Golden Brown

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"Golden Brown"
Golden Brown cover art.jpg
Single by The Stranglers
from the album La folie
B-side"Love 30"
  • 28 December 1981 (US)
  • 10 January 1982 (UK)
Format7" vinyl
The Stranglers singles chronology
"Let Me Introduce You to the Family"
"Golden Brown"
"La Folie"
The Stranglers singles 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 United Kingdom, 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.[3]

In January 2014, NME ranked the song as No. 488 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[4] It has also been recorded by many other artists.


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 No. 2 in the official UK Singles Chart in February 1982, remaining there for two weeks behind double A-sided record "Town Called Malice/Precious" by the Jam.[5][6]

The comparatively conservative BBC Radio 2, at that time a middle-of-the-road (MOR) music radio station, 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.

The single was a top 10 hit around the world, including Australia. It was also featured in the film Snatch and is included on its soundtrack album.[1]


There has been much controversy surrounding the lyrics. In his book The Stranglers Song By Song (2001), Hugh Cornwell 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."[7]

Musical composition[edit]

The main body of the song has a 3/4 feel and is pitched halfway between the keys of E minor and E-flat minor, possibly to accommodate the tuning of the harpsichord. The instrumental introduction, in (a very flat) B minor, is unconventional. The keyboard and harpsichord vamp in 3/4, and every fourth bar is in 4/4. The music was largely written by keyboardist Dave Greenfield and drummer Jet Black, with lyrics by singer/guitarist Hugh Cornwell.[8]

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 time signatures 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 and non-Arab Muslim countries (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 the Mir-i-Arab Madrasah in Bukhara, the Shah Mosque in Isfahan, 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, which was also used in the filming of the video for "Gold" by Spandau Ballet.[citation needed]

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1982) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[9] 10
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[10] 7
France (IFOP)[11] 73
Germany (Official German Charts)[12] 63
Ireland (IRMA)[13] 3
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[14] 8
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[15] 10
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[5] 2
Chart (1991)1 Peak
Ireland (IRMA)[13] 25
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[16] 68


Chart (2013) Peak
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[17] 98

"Number Two" poll[edit]

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".[18]

Cover versions[edit]

Track listing[edit]

  • Songs, lyrics and music by The Stranglers.

7": Liberty / BP 407 (UK)[edit]

Side one
  1. "Golden Brown" – 3:22
Side two
  1. "Love 30" – 3:48

1991 7": Epic / 656761 7 (UK)[edit]

Side one
  1. "Golden Brown" – 3:29
Side two
  1. "You" – 3:09

1991 cassette single: Epic / 656761 4 (UK)[edit]

Both sides
  1. "Golden Brown" – 3:29
  2. "You" – 3:09

1991 CD: Epic / 656761 2 (UK)[edit]

  1. "Golden Brown" – 3:31
  2. "Peaches" – 3:08
  3. "You" – 3:59
  4. "Skin Deep (12" Version)" – 7:09


  1. ^ a b Potts, Diana. "Original Soundtrack – Snatch". AllMusic. Retrieved 24 June 2013.
  2. ^ McNamee, David (4 January 2010). "Hey, what's that sound: Harpsichord". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  3. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 535. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  4. ^ "The 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time – 500–401". NME. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
  5. ^ a b "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 9 July 2014.
  6. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100: 14 February 1982 – 20 February 1982". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 7 March 2017.
  7. ^ Cornwell, Hugh; Drury, Jim (2001). The Stranglers Song By Song. Sanctuary Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-86074-362-5.
  8. ^ "Golden Brown – Song Review". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved 9 July 2014.
  9. ^ "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – CHART POSITIONS PRE 1989". Hung Medien. Retrieved 9 July 2014.
  10. ^ " – The Stranglers – Golden Brown" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 9 July 2014.
  11. ^ "Le Détail par Artiste" (in French). InfoDisc. Select "Stranglers" from the artist drop-down menu. Retrieved 17 May 2016.
  12. ^ " – The Stranglers – Golden Brown". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 9 July 2014.
  13. ^ a b "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Golden Brown". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 1 July 2014.
  14. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – The Stranglers - Golden Brown" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 9 July 2014.
  15. ^ " – The Stranglers – Golden Brown" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 9 July 2014.
  16. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 9 July 2014.
  17. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 24 December 2018.
  18. ^ "Ultravox's Vienna tops 'number two' poll". BBC Online. 1 January 2013. Retrieved 1 January 2013.
  19. ^ "Kaleef". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 9 July 2014.
  20. ^ "Omar". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 9 July 2014.
  21. ^ Huey, Steve. "Emer Kenny – Emer Kenny". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved 9 July 2014.
  22. ^ "Symeon Cosburn And Lea DeLaria Bring Swing To Brighton". All About Jazz. 12 February 2006. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
  23. ^ Copsey, Rob (27 October 2016). "Pointless host Alexander Armstrong covers Fields Of Gold on his new album Upon A Different Shore – watch". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 29 October 2016.

External links[edit]