The Stranglers: A short history
The 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.
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.
It 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.
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.
So 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.