Gig preview: Hugh Cornwell at The Wardrobe, Leeds

Hugh Cornwell
Hugh Cornwell
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IT has been a busy time for Hugh Cornwell recently, with a new album and a novel available.

But that’s not all for the ex-Strangler.

He has teamed up with 80s icon Hazel O’Connor for a series of UK dates, one of which will be in Leeds.

“I know Hazel from a long time ago,” says Cornwell, taking a break during a book-signing in London. “In fact, we dated for about six months.”

Another connection is that O’Connor was one of the first acts to cover a song by The Stranglers.

“That’s right,” says Hugh. “She covered Hanging Around and did a really good job of it.”

O’Connor’s version of the track was a hit in 1981 and the song was originally off the first Stranglers’ album.

“I’m really pleased about appearing with her, her voice is stunning these days.”

O’Connor, apart from her acclaimed back catalogue which features hits like Eighth Day and Will You, will be performing songs from her latest album Here She Comes, with saxophonist Clare Hirst (Communards, David Bowie) and keyboard player Sarah Fisher (Eurythmics).

Cornwell was a founder member and guitarist/singer with The Stranglers, with whom he had 10 hit albums and hit singles like No More Heroes, Golden Brown and Duchess.

Since he left the band in 1990, he has pursued a successful solo career and among his albums are the exemplary Hooverdam and the latest – Totem and Taboo – which has enjoyed rave reviews. “People are saying it’s the best thing I’ve done,” he says, “but I wasn’t aware of it being any different from my other work.”

Accompanying Cornwell for his set will be Chris Bell and Caroline Campbell, who also backed him on the Hooverdam tour.

Recently, Cornwell has turned his hand to writing and has recently had his novel Arnold Drive published.

“It’s a story about a vicar in Wiltshire who gets made redundant when the church is sold in order to be converted into flats as there isn’t enough money coming in for its upkeep.

“He’s in his mid-50s and has also got to move out of his cottage where he’s lived for 35 years.

“It’s a voyage of discovery and a test of faith.”

He laughs. “I think it would make a great film with Gary Oldman, I recently saw him in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and he’s never played a vicar.”

He appears to enjoy writing. “Certainly, in fact I’m halfway through writing another novel, but it’s something totally different, it isn’t a sequel.”

But back to the tour. “I’ll be playing quite a bit of Totem and Taboo, maybe about two thirds of it; mixed with other solo material and some of The Stranglers’ songs.”

After the split with the band, Cornwell wouldn’t play any music by them in his solo sets, but appears much more comfortable with his heritage now.

“The only time I wasn’t comfortable with was just after I left, but no I don’t mind playing it – after all, I wrote it.”

Earlier this year, The Stranglers toured to celebrate their 40th anniversary, had Cornwell been approached to be a part of it?

“Why on earth would they want to ask me?”

To build some bridges?

“You only build bridges if you want to get someplace,” he says. “Both they and myself are quite happy with the way things are now. We have no intention of getting back together.”

As for the running order of the show, it seems quite simple.

“Hazel starts and I finish the show, but then we both get together and sing Hanging Around at the end.

“I’m really looking forward to playing the songs and appearing with Hazel.”

As for the future, he isn’t planning on slowing down anytime soon.

“Far from it. After the UK dates I’m off to Iceland and will be playing in Cologne in Germany.

“Next February I’ll be in Tokyo and I may be doing an acoustic tour in the States.”

Hugh Cornwell and Hazel O’Connor appear at The Wardrobe, Leeds on Sunday November 30. For details visit

Scott Caizley.

Scott Caizley: From Leeds couuncil estate to classical pianist