Hugh Alan Cornwell (born 28 August 1949, Tufnell Park, North London, England) is an English musician and singer-songwriter, best known for being the vocalist and guitarist for the punk rock/new wave band, The Stranglers, from 1974 to 1990.
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.
Cornwell returned to the UK in 1974 with Johnny Sox (minus Hans Wärmling). Jet Black then joined the band. At one stage it was just Cornwell and Black, who were then joined by Jean-Jacques Burnel. Hans Wärmling, on holiday from Sweden, joined the line-up towards the end of 1974. The Johnny Sox name was then dropped and the band toured 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 contract with United Artists Records; they went on to become the highest-selling 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 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 sixteen years.
Post-Stranglers solo career:
After leaving The Stranglers, Cornwell worked with Roger Cook and Andy West as CCW. Their self-titled album was released in 1992, with five 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.
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, with bassist Caroline Campbell completing the current trio.
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.Blueprint was described as "an engrossing film that borrows from Godard's "Sympathy For The Devil" and Jewison's The Thomas Crown Affair". The film had a 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 the rhythm section of Campbell and Bell, Cornwell took Hooverdam on a tour of the UK and France, 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 Festival.
In late 2009 Cornwell and his band toured the US and the UK, playing the Hooverdam and Rattus Norvegicus albums back to back.
In October and November 2010 Cornwell toured the US, with Steve Fishman on bass and vocals and Clem Burke from Blondie on drums. At the Mercury Lounge they were also joined onstage by Tim Wheeler.
On 23 September 2011 Cornwell announced details of a new album, Totem & Taboo, via the direct-to-fan platform Pledgemusic, which was available to pre-order along with a number of other exclusive, signed and unique items and experiences, many of which were designed by Cornwell. The album was released on 10 September 2012.
His solo gigs typically consist of a three-piece band, with Cornwell on guitar and vocals, and backed by drums and bass guitar. His band does not usually use keyboards. During an interview with the BBC's David Burns on 31 October 2014, he cited the stripped-down three-piece as his preferred musical format, likening it to the classic Jimi Hendrix and Cream formats.
Films, theatre and television:
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 and Ben Thomas' Somewhere.
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) is his autobiography,
Window on the World (July 2011) ISBN 978-0-7043-7230-6 is a novel,
A fifth book and second novel, Arnold Drive, ISBN 978-1-78352-052-7, was published in 2014.