The Stranglers, Their Reputation
The Stranglers, formed in Guilford, England, in 1974, were greeted by critics, audience and press by rejection until they matured out of their youthful anger and dedicated themselves to a new musical perspective. Known as The Men in Black because of both their on-stage and real-life black attire and their opinions on UFOs and black-clad government agents tracking UFOs (as in The Gospel According to Meninblack, 1981), The Stranglers had song tracks and music videos banned by the BBC, were banned from music performance venues and were arrested in England and France on drug and assault charges.
After the notoriety accompanying tying a French critic to the Eiffel Tower, they performed under various aliases like Oil and the Slicks, Shakespearo's, Bingo Nightly, and the OAPs. Their performances projected a dark and stormy image for the band that reflected in real-life fights, drug abuse and conflict with the press. Their major contribution to music was in helping to shape the development of punk and new wave music movements. Their third single release "Something Better Change" (1977) became the "anthem" of the punk music movement. Despite or because of their violent performances and lives, The Stranglers performed and recorded for more than twenty-five years, from their first release in 1977 to their last album in 1998.
Forming the Band
The instigator of the formation of the band was Hugh Cromwell, well educated at Bristol University, U.K., in biochemistry, Hugh turn from science to his guitar and set out for London with the express intent of forming a band. Hugh, vocalist and guitarist, placed an advertisement in the musicians periodical Melody Maker and drummer Jet Black responded. Hugh and Jet met classically trained guitarist Jean-Jacques "J.J." Burnel while he was hitching a lift. Swedish guitarist Hans Warmling completed the foursome. Without places to live and without successfully acquiring performances, Hugh, J.J. and Hans moved into Jet's liquor store and borrowed an ice cream van from his fleet of vans. Hans became dissatisfied with the band and left in the middle of 1975. Another advertisement in Melody Maker found keyboardist Dave Greenfield as Hans' replacement. After signing with the music agency Albion in 1975, The Stranglers--Hugh, Jet, J.J and Dave--left Jet's liquor store in Guilford and moved to the Hope and the Anchor pubs in London.
The band won a reputation for being hard-working (to counter-balance their reputation for violence), which gained them their first break: They toured in support of Patti Smith in 1976. The tour led to the band signing with United Artists recording label also in 1976. In 1977, they released their first single: "(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)." The song was an autobiographical look at the struggle to become "a rock and roll band and the realization that 'the money's no good!'" Their second single "Peaches" drew a lot of attention for the band because the BBC (British Broadcasting Company) banned the song from the airways because of frank anatomical references. Their first album Stranglers IV was released in 1977 and included "Peaches" as one of the tracks. The album did well enough for the BBC to relent and allow the play of an edited version of "Peaches," which hit number ten on the charts in the U.K. Their third single, the one that became the anthem of punkers, was "Something Better Change" (1977).
- 1977 second album No MoreHeroes, rock and roll, punk, new wave tracks
- 1978 single "Five Minutes," techno/new wave, hard rock soul
- 1978 third album Black and White
Black and White hit song "Nice 'N' Sleazy" topping Charts across Europe
- 1979 fourth album The Raven
The Raven chart success "Duchess"
- "Duchess" music video banned by BBC
Black and White led to a world tour that was not without significant pitfalls. It was on this tour that band tied a French music critic to the Eiffel Tower resulting in venue bans and the use of aliases in order to get performance gigs. Going from bad to worse, Hugh was arrested in 1980 for possession of heroin and spent two months in jail. The band continued to perform but invited other performers to appear with them, like Ian Dury of Joy Division. Making matters even worse, at a performance in Nice, France, French police arrested band-leader Hugh for stating a riot in the audience. Later, J.J. Burnel wrote about the incident in a book called Much Ado About Nothin', a title that plays upon Shakespeare's famous play. To complicate matters, on a 1981 American tour all their equipment was stolen. This brought forth some of their philosophical musing as they wondered whether the theft was mere coincidence or the result of space alien intervention in the band's tour performances.
1980s to 2010s
The Stranglers continued to work steadily through the 1980s and the 1990s though Hugh retired from the band in 1990 to pursue a solo career, saying that the band had reached its end. Nonetheless, The Stranglers are still performing in the 2000s and 2010s, with the album Giants having been released in 2012. The band made a full U.K. tour in 2013. Hugh Cornwell's spots have been filled at various times by John Ellis on guitar, Paul Roberts as vocalist, Baz Warne on guitar (2000–present) and lead vocals (2006–present), with Jim Macaulay on drums during tours. The Stranglers will celebrate their 40th anniversary with the Rugby Tour throughout the U.K. in September 2014. One vital contribution to music made by the once violently tumultuous but now grown up Stranglers is that they have fermented a vintage of punk rock and new wave rock into something that endured 40 years.
Current members Jet Black – drums (1974–present) Jean-Jacques Burnel – bass guitar, lead vocals (1974–present) Dave Greenfield – keyboards, vocals (1975–present) Baz Warne – guitar (2000–present), lead vocals (2006–present)Touring musicians Jim MacAulay - drums (2013–present)Former members Hugh Cornwell – Guitars, lead vocals (1974–1990) Hans Wärmling – guitar, keyboards, vocals (1974–1975; died 1995) Paul Roberts – lead vocals (1990–2006) John Ellis – guitar, backing vocals (1990–2000)Former touring musicians Ian Barnard - drums (2007-2012)
[List from Wikipedia, "The Stranglers."]
Strangler IV (Rattus Norvegicus), United Artists, 1977.
No More Heroes, United Artists, 1977.
Black and White, United Artists, 1978.
Live X-Certs, United Artists, 1979.
The Raven, United Artists, 1979.
IV, 1RS, 1979.
The Gospel According to Meninblack, Liberty/Stiff, 1981.
La Folie, EMI, 1981.
Feline, Epic, 1983.
Aural Sculpture, Epic, 1984.
Dreamtime, Epic, 1987.
All Live and All of the Night, Epic, 1988.
Singles, EMI, 1989.
10, Epic, 1990.
Greatest Hits 1977-1990, Epic, 1990.
In the Night, Viceroy, 1992.
About Time, Fuel, 1995.
The Hit Men, EMI Gold, 1997.
Written in Red, When, 1997.
Access All Areas, Voiceprint, 1998.
Coup de Grace, 1998.Norfolk Coast, 2004.Suite XVI, 2006.Giants, 2012.
Source: Tiger Cosmos. "The Stranglers." Contemporary Musicians. Vol. 31. Gale Cengage, 2006.