The Stranglers are feeling rejuvenated as they embark on a month-long tour including tonight’s date at the O2 Academy Liverpool, reports Andy Welch
AFTER forming in London in the mid-70s, The Stranglers came of age in the burgeoning British pub-rock scene. By the time punk exploded in 1976, the band – Hugh Cornwell, Jet Black, Dave Greenfield and JJ Burnel – had played in virtually every influential venue in the capital, winning fans and honing their performing skills.
While not fitting the punk template as neatly as the Sex Pistols and The Clash, there was enough snarling energy and power in their music for them to ride the wave while it lasted.
“None of the other punk bands liked us,” says the bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel. “It’s funny hearing young bands mention us as an influence now, because back then no band would ever admit to liking us.”
He recalls a fateful incident in 1976 in which he had a fight with Paul Simonon of The Clash, with Simonon’s bandmates, plus Sex Pistols, The Ramones and members of the music press on one side, and The Stranglers and their friends on the other.
“It was more handbags and a bit of growling than anything,” he says, “but from then on, the lines were drawn.”
As punk subsided, however, The Stranglers endured. And have continued to do so, releasing 17 albums and touring ever since.
“We’ve been around for so long and I think there’s a bit of respect come our way recently,” says Burnel, 61, born to French parents in Notting Hill.
“We’ve always conducted ourselves in a certain way. We haven’t released endless Best Of compilations and box sets, and so on. There’s always been new music and we’ve always tried new things, never imitating ourselves, so that’s afforded us a bit more respect. We’ve ploughed our own furrow, whether people like us or not.”
A turning point came around 10 years ago when Burnel isolated himself to write Norfolk Coast. For the first time in a long time, perhaps since vocalist Hugh Cornwell’s departure in 1990, the press were interested and new fans were drawn to the band.
The renaissance continued with Suite XVI in 2006, and in 2012 was capped by Giants, the band’s best and most acclaimed album since the mid-Eighties.