chalfont). The Stranglers co-produced Dreamtime with Mike Kemp, a soundman on earlier titles by Gary Numan (Tubeway Army), Modern English, The Soft Boys, and Spriguns. The engineer, Owen Morris, worked on subsequent albums by The Bible (Eureka), Dizrhythmia, and Bill Bruford‘s Earthworks.

Musical guests include percussionist Simon Morton (Paz, Pacific Eardrum), saxophonist Alex Gifford, and trumpeters Hilary Kops and Martin Veysey. Slide guitartist BJ Cole adds pedal steel on “You’ll Always Reap What You Sow.” Cole, once of rustic-rockers Cochise, did numerous sessions over the prior seventeen years, including titles by Byzantium (Seasons Changing), Kiki Dee Band (I’ve Got the Music In Me), Procol Harum (Exotic Birds and Fruit), City Boy (Dinner at the Ritz), Alan Parsons Project (I Robot), and Gerry Rafferty (City to City).

Dreamtime sports a single sleeve with the silhouetted band in tribal headpieces engaged in a single-file dance under a torrential dusk sky. Jean Luke Epstein is credited as “sleeve engineer.” His earlier credits include visuals for Gordon Giltrap, Duncan Browne (The Wild Places), After the Fire, Gillan, and the recent Beltane Fire.

“Nice in Nice” was the album’s lead-off single, backed with the exclusive “Since You Went Away.” It got extensive airplay on US underground stations like Boston’s WFNX. The second single, “Always the Sun” (b/w “Norman Normal”) reached the French and Irish Top 20 and the UK and Australian Top 30.

Dreamtime reached No. 16 on the UK Albums Chart and spawned two further singles: “Big in America” (b/w “Dry Day”) and “Shakin’ Like a Leaf” (b/w “Hitman”).


Discography:


Sources:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *