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Hugh Cornwell (born Hugh Alan Cornwell, 28 August 1949, Tufnell Parkmarker, North Londonmarker) is an Englishmarker musician and songwriter, best known for being the vocalist and guitarist for punk/new wave group, The Stranglers, from 1974 to 1990.


Cornwell grew up in Tufnell Parkmarker and Kentish Townmarker and attended William Ellis Schoolmarker in Highgatemarker, where he played bass in a band with Richard Thompson, later a member of Fairport Convention. In the late 1960s, after earning a B.A. in biochemistry from Bristol Universitymarker, he embarked on post-graduate research post in Lund Universitymarker (Swedenmarker). Not long after his arrival he formed the band Johnny Sox.

Cornwell returned to the UKmarker in 1974 with Johnny Sox (minus Hans Wärmling). Jet Black then joined the band. At one stage it's just Hugh and Jet who are then joined by Jean Jacques Burnel. Hans Wärmling, on holiday from Sweden, joins line-up towards the end of 1974. Johnny Sox name is then dropped and the band tour under the name The Guildford Stranglers and eventually The Stranglers.

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.

By 1977 the group had secured a recording contract with the United Artists record label; they went on to become the highest selling band to emerge from the UK punk scene, with numerous hit singles and albums.

By the time Cornwell reached his thirties, the British punk scene had started to fade, and this was instrumental in prompting him to begin 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.

In 1990 he decided that the band could go no further artistically. He recorded the album 10 with the band before leaving after 16 years. He described life with the Stranglers as "brilliant", though his biographical writing attests to many conflicts within the band, particularly with Burnel.

Since leaving The Stranglers, 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 Statesmarker. 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.

In December 2006 Cornwell toured with Blondie in the UK and in September 2007 with Robert Williams. Three new songs were previewed, "Bangin' On", "Please Don't Put Me On A Slow Boat To Trowbridge" and "Delightful Nightmare". After this tour, the drum stool was taken over by Chris Bell, completing the current trio along with bassist Caroline Campbell.

In June 2008, Cornwell followed in the footsteps of Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails by offering his new album Hoover Dam as a free download on his website. Hoover Dam 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. Blueprint has been described as "an engrossing film that borrows from Godard's "Sympathy For The Devil" and Jewison's The Thomas Crown Affair". The film had an extremely limited theatre release in June 2008, with Cornwell attending each screening and taking part in a Q&A session at the end of the film. In February and March 2009, with rhythm section Caroline Campbell and Chris Bell, Cornwell took Hoover Dam on a tour of the UK and Francemarker, playing the whole album in order, followed by a mix of older solo and Stranglers material. On 26 June 2009, they played at the Glastonbury Festivalmarker.

In Autumn/Winter 2009 Hugh and band toured America and the UK playing Hooverdam and Rattus Norvegicus albums back to back. In an interview Hugh mentioned that the theme and title of the next album is decided.


A cricket fan, Cornwell appeared on the 'Jamie Theakston Cricket Show' on Radio Five 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 has subsequently become 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 three 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) is his autobiography.

His next book, Window to the World, will be a work of fiction.


Hugh Cornwell's full discography, including his work with The Stranglers, can be found here


  1. Cornwell speaking to the Liverpool Daily Post in June 2006
  2. North by Northeast: Hugh Cornwell Blueprint
  3. A Multitude of Sins - 1st release: Harper Collins, 4 October 2004, ISBN 0007190824; 2nd release: 4 April 2005, ISBN 0007193254

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