Hugh Cornwell’s last show with The Stranglers at Alexandra Palace, London on August 13, 1990. The band would continue without Cornwell but would never be the same. A fucking shame and a particularly big disappointment for this hardcore Stranglers fan. I’m still waiting for a re-union gig.
00:46 Toiler At The Sea
07:46 Something Better Change
11:24 96 Tears
14:30 Someone Like You
17:32 Sweet Smell Of Success
21:40 Always The Sun
26:11 Strange Little Girl
29:07 Hanging Around
33:40 Let’s Celebrate
38:36 Golden Brown
42:45 No More Heroes
46:38 Nuclear Device
53:35 All Day And All Of The Night
56:04 Punch And Judy
Outstanding audio and visual quality. Play it loud!
A 15-year-old, Hugh Cornwell poses with his first band Emil and The Detectives in 1964. The band was formed by guitarist Richard Thompson (on the far right of picture). who went on to Fairport Convention, while Cornwell found fame as frontman with The Stranglers. Cornwell talked about this early snapshot in the Telegraph Magazine:
I remember getting the violin bass guitar I’m holding here, I was about 15 and had saved up £50 for it. Before then I’d been playing a homemade version with a neck the thickness of a plank of wood. Richard Thompson (on the far right) suggested I learn to play bass because he was forming Emil and the Detectives (the band in the picture) and he needed a bass player, so he taught me. We were good friends from school and we played each other music that we had discovered, like the Rolling Stones and the Who. Richard’s older sister, Perri, who was the social secretary at the Hornsey College of Art in north London, would book us to play parties and pay us £30 per gig. Our biggest claim to fame was supporting Helen Sahpiro at the Ionic cinema in Golders Green. But after we took our O-level [exams] we lost touch. The next I heard he was the lead guitarist in Fairport Convention…
...In August 2008 I was doing a festival outside Madrid and the promoter said, ‘If we hurry we can catch the end of Richard Thompson’s set.’ I couldn’t believe it. I hadn’t seen Richard in 30 years. We had a big huggy reunion and now we’re back in touch it’s really lovely. When I played in LA last year he came to watch and I suggested that we play a song together. I chose “Tobacco Road” by the Nashville Teens, which was a number one hit in the 1960s and was one of the first songs we learnt together.
Hugh Cornwell tours the UK April 6-17, details here.
More early pics and performances of pop stars, including Lemmy, Bowie and Davy Jones, after the jump…
Let me say right upfront that I am a huge fan of The Stranglers and their former lead singer, songwriter and guitar player Hugh Cornwell. I vividly remember the day in 1977 that I bought Rattus Norvegicus at a shop in Greenwich Village (Robert Quine was also buying a copy) and the subsequent thrill of listening to it over and over again that night and for months to follow. A big influence on the punk scene in England, The Stranglers’ guttural, malevolent and beautiful rock and roll was primitive and yet sophisticated, savage and sublime. Seeing them live a few months later at the Second Avenue Theater was among the most exciting rock shows I’ve ever experienced.
In 1990 Cornwell left the band and as far as I’m concerned that was the end of what was arguably one of the best and most underappreciated bands of the past four decades. Although The Stranglers have recorded and toured with various different lead singers, the magic has long been gone. I saw the reconstituted Stranglers with some nondescript lead vocalist in the mid-90s at The Cat Club and it was like seeing the Doors without Jim Morrison or The Sex Pistols fronted by the guy from Creed. Nothing worse than a pioneering punk band reduced to an oldies act.
It pains me that there is so much much bad blood between Hugh Cornwell and the rest of the group that they’ve never buried whatever hatchet exists between them and gone back into the studio to make more of the sound I’ll always love.
Cornwell seems to be on an eternal solo world tour. He must need the money. I can’t imagine he’s thrilled playing Stranglers’ classics with pick-up bands or by himself on electric guitar. Which brings me to this recent performance on Brazilian TV. Why, Hugh, why? It’s the money, right? From the rollergirls in bathing suits waving flags to the drummer who looks like an extra from The Young Ones, this has to be one of the lamest things I’ve seen a rock legend subject himself to in the name of keeping his career alive. I know I’m probably overreacting, but don’t we all feel a twinge of sadness when one of our heroes suddenly seems ordinary, smaller than life rather than bigger?
Hugh, if you’re reading this, give Jean-Jacque, Jet Black and Dave a call. Tell them all is forgiven. The Stranglers aren’t The Stranglers without you and you’re not the artist you were without them. It’s never too late.
Some choice videos of The Stranglers after the jump…