|The Star Inn on Quarry Street, Guildford|
Guildford is where The Stranglers were formed back in 1974, it gave them their original name The Guildford Stranglers and I guess it's the band's spiritual home despite none of the members actually coming from the town. After all, Hugh Cornwell and JJ Burnel were born in London, Jet Black in Essex and Dave Greenfield comes from Brighton. Despite the band's fearsome reputation I was surprised to discover that most of the locations involved are surprisingly posh. Guildford itself boasts an attractive High Street that thankfully still retains a bit of character, rare in most of England's generic town centres these days. Then there's Chiddingfold, Bramley, Shalford, Godalming - even the names conjure up images of cricket on the village green and afternoon tea - hardly the high-rise council flats along The Clash's Westway or riot hit Notting Hill and Ladbroke Grove. It's certainly all a far cry from the working class streets of Joy Division's Macclesfield or Salford and the polar opposite to 1970's Lower East Side of New York's legendary CBGB's scene either. But, I guess this suits The Stranglers down to the ground - I mean they were always outsiders - unfairly derided in the music press as being too old, too clever or too musical to be "real" Punks and often airbrushed out of trendy Punk retrospectives and exhibitions. However, despite the leafy suburban commuter belt area that saw the band's formation, The Stranglers always had far more menace, danger and genuine Punk attitude than the majority of their safety-pinned, dyed-haired contemporaries. Music journalists, fellow musicians, record companies and sometimes even their own audiences felt the wrath of their seething anger and distrust.
|Guildford High Street|
|Bramley Village Hall, an early rehearsal room|
|Royal Grammar School, Guildford|
|The site of Jet's old Off-licence The Jackpot|
|Anderton's Music Store (new location)|
|The band's house in Chiddingfold|
The band had been living and rehearsing above Jet's off-licence and songs such as "Sometimes" came from this period, but when the premises were earmarked for redevelopment, Jet sold up and rented a large cottage on Coxcombe Lane in Chiddingfold, an idyllic English village a few miles south of Guildford. They weren't made to feel very welcome by their new neighbours or even their own landlord for that matter, who at one stage even tried to evict them, changing the locks in the hope of forcing them out. Unfortunately for the locals, this didn't stop the band and they continued squatting at the property for a while afterwards. Hugh has since stated in interviews that he enjoyed his time at Chiddingfold, he was lucky to have the best room in the house which was conducive to songwriting and he liked to sit in the garden relaxing while JJ played acoustic guitar and songs like "Goodbye Toulouse" and "(Get a) Grip (On Yourself)" were written here.
|Chiddingfold, village green preservation society!|
|The Crown Inn, Chiddingfold|
They were pretty poor at the time and Hugh admitted in one interview that they used to go to the Crown Inn, an historic pub on the nearby village green to consume pints of Guinness and packets of mixed nuts and raisins as it was all they could afford and they thought this would constitute a healthy balanced diet! The band even performed under the hilarious name, The Chiddingfold Chokers so the village had an undoubted place in their hearts! Hugh actually returned to Chiddingfold in October 2000 to play a show at the since demolished Chiddingfold Live Music Club around the release of his "Hi-Fi" album. The Stranglers also held early rehearsals in Bramley Village Hall and in the highly unlikely location of the Shalford Scouts Hut, which still stands to this day.
|Shalford Scout Hut|
|The Royal Hotel Stoughton, now the Beijing Restaurant|
In December 1974, they played their first ever gig at The Star Inn in Quarry Street right in the centre of the town and also secured a residency at the Royal Hotel in Stoughton on Worplesdon Road, which is now the Beijing Chinese Restaurant. Fast forward forty five years later to January 2019 and the PRS Music For Heritage 'Plaque-in-Black' on the outside of The Star Inn was officially unveiled by JJ, Jet, Dave and Baz Warne alongside the Mayor of Guildford and I'm sure the irony wasn't lost on the band that day. After all, this was the council that not only banned The Stranglers from the Civic Hall but also any other Punk Rock gigs in the town. In fact, I'm just reading the excellent new autobiography "Remain In Love" by Chris Frantz and he mentions that the Ramones & Talking Heads show scheduled in Guildford was pulled at the last minute thanks to this ban.
|G-Live Guildford, built on the site of the old Civic Hall|
|The Stranglers on stage at G-Live Guildford, 2013|
Talking of being banned...G-Live, Guildford's largest music venue and now a regular stop on Stranglers tour itineraries is located on the site of the old Civic Hall - scene of a riot at one of the band's early gigs that, as alluded to above, saw them getting banned by the local Council. Then there was the infamous gig at the University of Surrey in 1978 that was being filmed for the "Rock Goes To College" TV series. The band were angry that their request to offer tickets to local fans, not just for students was being ignored but they kept quiet right up until the fifth song in their set "Hanging Around" after which Hugh slagged off the crowd and the University and walked off stage. Following this, the Student Union decided to ban The Stranglers too - leaving them nowhere left to play in Guildford. I think you can safely say that this was when the love/hate relationship between The Stranglers and their adopted hometown of Guildford turned into strictly a hate/hate relationship for a pretty long time after!
"Guildford University never represented Guildford, we hate playing to elitist audiences so f**k off..."
All photos copyright Retro Man Blog. Please do get in touch if there are any glaring inaccuracies and I'd also love to hear from anyone with personal memories and stories relating to their own experiences with The Stranglers and Guildford which may be included in a follow-up feature. With thanks to Malcolm Wyatt from WriteWyatt Blog for filling in some of the blanks. Here's some recommended reading..."No Mercy" by David Buckley, "Stranglers Song by Song" by Hugh Cornwell & Jim Drury, "A Multitude of Sins" by Hugh Cornwell, "Peaches: A Chronicle 1974-1990" by Robert Endeacott. Further online reading can be found at the following places: The Stranglers official web-site, Hugh Cornwell official web-site, WriteWyatt Blog, Strangled web-site, FamilyInBlack Facebook Group, Burning Up Time Facebook Group, Proud To Be a Stranglers Fan Facebook Group, SIS Japan Facebook Group.