Hugh Cornwell

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Hugh Cornwell
Cornwell in 2010
Cornwell in 2010
Background information
Birth nameHugh Alan Cornwell
Born (1949-08-28) 28 August 1949 (age 72)
Tufnell Park, North London, England
GenresAlternative rock, new wave, punk rock, post-punk
Occupation(s)Musician, singer-songwriter, novelist
InstrumentsVocals, guitarFender Telecaster, bass
Years active1974–present
Associated actsThe Stranglers
Websitewww.hughcornwell.com

Hugh Alan Cornwell (born 28 August 1949) is an English musician, singer-songwriter and writer, best known for being the vocalist and guitarist for the punk rock/new wave band the Stranglers from 1974 to 1990. Since leaving The Stranglers, Cornwell has gone on to record a further eight solo albums and continues to record and perform live.

Early life and career[edit]

Cornwell grew up in Tufnell Park[1] and Kentish Town and attended William Ellis School in Highgate,[2] where he played bass in a band with Richard Thompson, later a member of Fairport Convention. In the late 1960s, after earning a bachelor's degree in biochemistry from Bristol University, he embarked on post-graduate research at Lund University in Sweden. Not long after his arrival he formed the band Johnny Sox.[3]

The Stranglers[edit]

Cornwell returned to the UK in 1974 with Johnny Sox (minus Hans Wärmling). Drummer Jet Black then joined the band. At one stage it was just Cornwell and Black, who were then joined by bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel. Guitarist, Keyboardist & Saxophonist Hans Wärmling, on holiday from Sweden, joined the line-up towards the end of 1974. The Johnny Sox name was dropped, with the band adopting the name The Guildford Stranglers before settling on The Stranglers.[3]

Wärmling was soon replaced by Dave Greenfield, who joined in 1975 after answering an advertisement placed in the Melody Maker. Cornwell was the lead guitarist in the group and he also sang the majority of songs, with Burnel handling lead vocals on about a third of the band's songs. Years later, Burnel recalled that he often sang lyrics written by Cornwell, and vice-versa, depending on "who had the best voice for that particular song."[4]

By 1977 the group had secured a contract with United Artists Records. They went on to become the most commercially successful band to emerge from the UK punk scene, with numerous hit singles and record albums. He recorded his first album away from the group, Nosferatu, in collaboration with the Captain Beefheart's Magic Band's drummer, Robert Williams, in 1979.[3] Cornwell's first solo album, Wolf (1988) was produced by Ian Ritchie with additional production on two tracks by Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley who had engineered the first three Stranglers albums and produced their fourth album, The Raven.[5]

In 1990 he decided that the Stranglers could go no further artistically. He recorded the album 10 with the band before leaving after 16 years.

Post-Stranglers solo career[edit]

Live in 2010

After leaving the Stranglers, Cornwell worked with Roger Cook and Andy West as CCW. Their self-titled album was released in 1992, with five of the ten tracks co-produced by Neil Davidge. Wired (1993), produced by Gary Langan (Art of Noise) with the exception of "Ain't It Strange", which was produced by Cornwell; Guilty (1997); Hi Fi (2000) (both produced by Laurie Latham). HiFi was released on 180g vinyl in 2020 through HIS Records Ltd with a new remix by Hugh Cornwell and a remaster. Footprints in the Desert released in 2002 is Hugh's second "lost album" and compiles rare and unreleased tracks from the mid-1990s that were not part of a record deal. It was recorded in Bath with James Kadsky, who engineered the Wired album.

Beyond Elysian Fields (2004) was produced by Tony Visconti. MusicOMH described it as "something like a cross between [Bob] Dylan and Dire Straits at their best...with a dash of Travelling Wilburys for good measure". Beyond Elysian Fields was released on 180g vinyl in 2020 on HIS Records Ltd.

In June 2008 Cornwell followed in the footsteps of Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails by initially offering his new album Hooverdam as a free download on his website.[6] The album was recorded at Toe Rag Studios with record producer, Liam Watson. It was accompanied by a film, Blueprint, which depicted the recording process of the album. Cornwell explained that the film was partly motivated by the risible quality of the DVD's accompanying contemporary CD releases.[7] Blueprint was described as "an engrossing film that borrows from Godard's Sympathy For The Devil and Jewison's The Thomas Crown Affair ".[8]

The album Totem & Taboo followed in 2012; engineered and mixed by Steve Albini, it was described as "Cornwell's finest and most unashamedly epic moment since the punk era".[9] Prior to a Scottish tour that year The Herald wrote “The album yields its eloquent lyrical strengths on repeated listenings: stand-out tracks include the evocative A Street Called Carroll, Love Me Slender, I Want One of Those, a commentary on consumerism, and, unquestionably best of all, the atmospheric, nine minute noir epic, In the Dead of Night, which should become a live favourite. Cornwell's forthcoming tour sees him play the new album and the Stranglers' landmark 1977 record, No More Heroes, but Totem and Taboo is strong enough on its own."[10]. A review on the Witchdoctor.co.nz website stated that "In a world or egotistic over-achieving and slack-arse under-achieving, Hugh Cornwell knows how to play it just right, and Totem & Taboo is a master class in sticking to your guns and doing what you do well".[11]

In 2016 Cornwell joined forces with John Cooper Clarke to create the album This Time It's Personal, a collection of classic American and British pop songs from their youth. Cornwell had the idea that Clarke should apply his distinctive vocals to "MacArthur Park" and the project grew from there. Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson also makes an appearance on flute. The album was described as "a modern masterpiece from ‘Punk’s Progressive Alliance’" by LouderThanWar.com.[12]

In 2018 Cornwell signed to Sony as a solo artist and released Monster. On this album, Cornwell sings about Evel Knievel, Lou Reed, Hedy Lamarr, Benito Mussolini, Phil Silvers and many more. The title track "Monster" pays tribute to special effects wizard Ray Harryhausen, of whom George Lucas said "Without Ray Harryhausen, there would likely have been no Star Wars". Aaron Badgley of Spill magazine wrote that "This is perhaps his strongest solo album since 1997’s Guilty, and it might be even better than that album... Cornwell is a genius and Monster is just another example of his brilliant work."[13]

Films, theatre, Television and Podcasts[edit]

Hugh has an interest in acting, and has appeared in a number of productions. In the early 80s he appeared in 'Charlie's Last Stand' with Bob Hoskins and Stephen Rea at the Almeida Theatre, London. In 1987 Peter Richardson film Eat the Rich, the award-winning BBC Screen Two series (successor to Play for Today) and in the 1995 BBC production, Rumble. He has also appeared in a number of videos and short films, including Bertrand Fèvre's L'étoile de sang.[citation needed]

Hugh hosts www.mrdemillefm.com a podcast that takes his passion for movies and explores it through interviews and episodes on careers and themes. Guests have included Debbie Harry, Brian Eno and Sir David Puttnam

Cricket[edit]

A cricket fan, Cornwell appeared on the 'Jamie Theakston Cricket Show' on BBC Radio 5 Live in 2001. He played a live acoustic version of "(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)" with the then England batsman and guitarist Mark Butcher. Cornwell subsequently became a player with Bunbury Cricket Club, and has been a guest on 'A View From The Boundary' on BBC Radio Four's Test Match Special and BBC Radio 5 Live's Yes It's The Ashes.

Books[edit]

Cornwell has written five books:

  • Inside Information (1980) tells of the time he spent in Pentonville prison for drug possession
  • The Stranglers – Song by Song (2001) guides the reader through all of The Stranglers catalogue
  • A Multitude of Sins (2004)[14] is his autobiography
  • Window on the World (July 2011) ISBN 978-0-7043-7230-6 is a novel
  • Arnold Drive, ISBN 978-1-78352-052-7, was published in 2014.[15] It is a novel[16]
  • Future Tense, was published on 8 October 2020[17] by HIS and is available exclusively through Amazon/KDP Books.

Discography[edit]

Studio albums[edit]

Live albums[edit]

Compilation albums[edit]

  • Beyond Acoustic Fields (2008) (acoustic recordings of tracks of Beyond Elysian Fields, limited edition to buy on tour only)
  • You're Covered, Limited to 250 copies on Cornwell's 2011 tour, features covers of Cornwell's influences
  • The Fall And Rise of Hugh Cornwell, a compilation of tracks spanning Hugh Cornwell's solo career, including a brand new track "Live it and Breathe It" (2015)

Collaborations[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Hugh Cornwell - Interview".
  2. ^ Hann, Michael; Berwick, Isabel (19 July 2020). "London walks: A rock tour of Camden and Kentish Town". Financial Times.
  3. ^ a b c Gimarc, George (2005) Punk Diary: The Ultimate Trainspotter's Guide to Underground Rock 1970-1982, Backbeat Books, ISBN 0-87930-848-6, p. 9, 262
  4. ^ "Stranglers - Interview with Jean-Jacques Burnel". Pennyblackmusic.co.uk. Retrieved 10 May 2020.
  5. ^ Sillitoe, Sue. "Clive Langer & Alan Winstanley". Sound on Sound. SOS Publications. Retrieved 21 November 2021.
  6. ^ "Hoover Dam - Record Collector Magazine". Retrieved 18 September 2021.
  7. ^ Anderson, Vicky. "Cornwell speaking to the Liverpool Daily Post in June 2006". Liverpooldailypost.co.uk. Retrieved 2 March 2012.
  8. ^ "North by Northeast: Hugh Cornwell Blueprint". Nxne.bside.com. Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. Retrieved 2 March 2012.
  9. ^ August 2012, Dom Lawson 15 (15 August 2012). "Hugh Cornwell: Totem And Taboo". loudersound. Retrieved 18 September 2021.
  10. ^ "CD review Hugh Cornwell Totem and Taboo Cadiz Music". HeraldScotland. Retrieved 18 September 2021.
  11. ^ Steel, Gary (9 October 2014). "Hugh Cornwell – Totem & Taboo (Cadiz/Southbound) CD REVIEW". witchdoctor.co.nz. Retrieved 18 September 2021.
  12. ^ Jennings, Dave (29 October 2016). "This Time It's Personal: Dr John Cooper Clarke and Hugh Cornwell – Album Review". Louder Than War. Retrieved 13 September 2021.
  13. ^ "SPILL ALBUM REVIEW: HUGH CORNWELL - MONSTER". The Spill Magazine. 5 October 2018. Retrieved 18 September 2021.
  14. ^ A Multitude of Sins – 1st release: Harper Collins, 4 October 2004, ISBN 0-00-719082-4; 2nd release: 4 April 2005, ISBN 0-00-719325-4
  15. ^ Arnold Drive by Hugh Cornwell. Unbound.co.uk. 2014. ISBN 9781783520510. Retrieved 26 January 2014.
  16. ^ "Book review: Arnold Drive by Hugh Cornwell".
  17. ^ "Future Tense Novel". 17 July 2020.
  18. ^ "In the Dock". trackrecords.co.uk. 24 March 2003. Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. Retrieved 2 March 2012.
  19. ^ "Sons of Shiva". trackrecords.co.uk. Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. Retrieved 2 March 2012.
  20. ^ "John W. Sexton profile". doghousebooks.ie. Retrieved 2 March 2012.
  21. ^ "John W. Sexton profile". obrien.ie. Retrieved 2 March 2012.
  22. ^ "John Cooper Clarke and Hugh Cornwell to release 'This Time It's Personal' album". Music-news.com. 14 July 2016. Retrieved 10 October 2016.

External links[edit]