Punk legends The Stranglers to perform in Cambridge
The influential quartet are perhaps best known for Golden Brown, a number two hit in 1982, and Peaches, another classic rock staple.
One thing that both these tunes have in common is that every member of the band’s classic lineup – bass player/vocalist Jean-Jacques Burnel, vocalist/guitarist Hugh Cornwell, keyboard player/vocalist Dave Greenfield and drummer Jet Black – was given a writing credit.
These days, of those four only Jean-Jacques Burnel, known as ‘JJ’, and Dave Greenfield perform live with the band – who are enjoying a resurgent wave of popularity at present – although Jet Black remains an official member, Cornwell having departed in 1990.
Greenfield replaced original keyboardist Hans Wärmling in 1975, which means Burnel, 65, is the sole founding member (the group first came together in 1974) still appearing on stage under The Stranglers moniker.
He tells the Cambridge Independent that he and Greenfield therefore feel a great level of responsibility when it comes to protecting the outfit’s long-standing legacy:
“We do. I mean just by the very fact that we exist – how many bands of our vintage exist in the world? The Stones, but they’re older, and a few bands, but not many – I think you can count them on one hand.”
The Stranglers will hit the Corn Exchange on Friday, March 30, a stop on their Definitive Tour.
“Everyone’s asking about this, thinking it’s the last Stranglers tour,” laughs JJ, “but there’s another definition of ‘definitive’, which is what defines you.
“I hope this isn’t the last tour because we’re right in the middle of preparing a new album.”
Is retirement something that ever crosses JJ’s mind? “Well retirement is something for the royal family, or when it’s a business,” he replies. “If you consider yourself to be an artist, I don’t know if you ever retire, do you? It seems quite an absurd concept to me...”
The Definitive Tour is set to coincide with the planned re-release of The Stranglers’ first seven albums – six studio and one live – an all-conquering run which began with their acclaimed debut LP, Rattus Norvegicus, in 1977.
On which of their classic hits he especially likes to play live, JJ says: “That depends on my mood... I do enjoy playing No More Heroes [a top 10 hit in 1977] because it’s just good fun playing it, and seeing Dave try to drink a whole litre of Bacardi and brandy during his piano solo.”
He adds: “We try to avoid playing just the hits because that would be counterproductive, I think, and also it might be boring for people.”
Commenting on Jet Black’s ongoing absence, JJ says: “Jet’s not going to play with us any more.
“Over 40-odd years of The Stranglers, he’s had health issues for most of that time and the last time we tried playing with him, about four years ago, we played one number and he had to have oxygen afterwards and was then rushed to hospital. He’s also a good deal older than the rest of us.
“Fortunately, he’s still got input and has mentored Jim MacAulay, our drummer who’s replaced him.”
Joining JJ, Dave and Jim in the current on-stage setup is Baz Warne, a 53-year-old vocalist and guitarist who has been with them since 2000 – which is longer than the 16 years Hugh Cornwell spent as frontman.
JJ no longer has any contact with Cornwell, saying: “It’s a sad old story. I’m sure you’ve had personal relationships which have gone sour and unfortunately you haven’t been able to mend them, so you don’t want to dwell on those otherwise they become painful. You just move on.”
Born in West London to French parents, JJ now lives in France, though did previously reside in the Cambridge area – on the Fens – for 24 years.
“I had my recording studio there,” he explains, “and in Cambridge itself, in the Kite area, there was a studio called Spaceward, where quite a few bands recorded their early demos.”
On the places in the city he likes to visit whenever he’s in town, JJ concludes: “Well they change quite a lot, but Loch Fyne [on Trumpington Street] has been there for a few years and that’s quite cool, if you like fish.
“Regent Street is forever changing, isn’t it? I used to like Market Square, when it wasn’t too cold...”
The Stranglers will be appearing at the Cambridge Corn Exchange on Friday, March 30 at 7.30pm. Support comes from Therapy?
Tickets: £37.75 and £30.25, including a £2.75 booking fee