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THE STRANGLERS

THE STRANGLERS

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    The group created itself in September 1974 under the name of Guilford Stranglers (Inspired by a serial killer named after the press: “the Boston strangler”). The bassist and singer, Jean Jacques Burnel (21/2/1952), is of French origin and the son of two restorers from Caen(France). He was a fair fan of classic guitar but then decided to go on to the 4 strings guitar. Huge motorbike-lover he was fairly close to the Hell’s Angels group and even known to be a bit of a fighter. Secondly, the singer and guitarist Hugh Cornwell: This man has a hole other portrait: Biology diplomas and then teacher he was also a guitar fan and had his own blues group with Richard Thompson, future member of the Fairport convention. The two other members of the group are even more surprising. Jet Black (Brian Duffy born at Ilford the 26/08/1938), the drummer, used to be the manager of a bar and started playing his instrument only quite late. Dave Greenfield (Brighton 29/03/1949), the keyboard player that replaced Hans Warmling is a fair fan of aggressive rock groups and very inspired by Ray Manzareck of the Doors.
    It’s in 1977 that the group signed up with, at the time, a conservative label: EMI (Now the 3rd major music company worldwide). They start getting the attention of their public in 1977 with their two first albums: Rattus Norvegicus in april and No More Heroes in September. Inspired by Cornwell’s aggressive side, their texts are often very cynical, misogynist and provocative. To add to this cocktail, their songs deal with subjects that could be considered as “taboo” such as: drugs, the nuclear bombs and the Nordic methodology. Their public attitude is voluntarily extreme and so is their relation with the local police thus creating some excesses.
    For various obvious reasons, The Stranglers are forbidden of doing any concerts in London and so decide to create and organize a festival at Battersea Park, giving them a lot of advertising. Burnel starts being a problem for the group; he is dreaded by the journalists and doesn’t hesitate to act if something annoys him. Even if this is bad for the groups’ image, it doesn’t stop them of having prestigious groups come in for the first part of the show such as: Joy Division, The Cure, Taxi Girl or even Steel pulse, increasing sales, and constantly appearing in the rankings.
    Very prolific, their incoming albums are memorable such as Black and White (May 1978), The Raven (September 1979) and singles like the “Walk on by” by Dionne Warwick. They also record solo music like “European Comith” for Burnel and “Nosferatu” the same year for Cornwell.
    During the 80’s, the four men went a little too far in the excesses. Hugh Cornwell is put into prison and cannot be present for one of their tours. For this matter they must have artists replace them such as Robert Smith and the guitarist of the Vibratos John Ellis. As soon as Cornwell is released, the Stranglers are stronger than ever with their new album: “La Folie” on a melody of Dave Greenfield. The song Golden Brown with its text on heroin is ranked to the top of the chart (number 2 in 1982) and their album that didn’t work that well at its release has a second chance. They also made a long monologue on Jean-Jacques Burnel (Frenchman that helped them a few years back) but it didn’t work that well with English buyers. Later on, their beautiful single Strange Little Girl coming from a demo that EMI didn’t grant them in the past is finally released when the group announces that they are leaving the label.
    Later on The Stranglers operate a change: The keyboard and basses are pushed to the front whereas Jet Black drifts to electronic percussions. The song European Female sang by Jean Jacques Burnel is a success (Number 9). The rest of the 80’s remains quite calm, extract of the “Dreamtime”, The pop song “Always the Sun” is very popular in France. Therefore, at this time, fans that followed the group since its creation find it hard to follow them and will start to detach themselves of the group. Furthermore, it is hard for Burnel to find his place in the USA even if a group like Metallica is working their way up. Faithful to his origins (Jacques Dutronc), he releases a new solo album “Un jour parfait” (a perfect day) in 1988.
    Even if with the success of his last album and hit song “96 tears”, Hugh Cornwell is a little bored and is thinking of leaving because for him The Stranglers cannot evolve creatively more than it already has. He goes back to his original job as a biologie professor and releases a few unknown solo albums.
    J.J.Burnel still enthuastic with the group and now the only chief left on board, decided to hire a new singer : Paul Roberts (31/12/1959) true fan of the Stranglers; and calls back John Ellis. At this point, Jet Black is sick and replaced by a Japanese drummer until he comes back.
    As far as we are here, it is clear that the success peak of the group is behind them. Albums are still released regularly such as “Stranglers in the night” in 92, “About time” in 95, “Written in red” in 97 and “Coup de grace” the year after, their followers aren’t as enthusiastic as they were before: they blame Cornwell’s absence for this.
    In 1993 Burnel comes back to his producers tasks for the album “For never again” of Dani and spends more time with his family and passions such as karate and motorbikes.
    At the end of that decade John Ellis is replaced by Baz Warne(26/03/1964) and at the end of the year 2000, the albums “Norfolk”(February 2004) and “Suite”(September 2006) on which the Stranglers come back to their origins and create a real interest with the critics for a change and more and more people were attending their concerts.
    The 4th of November 2007, The Stranglers celebrate their 30 years of existence as a group in the room where they were when they started: The Roundhouse of London by playing the same music they used to in 1977. As for Hugh Cornwell, he still performs in small rooms and plays all different songs of the group, whereas the group itself, being one of the only punk groups to not separate, go from one concert to another (even if Jet Blacks health is not getting any better).
    To finish, it must be said that a majority of fans do want to see Hugh Cornwell join the group once again.



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