Hugh Cornwell

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.

Hugh Cornwell
Cornwell in 2010
Cornwell in 2010
Background information
Birth nameHugh Alan Cornwell
Born (1949-08-28) 28 August 1949 (age 71)
Tufnell Park, North London, England
GenresAlternative rock, new wave, punk rock, post-punk
Occupation(s)Musician, singer-songwriter, novelist
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, bass
Years active1974–present
Associated actsThe Stranglers

Early life and careerEdit

Cornwell grew up in Tufnell Park and Kentish Town and attended William Ellis School in Highgate, 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.[1]

The StranglersEdit

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. Keyboardist 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.[1]

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."[2]

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.

By the time Cornwell reached his thirties, the British punk scene was beginning to fragment, which informed his decision to embark upon a solo career. 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.[1]

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 careerEdit

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. Cornwell has released several solo albums including Wolf (1988) produced by Ian Ritchie, Wired (1993), Guilty (1997), Hi Fi (2000), Footprints in the Desert (2002), Mayday (2002), In the Dock (2003), and Beyond Elysian Fields (2004). Wired, Guilty and Hi Fi were released under different names, and with slightly different track listings, in the United States. Beyond Elysian Fields was initially released by Track Records in the UK, followed by Invisible Hands Music in the rest of the world, with expanded artwork. In 2006 a live album in two forms appeared: People Places Pieces, a triple CD box set, accompanied by a simultaneously released mass-market highlights disc, Dirty Dozen. The 12-track highlights disc, Live It and Breathe It, was released in 2005 in advance of the box set.

Cornwell playing at Guilfest 2011

In June 2008 Cornwell followed in the footsteps of Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails by offering his new album Hooverdam as a free download on his website. Hooverdam was recorded at Toe Rag Studios with record producer, Liam Watson. The album 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 DVDs accompanying contemporary CD releases.[3] Blueprint was described as "an engrossing film that borrows from Godard's "Sympathy For The Devil" and Jewison's "The Thomas Crown Affair".[4]

He released solo records Totem and Taboo and Monster during the 2010s and continues to tour as part of his three-piece solo band. In a 2018 interview he was critical of the Stranglers' current lineup, saying: "I'll be playing The Stranglers’ hits when I tour this album, because I think people are no longer associating me with those songs after 28 years. They have been sequestered by a bogus version of the group with only two original members."[5]

Films, theatre and televisionEdit

Cornwell has an interest in acting, and has appeared in a number of productions including the 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]


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.


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)[6] 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.[7]
  • A new novel, Future Tense, has been published on 8 October 2020 by Cameron Publicity and Marketing, LTD.


Studio albumsEdit

Live albumsEdit

Compilation albumsEdit

  • 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 High Cornwell, a compilation of tracks spanning Hugh Cornwell's solo career, including a brand new track "Live it and Breathe It" (2015)



  1. ^ 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
  2. ^ "Stranglers - Interview with Jean-Jacques Burnel". Retrieved 10 May 2020.
  3. ^ Anderson, Vicky. "Cornwell speaking to the Liverpool Daily Post in June 2006". Retrieved 2 March 2012.
  4. ^ "North by Northeast: Hugh Cornwell Blueprint". Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. Retrieved 2 March 2012.
  5. ^ Hugh Cornwell defends songs about Mussolini and Mugabe on new album - The Irish News. 28 June 2018. Retrieved 15 March 2019.
  6. ^ 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
  7. ^ "Arnold Drive by Hugh Cornwell". Retrieved 26 January 2014.
  8. ^ "In the Dock". 24 March 2003. Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. Retrieved 2 March 2012.
  9. ^ "Sons of Shiva". Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. Retrieved 2 March 2012.
  10. ^ "John W. Sexton profile". Retrieved 2 March 2012.
  11. ^ "John W. Sexton profile". Retrieved 2 March 2012.
  12. ^ "John Cooper Clarke and Hugh Cornwell to release 'This Time It's Personal' album". 14 July 2016. Retrieved 10 October 2016.

External linksEdit