by Pete Clemons
This band is one of the UK’s most popular and successful groups to have emerged from the punk rock era. For well over thirty years they have produced a host of studio and live albums. And, still today, they continue to sell out venues up and down the country.
Formed as The Guildford Stranglers in 1974 the band was, at first, a part of the London pub rock scene. However from 1976 they became more associated with the growing punk rock movement.
They were formed by drummer Jet Black, who was then well into his 30s. Joining Jet were bass player Jean-Jacques Burnel, guitarist Hugh Cornwell and, a short while later, keyboard player Dave Greenfield.
Looking back to those days though, and the gigs I attended, the band members were not averse to jumping off the stage and thumping the punk element of the audience who thought the idea of ‘gobbing’ at the band was a term of endearment.
Jean-Jacques Burnel has since been quoted as saying that in retrospect ‘he thought of himself as part of punk’ at the time, as they were inhabiting the same space, but he would like to think that the Stranglers ‘were more than punk’.
The punk rock movement spread like a wild fire up and down the country. New bands seemed to spring up from nowhere on a weekly basis. And the cities outside of London, particularly Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool, became engulfed by it all.
And there was no denying that this new musical genre had, quite early on, fired up the imaginations of Coventry’s youth as well as inspiring the minds of the more musically talented and creating a do it yourself ethic that covered everything from the music itself to the clothing.
Coventry’s branch of Virgin Records who, at that time were based in the city Arcade close to the birdcage, soon became the hub for buying these records and a magnet for all those who those who wanted to discuss the new bands with a very knowledgeable staff who included future Specials drummer John Bradbury and photographer extraordinaire John Coles. But punk rock brought with it a large amount of bad publicity.
For Coventry it had all started well with early visits by some of punk rock’s major names. However a country-wide ban on punk by the Tiffany’s empire, during the early part of 1977, brought the gigging scene, as far as punk bands were concerned, to a halt.
From then on, and for about nine months, things went relatively quiet in terms of ‘major’ punk bands visiting Coventry on a regular basis. A few of them, namely The Stranglers and Elvis Costello and the Attractions slipped into Coventry under the radar but it wasn’t until September 1977 that the onslaught really began.
Tiffany’s ban was eventually lifted during August 1977 and when asked how the venue was going to prepare for a punk invasion in Coventry, the then manager, ‘Aubrey Marsden’ said ‘the only thing the company now draws the line at are ‘striptease shows’.
But it was not just Tiffany’s that suddenly gave punk rock a warm reception. At almost the same time Mr Georges Club also found a mid-week slot for punk beginning with a three band night London, The Swords and The Victims. And, to a lesser degree La Chaumiere in The Burges, attracted local punk influenced bands like The Flys, and The Wild Boys. For the next 18 months or so it was an amazing and wonderful time for Coventry indeed.
Back to The Stranglers. Today they still have Jean-Jacques Burnel and Dave Greenfield in the ranks. They are also completed by guitarist and vocalist Baz Warne who has been associated with the band for almost 20 years.
As for the drum seat, it is my understanding that Jet Black is still an official member of the band. However, due to ill health and the fact that he is now 78 years old, he is no longer the touring drummer.
Jet was certainly not present on the last tour when I saw them at the Leamington Assembly. Instead his duties were taken by a guy called Jim MacAulay. And it appears that Jim is in-fact now the touring drummer for the band.