Hugh Cornwell ’zang, gitaar) was biologieleraar, Jet Black (drums) had een ijs- en wijndistributiebedrijf, Jean-Jacques Burnel (zang, bas) was karateka en motorenfanaat en Dave Greenfield, de opvolger van Hans Warmling, (toetsen) was al jaren semiprofessioneel muzikant.
De sound van dit viertal had zijn roots in de pubrock en de Amerikaanse rock van eind jaren zestig. Door de power van de punkbeweging aan hun geluid toe te voegen raakte hun carrière in een stroomversnelling, en in 1977 speelden ze in bijna elke Engelse zaal en braken ze ook internationaal door met de albums Rattus Norvegicus en No More Heroes. Ook het titelnummer van No More Heroes werd een internationale hit en de groep plaatste zich in het rijtje groten der rock.
In de daaropvolgende jaren werd er door The Stranglers meer en meer geëxperimenteerd, met wisselend succes. Vooral The Raven en The Meninblack konden vooral critici behagen maar het grote publiek niet. Pas in 1982 had de groep weer een hit met het sfeervolle Golden Brown, een nummer in de exotische 13/8 maatsoort waarvan de obscure tekst over heroinegebruik handelt. Ook nummers als Skin Deep (1985) en Always the Sun (1987) wisten het grote publiek te boeien.
In 1990 hield Hugh Cornwell het voor gezien omdat hij vond dat de band creatief op een dood spoor zat. Hij ging solo verder en trok in 2009 in zijn eentje langs de zalen van Engeland om zijn laatste boek te promoten.
The Stranglers gingen verder met John Ellis op gitaar en Paul Roberts als zanger. In de nieuwe bezetting werd een tiental jaren de wereld rond getourd en werden, met minimaal succes, albums als Written in Red en Coup de Grace uitgebracht.
Pas in 2004 wisten The Stranglers (nu met Baz Warne in plaats van John Ellis) weer de aandacht te trekken met het album Norfolk Coast.
In juni 2006 verliet Roberts de band om zich op zijn project Soulsec te richten. De overige vier kondigden aan in september hun album Suite XIV uit te brengen. Burnel en Warne namen samen de zang voor hun rekening.
Bij recente optredens laat Jet Black, inmiddels de 70 gepasseerd, zich regelmatig vervangen door zijn drumtechnicus.
Met hitsingles als ‘Something Better Change’, ‘No More Heroes’, ‘Golden Brown’, ‘Skin Deep’, ‘No Mercy’ en ‘Always The Sun’ wordt het alvast partytime in Het Depot.
The story of how The Stranglers came into existence in the first place is perhaps atypical within the music industry. No less surprising then, that its history too, is unusual. It begins in late 1973. By this time, Jet Black had reached a point in his life when he found himself involved in several business enterprises.
Located in Guildford, Surrey, he was founder and owner of one of Britain's first retail domestic brewing equipment companies. Domestic brewing in Britain had been effectively illegal before the seventies without payment of Excise duties, which, when abolished in the 1963 budget, incentivized a whole new industry.
Involved in both wholesale and export distribution, he pioneered many new products in the industry and more famously, he also owned a fleet of ice cream vans and ran a retail Off Licence.
By the late part of 1973, and perhaps inexplicably, he began to lose interest in the routines of the business world, and the enterprises he had nurtured during the preceding decade. Jet began to look to music again as an escape.
In his teens, he had been an amateur and then semi professional drummer working the pubs and clubs located mostly on the east side of London. Many London pubs at the time routinely featured live music - far more than is normal today - which became the basis of his early gigging experience.
But by this point, he realised that he needed to re-establish for himself whether he could still cut-it as a drummer and during late 1973 and early 1974, he was to spend many months working the semi-pro circuit.
By 1974, Jet was convinced he was "good enough" and made the historic decision to form a professional band or, more accurately, a band which was eventually to become professional.
Without the experience of having done so before, he set about recruiting musicians for a series of rehearsals and try-outs in a search for the necessary personnel, while still playing nightly gigs to widen his experience. During this time, the running of his business interests had been largely transferred to his business manager.
He recalls that after auditioning approximately 25 guitarists and well over 40 bass players, he was finding it difficult to locate any inspirational talent. One day, he answered a 'Melody Maker' advert seeking a drummer. He thought this was to be just another gig. This led to a meeting between Jet, Hugh Cornwell and his drummer-less band 'Johnny Sox', in the Camden area of north London.
Whereas many historians have recounted how Jet "joined" 'Johnny Sox', Jet points out that there was never any "joining", and certainly no gigs.
Hugh Cornwell was a biochemistry graduate from Bristol University who had gone to Lund University in Sweden to pursue research. Here, he formed 'Johnny Sox' with two American draft dodgers and a Swede. Disillusioned with the politics of research (and with a desire to make the band succeed) he persuaded the other members that London was the place to be; they had arrived in London - minus the drummer - in early 1974.
Jet spent that first meeting routining a number of songs with the band, which he found "interesting", in the astonishingly furniture-less north London squat. For their part, it turned out that the band were looking for a full time replacement drummer.
Although Jet had not been seeking a career in someone else's band, there had been something about that 30 minutes which intrigued him and much later he reached the conclusion that it had been Hugh's contribution which had captured his interest. He suggested to the penniless outfit that a move to his vast Guildford business premises would be a good idea, since in his opinion, the band as they then were, needed some serious preparatory work.
'Johnny Sox' were unimpressed by the offer until Jet mentioned he had suitable accommodation for them above his Off Licence!
There were daily rehearsals at the new address for awhile but after a time Jet reached the opinion that no-one with the exception of Hugh was actually committed, or prepared to do any serious work. Eventually Jet declared, "get serious or get out". They got out.
This, then, was the actual moment of the birth of The Stranglers, as Jet now offered Hugh the post of front man to his prospective new band, and that was the end of 'Johnny Sox'.
Jean Jacques (JJ) Burnel was introduced to Jet and Hugh through a chance hitch hiking incident.
Although an accomplished young classical guitarist, he had never seriously considered a career in music, his main passion being karate.
His ambition at the time had been to travel to Japan, in order to further his development in this martial art.
JJ has since fulfilled this ambition and currently teaches at his own Dojo in the UK. His other passion, maintained throughout his career, was, and is, for motorcycles.
Soon after that initial meeting, and upon discovering that he had a predilection for the bass, and was also a keen songwriter, it was suggested he join Hugh and Jet in the fledgling outfit.
Until that point JJ had never actually played a bass but, fortunately, Hugh owned one and this made JJ's acceptance of the offer more interesting.
The soon-to-be Stranglers were now three.
The foursome was (temporarily) completed by guitarist Hans Warmling, a friend of Hugh's from Sweden (photo courtesy of Joel Ekstrand). This original line-up began to coalesce during 1975 and brought together four individuals with very different backgrounds and interests.
To the amazement of everyone who knew him, Jet made the decision to commit himself totally to his music project and made plans to sell his business interests. A move which was to secure funding for the plans ahead.
By this time, the remains of 'Johnny Sox' had long departed from the Guildford premises and everyone else moved from Guildford, which had seen the birth of the band.
Jet rented a house in the tiny village of Chiddingfold where the band spent about a year preparing for their career. It was during this period that the band's strange name emerged.
After each day's rehearsal and/or song writing sessions there was usually time for relaxation - and, over a period of some weeks, there seemed to be a near-daily "strangling".
This was either fictional - by way of some TV film or play (Hitchcock's 'Frenzy' was doing the rounds at around this time) or actual - in newspaper and other media reports.
The word "stranglers" or "strangling" was so omnipresent around this period that it began to be adopted as a comic reference in the house.
And it was after an early Guildford gig, and a disastrous one at that - everything that could have gone wrong did - that JJ happened to say, "the stranglers have really done it this time", a jokey reference to the band's performance that night.
It's generally considered that this immortal line was the origin of the name. It was, of course, in jest, but since no alternative was ever agreed upon, it eventually stuck.
The band began to secure low key pub gigs in and around Guildford. The number of gigs slowly increased, and demo tapes were recorded; however, a record deal was not forthcoming.
Eventually, Hans tired of the slow progress the band was making, despite their efforts, and quit the band and returned to Sweden.
In July 1975, the band were beginning to think the addition of a keyboard player, rather then another guitarist, might be a good idea. An advertisement in 'Melody Maker' produced one Dave Greenfield.
Dave had already played in a large number of bands and it was immediately obvious to the others that he was a natural addition to the line-up.
The unusual inclusion of swirling keyboards at the time was to give the band a very distinctive sound, setting them apart from their contemporaries.
The end result was a very dedicated and hard working band, which was almost constantly on the road.
This determination first led to a deal with Albion, a London agency which gave them access to some of the city's most influential pub venues.
In December 1976, the band signed a recording contract with United Artists. To The Stranglers, and those who knew them, this was the culmination of all their persistence over a two/three year period.
So began the ever changing recording career of The Stranglers.
The punk scene was a matter of months from its own genesis in Britain and, indeed, many of the soon-to-be punk stars had become regulars at The Stranglers' performances, The Stranglers being the clear leaders of an as yet un-named new style of music.
The band's diversity had been clear from an early stage (and may have actually contributed to the difficulty in finding a record deal, as they could not be easily pigeon holed).
Their flexibility and experimental creativity were evident on an increasingly wide range of songs, and was received confusingly by many critics who were not prepared for the reorientation of contemporary music from the 'Glam Rock' of the previous decade.
New technologies and techniques were happily embraced as is clearly evident on such albums as the milestone "The Gospel According to the Meninblack", which gave an alternative view to biblical narrative from the perspective of alien intervention.
Soon the band themselves were being dubbed "The Meninblack", further strengthened by the all black dress adopted on stage. Even today, this name is still applied to the band.
All this, decades before the subject was covered by later artists. Later still, new horizons were explored with the inclusion of a brass section (from "Aural Sculpture" to "10") and further on, steel guitar (on "Dreamtime"). Through all this diversity, one image stuck to the band, black.
By the start of 1980 the band had more-or-less settled into a relentless schedule of international shows, which encompassed well over 40 countries, states and islands around the world.
Not until nearly a decade later did the endless touring begin to moderate to a slower pace. Even so, there were eventually to be extensive tours of sensitive global conflict zones in support of the armed services.
By 1990, and the completion of the tenth studio album "10", Hugh Cornwell had reached the conclusion that the band could go no further artistically.
August 11th saw the last performance of The Stranglers with Hugh, at the Alexandra Palace in London (right).
Hugh has since gone on to produce an album under the guise of "Cornwell, Cook and West" and solo efforts "Wired", "Guilty", "Hi Fi", "Beyond Elysian Fields" and "Hoover Dam". He is also to be seen touring solo, or with his new band.
In the aftermath, JJ, Jet and Dave concluded that they disagreed with Hugh's assessment of the band's prospects and decided to continue, albeit in a new format.
The first new recruit was John Ellis, well, not entirely new. John had both associated, and collaborated with the band for many years in one way or another.
He was a former member of the 'Vibrators' whose very first gig was in a support role to The Stranglers way back in the seventies.
He had been a member of JJ's 'Euroband' for the "Euroman Cometh" (solo album) tour in 1979 and had played guitar for the gigs at the Rainbow (London, UK) which featured a number of artists filling in for an incarcerated Hugh Cornwell (jailed briefly for drugs possession).
More recently he had been a member of the 'Purple Helmets', a cover band featuring both JJ and Dave and had joined the band's live set as an additional guitarist during the "10" tour. As an established member of the Stranglers' extended family, John was the obvious choice as the new guitarist and he fitted neatly into the band for awhile.
Although some demo tracks were recorded with the band in this format, with JJ taking a larger vocal role, the band decided to look for a singer. A number of familiar names became associated with the search, most notably Dave Vanian (the Damned) and Ian McNabb (the Icicle Works).
During auditions, the band was soon faced with one Paul Roberts, who proclaimed "I'm your new lead singer"; upon hearing his wide vocal range and quality, the band agreed and The Stranglers MK II were born.
The new line-up now presented a completely different (and more dynamic) image, with Paul crashing and writhing about the stage.
At the same time, the horn section was abandoned, giving a more straightforward presentation.
This reincarnation of The Stranglers produced four albums: "Stranglers in the Night", "About Time", "Written in Red" and "Coup de Grace". As always, these albums showed a great musical diversity, blending in the talents of Paul and John.
In March 2000, after nearly 10 years with the band, John Ellis left to pursue other interests. He was replaced by 'Small Town Heroes' guitarist Baz Warne. Baz will be familiar to Stranglers fans who attended the UK "About Time" tour in 1995, as 'Small Town Heroes' provided the support, and again during the 1997 'Written-in-Red' tour.
A 10-year-old Baz Warne was taking his first steps towards a music career when he first had access to his brother Chris' newly acquired guitar in 1974 - at the very moment in which the Stranglers were beginning to evolve.
At that time, Baz and the family had been living in Vancouver, Western Canada. But by 1976, they had moved back to England. It was in Sunderland that Baz had industriously financed his own first guitar by securing an early morning milk and newspaper round.
Within a couple of years, Baz was jamming with his like-minded school pals and recalls that his first ever gig was at the 'New Crown' in South Shields when just 16.
Eventually Baz was to join the 'Toy Dolls' as guitarist but later switched to bass guitar when his predecessor sold his bass to finance some injudicious chemical habits.
An early punk outfit, the 'Dolls' achieved some notoriety with their often humorous renditions, notably the old children's favourite, "Nellie the Elephant".
By the mid eighties, Baz had already acquired wide gigging experience including two U.S. tours and so, when he was recruited by The Stranglers in the early noughties, he was both equipped and prepared for an arduous tour of duty around the military bases in Bosnia, and several festivals across Europe.
With Baz securely in place, 2004 saw the release of the much acclaimed fifteenth studio album 'Norfolk Coast'.
sixteen years service with the band.
This was to give Paul the opportunity he had been seeking for so long - to pursue other interests. The band was now a four piece for the first time since Hugh's departure in 1990, with Baz sharing vocal duties alongside JJ.
The first gig in the new format was at the Midsummer Buzz Festival in Weston-Super-Mare in June 2006, with a new album - Suite XVI - following in September of the same year.
The Stranglers are now well past their 35th anniversary. During their long career to-date, and despite many predictions to the contrary, The Stranglers have never stopped for more than a few weeks, out living and out performing most, if not all, of their contemporaries and critics.
There is, as yet, no suggestion of either retirement or respite. Please watch these pages for further announcements.