The Stranglers and I go way back. Ever since receiving their greatest hits for my twelfth birthday I’ve had a fascination with this grimy, sleazy and down right sinister group of misfits from Guilford.
Too young for punk, I realised that this was music that, despite the myriad of sixties influences, was coming from the gutter and being played by a group of genuinely weird but remarkably tuneful misfits.
Incredibly this was a band which had hits and many of them, making them the most commercially viable band to emerge from punk. That such a group could write a melody as sweet and mournful as Golden Brown and take into the top three despite it being an ode to heroin sums up the sheer oddness that surrounded their mysterious and esoteric songs, something which struck home when finding a copy of their biggest hit when sorting through my late grandfather’s record collection, lying there like a black sheep among the James Last albums.
The Stranglers are in town this week and speaking to singer Baz Warne it’s clear that Liverpool is a place this critically shunned band feels at home.
“Liverpool is similar to the north east and Newcastle where I come from”, says Baz. “Working class dockers and seasfarers which I can associate with. It’s the bastions of working class life like Liverpool, Sheffield, Glasgow and Newcastle that have supported us and we continue to slay them when we play live.”
Baz is still regarded by many as the outsider of the band despite playing guitar in the Stranglers for over a decade. Much of this comes from fans who still mourn the departure of original singer and songwriter Hugh Cornwell, who led the band through their glory years before departing in 1990.
“It’s taken quite a long time for me to shake off the tag of new boy”, he says. “Thankfully things crystallised when Paul Roberts (Cornwall’s original replacement as singer) left a few years ago and I don’t think about it anymore as I think the fans have accepted me now and they show nothing but support.”
The Stranglers are at their best in the live arena, spitting out classic hits like Something Better Change, Peaches and No More Heroes but Baz is keen that they aren’t seen as simply a nostalgia act , something highlighted by him talking on the phone from the studio where he is working with bassist JJ Burnel on a new album.
“A lot more people are coming out to see the band now and we still feel like we’ve got a lot to say.
“There’s no shortage of subject mater. When you get to my age your songs tend to concentrate on feelings of injustice and anger. JJ and I collate ideas and at the moment politically, socially and economically… well where do you start?”
As one of the few punk-era bands which are still a going a concern, Baz is confident the band can continue for the foreseeable future despite drummer Jet Black now entering his 72nd year.
“Jet has always said his ultimate goal is to die on stage and I think left to his own devices he probably will,” laughs Baz.
“When it’s time to work he’s very strong and he keeps confounding everyone. You turn around and you see this huge grey haired man whacking seven shades out of his kits and it’s an inspiration.”
“We will go as long as we can – there’s never any talk of splitting.”
Tuesday 8th March