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The Stranglers are an English rock music group, formed on September 11, 1974 in Guildford, Surrey. Scoring a string of UK top ten hits, including "No More Heroes" and "Peaches", the Stranglers began as a pub rock group, but later branched out to explore other styles of music, including punk rock, gothic rock, and new wave, but their idiosyncratic approach never fitted completely within any single musical genre. With a sound that relied heavily on keyboards when the instrument was unfashionable, The Stranglers' early music was characterized by Hugh Cornwell's growling vocals and misanthropic lyrics, but their output grew more refined and sophisticated, as critic Dave Thompson writes, 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."
Original personnel were drummer Jet Black (real name Brian Duffy), bass player/vocalist Jean Jacques Burnel, guitarist/vocalist Hugh Cornwell and keyboardist/guitarist Hans Warmling. Hans was replaced by keyboardist Dave Greenfield within a year. None of the band actually came from Guildford - Black is from Ilford, Burnel from Notting Hill, Cornwell from Kentish Town and Greenfield from Brighton, while Warmling came from Sweden, and returned there after leaving the band. They were originally called The Guildford Stranglers and operated out of The Jackpot, a Guildford off licence run by their drummer. Cornwell had been a blues musician prior to forming the band and had briefly been a bandmate of Richard Thompson, Burnel had been a classical guitarist who had performed with symphony orchestras, Jet Black was a former jazz drummer, and Dave Greenfield had played at military bases in Germany. Their early influences included pre-punk psychedelic rock bands, especially The Doors, and The Music Machine. The Stranglers were, beginning in 1976, associated with punk rock, due in part to their opening for the first British tours of iconic American punks The Ramones and Patti Smith. Despite their association with punk rock, the Stranglers were generally not regarded as punks by their musical peers. However, Burnel was quoted saying, "I thought of myself as part of [punk] at the time because we were inhabiting the same flora and fauna ... I would like to think [The Stranglers] were more punk plus and then some". On a nationwide UK tour in May 1977 they were supported by the four-piece band London. During their 1978 appearance from the University of Surrey on the TV programme Rock Goes To College, the group walked off stage after verbally abusing the audience. The band attracted criticism from feminists who protested against their music. At one protest, the band grabbed one of the feminist protesters, and proceeded to manhandle her until she managed to escape. Later the band stated that it was unfortunate she escaped because she was probably enjoying it. Their early albums were initially received with mixed reaction because of their apparent sexist and racist innuendo. Dave Thompson wrote that "the Stranglers themselves revelled in an almost Monty Python-esque grasp of absurdity (and, in particular, the absurdities of modern 'men's talk')." These early albums (Rattus Norvegicus, No More Heroes, Black and White) built a strong fan-following. The Raven, their 1979 album, was a transition towards a more melodic, less aggressive sound. The songs are multi-layered and musically complicated, and deal with such subjects as a Viking's lonely voyage, heroin addiction, genetic engineering, and contemporary political events in Iran and Australia. The following album, The Gospel According to The Meninblack was a concept album exploring religion and the supposed connection between religious phenomena and extraterrestrial visitors. It peaked on the UK Albums Chart at #8,their lowest chart placing and was widely considered an artistic and commercial failure in 1980. Interestingly, the track 'Two Sunspots' was actually recorded during the 'Black And White' sessions in 1978 but was 'shelved' until 1980. The track was rediscovered and placed on 'The Gospel According To The Meninblack'. The 'Meninblack' track from 'The Raven' is also apparently the 'Two Sunspots' soundtrack slowed down! The Stranglers recovered their commercial and critical status, after a slow start, with La Folie (1981) which was another concept album, this time exploring the subject of love. At first La Folie charted lower than any other Stranglers studio albums, and their first single "Let Me Introduce You to the Family" only charted at #42. The Stranglers then released "Golden Brown", their biggest hit, charting at #2 in the UK Singles Chart, and also EMI's biggest selling single for years. La Folie then recharted at #11 in the UK albums chart. "Tramp" was thought to be the ideal follow up single to "Golden Brown", however "La Folie" was chosen after Jean Jacques Burnel convinced band mates of its potential. It charted at #47. Shortly afterwards the Stranglers left EMI. As part of their severance deal, The Stranglers were forced to release a greatest hits collection The Collection 1977-1982 The tracklisting for 'The Collection 1977-1982' was decided by The Stranglers themselves. This included the new single "Strange Little Girl", which was recorded on a demo and given to EMI before being signed. It became a hit, charting at #7 in July 1982.
In 1983 the Stranglers released their first album on Epic Records Feline, which included the hit "European Female" charting at #9. This album gained much critical success but fell way short of La Folie in terms of sales. Yet, Feline was a success in Britain and the rest of Europe. It was on this album that Jet Black began to use electronic drum kits. Feline was also the first Stranglers album to feature acoustic guitars. The album reached #4 in the UK charts in January 1983 and was the last Stranglers studio album to break into the Top 10. 1984 saw the release of Aural Sculpture with the UK #15 hit "Skin Deep" (#11 in Australia and Top 30 in the Netherlands). This was their first album to feature the inclusion of a 3-piece horn-section which featured in all their albums and live performances until Hugh Cornwell's departure in 1990. Aural Sculpture performed disappointingly in the U.K. album charts, it peaked at #14 in November 1984. Their 1986 album, Dreamtime, concerned itself with environmental issues, and contained "Always the Sun" (a #15 hit in France, #21 in Australia, #30 in the UK, and #35 in the Netherlands). Dreamtime was the only Stranglers album to chart in the U.S.. Dreamtime continued the disappointing U.K. album chart placements by only peaking at #16 in November 1986. 1990 saw the release of The Stranglers final album with Hugh Cornwell, 10. This was recorded with the intention of building on their "cult" status in America. After the success of The Kinks cover, "All Day And All Of The Night" (reaching #7 in the UK Singles Chart), The Stranglers decided to release "96 Tears" as their first single from 10. It proved to be a hit reaching #17. Despite this success their follow-up single "Sweet Smell Of Success" only reached #65. "Man of the Earth", which the band had high hopes for, was due to be the third single from the album, however Epic Records decided against it when The Stranglers failed to get a tour in America. Since 10 was recorded with the intention of breaking America, this was a major blow, and Cornwell finally decided to leave. After Depeche Mode, by 1990, the Stranglers had had more UK chart hits (28) than any other artist never to reach the number one spot.
In August 1990, founding member Cornwell left the band to pursue a solo career. In his autobiography, Cornwell states that he felt the band was a spent force creatively, and cited various examples of his increasingly acrimonious relationship with his fellow band-members, particularly Burnel. The remaining members recruited John Ellis, who had opened for the band in the 1970s as a member of The Vibrators, filled in for Cornwell during his time in prison in 1980, worked with Burnel and Greenfield in their side project Purple Helmets, and was added as a touring guitarist a short time before Cornwell's departure. Burnel and Ellis then took over vocal duties before deciding to enlist singer Paul Roberts. In 2000 John Ellis left the band and a new guitarist, Baz Warne, was recruited. The Stranglers had a critical and popular renaissance in 2004 (together with their first top 40 hit for 14 years - "Big Thing Coming") with the acclaimed Norfolk Coast album and a subsequent sell-out tour. The follow-up album, Suite XVI, was released in September 2006 (the title is a pun on "Sweet 16" and also a reference to the fact that it is the band's sixteenth studio album). In May 2006, Paul Roberts left the band, shortly before the release of the band's sixteenth album. The lead vocals are currently being handled by guitarist Baz Warne, and Burnel, who has begun to sing more of the songs live that he originally recorded the vocals to [Stranglers Mk IV]. On November 4, 2007, the band played at the Roundhouse in Camden, North London, marking the 30th Anniversary of their headline run at the same venue in 1977. The set list was the same as the 1977 concert with the addition of a couple of recent songs. The event is recorded on the DVD Rattus at The Roadhouse.
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Official Homepage: www.stranglers.net
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