Golden Brown

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"Golden Brown"
Single by The Stranglers
from the album La Folie
B-side "Love 30"
Released 28 December 1981 (U.S.)
10 January 1982 (UK)
Format 7" vinyl
Recorded 1981
Genre Baroque pop, new wave[1]
Length 3:30
Label Liberty
BP 407 (UK, 7")
Writer(s) The Stranglers
Producer(s) The Stranglers
Steve Churchyard
The Stranglers singles chronology
"Let Me Introduce You to the Family"
"Golden Brown"
"La Folie"
The Stranglers chronology
"Always the Sun (Sunny Side Up Mix)"
"Golden Brown"
"Heaven or Hell"

"Golden Brown" is a song by the English rock band The Stranglers. It was released as a 7" single in December 1981 in the United States and in January 1982 in the UK, on Liberty. It was the second single released from the band's sixth album La Folie. It peaked at No. 2 in the UK Singles Chart, the band's highest ever placing in that chart.[2]


Originally featured on the group's album La Folie, which was released in November 1981, and later on the USA pressings of Feline, "Golden Brown" was released as a single in December 1981, and was accompanied by a video. It reached #2 in the official UK singles chart in February 1982,[3] behind "Town Called Malice" by The Jam.[4] It was the comparatively conservative BBC Radio 2, at that time a middle-of-the-road (MOR) music radio station, which decided to make the record the single of the week, a surprising step considering the band were almost as notorious as Sex Pistols only a few years before. The band claimed that the song's lyrics were akin to an aural Rorschach test and that people only heard in it what they wanted to hear, although this did not prevent persistent allegations that the lyrics alluded to heroin (although in an interview with Channel 4, drummer Jet Black quipped it was a song about Marmite).

The single was a hit around the world, scaling the Top 10 as far away as Australia. It was also featured in the films Snatch[1] and He Died with a Felafel in His Hand, and is included on both soundtrack albums.


There has been much controversy surrounding the lyrics. In his 2001 book The Stranglers Song By Song, Hugh Cornwell clearly states "'Golden Brown' works on two levels. It's about heroin and also about a girl". Essentially the lyrics describe how "both provided me with pleasurable times".[5]

Musical composition[edit]

Written in the key of B-flat minor, the song is a lyrical harpsichord-led ballad alternating between 6/8 and 7/8. The song's characteristic opening phrase consists of alternating 6/8 and 7/8 bars. The music was largely written by keyboardist Dave Greenfield and drummer Jet Black, with lyrics by singer/guitarist Hugh Cornwell.[6]

The BBC newsreader Bill Turnbull attempted to waltz to the song in the 2005 series of Strictly Come Dancing. In February 2012 when interviewing Stranglers bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel on BBC Breakfast, Turnbull described the attempted dance as "a disaster", Burnel responded that the alternating of rhythm patterns each bar made "Golden Brown" impossible to dance to; in contrast, a song written entirely in 6/8 is not unusual in waltzing.

Music video[edit]

Two shots from Golden Brown: the band performing the song in Leighton House and as explorers.

The video for "Golden Brown", directed by Lindsey Clennell, depicts the band members both as explorers in an Arabian country (sequences include images of the Pyramids as well as the explorers studying a map of Egypt) in the 1920s and performers for a fictional "Radio Cairo". In addition to the Pyramids, the video is intercut with stock footage of a madrassa in Uzbekistan, the Shah Mosque in Isfahan, Iran and Great Sphinx, Feluccas sailing, Bedouins riding and camel racing in the United Arab Emirates. The performance scenes were filmed in the Leighton House Museum in Holland Park, London.

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1981-1982) Peak
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[7] 7
France (SNEP)[8] 73
Germany (Media Control AG)[9] 63
Irish Singles Chart[10] 3
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[11] 8
Netherlands (Mega Single Top 100)[12] 10
UK (Official Charts Company)[3] 2
Chart (1991) Peak
UK (Official Charts Company)[3] 68
Irish Singles Chart[10] 25

In a BBC Radio 2 listener poll of the nation's favourite singles to have peaked at number two, conducted in late 2012, "Golden Brown" ranked fifth behind "Vienna", "Fairytale of New York", "Sit Down" and "American Pie, and just ahead of "Waterloo Sunset" and "Penny Lane"/"Strawberry Fields Forever".[13]

Cover versions[edit]

  • In 1996, British hip hop group Kaleef had a UK Top 40 hit with their re-working of this song.[14]
  • Also in 1996, The duo Better Daze covered the song on their album, "One Street Over."
  • In 1997, soul singer Omar revived the song and took it back into the UK Top 40.[15]
  • In 1997, Emer Kenny included the song in her self-titled album.[16]
  • Also in 1997, Better Daze released "Remix Project" on Ubiquity Records, containing a remix of their cover version by Scribe, and two remixes by Fila Brazillia.
  • In 2007, British singer Jamelia sampled the song with her single "No More".
  • Also in 2007, fictional character Janey York (played by Crissy Rock) sang this song in the first series of Benidorm
  • In 2008, the British band Cult With No Name recorded a piano-based cover of the song on their album "Careful what you wish for".
  • In 2010, the song was one of the 'contemporary classics' featured by the Jamaican band The Jolly Boys on their "Great expectation" album.
  • In 2012, Mariachi Mexteca remade the song with Hugh Cornwell playing guitar and singing.[17]

Track listing[edit]

Songs, lyrics, and music by The Stranglers.

  • 7" (BP 407)
  1. "Golden Brown" – 3:28
  2. "Love 30" – 3:57


  1. ^ a b Diana Potts. "Snatch review on Allmusic". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 24 June 2013.  "Highlights of the album include the Strangler's British new wave "Golden Brown""
  2. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 535. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  3. ^ a b c "Stranglers". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 24 June 2013. 
  4. ^ "Chart Stats - Singles Chart For 13 February 1982". Archived from the original on 2012-07-24. Retrieved 5 July 2009. 
  5. ^ Cornwell, Hugh; Drury, Jim (2001). The Stranglers Song By Song. Sanctuary Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-86074-362-5. 
  6. ^ "Golden Brown - The Stranglers Song Review". AllMusic. 1982-02-08. Retrieved 2014-04-08. 
  7. ^ " – The Stranglers – Golden Brown" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  8. ^ Dominic DURAND / InfoDisc. "Golden brown in French Chart". Retrieved 15 June 2013.  You have to use the index at the top of the page and search "Stranglers"
  9. ^ "The Stranglers - Golden Brown". Media Control.
  10. ^ a b " search results". Retrieved 5 July 2009. 
  11. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – The Stranglers search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40.
  12. ^ " – The Stranglers – Golden Brown" (in Dutch). Mega Single Top 100.
  13. ^ "Ultravox's Vienna tops 'number two' poll". BBC. 1 January 2013. Retrieved 1 January 2013. 
  14. ^ "Chart Stats - Kaleef - Golden Brown". Retrieved 5 July 2009. 
  15. ^ "Chart Stats - Omar - Golden Brown". Retrieved 5 July 2009. 
  16. ^ Steve Huey. "Emer Kenny - Emer Kenny | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-04-08. 
  17. ^ "Mariachi Mexteca site". Retrieved 3 September 2012. 

External links[edit]