ONE OF the UK’s finest songwriting talents and accomplished live performers is performing at the Civic Hall on August 27.
Hugh Cornwell, the original guitarist, singer and main songwriter in rock band The Stranglers, has enjoyed massive success with 10 hit albums and 21 Top 40 singles across the world.
Here, Trevor Baxter catches up with him before his big night in Uppermill…
It’s not the opening gambit you expect from punk’s Dark Lord; the man in black, accused through his music of sexism and misogyny.
Indeed, an uncensored version of a video for ‘God is a Woman’ from his much acclaimed last album, ‘Totem and Taboo,’ on YouTube is hard to find due to its ‘nudity and sexual content.’
‘How’s the weather up there,” asked Hugh Cornwell, the 65-year-old former jailbird, biochemistry student and Uppermill-bound front man of the Stranglers.
“Our weather used to be inclement; now it’s the same as everywhere else in the world,” he continued.
“I recently came back from America where you expect they have solid summers. But in places it was like an English winter. I had to put my Mac on.”
The interview to promote Cornwell’s appearance at the Civic Hall on August 27 continued to surprise.
After all this was a man who danced with strippers on stage, penned a song-Golden Brown-about Afghan brown heroin and reputedly enjoyed a dalliance with Kate Bush.
Okay, so not much wrong with the third anecdote but you get the picture! The subject then turned to cricket as it was the opening day of the first Ashes Test and Hugh is a keen disciple of the game.
“I don’t go to matches so much; it is too beery for me.” What? “It’s not that I am a puritan and I’ll have a drink in an evening.
“But I can’t be doing with that. It’s all smelly and boozy, like working in a pub. I do a lot of travelling and one of my home comforts is being able to watch the cricket wherever I am, providing I get decent wifi.”
A lot of illusion shattering was now going on with this chat. This apparent diamond hard North London geezer was a gent and not in the slightest a potentially difficult interviewee.
His current acoustic tour may also surprise. Any numbers from a back catalogue including New Wave anthems, Something Better Change, No More Heroes and Grip, won’t have Dave Greenfield’s memorable keyboard accompaniment. In fact, don’t expect Greenfield or any ex Strangler on stage.
“I have drifted out of touch,” he says of brooding Jean Jacques Burnel, Greenfield and drummer, Jet Black, aka Brian Duffy, now 76!
“When we got together we weren’t friends as such. We got together to play music.
“One of the reasons I left was because I didn’t have much in common with these people. We were just meeting up as though we were going into an office. I knew nothing about their lives.
“The people I play with now are my mates. I like having a drink with them and we have fun.
“I don’t know if there is any bonhomie happening now (with the current Stranglers line-up) but it certainly wasn’t there when I left. That’s why I don’t keep in touch because I have nothing to share with them.”
Burnel, Greenfield and occasionally Black, still tour as a collective under the Stranglers moniker. “I make money out of that so I don’t knock it at all,” laughs Cornwell.“They help to pay my rent.
“Because of my involvement with the writing of the catalogue I get PRS every time they go on stage. Long may it continue.”
With a ‘best of’ solo album due out at the end of this month (August), another novel in the pipeline and various film projects in discussion, Cornwell is a busy man. Too busy for cricket.
“I used to play for Bunburys (charity team) and the Lord Taverners keep contacting me about the same thing but I can’t commit. I don’t know where I am going to be from one week to the next.
“Besides the American tour was such a heavy schedule and I am not a young man anymore in a young man’s game.
“It’s very hard to maintain even when you are not partying every night. “But I didn’t enter music because I thought it was going to be glamorous; I did it because I enjoy music.
“It’s still a great emotional moment when you are performing. That’s why I do it.”
See for yourself at Uppermill Civic Hall on August 27. Tickets available by visiting www.thegigcartel.com