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Stranglers recall their ‘year on heroin’ plan

By Martin Kielty Classic Rock ) published March 13, 2014

JJ Burnell tells of writing suicide note after „artistic decision to see what would happen“

JJ Burnel and Jet Black have recalled the time The Stranglers decided to take heroin for a year – leading to bassist Burnel deciding to commit suicide.

JJ Burnel and Jet Black have recalled the time The Stranglers decided to take heroin for a year – leading to bassist Burnel deciding to commit suicide.

They began taking the drug on a daily basis while making fifth album The Gospel According To The Meninblack in 1980.

As the band mark their 40th anniversary, Burnel tells The Guardian: “It was an artistic decision to see what would happen. Jet and Dave Greenfield were sensible, and quit after a day – Hugh Cornwell and I didn’t. We headed into a surreal, dark, necromantic abyss.

“One night I was so blessed out I thought it would be wonderful to die. I wrote a lovely suicide note, took loads of heroin – and woke up three days later. The band hadn’t even noticed I hadn’t been in the studio.”

The Meninblack explored the concept of aliens visiting Earth – and drummer Black recalls a chain of mysterious happenings while they worked on the album.

He says: “It was based on this phenomenon, back then known only to a small coterie of UFO obsessives: that people who saw UFOs were visited by strange people wearing black to shut them up.

“As soon as we started making the album studios blew up, tour buses broke down and gigs became riots. People working for us dropped dead. We were convinced something occult was going on.”

After looking back on the band’s chequered history, Burnel notes: “You might well ask why we’re still here. The latest tour is our biggest-selling ever. We’ve done all the wrong things, but they turned out to be right.”

The Stranglers are on the road until the end of the month. An 11-disc retrospective box set, Giants And Gems, is released via Parlophone on March 24.

Martin Kielty 

Freelance Online News Contributor

Not only is one-time online news editor Martin an established rock journalist and drummer, but he’s also penned several books on music history, including SAHB Story: The Tale of the Sensational Alex Harvey Band(opens in new tab), a band he once managed, and the best-selling Apollo Memories(opens in new tab) about the history of the legendary and infamous Glasgow Apollo. Martin has written for Classic Rock and Prog and at one time had written more articles for Louder than anyone else (we think he’s second now). He’s appeared on TV and when not delving intro all things music, can be found travelling along the UK’s vast canal network.

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Ranking All The Stranglers Albums from WORST to BEST


500 пратилаца

The Stranglers are an English rock band who emerged via the punk rock scene. Scoring some 23 UK top 40 singles and 17 studios albums to date in a career spanning four decades, the Stranglers are one of the longest-surviving and most „continuously successful“ bands to have originated in the UK punk scene. Formed as the Guildford Stranglers on 11 September 1974 in Guildford, Surrey, they originally built a following within the mid-1970s pub rock scene. While their aggressive, no-compromise attitude had them identified by the media with the emerging UK punk rock scene that followed, their idiosyncratic approach rarely followed any single musical genre, and the group went on to explore a variety of musical styles, from new wave, art rock and gothic rock through the sophisti-pop of some of their 1980s output. They had major mainstream success with their 1982 single „Golden Brown“. Their other hits include „No More Heroes“, „Peaches“, „Always the Sun“ and „Skin Deep“ and the 2003 Top 40 hit „Big Thing Coming“, which was seen as a return to form. The Stranglers’ early sound was driven by Jean-Jacques Burnel’s melodic bass, but also gave prominence to Dave Greenfield’s keyboards. Their early music was also characterised by the growling vocals and sometimes misanthropic lyrics of both Burnel and Hugh Cornwell. Over time, their output gradually grew more refined and sophisticated. Summing up their contribution to popular music, critic Dave Thompson later wrote: „From bad-mannered yobs to purveyors of supreme pop delicacies, the group was responsible for music that may have been ugly and might have been crude – but it was never, ever boring. Unfortunately, during the COVID19 Pandemic the keyboard player Dave Greenfield passed away due to this virus, So as a tribute to him I am Ranking all the albums from worst to best. Albums: Rattus Norvegicus 1977 No More Heroes 1977 Black and White 1978 The Raven 1979 The Gospel According to the Meninblack 1981 La folie 1981 Feline 1983 Aural Sculpture 1984 Dreamtime 1986 10 1990 Stranglers in the Night 1992 About Time 1995 Written in Red 1997 Coup de Grace 1998 Norfolk Coast 2004 Suite XVI 2006 Giants 2012 Band Members: Jet Black – drums, percussion (1974–present; non-touring since 2015) Jean-Jacques Burnel – bass, backing vocals (1974–present), lead vocals (1974–1990, 2006–present) Baz Warne – guitar, backing vocals (2000–present), lead vocals (2006–present) Hugh Cornwell – guitar, lead and backing vocals (1974–1990) Hans Wärmling – keyboards, backing vocals, guitar (1974–1975; ) Dave Greenfield – keyboards, backing vocals (1975–2020), lead vocals (1975–1990, 2006–2020;) Paul Roberts – lead vocals (1990–2006) John Ellis – guitar, backing vocals (1990–2000) List Written By Patrica Marks Special Thanks to the creator of the berrytelly – Sinister RP: If you have any other suggestions to what other films i can review please let me know. You also follow me on on these platforms: Twitter: Facebook: Patreon: If you wish to donate and help improve this channel please donate here: #berryman81 #TheStranglers #Worsttobest

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20 greatest punk-rock bassists of all time

Tim StegallPublished: June 28, 2022

As with all of our other lists quantifying the greatest musicians in punk-rock history, it’s a fairly daunting task. On the surface, this is a back-to-basics musical style. Instrumental flash isn’t a virtue here. And most punk bass players keep things simple, banging out the root notes of the chord progression quickly, eight beats to the bar. The most clever of four-string operators figured out how to stand out and become indispensable, either through their tone, their attack or how to cram articulate bass parts into such a simple form. This is what separated these exemplary players from the faceless spiky hordes.

Read more: 20 greatest punk-rock drummers of all time

With this in mind, these are the 20 greatest punk-rock bass players of all time. As always, please enjoy our custom playlist as you peruse our picks.

Ron Asheton

CLAIM TO FAME: Iggy And The Stooges

SIGNATURE MOVE: Our first entrant, Ron Asheton, was initially the band’s guitarist when they were billed as the Stooges. Once singer/spectacle Iggy Pop received top billing and new guitarist James Williamson demanded six-string exclusivity, Asheton moved to bass. He always saw it as a demotion, though he began as a bassist in pre-Stooges garage outfit the Prime Movers. As a guitarist, he emphasized lower string drones. Ultimately, he was the Stooges’ best bass player, locking in with brother Scott Asheton’s primal drumming as only family can. They created monumental grooves that resembled primordial Motown, a sort of neanderthal funk no future punk outfit would ever enjoy.


Dee Dee Ramone 


SIGNATURE MOVE: If Asheton offered a sort of negationist funk as punk’s initial bass guitar signature, Dee Dee Ramone and his white Fender Precision stripped it back to basics. He offered a barrage of downstroked eight notes, locked in with Johnny Ramone’s blur-action chords. And he stuck strictly to the root notes of those chords, rarely walking or playing runs. The effect was that of the entire band functioning as a huge, monolithic rhythm instrument. It certainly served as inspiration for the bass parts Steve Jones cut in Sid Vicious’ stead for Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols, and for virtually every punk bassist thereafter. 

BEST HEARD ON: Rocket To Russia

Glen Matlock 

CLAIM TO FAME: Sex Pistols

SIGNATURE MOVE: “Sid was nothing more than a coat hanger to fill an empty space on the stage,” Pistols singer Johnny Rotten said, uncharitably, in 1996 of the friend he brought into the band. The same couldn’t be said of the man the iconic Vicious replaced, Glen Matlock. He was initially the Pistols’ best musician, in addition to being the one writing the musical beds for the originals they began stockpiling in early 1976. But in contrast to Jones’ thumping root notes on Bollocks, Matlock employed a fat tone and a nimble R&B-based style derived from definite forebears such as Faces’ Ronnie Lane and Paul McCartney. His melodic rumble can be heard on “Anarchy In The U.K.,” or in the funky intro he provides for their cover of obscure English R&B number “Don’t Give Me No Lip, Child.”

BEST HEARD ON: Spunk, the “alternative Bollocks” Malcolm McLaren “bootlegged” consisting of early demos featuring Matlock.

Paul Simonon 


SIGNATURE MOVE: The coolest-looking guy to ever strap on a bass guitar is also better known for smashing one in Pennie Smith’s iconic photo on the London Calling sleeve than for his actual playing. In fact, when he began with the Clash, Paul Simonon couldn’t even play. Guitarist Mick Jones wrote his basslines for the first three years of the band, teaching them to Simonon via the use of stickers on the side of his neck indicating where the notes were on the fretboard. By the time of 1979’s London Calling, Simonon’s skills and imagination had grown considerably, especially by practicing along with the reggae records he loved dearly. The third Clash studio album was a testimonial to Simonon’s growth, be it the title track’s blown-out basslines or the nimble reggae part he thumps on his own composition, “The Guns Of Brixton.” Simonon proves that punk’s on-the-job-training ethic works.

BEST HEARD ON: London Calling

Jean-Jacques Burnel 

CLAIM TO FAME: The Stranglers

SIGNATURE MOVE: In a band filled with skilled instrumentalists, which made the Stranglers a rarity among early punk bands, bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel especially stood out. Like Matlock, he was the rare crafter of melodic basslines. But the sheer aggression and violence with which he delivered them, as well as his distinctive, barking tone, truly elevated him above the rest. According to the Stranglers’ official biography, he achieved that distorted sound via picking Rotosound roundwound strings close to his Fender Precision’s bridge, then running it through a Hiwatt tube head into a Marshall 4×12 cabinet with ripped speaker cones. That sonic attack and those tuneful parts are best showcased on 1978’s Black And White, featuring such bass-heavy workouts as “Nice ‘N Sleazy” and “Toiler On The Sea.”

BEST HEARD ON: Black And White

Paul Gray 


SIGNATURE MOVE: Musical demolition unit the Damned have had a number of four-stringers pass through, beginning with Captain Sensible, who eventually moved to lead guitar after founder Brian James’ exit. The best of the lot, Paul Gray, had just left pub-rock/punk crossover outfit Eddie And The Hot Rods’ rhythm section when Sensible and drummer Rat Scabies recruited him for the Damned. Gray brought a John Entwistle-esque style of lead bass playing to their psychedelia/prog-inspired LPs, The Black Album and Strawberries, before he left in 1983 for UFO. He rejoined the Damned in 2017 and remains to this day.

BEST HEARD ON: The Black Album

Patricia Morrison 

CLAIM TO FAME: The Bags/The Gun Club/Sisters Of Mercy/The Damned

SIGNATURE MOVE: Patricia Morrison established her heavy, nimble and tuneful bass playing with early Los Angeles punk hellions the Bags in the late ‘70s before an argument with singer Alice Bag led to an exit for death rockers Castration Squad and blues-punks Legal Weapon. She’s elevated every band she’s been with since, be it the Gun Club, with whom she cut their third LP The Las Vegas Story, or Sisters Of Mercy. Currently retired and married to Dave Vanian, with whom she toured as one of the Damned’s many bassists from 1996-2004.

BEST HEARD ON: The Las Vegas Story

Gaye Advert 

CLAIM TO FAME: The Adverts

SIGNATURE MOVE: With her heavily mascaraed good looks and English Joan Jett image, record labels such as Stiff lapsed into an unfortunate tendency to market Gaye Advert as a “punk pinup.” It’s unfortunate, as the distinguishing hallmarks of the Adverts were her driving, catchy bass work and singer T.V. Smith’s exceptional songwriting. Listen to the way Advert’s low-end figures propel “No Time To Be 21.” She was the best musician in the Adverts.

BEST HEARD ON: Crossing The Red Sea With The Adverts

Bruce Foxton 


SIGNATURE MOVE: Yet another of early Brtipunk’s lead bass players in hard pub/mod revivalists the Jam, Bruce Foxton and his high-flying mullet were always mixed high on such death-defying cuts as “That’s Entertainment.” The debt he owed to Motown’s low-end specialist James Jamerson was obvious, especially on the “You Can’t Hurry Love”-ish “Town Called Malice.” Even on their most punk-rock anthem, “Going Underground,” Foxton’s part is mixed above Paul Weller’s crashing, slashing guitars. He was the Jam’s secret weapon.

BEST HEARD ON: Sound Affects

Peter Hook 

CLAIM TO FAME: Joy Division

SIGNATURE MOVE: Back when they were post-Pistols punks Warsaw, bassist Peter Hook discovered he needed to emphasize the high end to stand out from their din. He began specializing in repetitive melodic figures, played on his instrument’s top two strings in the upper bout of the fretboard. This became a crucial element when they morphed into post-punk pioneers Joy Division. Listen to the eight notes serving as the hook for their crucial final single “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” Hook’s the one playing it.

BEST HEARD ON: Substance

Darryl Jenifer 


SIGNATURE MOVE: The bassist for D.C. Rastacore pioneers Bad Brains, Darryl Jenifer’s contributions were subtle. He seemed to prefer a more supportive role, leaving the instrumental pyrotechnics to guitarist Dr. Know, almost acting like a rhythm guitarist as Doc let his fingers fly like hyperactive spiders up and down the fretboard. You really hear what Jenifer’s capable of on Bad Brains’ reggae tracks, a medium with so much space, every musician is required to fill it. It’s then you not only grasp his deep understanding of Jamaican rhythms but what he learned from Bad Brains’ earliest incarnation as a jazz/funk outfit. 

BEST HEARD ON: Rock For Light

Chuck Dukowski 


SIGNATURE MOVE: For all of their precision and machine-like tightness, hardcore progenitors Black Flag seemed more chaotic than any band before or since. There was seething violence and instability driving them at all times. And though the bassist’s traditional job has always been to hold things down, founding Flag-bearer Chuck Dukowski seemingly saw his task as unmooring the band and pushing the recklessness even harder. His tone was dirtier and grimier than anyone else in the band, and his style was a constant battering ram of notes, as on 1982 B-side “I’ve Got To Run.” Dukowski was truly Black Flag’s malignant heartbeat.


Mike Watt 

CLAIM TO FAME: MinutemenfIREHOSE, The Stooges

SIGNATURE MOVE: An American punk-funk pioneer, Mike Watt is the bass virtuoso everyone thinks Flea is. Every member of Minutemen could play their asses off. But Watt’s hyperactive note bursts were mixed front and center, the framework the one-minute haikus they called “songs” were built upon. Everything else — D. Boon’s scratchy guitar and articulate howl, George Hurley’s Keith-Moon-plays-jazz drumming — was hung on the skeletons Watt built. Twenty-some-odd years later, Watt joined the reconstituted Stooges, proving he could also lay back and play fundamental fatback bass. 

BEST HEARD ON: Introducing The Minutemen

Kira Roessler 


SIGNATURE MOVE: Dukowski’s replacement in Black Flag, Kira Roessler, seemingly positioned herself as providing the support Dukowski’s anarchic approach could not. From her entrance on 1984’s Slip It In, her tone was cleaner, fatter, her lines less cluttered. By streamlining the bottom end and locking in with drummer Bill Stevenson, Black Flag had a more solid foundation for guitarist Greg Ginn‘s atonal avant-metal explorations and Henry Rollins’ howling angst. 


Jennifer Finch 


SIGNATURE MOVE: L7 were grunge before it had a name. Everything about them was heavy — this was 20 megaton rock ‘n’ roll, with more fuzz and distortion. And the heaviest element was Jennifer Finch’s bass guitar. She stuck to locking in with not just drummer Dee Plakas but the entire band. This made every song one giant, monolithic beast of a riff. And she left the distortion to guitarists Donita Sparks and Suzi Gardner, enabling her to cut through their thick mixes.

BEST HEARD ON: Bricks Are Heavy

Ray Ahn


SIGNATURE MOVE: Formed in high school in 1982, Hard-Ons were among the finest exemplars of the Australian punk tradition that began in the ‘70s with the Saints and Radio Birdman. They were young, multicultural (guitarist Peter „Blackie“ Black’s extraction is Yugoslavian, drummer/vocalist Keish De Silva is Sri Lankan and bassist Ray Ahn was Korean) and enamored with both the most tuneful punk and kitsch metal of the KISS/Mötley Crüe variety. This resulted in a fast, aggressive, noisy skate-pop sound filled with catchy gems such as “All Set To Go.” Ahn’s heavy bass tone and ability to stay right on top of Black’s rampaging guitar figures is a primary element in Hard-Ons becoming Australia’s most commercially successful indie band.

BEST HEARD ON: Suck And Swallow: 25 Years 25 Songs

Toody Cole 


SIGNATURE MOVE: Garage-punk standard-bearers Dead Moon felt as much a cult or occult enclave as a rock band. Death, mysticism and dark rituals dogged leader Fred Cole’s lyrics like the mythic hellhound on bluesman Robert Johnson’s trail. The singer/guitarist was a direct link to the original ‘60s garage era, having a minor hit with “You Must Be A Witch” by the Lollipop Shoppe. Twenty years later, the cumulative weight of all those years on rock’s margins exploded with a vengeance in Dead Moon. They gained a deadly international underground following through 10 studio albums and a seemingly endless tour schedule. Throbbing thick and heavy at the other side of the stage: bassist/spouse Toody Cole, quietly feminist in her ferocity, thick tone and moving, relentless four-string work. She was the sonic glue holding Dead Moon together.

BEST HEARD ON: Echoes Of The Past

Nicky Wire 

CLAIM TO FAME: Manic Street Preachers

SIGNATURE MOVE: From their Situationist glam-punk beginnings to their dad-rock present, Manic Street Preachers bassist Nicky Wire hardly seemed essential to the Welsh outfit’s widescreen rock epics. True, he’s continued the dense lyricism he and Richey Edwards established early on. But Wire has disguised his cruciality with outrageous interviews and a cartoonish stage presence. Truth be told, his musicianship is clever and stealthy, such as the “You Can’t Hurry Love” quote at the heart of “Motown Junk.” James Dean Bradfield’s guitar work may be the flashy front of Manic Street Preachers, grabbing the headlines and glory. But Wire gives him a platform to flex. 

BEST HEARD ON: Forever Delayed

Mike Dirnt 


SIGNATURE MOVE: Mike Dirnt isn’t the first thing coming to mind when considering Green Day. After all, the band have a drum dynamo in Tré Cool, and Billie Joe Armstrong is an exceptional songwriter and guitarist. But think about the grace notes Dirnt sneaks in 45 seconds into “Basket Case,” a hook in and of itself. And what about the walking bassline so prominent on breakout hit “Longview”? Dirnt (his stage name an onomatopoeia for the sound a bass guitar makes) may be Green Day’s quiet one, but his musical contributions are crucial.


Matt Freeman 


SIGNATURE MOVE: As steeped as they are in everything Clash, it’d be easy to characterize Matt Freeman as Rancid’s Simonon. But that’s lazy and inaccurate. He’s the rare punk virtuoso, bordering on Jaco Pastorius levels of bass mastery. Think of the Motown catchiness at the heart of “Fall Back Down,” the swinging walks he takes through “Time Bomb,” the tuneful yet stoic support he offers on “Ruby Soho.” There’s a reason Freeman is mixed prominently at the center of every Rancid track, and given as much midrange as the guitars, which are panned hard left and right. It emphasizes his attack so you really hear the wonderful things he does with his bass. Freeman is Rancid’s strongest musician, and their musical heart and soul. 

BEST HEARD ON: …And Out Come The Wolves

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Hugh Cornwell tells us about When he was a Young Man

By Paul H Birch

June 9, 2022

Good things come to those who wait, and Hugh Cornwell’s highly anticipated tenth solo album in Moments of Madness will be released on Friday 7th October, and it will dovetail with a 21-date nationwide UK tour taking place from November 4 to December 3 of this year, but ahead of that comes his new single ‘When I Was A Young Man’.

In what is probably the most revealing song Cornwell has written to date, ‘When I Was A Young Man’ explores the relationship he had with his parents. Sharply observed through the prism of himself as a younger man and in his present condition, he lifts the lid on his family relationships. 

The single is taken from the forthcoming album and is available to purchase here
and you can check out the new video right here at RAMzine.

Widely regarded as a poet laureate of the punk era (from his early career fronting The Stranglers to his transition as a solo artist), Hugh Cornwell has built a substantial and singular body of impressive solo albums. His tenth solo opus, Moments of Madness, continues this by experimenting with musical genres and it’s been said that his reputation as a wordsmith “resounds” across this album’s songs.

Self-produced, and playing all of the instruments himself, Moments of Madness‘ ten tracks finds him flexing his musical muscles with a stripped down, offbeat, reverberating sixties vibe ringing from what have been declared “seductive melodies and lyrically distinctive perceptions” stamped throughout.

Tipped as the most significant album of his career, we’ll all be able to judge properly for ourselves this coming winter, but ahead of that comes the release of singles.

Four years since his previous remarkable solo album Monster, the opener, and first single, ‘Coming Out Of The Wilderness’ surfed an edgy explosive sixties sound with a heavy Duane Eddy guitar twang as he declares, “I’m coming out of the wilderness, learnt how to throw a bowie knife. Ran into fair-haired maiden’s out there but didn’t take no wife.”

A consummate storyteller. Cornwell’s inimitable observations on the art of survival in these challenging and turbulent times are said to ring through on his forthcoming album.

“It’s like I’ve got a stew pot of sounds where I’ve put in a bit of Joe Meek, a bit of Lou Reed, a flavour of The Doors, a bit of this, a bit of that and I mix it all up and it tastes good,” said Cornwell. “I’m like a cook when I make records in that I don’t follow any recipe.”

On ‘Red Rose’, a song about the bewildering trend for tattoos you’ll find the lines: “I don’t mind different types of jewellery, show it to me, just feel free’, could be I’m missing the artistry,” while ecology resonates loudly on ‘Too Much Trash’ as he eviscerates the thoughtless actions of the devil may care consumer society who needlessly drop litter everywhere, “We’re heading for a crash. We got too much trash.”

‘Red Rose’ can be steamed and downloaded by clicking here.

A safe port in the storm close relationship is offered with pithy humour in ‘I WannaHideInsideAya’ while ‘Looking for You’ has spooky atmospherics, and the semi-autobiographical and upbeat ‘When I Was A Young Man’ opens a can of insightful, wistful emotions, with lines like “As years go by and friends, they die they leave me living slow,”  has him reflecting upon his family and friends.

Title track ‘Moments Of Madness’ is a musical adventure, mixing a dash of dub as he strums a lockdown rhythm to a devilish groove. “The Clash did reggae so what’s wrong with me doing it? I loved playing the bass on this track.” He declared, again his lyrics show his finger on the pulse of our times, “Looking like the fog’s gonna finally clear., Switch on all the lights at the end of the pier. Tidy up your makeup and shampoo your hair. Have a little party but nobody’s there.”

Moments Of Madness’ is multi-layered with serious messages, acute analysis, and witty observations via fun-filled lyrical and musical eccentricity. And ‘Lasagne’ has him relate about Italian friends who live in Mexico and make the best lasagne he has ever tasted.

Cautionary tales about matters of the heart are revealed in ‘Beware Of The Doll’ with lines like “You think you’re listening to love. You’re sinking from a foot above,” and the more personal album closer ‘Heartbreak at Seven’ was the first song that Hugh recorded for this album.

Moments of Madness can be pre-ordered from  here.

Tickets for Hugh Cornwell’s UK tour are available via Hugh Cornwell’s website and The Gig Cartel.

Paul H Birch

RAMzine Senior Writer – Writer of fiction, faction and fact, has edited several newsstand magazines. He declares himself a hack for hire but refuses to compromise on the subject of music.

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Hugh Cornwell – „Moments of Madness“. The album is released on Friday October 7, 2022.

Hugh Cornwell returns with his highly anticipated tenth solo album „Moments of Madness“ with ten outstanding tracks that are set to surprise. The album is released on Friday October 7, 2022.


Hugh Cornwell returns with his highly anticipated tenth solo album Moments of Madness with ten outstanding tracks that are set to surprise. The album is released on Friday October 21, 2022.

Pre-order the CD, vinyl, limited edition coloured vinyl and bundles.

Self-produced, Moments of Madness finds Hugh flexing his musical muscles with a stripped down, offbeat, reverberating sixties vibe ringing with seductive melodies and distinctive lyrics that are indelibly stamped with Hugh’s trademark imagination. Vocally and lyrically, Hugh has never sounded so good.

Stream / download Red Rose

Stream / download When I Was A Young Man.



Pre-order the CD, vinyl, limited edition coloured vinyl and bundles.

To dovetail with the new album, Hugh will embark on a 21-date Planet Rock presents nationwide UK tour from November 4 to December 3 2022.

Tickets are on general sale via and

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The literal meaning behind The Stranglers’ opus ‘Golden Brown’

Eoghan LyngSUN 5TH JUN 2022 

(Credit: Alamy)

Contrary to popular legend,’Perfect Day’ is not about drugs. It’s about a day that’s spent in good company, and in a pleasant environment. And contrary to popular legend, ‘Lucy in The Sky With Diamonds’ is not about drugs, but based on a drawing Julian Lennon presented to his father, which propelled his popular muse. And then there’s ‘Puff The Magic Dragon’, which was the story of a little toy who comforted a young boy as he journeyed from childhood into the uncertain waters of adulthood (the last one is a bit of a stretch, to be fair.)

‘Golden Brown’, on the other hand’ is a very different beast. For one, it’s actually about drugs, at least it is according to Hugh Cornwell, who wrote the lyrics. But he was loath to admit it to the public but acquiesced to the pressure after bassist J.J. Burnel revealed the meaning to the public at large. But there’s more to ‘Golden Brown’ than might initially meet the eye, and for Cornwell, the song is as much about the enduring presence of love at a time of cholera in the mind.

“’Golden Brown’ works on two levels,” he once explained. “It’s about heroin and also about a girl. Essentially the lyrics describe how both provided me with pleasurable times.” But it wasn’t the lyrical content that inspired so many to purchase the record, but it was the seductiveness of the melody: Wet with atmosphere and rich in sonic experience, the song signalled a more mature outlet that showed that punk was as malleable as the author intended it to be.

It was an unlikely choice of single, but it didn’t hurt that the band were regarded as pop’s bete noire by that point in their trajectory. More happily, the song presented something of a rebirth for the band, scraping the bottom of their rungs in an attempt to hit popularity.

“We were written off by then,” Burnell admitted.”There was a new record company at the time that had taken us over because they have swallowed up our previous record company. They said punk was over and we were finished, and then we forced them to release that record. They said it didn’t sound like The Stranglers and that you couldn’t dance to it, etc. They released it before Christmas thinking it would kinda die a death, but it developed its own legs. As a result it won an Ivor Novello award that year.”

The song wound up becoming the band’s standout hit, creating a new sense of integrity in a band that had once likened a woman’s privates to the fruits that are commonly sold in a local Tesco. It ended up in an episode of Black Mirror, a TV serial that delves into the obsession of technology over the desire to touch that most foreboding of needles. But its longevity is more to do with the backdrop as opposed to the poetry or the metaphor that ties the song together under one roof.

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Love and other drugs: Five brilliant love songs that are actually about drugs

(Credit: Far Out / Alamy

Tom Taylor

@TomTaylorFOSAT 21ST MAY 2022

The liberating boom of rock ‘n’ roll changed the world, propelling the sixties from the monochrome past into a new tie-dye swirled future. Therefore, it comes as quite the retrospective surprise to hear that The Doors were actually banned from The Ed Sullivan Show simply for refusing to change the “Girl we couldn’t get much higher,” because of drug connotations. 

With this in mind, to get around censorship and label execs touchy about commercial viability, a trend began where bands would almost relish the proposition of working underground references into mainstream hits. It was a daring practice that almost made more fun of the bourgeoise than plainly stating illicit facts and it added an air of allure to the artistry almost like Russian literature greats trying to circumvent Soviet control while simultaneously making a mockery of them. 

Since then, as the world did indeed become a more liberal place when it comes to such matters, the practice continued all the same in an artistic sense. Thus, there have been many great hits that have been belted out at weddings without realising that the singer is talking about love and devotion of a far more damaging variety. Below we have compiled some of the very finest of these covert anthems. 

Five love songs about drugs:

‘Golden Brown’ – The Stranglers

The tune of the harpsichord in this classic hit is so beauteous that it’s hard to pay attention to lyrical undertones amid the transportive melody. However, when you delve into it, that blissed-out journey to another place is perhaps fitting of the sort of experiences that frontman Hugh Cornwall was thinking of when he penned the lyrics. 

As anyone who has read the Junky by William S. Burroughs can attest, golden brown is the desired colour of the substance that wreaks untold havoc in the life of the protagonist, and it’s often a show of love that pulls him to a different sort of exultant high. Cornwall coupled the same things. “’Golden Brown’ works on two levels,” he once explained. “It’s about heroin and also about a girl. Essentially the lyrics describe how both provided me with pleasurable times.”

‘There She Goes’ – The La’s

Anything with the line “Racing through my veins” will prick up the ear of lyrical drug dogs. And when that line is soon followed by “No one else could heal my pain” along with the seeming beckoning come hither of addiction that is “She calls my name,” many have wondered whether it is a lover that Lee Mavers is going to meet on. the train or a fellow with a red right hand.

This has often been a topic of debate which is only exacerbated by the mystique surrounding Mavers who completely disappeared from the music scene just as he was approaching the height of Brit-pop. La’s bassist John Power has said, “I don’t know. Truth is, I don’t wanna know,” in the past. However, on the few times Mavers could be tracked down for questions, he admitted to having tried heroin but denies that the song is about that. 

‘Just Like Honey’ – The Jesus and Mary Chain

Just Like Honey’ is another beauteous anthem whereby things sound so heavenly you can only imagine that it’s about the stars aligning and orchestrating a love liaison of the most sanguine sort. It’s also one where the band have kept their cards close to their chest regarding its inception—perhaps because it somewhat taints it when the whispered eudemonia is twisted with the irony of a sorry addiction. 

However, it is the title of the album that contains the track that reveals the truth. Psychocandy is a far less veiled reference to cocaine. Given that context references to “Dripping” and the lines like “Walking back to you/ Is the hardest thing that / I can do” seem much more akin to an addiction that renders you a plastic toy to a substance.

‘Got to Get You Into My Life’ – The Beatles

“I remember it pretty well y’know,” Paul McCartney explains on the Adam Buxton Podcast, “We were staying in that hotel [the Delmonico in New York City] and we were on tour, so we were all together in the hotel suite. We were having a drink and then Bob [Dylan] arrived and disappeared into a backroom. Then Ringo went back to see him and after a couple of minutes Ringo came back into the suite looking a little dazed and confused and we said, ‘what’s up?’ and he said, ‘oh Bob’s smoking pot back there’, and we said, ‘oh, well what’s it like?’ and Ringo said, ‘the ceiling feels like it’s coming down a bit’.”

The direct effect of that evening – aside from a mild high and one hell of anecdote – is the song ‘Got To Get You Into My Life’, which Paul explains is a veiled reference to the bands growing love of the devil’s lettuce and a burgeoning desire to smoke more of it. “So [it’s] really a song about that, it’s not to a person,” McCartney confirmed.

‘And She Was’ – Talking Heads

David Byrne often likes to load his lyrics with obscure references and patches of nonsense poetry. That seemed to be the case when he sang about a woman “lying in the grass/And she could hear the highway breathing.” As it turns out, his ode to an ethereal woman was actually his way of telling the tale of a woman getting in touch with the ether. 

As Byrne explained in the liner notes, the bouncing anthem is about “blissed-out hippie-chick he knew in Baltimore, who once told me that she used to do acid and lay down in the field by the Yoo-hoo chocolate soda factory. Flying out of her body, etc etc. It seemed like such a tacky kind of transcendence … but it was real! A new kind of religion being born out of heaps of rusted cars and fast food joints. And this girl was flying above it all, but in it too.”

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Arguably The Stranglers’ starkest and most compelling work, ‘Black And White’ was one of its era’s most innovative albums.

Alamy Stock Photo


12 May 2022

The Stranglers may have been notoriously ambivalent about punk, but they were responsible for two of the initial movement’s classic albums, Rattus Norvegicus and its fierce, provocative follow-up, No More Heroes. Yet even before 1977 had drawn its last breath, work was underway on their third album, Black And White: a stark, yet highly compelling record which proved the band had already outstripped most of their contemporaries.



Isolated in a rehearsal studio called Bear Shank Lodge, near Oundle, in the middle of the Northamptonshire countryside, the group began work on Black And White as 1977 came to a close. “That Christmas 1977 in the middle of the writing sessions the others had homes to go to,” bassist/vocalist JJ Burnel recalled in an interview with Louder Than War in 2015. “I had nowhere to go so I stayed at Bear Shank Lodge… The weather was bleak. I remember a picture of us playing chess in the snow outside and it captured the bleakness very well.”

The music that emerged from these intensive writing sessions was equally dark and intense – and it reinforced the belief that The Stranglers were firmly focussed on embracing the future.

“We did wanna go a bit further technically and musically and so that was the intent,” Burnel recalled of the group’s approach to Black And White. “We had moved on a hell of a lot in a short space in time because of what was happening to us and we wanted to make a point.”


Explaining the album’s title, Burnel said, “Bands like Sex Pistols and The Clash were on front covers all the time and we never got that and it got up my nose… We were outselling both those other bands so we developed a chip on our shoulders and the result was a ghetto mentality. You were either for of us or against us by then… We called it Black And White because opinion was completely polarised.”

Though it wasn’t purposefully conceived that way, Black And White was also an apt title for a record of two distinct halves. The “White” side of the original vinyl release – identifiable by its white label – broadly contained the album’s poppier tracks, among them the storming Tank, the brilliantly gnarly, reggae-tinged Nice’n’Sleazy and Toiler On The Sea, a widescreen, sci-fi epic led by Burnel’s growling bass and which was inspired by a disastrous holiday the group’s frontman, Hugh Cornwell, had recently taken in Morocco, during which the guitarist/vocalist and his girlfriend had both been struck down by chronic food poisoning.

Fittingly, the record’s “Black” side was considerably darker and markedly more experimental. In The Shadows, for example, derived from a jam during which, Burnel later recalled, the band were aiming to create “a dub version of Captain Beefheart”. Elsewhere, tracks such as Threatened, the nuclear disaster-related Enough Time and the gripping Curfew were distinctly dystopian in their outlook.


Curfew, with its Cold War-inspired lyric about immigration and Russian aggression (“The men from the Steppes delivered their vacuum”) seems frighteningly prescient in the current 21st-century climate, though when Black And White was first released, Burnel’s haunting Death And Night And Blood (Yukio) – inspired by the controversial Japanese novelist and nationalist Yukio Mishima, who later committed ritual suicide – arguably attracted the most criticism.

“Unfortunately it didn’t comply with a majority of thinking in the UK at the time so people thought it was fascistic,” Burnel told Louder Than War. “They didn’t get where we were coming from. We were posing different ways of looking at stuff…

“It is a warrior song,” he continued, alluding to the lyrics “When I saw that Sparta in his eyes/Young death is good”. “If you know a bit about Mishima you would know that he did admire Spartan history… People outside the band found it uncomfortable because it didn’t resonate with them. It made them fearful but for other people it resonated with them and they liked the song.”


Indeed, following it’s release, on 12 May 1978, Black And White as a whole resonated with many of the band’s fans, including their loyal supporters in the media, one of whom, influential BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel, was so excited by the album, he made the almost unprecedented move of broadcasting it in its entirety before it was officially released.

For the most part, the reviews were on side, too. Especially enamoured of the album’s “White” side, NME referred to the record as “by far the best work they’ve ever done”, while a suitably impressed Record Mirror said it “belies expectations of The Stranglers as a spent force”.

These enthusiastic notices also translated into sales: Black And White peaked at No.2 in the UK and equalled Rattus Norvegicus and No More Heroes by going gold after spending 18 weeks in the Top 75. It also spawned two Top 30 hits courtesy of Nice’n’Sleazy and the band’s belligerent yet beguiling reimagining of Dionne Warwick’s Burt Bacharach- and Hal David-penned Walk On By. A long-time staple of The Stranglers’ live set, the latter song also appeared on a white-vinyl 7” which was included as a freebie with the first 75,000 copies of the album.


Effectively placing a full stop on a remarkable 18-month burst of creativity which spawned their first three classic albums, Black And White was – and remains – one of its era’s most innovative records. However, thanks to The Stranglers’ outsider status and their often fractious relationship with certain members of the media, the album wasn’t as widely hailed as it perhaps should have been.

What goes around comes around, though, and Black And White now picks up richly deserved plaudits, with a BBC Music retrospective dubbing it both “essential” and “extraordinary”, and bracketing the record with other accepted boundary-pushing titles such as Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures and Gang Of Four’s Entertainment!

“It’s taken a fuck of a long time for people to come out of the woodwork and be honest about this album and what it meant to them,” JJ Burnel told Louder Than War in 2015. “Peter Hook has been one of the bravest and stuck his neck out about the band. An awful lot of people have been influenced by The Stranglers, or helped along by us but they never acknowledged it. It seemed that it was too dangerous to have any association with us!… Now we are in a different period and people have started to admit to [liking] The Stranglers.”


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Missing hits disappoints at Stranglers Hugh Cornwell Newbury gig

Trish Lee

 Published: 09:43, 18 April 2022


Hugh Cornwell Electric, at Arlington Arts, on Thursday, April 7. Review by BRIAN HARRINGTON

HUGH Cornwell achieved fame as the frontman of punk pioneers The Stranglers, in my opinion, one of the most innovative bands of the genre. It is possibly less common knowledge that since leaving The Stranglers in 1990 he has recorded eight solo albums.

Tonight was, broadly speaking, divided in two. Before the interval was mainly solo material, while the second half was devoted to Stranglers tracks.

Hugh Cornwell, picture Brian Harrington

Opening with Black Hair, Black Eyes, Black Suit from his 1999 album of the same name he launched straight into Big Bug from his 1979 album Nosferatu, which was a collaboration with Robert Williams, the drummer of Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band.

Sadly, for me, the somewhat muddy quality of the vocals did not match the precision of Cornwell’s lead guitar or, indeed, the extremely tight bass and percussion rhythm section. That said, I loved Mr Leather, a track about Lou Reed from his latest album Monster (2018).

After the break, it was all about Hugh’s Stranglers career. There was an interesting – and very effective – rearrangement of Strange Little Girl, as well as Always The Sun, Hanging Around and Skin Deep, but the show ended, without an encore, with 5 Minutes, a track originally sung by bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel.

Hugh Cornwell, picture Brian Harrington

Hits like Peaches, Golden Brown, No More Heroes and Something Better Change were all absent, which seemed odd and after the show I heard some describe it as “underwhelming”, a thought which had crossed my own mind.

In summary, I feel that while there was much that was excellent, particularly in the arrangements and instrumentation, the choice of tracks included and excluded from the setlist was peculiar and left some of the near capacity audience wondering why their favourite songs were omitted.–DVevmE2_p5-CswLv2c

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Watch: The classic Stranglers song transformed into a Wrexham chant

17 Apr 2022

Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground. Background picture by Markbarnes (CC BY-SA 3.0).

When you’re a fan of both The Stranglers and Wrexham, it seems almost inevitable you are going to work out which of the band’s impressive back catalogue would fit in well on the terraces at The Racecourse.

So it was that radio presenter and musician Neil Crud came to record what can only be described as a gonzo version of the band’s 1986 hit ‘Always The Sun’ – with the main refrain of ‘Always The Sun’ replaced with ‘Always Wrexham’.


Putting his reworked Stranglers lines over the top of footage of Wrexham’s momentous FA Trophy semi-final victory over Stockport, we reckon it’s perfect to be adopted by fans at the Racecourse.

“That’s exactly why I put it together,” says Neil, who has his own radio show on “I first saw Wrexham when I was 12 years old versus West Ham.

“The idea came to me a couple of years ago when I was humming that great Stranglers song,” added the musician, who is also the gatekeeper of extensive Welsh music archive

“It gathered momentum among my friends and we’ve been singing it a lot this season. We’ve always maintained that it’s perfect for the terraces.

“At least four of us sang it last time. It’s a pretty old song now, so the young ‘uns won’t know it… yet!”

Listen to Neil’s Punk and Beyond Show on on Monday evenings at 10pm.

An archive of shows can be found HERE

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