Hugh Cornwell Biography
Hugh Cornwell, the original guitarist, singer and main songwriter in the Stranglers, enjoyed massive success with ten hit albums and twenty-one top forty singles in the 17-year period that he was in the band. He has revelled in his musical freedom ever since he stepped off the stage after a Stranglers’ sold out gig at Alexandra Palace in the summer of 1990 and announced that it was the last time he would be fronting the group.
Hugh felt it was “a bit like having a noose” around his creative neck and that it was time to do something different. He said: “To leave a band you’ve been with for seventeen years is an emotional decision and you feel it internally. The hard thing was not being able to talk to anyone about it. But I wanted to do it and that was that. With the Stranglers no chances were being taken any more. Although we continued to experiment with our music, the band had become an institution which meant that all the danger and risk had gone".
Risk is clearly something Cornwell relishes: “I love venturing into the unknown. It is the only way to get emotional feedback and it drives the creative focus. If you carry on along the same safe and familiar route, you’ll never experience anything at a new level, and you begin to lose the ability to judge what’s good around you."
Hugh has released five studio albums, Nosferatu (1979), Wolf (1988), Wired (1993), Guilty (1997) and Hi-fi (2001) which included the song Leave Me Alone, featured in its entirety in the new Neil Morrissey (Men Behaving Badly) film Trigger Men. In response to public demand he has also released Mayday, a full live band set; and In the Dock, a solo acoustic album, featuring many Stranglers’ classics. The catalogue is completed by the release of Footprints in the Desert, a compilation of rare and unreleased tracks from the last ten years.
Hugh’s book The Stranglers: Song By Song was published in November 2001 and gained massive media coverage. In the book he sets the record straight, displaces the myths and explains for the first time the real stories behind the Stranglers’ extensive catalogue of songs.
The Stranglers etched themselves into the nation's musical psyche with many hit singles, including Peaches, No More Heroes, Golden Brown, Always The Sun, Grip, Nice N’ Sleazy, Duchess, Walk On By, Strange Little Girl and Skin Deep, all of which were written against a background of spectacular success, dismal failure, drug dependency, infighting, misfortune and financial ruin.
The band’s most successful song, Golden Brown, featured on the soundtrack to Guy Ritchie’s Hollywood blockbuster Snatch; whilst Peaches appeared in its entirety in the opening sequence of the hit film Sexy Beast, as well as in the Nike TV ad for 2002’s Football World Cup. Hugh’s songs maintained their association with cups when Wonderbra used Hanging Around in their Winter TV campaign in the same year. HSBC bank are currently utilising Peaches in an extensive television campaign, and Vodaphone have chosen Waltz In Black for another.
October 2001 saw the release of the Tori Amos album Strange Little Girls, named after the Stranglers’ song Strange Little Girl, which was released as the first single on 1st September in the USA. Cerys Mathews of Catatonia released a previously unheard Hugh Cornwell/Roger Cook composition, entitled Chardonnay, as the lead track of her first solo album, released in May of 2003.
Earlier this year Hugh completed his new album Beyond Elysian Fields in New Orleans and NYC with Danny Kadar and Tony Visconti, who produced the last two David Bowie albums and is currently completing the new Manic Street Preachers’ album. Tony mixed the Stranglers’ two biggest worldwide hits, Golden Brown and Strange Little Girl. Hugh has also contributed the lead vocal to the opening track Underground on the soon to be released Mousse T album All Nite Madness and also performed to a capacity house on the Left Field stage at Glastonbury 2004.
Beyond Elysian Fields is due to be released on October 4th this year, alongside his eagerly awaited autobiography A Multitude Of Sins, published by Harper Collins. Hugh is one of this country’s finest song-writing talents and accomplished live performers. The tour in October and November with his band Three Piece Sweet in support of the album and book is not to be missed.
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