Stranglers bassist JJ Burnel on how he stays fit: ‘No sex or drugs – just rock n roll’


Hugh Cornwell, our singer, called me after a gig in 1990 and said he was leaving us. All the band’s assets were then frozen. I had no money. I had to sell my motorcycles to feed my kids. The highs have been getting my pride and the band back on track.

The Stranglers have never been seen as soppy, because we’ve never written love songs. But on our last album, Dark Matters, in 2021, two songs are about love. One [And if You Should See Dave…] for my friend of 45 years, Dave Greenfield, who we lost to covid. Plus The Lines is about still being able to love yourself when you look in the mirror and have to face up to ageing.

Some of my peers are having Botox and dying their hair. I think they look ridiculous. I just accept the wrinkles and white hairs – as well as a bad back, detached retinas and hearing loss. I’ve yet to write a song about incontinence! 

One thing that I’ve learnt over the years is that you can’t go on stage wasted. If I am tired one morning, that’s a pain, but if it gets so that I wake up every morning knackered, then I’ll think about packing it in. But I have to be doing something. I can’t bear lying around on beaches. I’d still be revving up my motorcycle or hiking with my dog in the mountains. And jamming in a local blues band with a founder member of the Yard Birds. Oh, and enjoying the Telegraph crossword every Saturday! And my little grandkids, aged two and three, who are the real stars now. Don’t tell anyone, but I’m a big softy really.”

Strangler in the Light by Jean-Jacques Burnel (Coursegood, £22.99) is out now. The Stranglers 50th Anniversary Tour, Mar 8-Aug 2, tickets at

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