The Stranglers' 10 greatest songs, ranked

15 June 2023, 12:09 | Updated: 15 June 2023, 12:15

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By Mayer Nissim

We round up the 10 very best songs by one of punk rock's most vital bands.

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Of all the great punk bands, in many ways, the most controversial was The Stranglers.

They were often dismissed, even by plenty of punk fans. Some thought they were pub rockers and studied musos only playacting or bandwagon-jumping as punks.

Others were turned off by their shock-jock sexism in songs like 'Peaches', 'Nice 'n' Sleazy' and the downright icky 'Bring on the Nubiles'.

Even when the band were making an ironic anti-racist statement, they called it 'I Feel Like A W*g' because of course they did.

But if you scratched beneath the prancing and provocation, Hugh Cornwell, Jean-Jacques Burnel, Dave Greenfield and Jet Black recorded some of the greatest, most interesting and vital songs of the whole era.

  1. Who Wants The World?

    The Stranglers - Who Wants the World

    Between 1979's The Raven and 1981's The Gospel According to the Meninblack The Stranglers released a couple of non-album singles: 'Bear Cage' and 'Who Wants the World?'.

    This second track was, like so many Stranglers hits, powered by Dave Greenfield's swirling keys, and lyrically was a harbinger of the upcoming ...Meninblack album, exploring the idea of aliens coming to planet Earth ("Came down on a Monday / Somewhere in the Midlands").

  2. (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)

    The Stranglers - (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)

    (This) awkwardly (titled) single was The Stranglers' debut, taken from their first album Rattus Norvegicus and serves as a pretty good template for the band, in that it's a snotty, bratty pub/punk rock track with much more going on than everything around them – in this case a steel mill worker Eric Clarke on saxophone.

  3. Strange Little Girl

    The Stranglers - Strange Little Girl

    'Strange Little Girl' was actually written all the way back in 1974 and recorded for a demo that was rejected by EMI, before the band were eventually signed by the label's subsidiary Liberty.

    Maybe as something of an in-joke the band unearthed it, re-recorded it and scored a number 7 UK hit with it in 1982 for their label Swasnsong before their move to Epic Records. It also featured in their all-killer-no-filler The Collection 1977–1982.

    It was covered by Tori Amos for her 2001 gender-flipping concept album Strange Little Girls.

  4. Duchess

    The Stranglers - Duchess

    Even when their lyrics were relatively innocuous, The Stranglers couldn't really help themselves when it came to courting controversy.

    For 'Duchess', it was the music video that got banned by the BBC, who weren't keen on seeing Hugh and the lads dressed as choirboys.

    That didn't stop this single from The Raven going to number 14 in the singles chart, or its melody being "borrowed" by the Manic Street Preachers for their own number one 'If You Tolerate This, Then Your Children Will Be Next'.

  5. Nice 'N' Sleazy

    The Stranglers - Nice 'N' Sleazy

    This single from The Stranglers' third album Black and White is as close as the band came to a manifesto. Sprawling poetic verses ("An angel came from outside / Had no halo had no father / With a coat of many colours") capped off with the beyond basic ("Nice 'n' sleazy / Does it does it does it every time"

    The single sleeve featured a picture of a Boston Strangler victim, and when the band played the track at their infamous Battersea Park show in 1978, they had a load of strippers up on stage who, well, stripped right down to nothing.

  6. Hanging Around

    The Stranglers - Hanging Around (1977) (stereo)

    Not actually a single, but this track off Rattus Norvegicus became a quick fan favourite and was included on the era-defining The Collection 1977–1982.

    Telling the story of the grubby London clubs of the era like the Nashville and the Coleherne, like so many Stranglers song it showcases that perfect melding of Hugh Conwell's gruff voice, Jet Black's pounding-but-jazzy drums, Dave Greenfield's swirling Hammond and Hohner and Jean-Jacques Burnel's melodic bass.

  7. Peaches

    The Stranglers - Peaches (Live at Battersea Park, 16/09/1978)

    'Peaches' is one of the most lecherous, smutty, sleazy and downright icky songs in punk ("Well there goes a girl and a half", "Why don't you come on and lap me up" "Is she tryin' to get outta that clitoris?").

    What a riff, though. And the song went to number 8 in the UK singles chart, and was used by telly chef and Stranglers superfan Keith Floyd on his TV shows.

  8. Walk On By

    Walk on By

    Every other song on this ranking was written by The Stranglers themselves, and the group weren't really known for their covers, but this take on Burt Bacharach and Hal David's classic is something very special indeed.

    Dionne Warwick's sleek 1964 soul standard had already been reworked by the likes of Isaac Hayes and Gloria Gaynor when The Stranglers absolutely made it their own in 1978, scoring a number 21 single in the process.

    In truth, the take is a pretty bog standard exactly-what-you'd-expect cover for its first minute and a half, at which point Dave Greenfield takes control for a stunning two-minute solo, before Hugh picks up the thread for his own two minutes of noodling, at which point we crash back into the song. A defining moment

  9. No More Heroes

    The Stranglers - No More Heroes

    A number seven single in 1977, this title track from the band's second album was one of punk rock's very greatest singles.

    'No More Heroes' had much more basic lyrics than some of the Stranglers other hits ("Whatever happened to all the heroes? / All the Shakespearoes?"), but that doesn't matter when you're powered by one of the greatest riffs in pop history.

    It was such a good riff in fact, that Elastica "borrowed" it for their own 1995 hit single 'Waking Up', with the matter eventually being resolved out of court.

  10. Golden Brown

    The Stranglers - Golden Brown (Restored Music Video)

    Who would have thought that punk's most snotty and abrasive band would come up with its most gentle, elegiac moment?

    It being The Stranglers, there was a sting in the tail of course, with 'Golden Brown' quite plainly being about heroin addiction ("Never a frown with golden brown").

    It was credited to the whole band, but actually had music by Greenfield and lyrics by Cornwell, and its time signature still has people scratching heads today (definitely not a rock 'n' roll 4/4, but also not a strict 3/4 waltz, but instead with that riff being in 13/8, with the rest of the song in 3/4 or 12/8).

    'Golden Brown' was the band's biggest hit, but just missed on on the top spot, being kept at number two first w by Tight Fit's 'The Lion Sleeps Tonight' and then The Jam's 'A Town Called Malice'.