Home' Rhythms Magazine : Rhythms March-April 2019 Contents 23
By Christopher Hollow
f Hugh Cornwell had his way, he’d talk
cricket all night. Calling in from Wiltshire,
he’s keen to talk about the upcoming
Ashes, the recent Indian series and the
plight of disgraced batsmen Steve Smith
and David Warner. If it’s not cricket, it’s
I’m happy to talk cricket and films, too, but
I’ve been squiring away some music queries
for some time. Both Australia and I have
had a long association with the
music of Cornwell and the
Stranglers. ‘Golden Brown’
dominated many people’s fave
compilation of all-time, 1982
With a Bullet, while songs like
‘Skin Deep’ and ‘Always the
Sun’ were bigger hits here than
in Hugh’s native UK.
Hugh’s latest record, Monster,
is interesting too – a concept
album of sorts that sees
Cornwell singing about a
variety of 20th Century icons
like daredevil Evel Knievel,
Hollywood star Hedy Lamarr,
fascist Italian dictator Benito
Mussolini and the King of
Chutzpah, comedian Phil
Silvers aka Sgt. Bilko.
I’ve been wanting to ask you
this for a long time: when I
say ‘Golden Brown’ is the best
song Arthur Lee and Love
never wrote, are my ears
Oh, really, I hadn’t even
thought of that. That’s the
first time I’ve heard those two
things – Arthur Lee and ‘Golden
Brown’ – together at the same
time. That’s pretty interesting.
I just realised that, you’re right,
there could be something
Obviously, the harpsichord and the time
signature is very Love.
You’re absolutely correct. You’ve just
given me something to think about, that’s
amazing. I’ve never made that connection
before but, honestly, that’s remarkable.
Normally, I’m always writing a song and
saying, ‘Shit, does this sound too much
like a song by Love?’ Forever Changes was
always being played when I was a student.
But I wasn’t familiar with the other albums
that they’d made, I came to them later.
What’s the best way one of your songs has
been used in a film?
The one that blew me off my chair was
‘Peaches’ at the beginning of Sexy Beast.
For some reason I wasn’t aware of the fact
that it’d been used. I went to the cinema
to see it with a girlfriend and it came on.
She said, ‘Why didn’t you tell me about
this?’ and my jaw dropped. In the end, I was
relieved because it was a great film. There’s
nothing worse than having your music in a
If I said that ‘Always the Sun’ sounds
very Australian, would you take that as a
Yeah, sure. I’d say that was serendipity.
What’s in the newer version of ‘Always the
Sun’ that might’ve been missing on the
There’s no acoustic guitar on the original.
It’s one of the songs that works well,
acoustically. It’s funny, some of the big,
obvious Stranglers songs don’t work at all
as acoustic versions. I get bored playing
them, I think, that hasn’t turned me on at
all and I avoid them. Whereas, some of the
more obscure ones do work well and I did
an album, Restoration, that was a product
of that investigation of those acoustic tours.
Every time I go into the catalogue, I find
something else that’s a surprise.
On your latest record, Monster, you’ve
chosen to write about some heroes
of yesteryear. There’s a theory that
millennials don’t know who Marlon Brando
is. What chance do they have of knowing
Hedy Lamarr or Phil Silvers?
Well, I don’t really care. Maybe there’ll be
some younger people pick up the record
and enjoy it and it might stimulate a desire
to find out who these people are. The thing
is: it doesn’t matter how gifted
a fiction writer you are, you
couldn’t come up with more
interesting stories than these
people lived. I mean, Hedy
Lamarr’s life? She was an
inventor and involved in the
technology that later led to
Bluetooth and wifi. She also
hosted dinners for Adolph
Hitler when she was married
to Austria’s richest man, an
arms dealer. She was also the
first woman to take her clothes
German film called Ecstasy.
What about Evel Knievel, a
daredevil who every boy in the
I deliberately wrote ‘Pure Evel’
as if I was him, which made it
more interesting and personal.
I came across him via a film
with George Hamilton playing
him, a biopic from 1971, and it’s
pretty good. He just seemed
like an obvious choice thinking
of classic motorbiking films
like Easy Rider. He was a pretty
amazing guy, larger-than-life.
What’s the weirdest place
you’ve heard one of your songs
being played for you?
I tell you what, we had just finished playing
a festival last year and we went back to
our designated dressing room and I heard
these familiar sounds outside. I looked and
playing in a little tent was a covers band and
they were playing, ‘No More Heroes’.
Did you go down and show them, this is
the way you play it?
(Laughing) No, I was chuffed. Listen, if
someone is prepared to play it, they can
play it anyway they want.
Hugh Cornwell is touring Australia in May.
Check rhythms.com.au for dates.
A Chat With Hugh Cornwell
The former Strangler’s latest recording is a concept album about 20th century icons.
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