THE STRANGLERS – WHO WANTS THE WORLD?

Decade 77-87 – a grown up disco: new wave, punk, postpunk, goth & indie

On this date in 1980, THE STRANGLERS released the single, WHO WANTS THE WORLD? (May 29th, 1980).

When The Stranglers recorded the BLACK AND WHITE LP in 1978, they remained a tough, tight act but were driving even harder, emphasising different sides of the band’s personalities: more aggressive in some ways, more subtle in others.

Then in 1979 came the bar-raising THE RAVEN, muscular and fresh, musically daring and decidedly ominous in tone. Tucked away on Side 2, was the odd tale of extra-terrestrial visitors, MENINBLACK.

Fans might have assumed that was the end of the visitations but the theme was revived the following year with the release of the haunting single, WHO WANTS THE WORLD? – a tale of aliens landing on earth and discovering that the human race has ruined the planet – backed by an instrumental THE MENINBLACK (WAITING FOR ‘EM).

“The song came from a John bass riff, and I wrote the lyrics and the melody,” recalled Hugh Cornwell. “The lyrics relate to an alien spacecraft; the aliens eat lots of living things, including man, but couldn’t differentiate between them. They asked a tree some questions, but it didn’t respond.”

“The song postulates that there was a tourist guide to the Earth who says that everything containing blood is able to communicate, unlike plants. Then there’s this coda, which John put in. It’s a bit obtuse, but it seemed to fit. At the end of the song it talks about the aliens’ disappointment at discovering that we’ve ruined the Earth.”

“I liked the title Who Wants The World?’. It means, ‘Look what we’ve done to the world. Who could possibly want it?“

Released a few days after Hugh was released from Pentonville Prison, the record company failed to capitalise on his stay in jail. “The record company should have seized the opportunity and released it when I was inside,” said Hugh. “It was already recorded and mixed and I’d had so much press, it could have taken off. We made the video in Kent on a beautiful day and got our manager Ian Grant to dress up as a Maninblack.”

Interviews with the band at the time revealed much theorising about heavenly visitors and pan-global government conspiracies, and promises of a concept album revealing all. The LP was to appear in February the following year, ‘The Gospel According to the Meninblack’, a culmination of these theories.

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