For a band that were quickly adopted by the punk fraternity, The Stranglers came from uncharacteristically conformist backgrounds. Lead singer, Hugh Cornwell worked as a biochemist, while bass player, Jean-Jacques Burnell was classically trained in guitar. Dave Greenfield was already a semi-professional musician and drummer, Jet Black, was a middle-aged ice-cream maker.
However, it might have been their unconventional approach that kept the band going for so long. One of the longest-surviving outfits from the punk movement, The Stranglers were never afraid to dabble in other genres, such as electronica, prog-rock, jazz and out-and-out pop.
Their breakthrough single, Golden Brown, was released in 1983, a time when New Wave was taking over the airwaves. In typical no-conformist style, the single featured a delicate harpsichord and ethereal backing vocals. Subsequent hits, such as No More Heroes and Peaches had more in common with their punk roots but were released at a time when the flame of anarchy was distinctly flickering.
As The Stranglers’ career continued, their approach became more complex. Cornell’s lyrics took on a more poetic, reflective edge, while the music became more sophisticated and melodic. 86’s Dreamtime saw the band delivering their point of view on environmental issues, with the synth-fuelled Always the Sun.
Cornell left The Stranglers in 1990. However, the band continues as a four-piece.