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Ugly, Guildford, 1978


The Stranglers: A short history


Jet BlackThe story of how The Stranglers came into existence in the first place, is perhaps atypical of the music industry. No less surprising then, that it’s history too, is unusual. It began in 1973 and that story is both long and complex.

A lengthy discourse covering those formative days has now been covered in some considerable detail in Jet's musical odyssey elsewhere on these pages, which recounts events up to the band’s final emergence in 1974. It is recommended reading for those seeking a fuller account of this story.

This part of the history, begins around 1974/75 when Black, Burnel, Cornwell and Greenfield were finally a viable outfit in regular rehearsal and these were four very different individuals with varied backgrounds and interests.
Hugh Cornwell
To the amazement of everyone who knew him, Jet by this time, had made the decision to commit himself totally to his music project and sold off his business interests. A move which was to secure funding for the plans ahead.


Jet had rented a house in the tiny village of Chiddingfold where the band spent about a year preparing for their career. It was during this period that the band's strange name emerged.

During ‘down-time’, after each day's rehearsal and/or song writing sessions, it had become apparent that there was a near-daily "strangling".

This was either fictional - by way of some TV film or play (Hitchcock's 'Frenzy' was doing the rounds at around this time) or actual - in newspaper and other media reports.

The word "stranglers" or "strangling" was so omnipresent around this
period that it began to be adopted as a comic reference in the house.

JJ BurnelIt was after an early Guildford gig, and a disastrous one at that - everything that could have gone wrong did - that JJ happened to say, "the stranglers have really done it this time", a jokey reference to the band's performance that night.

It's generally considered that this immortal line was the origin of the name. It was, of course, in jest, but since no alternative was ever agreed upon, it eventually stuck.

The band began to secure low key pub gigs in and around Guildford. The number of gigs slowly increased, and demo tapes were recorded however, a record deal was not immediately forthcoming.

The unusual inclusion of swirling keyboards at the time was to give the
band a very distinctive sound, setting them apart from their contemporaries.

Dave Greenfield
The end result was a very dedicated and hard working band, which was almost constantly on the road.

An apparently intrinsic determination, first led to a deal with Albion, a London agency which gave them access to some of the city's most influential pub venues.

In December 1976, the band finally signed a recording contract with United Artists. To The Stranglers, and those who knew them, this was the culmination of all their persistence over a two/three year period.


London 1977So began the ever changing recording career of The Stranglers.

The punk scene was a matter of months from its own genesis in Britain and, indeed, many of the soon-to-be punk stars had become regulars at The Stranglers' performances, the band being the clear leaders of an as yet un-named new style of music.

The band's diversity had been clear from an early stage and may have
actually contributed to the difficulty in finding a record deal, as they
could not be easily pigeon holed.

Their flexibility and experimental creativity however, were evident on
an increasingly wide range of songs, and was received confusingly by
many critics who were not prepared for the reorientation of contemporary
music from the 'Glam Rock' of the previous decade.

New technologies and techniques were happily embraced by the band, as is clearly evident on such albums as the milestone The Gospel According to the Meninblack, which gave an alternative view to biblical narrative
from the perspective of alien intervention.

Soon the band themselves were being dubbed ‘The Meninblack’, further
strengthened by the all black dress adopted on stage. Even today, this
name is still applied to the band.

All this, decades before the subject was covered extensively by later
artists. Later still, new horizons were explored with the inclusion of a
brass section (from Aural Sculpture to 10) and further on, steel guitar (on Dreamtime). Through all this diversity, one image stuck to the band; black.

By the start of 1980 the band had more-or-less settled into a relentless schedule of international shows, which encompassed well over 40 countries, states and islands around the world.

Not until nearly a decade later did the endless touring begin to moderate to a slower pace. Even so, there were eventually to be extensive tours of sensitive global conflict zones in support of the armed services.


By 1990, and the completion of the tenth studio album 10, Hugh Cornwell had reached the conclusion that the band could go no further artistically.

August 11th saw the last performance of The Stranglers with Hugh, at the
Alexandra Palace in London.

Hugh has since gone on to produce an album under the guise of Cornwell, Cook and West and solo efforts Wired, Guilty, Hi Fi, Beyond Elysian Fields and Hoover Dam. He is also to be seen touring solo, or
with his new band.

In the aftermath, JJ, Jet and Dave saw things differently and decided to
continue, albeit in a new format.

John EllisThe first new recruit was John Ellis, well, not entirely new. John had both associated, and collaborated with the band for many years in one way or another.

He was a former member of the 'Vibrators' whose very first gig was as opening act for The Stranglers way back in the seventies.

He had been a member of JJ's 'Euroband' for the Euroman Cometh (solo album) tour in 1979 and had played guitar for the gigs at the ‘Rainbow’ (London, UK) which featured a number of artists filling in for an incarcerated Hugh Cornwell (jailed briefly for drugs possession).

More recently he had been a member of the 'Purple Helmets', a cover band featuring both JJ and Dave and had joined the band's live set as an
additional guitarist during the 10 tour. As an established member of the Stranglers' extended family, John was the obvious choice as the new
guitarist and he fitted neatly into the band for awhile.

Although some demo tracks were recorded with the band in this format,
with JJ taking a larger vocal role - not that he had ever NOT had a large vocal role - the band decided to look for a singer. A number of familiar names became associated with the search, most notably Dave Vanian (the Damned) and Ian McNabb (the Icicle Works).
Paul Roberts
During auditions, the band was soon faced with one Paul Roberts, who proclaimed "I'm your new lead singer"; upon hearing his wide vocal range and quality, the band agreed and The Stranglers MK II had emerged.

The new line-up now presented a completely different (and more dynamic) image, with Paul crashing and writhing about the stage.

At the same time, the horn section was abandoned, giving a more straightforward and basic Rock ‘n’ Roll type presentation.

This incarnation of The Stranglers produced four albums: Stranglers in the Night, About Time, Written in Red and Coup de Grace. As always, these albums showed a great musical diversity, blending in the talents of both Paul and John.


In March 2000, after nearly 10 years with the band, John Ellis departed
to pursue other interests.

Baz WarneHe was replaced by 'Small Town Heroes' guitarist Baz Warne. Baz was familiar to Stranglers fans who attended the UK About Time tour in 1995, as the 'Small Town Heroes' had provided the opening spot of that tour, and then again during the 1997 Written in Red tour.

A 10-year-old Baz Warne was taking his first steps towards a music career when he first had access to his brother Chris' newly acquired guitar in 1974, at the very moment in which The Stranglers were beginning to evolve.

At that time, Baz and the family had been living in Vancouver, Western
Canada. But by 1976, they had moved back to England. It was in
Sunderland that Baz had industriously financed his own first guitar by
securing an early morning milk and newspaper round.

Within a couple of years, Baz was jamming with his like-minded school
pals and recalls that his first ever gig was at the 'New Crown' in South
Shields when just 16.

Eventually Baz was to join the 'Toy Dolls' as guitarist but later switched to bass guitar when his predecessor sold his bass to finance some injudicious chemical habits.

An early punk outfit, the 'Dolls' achieved some notoriety with their often humorous renditions, notably the old children's favourite, ‘Nellie the Elephant’.

By the mid eighties, Baz had already acquired wide gigging experience
including two U.S. tours and so, when he was recruited by The Stranglers
in the early noughties, he was both equipped and prepared for an arduous tour of duty around the military bases in Bosnia, and several festivals across Europe.
The Stranglers 2004
With Baz securely in place, 2004 saw the release of the much acclaimed
fifteenth studio album Norfolk Coast.

May 2006 saw the departure of Paul Roberts, after sixteen years service
with the band.

This was to give Paul the opportunity he had been seeking for so long, to pursue other interests. The band was now a four piece for the first time since Hugh's departure in 1990, with Baz sharing vocal duties alongside JJ.

The first gig in the new format was at the Midsummer Buzz Festival in
Weston-Super-Mare in June 2006, with a new album - Suite XVI - following
in September of the same year.


By the end of the noughties, The Stranglers had clocked-up over 35 years of sell-out performances and were making plans for yet another new album.


Decades Apart 2010The year begun with European dates followed by a major UK tour during March which was followed by further dates in Europe and Japan. It was also a busy year for festivals in which the band appeared at most of the major festivals including Munster, Fowey, Glastonbury, Krakov, Bratislava, Oxegen, T In The Park, Tilford, the Triumph anniversary bash and the Sligo Live Sessions festival.


At the beginning of the new decade, work was begun on the prospective
new album and plans for a very busy year was underway too, with another full schedule of tours starting in Newcastle on March 4th.

During their long career to-date, and despite many predictions to the
contrary, The Stranglers have never stopped for more than a few weeks, out living and out performing most, if not all, of their contemporaries and critics. With an astonishing 16 albums to-date, the band’s diverse body of work is almost unique in a musical world where ‘sameness’ is a rule-of-thumb.

There is, as yet, no suggestion of either retirement or respite. Please
watch these pages for further announcements.


Rattus Norvegicus (1977)

No More Heroes (1977)

Black and White (1978)

The Raven (1979)

The Gospel According To The Meninblack (1980)

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)

Expanded from an original text by Adrian Liggins

The Stranglers 2010