Jean-Jacques Burnel

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Jean-Jacques "JJ" Burnel
With the Stranglers, Chicago 2013
With the Stranglers, Chicago 2013
Background information
Birth nameJean-Jacques Burnel
Born (1952-02-21) 21 February 1952 (age 68)
Notting Hill, London, England
OriginGuildford, England
GenresRock, punk rock, new wave, post-punk, folk
Occupation(s)Musician, singer-songwriter, producer
InstrumentsBass guitar, guitar, vocals
Years active1974–present
Associated actsThe Stranglers

Jean-Jacques "JJ" Burnel[1] (born 21 February 1952 in Notting Hill, London) is a Franco-English musician, producer and songwriter, best known as the bass guitarist with the English rock band the Stranglers.

Life and career[edit]

Jean-Jacques Burnel was born in Notting Hill, London, to French parents. As a child, as the son of French immigrants, he was often the victim of mockery from his schoolmates,[2] which later led him to call himself John to disguise his French origins. This early encounter with xenophobia would also have an impact on his explosive temper in life and on stage[3] as well as on the way he plays.[4]

He moved with his parents to Godalming, Surrey, when he was 12 years old and attended the Royal Grammar School, Guildford, subsequently reading history at the University of Bradford and Huddersfield Polytechnic.[5] Burnel originally trained as a classical guitarist, but adopted the bass guitar as his instrument within The Stranglers.[6] He has provided lead vocals on nearly a third of the band's songs, though Burnel later explained he often sang lyrics written by Hugh Cornwell (or vice versa) depending on "who had the best voice for that particular song."[7]

Burnel has been a member of the Stranglers since the group's inception in 1974, but has also made two solo albums: Euroman Cometh in 1979, and Un Jour Parfait in 1988, as well as a collaborative album with fellow Stranglers member Dave Greenfield, Fire and Water (Ecoutez Vos Murs) in 1983.[8] Burnel has also produced and appeared as a guest musician for a number of artists, such as Lizard and ARB from Japan, Polyphonic Size (from Belgium) and Taxi Girl's album Seppuku in 1981, as well as Laurent Sinclair's "Devant le Miroir" maxi single. Burnel also formed a rhythm and blues covers band, the Purple Helmets, who played a number of concerts and released two albums in the late 1980s.

As a French citizen, Burnel received his call-up papers for national service in France. He succeeded in avoiding it with a novel defence, arguing that his absence would indirectly damage the Stranglers as a band, and therefore the careers of the other members. This was in accordance with Burnel's claim that only the "bourgeois" would ever agree to serve their country's military.

Burnel composed and performed music for the anime Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo, including both the opening and ending themes, "We Were Lovers", and "You Won't See Me Coming" respectively.

Burnel is fluent in French and writes many of his songs in the language.

Equipment and sound[edit]

Shuker JJ Burnel signature bass headstock

Burnel is noted for his distinctive bass guitar sound and melodic bass lines. These are particularly prominent on earlier Stranglers recordings produced by Martin Rushent, such as the hit singles "No More Heroes" and "Peaches".

In the early days, Burnel's distinctive aggressive sound was created using a Fender Precision Bass with RotoSound roundwound strings played with a plectrum very close to the bridge, through Hiwatt all-valve amplification.[9] However, the defining factor was the use of a Marshall 4x12 speaker cabinet in which the speaker cones were ripped, creating a distorted sound.[10]

Later, he used a Yamaha BB2000, a Steinberger L2 (headless), and a Kinkade acoustic bass. He currently plays Shuker JJ Burnel signature basses custom-built in England by Jon Shuker.[11]

He was one of the first bass guitarists to use Trace Elliot amplification when the company began production in 1980. He now uses amplification by Ashdown Engineering who have honoured him with his own JJ500 signature amps.[12]

Personal life[edit]

As of 2015, Burnel was a 7th degree black belt (nanadan) in Shidokan Karate[13] and is head of Shidokan UK.[14] He is also a motorcyclist and has owned many Triumph motorbikes.[15]


The Stranglers[edit]



  • "Freddie Laker (Concorde & Eurobus)" (1979), B-side "Ozymandias"
  • "Girl from the Snow Country" (1981) deleted prior to release due to dispute with record label, but also released as a bootleg on "Karate Records".
  • "Rain & Dole and Tea"/"Consequences" (1984) (with Dave Greenfield)
  • "Goebbels, Mosley, God & Ingrams" (1988) flexi-disc release of an outtake from Euroman Cometh sessions
  • "Le Whiskey"/"El Whiskey" (1988)
  • "Reves"/"Crazy (She Drives Me)" (1988)


  1. ^ Matilda Battersby (29 July 2010). "My life in ten questions...The Stranglers’ Jean-Jacques Burnel – Profiles – People – The Independent". The Independent. London: INM. ISSN 0951-9467. OCLC 185201487. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
  2. ^ Mathilda Battersby (29 July 2010). "My life in ten questions...The Stranglers' Jean-Jacques Burnel". The Independent. Retrieved 12 May 2013.
  3. ^ "Jean-Jacques Burnel interview". 1995. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  4. ^ Davet, Stéphane (18 February 2004). "Jean-Jacques Burnel, le punk ressuscité" (in French). Missing or empty |url= (help)
  5. ^ Buckley 1997, pp.16–18.
  6. ^ Buckley 1997, p.17.
  7. ^ "Stranglers – Interview with Jean-Jacques Burnel". Retrieved 7 May 2020.
  8. ^ Buckley 1997, pp.136–137.
  9. ^ Buckley 1997, p. 90.
  10. ^ Hugh Cornwell, The Stranglers Song by Song,
  11. ^ Shuker Guitars,"Players", Shuker, 2017. Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  12. ^ Ashdown Engineering, "Jean-Jacques Burnel", Ashdown, 2018. Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  13. ^ "Shidokan GB". Retrieved 14 February 2015.
  14. ^ "Interview: Jean Jacques Burnel, bass guitarist and founder of the Stranglers". Scotland on Sunday. Retrieved 11 June 2010.
  15. ^ Buckley 1997, p.18.
  16. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 86. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  • Buckley, David. No Mercy – The Authorised and Uncensored Biography of The Stranglers. London. Hodder and Stoughton. 1997. ISBN 0-340-68062-8

Further reading[edit]

  • Cornwell, Hugh, A Multitude of Sins. London. Harper Collins Publishers, 2004. ISBN 0-00-719082-4
  • Cornwell, Hugh and Drury, Jim. The Stranglers – Song by Song. London. Sanctuary Publishing Ltd. 2001 ISBN 1-86074-362-5

External links[edit]