JJ Burnel, Richard Jobson and John Ellis on the cover of ‘The Stranglers and Friends Live in Concert’
Busted for possession of various drugs late in 1979, Hugh Cornwell was tried the following January and sentenced to an eight-week stretch in Pentonville. The sentence was bad news for Hugh, and it was bad news for ticketholders to the Stranglers’ upcoming engagement at the Rainbow with opening acts UB40 and the Monochrome Set (night one) and Joy Division and Section 25 (night two).
The Stranglers rallied. Instead of canceling the Rainbow dates, they put together a special set with guests from the Cure, the Members, Steel Pulse, Hawkwind, Stiff Little Fingers, Dr. Feelgood and the Vibrators. Hazel O’Connor, Toyah Willcox, Ian Dury and Richard Jobson took turns at the mike, and the missing singer and guitarist was hung in effigy to mark his absence.
Best of all, they got Peter Hammill to sing two songs from The Raven, the title tune and “Shah Shah A Go Go,” along with the crowd-crushing first track from Black and White, “Tank.” On the second night’s performance of “Tank,” they managed to reunite Hammill with his sometime collaborator, the good, great and excellent guitarist Robert Fripp. “Tank” was the only number to feature both men; Fripp also played on the evening’s versions of “Threatened” and “Toiler on the Sea,” the latter sung by Quadrophenia star Phil Daniels.
JJ Burnel and Ian Dury onstage at the Rainbow (via Aural Sculptors)
There are fewer photos of these shows floating around than I would have thought, considering how many and how vivid are the images they conjure before my mind’s eye. One concertgoer remembers that when Billy Idol tried to join the company onstage for the second night’s encore, he “was promptly put on his arse by JJ Burnel.”
Highlights of the second night at the Rainbow appeared (at least semi-officially?) on the CD The Stranglers and Friends Live in Concert, and a bootleg with additional tracks exists. Cornwell wrote about his time behind bars in the booklet Inside Information, which is reprinted in his autobiography, A Multitude of Sins. Below, hear the angelic sounds Hammill and Fripp made as short-term Stranglers.