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'A Multitude Of Sins'
HarperCollins Entertainment (4 Oct 2004)
ISBN-10: 0007190824
ISBN-13: 978-0007190829

Borrowed this off a fellow Stranglers fan at work signed by the
author too. My fascination with the Stranglers goes a long way
back, right up till the very first punk record I ever bought
(Rattus Norvegicus). A set that still gets played religiously
even today on my iPod. The band were so much of an
influence on my teens I even succumbed to wearing a shoe
lace round my neck just like Hugh during his 77/78 period. A
few years ago I'd read Hugh's incredibly interesting book on
the Stranglers recordings called 'Song By Song' which I really
should review as its a far more fascinating insight Into how
the band developed their early songwriting prowess. The
77/78 Stranglers soundtrack will always go down in my all time
best punk sounds, which was always the main focus for me.

But I gotta say after reading this autobiography I did find 'Multitude
Of Sins' a bit of a let down. Hugh was no doubt a gifted singer/songwriter in his Stranglers
era, and anyone who could make a song like 'Peaches' sound so defiantly sleazy is a true
maverick in my eyes. His vocal delivery far outshone his guitar work as he gave those
epic songs the meaning and intent that sealed their dark notoriety in punk folklore. But
outside the Stranglers he doesn't quite live up to the colourful sinner in the title of this
book? We rarely get inside the man behind the name. However the early beginnings of his
story were a blitz to read through, as he joined bands on a whim, smoked a lotta dope and
skimped his way through University. Where he somehow ended up relocating to Sweden
on a bio-chemistry placement. He honed his singer/songwriting craft in this era. I did find
his early Swedish band (Johnny Sox) adventure and musical heritage slightly yawn
inspiring and even hippy. A style which he seems to have reverted back to in some
respects on his later solo career.
He returned to the UK with a couple of Swedish band mates in tow to try their luck here.

He scammed a supply teaching post after dropping outta university which enabled him to
resume his band duty's with new comrades, and found drummer Jet Black in 1974. Bass
JJ Burnel joined later in '74 with Dave Greenfield on keyboards completing the
line-up in '75 after the Swedish duo headed home. The Stranglers were born. From an
unlikely assortment of characters t
hese 4 misfits would grow into one of the biggest and
successful new bands to emerge out the prototype
UK punk scene. Vying with the Pistols
and Clash for public acclaim.
It's here the book really starts to pick up as we brush against rivalrys, ego's and the usual
quota of rock 'n' roll episodes that blight a bands progression. But
as for sins, Hugh
seems rather cagey and keeps all the really juicy or scandalous tit bits of his Stranglers
out of reach. Or was it that he simply didn't antagonise or lead such a really
colourful lifestyle as we'd once thought? The sins in this book encompass mainly drug
related offenses. You get the feeling Hugh isn't or wasn't really a Misogynist Strangler as
the press quite often related to him. And he seems a little less intriguing for it. The press
reaction to the band seems from Hugh's point of view to totally misinterpret what he was
all about. W
hich is a shame as it lends that dark violent, vibe the band emitted with less
bite in the 21st century.
Either he's not disclosing a lot due to litigation or the threat of JJ's
karate chops? But you do get the feeling Hugh is from a more musically experimental era,
rather than an out and out rock rebel. He's a very astute man, an intellectual, but you can't help
feeling his rebellious punk phase was brought on more by being a victim of
circumstance, rather than actual skullduggery. He completely skims over his relationship
with Hazel O'Connor and seems more happy to tell us about boring old musical farts he
admired or name drops.
Drugs do play a large part in his make up during his
Stranglers period. I was led to believe the band nearly
imploded during the darker early 80's era when UFOs,
paranoia, Heroin and dark forces seemed to be
conspiring against the band. The Stranglers drug of
choice was speed, which was prominent all through the
early punk scene. However injecting Heroin was a
bridge too far. It seems Hugh and JJ (or John as Hugh
refers to him) indulged in smoking Heroin for
experimental purposes only. And for a very brief space
in time. But it inevitably did take its toll on their
friendship a
nd the band. A relationship that initially
saw the younger JJ look up to Hugh as an elder
brother. But as time wore on the explosive JJ would
resent Hugh's front man role. They did have a few
altercations. Which innevitably led to Hugh leaving the
Stranglers in 1990. Which is exactly where the story
goes cold again.
Hugh's Stranglers days does see a large chunk of the
book, but not as much as we'd like. We get to hear
about the Hells Angels connection, his mate in Sweden
who was an armed robber and various run ins with the
music business. Another phase I was interested to
read about was his prison experience which was much
publicised in the music press at the time when he was arrested in possession of illegal substances and sentenced to 2 months in Pentonville in 1980.
His stay behind bars was very uneventful for a bonafide Strangler. And seems more of a space filler as only the screws recognised his artistic work
whilst inside, whereas the fellow cons just seem to see him like any other faceless guy doing a short stretch for drug possession.
I had visions of him
playing acoustic sets of 'Rattus' to fellow cell rats. But guitars weren't allowed in those days boo hoo.
Hugh Cornwell comes across as a loner and
more of a wandering minstrel than a bonafide sinner. His biggest sin seems to be
name dropping. However Hugh doesn't seem bitter and from what I
can tell would shake the bands hands if he seen em in the street. However with JJ its irreconcilable (on JJ's part). They still don't communicate
although I get the feeling Hugh would. So any Stranglers reformation will never happen which is a pity, as their substitute singers never had Hugh's
salubrious presence or acidic delivery.  

PETER DON'T CARE (26th September 2010)
The Stranglers 1978 : Dave, Jet, JJ and Hugh (DC Collection)
Hugh Cornwell fronting the Stranglers 1978 (DC Collection)
Hugh's autograph (DC Collection)
'A Multitude Of Sins' (2004)