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A Multitude of Sins - The Autobiography [Paperback]

Hugh Cornwell
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

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Book Description

4 April 2005

Autobiography by the singer and creative force of 70s rock group The Stranglers.

This will be the first autobiography by any leading figure from the punk era and the first to be written by the author, drawing from his own unique and unforgettable experiences. Hugh was lead singer, guitarist and main songwriter with The Stranglers, and now brings his unique style, humour and insight to describe the story of his life.

The book begins with a chapter about Hugh's decision to leave The Stranglers in 1990, and explains, in full and frank detail, why this key moment in UK music history has never been fully explained. The book will also covers the heady days of early punk in London, described by someone who was at its epicentre, along with the Sex Pistols, the Clash and the Damned.

The life and times of the Stranglers, one of the most notorious and gifted rock groups of the 70s and 80s, are described in detail, including the drug busts, fights, prison terms and – in one case – the tying up of journalists. Throughout this time Hugh encountered a host of other extraordinary people, who are now household names: Malcolm McClaren, Joe Strummer, Kate Bush, Debbie Harry and Hazel O'Connor, to name a few, and he will recount the outrageous times he lived through with them.

His 'inside take' on the other members of The Stranglers will be of special interest to the huge fan base of the era, which enabled The Stranglers’ – Greatest Hits album to sell one million copies in the UK on its release in 1990, and which continues to be discovered by the younger music generation of today.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Entertainment (4 April 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007193254
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007193257
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 12.8 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 811,825 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Hugh Cornwell was born in 1949. He attended Bristol University to study Biochemistry and went on to work as a laboratory assistant at Lund University in Sweden, from where he soon returned to pursue his music career.

He was one of the founding members of The Stranglers, releasing hits such as ‘Golden Brown’, ‘Skin Deep’ and ‘No More Heroes’. He is accredited by many for having introduced the dark and subversive undertones that made the band such a huge success and so influential to contemporary and modern rock and punk music alike.

He left The Strangler in 1990, attempting to form several bands before returning to his solo career in 1993 with the release of his third solo album. He has continued to release hugely successful albums and make numerous high-profile appearances to the present day.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Jet Black, formerly Brian Duffy, walked into my life in a squat in Camden Town in answer to an ad that I had placed in Melody Maker. Jet was a bit more ‘mature’ than we had envisaged, but we identified with his energy and resolve immediately. He had a great sense of humour and everyone gelled with him. He suggested that we all decamp to Guildford to escape from the pressures of London, and help him run the off-licence and ice cream business he had, while we were working on the band.
Summer was coming on and the idea of getting out of London was very appealing to us. The off-licence was sited at the bottom of the Farnham Road, a stone’s throw from Guildford railway station and on a main roundabout, so there was plenty of passing trade, including Trevor McDonald who would regularly drop by for a bottle of wine to take home and swap pleasantries with Jet. The building itself was huge, with large, cobbled cellars where the ice cream freezers were stored plus parking space for a fleet of vans. As it was, there was only one state of the art ice cream wagon - complete with chimes - and a couple of beat-up grey minivans which Jet had picked up for £25 each from the local car auctions. Above the off-licence there were three floors of accommodation: a large sitting room and kitchen on the first floor, then two more floors of bedrooms, mostly empty. Constant traffic meant that there was a thick layer of grime on all the windows, which never got opened. I took a bedroom on the top floor and we had a room with a piano where we could work on the music.
"Hey, Kai, how do you fancy doing an interview with a newspaper while you’re on the run? I know a cool journo who would do it, and we could get him to help the band in return. We need a PA system for our gigs and he can guarantee the loan. I’ve already tried but they need someone Swedish to sign it."
"Sure, it would be a gas," he says, "Anything to help the band."

I pick the journalist up, blindfold him and drive him out to the house. He has a camera with him so he can take some photos of Kai. The interview goes well. Kai has the ‘I’m a misunderstood criminal, and although I rob banks, I don’t mean to harm anybody, and I warned the guard beforehand’ angle down and pictures are taken of him and the journalist together, throwing all the money around like in a food fight. Afterwards, I reblindfold the journalist and drive him home. The following Sunday the interview is all over the front page of the national newspaper and they’ve used the picture of Kai throwing the money up in the air like a kid playing in the snow. It’s an exclusive interview with Sweden’s ‘No.1 Most Wanted Criminal’ and it sells truckloads. The journalist’s career is made overnight and we go into the music shop the following week and sign the papers for the band’s PA system.
We had been continuously working together for sixteen years by the time that I left, and I remember a moment when that passage of time became a realisation. We had returned to play a secret gig at the 100 Club in Oxford Street prior to a tour, having last played there some seven or eight years previously. I was there in the afternoon while Jet was setting his drums up. I caught him laughing to himself and asked him why. He was sitting on his drum stool and had recalled the last gig there, all those years before. He remembered taking off his watch and finding a space in a brick wall beside him in which to put it. He had then forgotten about the watch until now, when he had checked the spot. Not only was the watch there, but it was still going. Passage of time is barely perceptible unless you can see that something has changed. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
70 of 74 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A MULTITUDE OF SINS - A PLATITUDE OF SLOTH 3 Oct 2004
By Crass
Hugh Cornwell
A Multitude Of Sins: The Autobiography
HarperCollins ISBN 0 00 719082 4
This was one book I was really looking forward to reading this year.
Unfortunately I was left wondering who Hugh Cornwell really was.
And this was his autobiography!
As leader of outrageous former punk protagonists The Stranglers, Hugh was a formidable front man. A stream of quirky hit songs gave the one time most despised band in the world a successful career above and beyond fellow new wavers long-since fallen by the wayside. For me. The Stranglers were the best band in the world - and Hugh's atonal vocals chords were responsible for the hits Peaches, the anthemic No More Heroes and the snarling Nice 'n' Sleazy, as well as anodyne Golden Brown, which reached Number 2 in the UK charts in 1982.
Sixteen years on, (with three years shaved off in the back jacket inner) after a total of ten hit studio albums and over twenty hit singles, Hugh left the band in 1990. It followed a lacklustre live performance that I was (un)fortunate enough to witness at Alexandra Palace in North London. Like Hugh, I had also sussed something was not right on the night. While The Stranglers plodded on sans Hugh, Mr. Cornwell has quietly pursued a lower league solo career. But fourteen years on, evidence of the bitter acrimony existing between the two camps is well documented to this day.
Hugh is a gifted and creative artist. He was always sharp and acerbic, and although he was no hard man, he provided the threatening, the brooding jagged edge to The Stranglers menace. His famed onstage quips were omnipresent from the late 70s until the mid 80s. In my huge Stranglers collection I have a multitude of live recordings smattered with his dry humour and bad jokes.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Incomplete History Of Hugh 8 April 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed reading this, but it's only likely to be of interest to those who are interested in either Hugh or the Stranglers. This might seem a bit obvious, but it's not true of all autobiographies. The book doesn't run in chronological order but that's not major problem. However, it's only apparent when you finish the book that, after skipping about timewise to various incidents in his life, there appear to be significant periods and aspects of his life that the book doesn't really cover. As someone who was a teenager when the Stranglers first album came out and has followed them ever since, I found Hugh's take on the history of the Stranglers very interesting. Other aspects of his career are covered, and there are lots of interesting little snippets covering small incidents in his life, but it's short on personal stuff. There's plenty on sex n' drugs n' rock n' roll, and some revalations giving an insight into his character, but personal relationships don't really get much of a mention. So although it's a little incomplete, I think on balance I would recommend Hugh's book to fans of Hugh or the Stranglers. For those waiting for Hugh to reunite with the Stranglers, based on what's in this book, it could be a long wait!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars For die-hard fans only 17 Feb 2008
In the opening few pages, Hugh Cornwell makes it clear this is not a book about the Stranglers. They were just a phase in his life, an important phase, but not the necessarily most important. Unfortunately, it's not much a book about Hugh Cornwell either.

Hugh actually wrote this book himself, edited by a music journalist. And it reads so. It is vaguely chronological, yet happily jumps around with flashes of memories from different times and places. There is also not much here about what makes Hugh Cornwell tick, what have been the dominating experiences that has shaped his outlook, no exposing of inner self and insecurities - it is rather defensive and macho in it's outlook - a very bloke-ish book in every sense. Sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll are given much coverage and if you don't think that could ever be made to sound boring, you should read those tdious, cliched chapters.

His time in Pentonville after being busted for drugs is recounted in some detail and their are a few comical escapades recalled, as well as trivia from the days of Punk. There are some interesting bits about the tensions between Cornwell and Burnel, and you can't help feeling that is the real story in the Stranglers. Cornwell obviously has a love-hate relationship with JJ Burnell, yet between them they conspired to produce some of the greatest rock music ever. The group dynamic of the Stranglers is not really explored, yet sometimes it's better to leave the shroud of mystique. Otherwise, we end up with disappointing trivia like learning of Hugh's admiration for Cliff Richard and that 'Peaches' was some kind of prelude to discussing how blokes on building sites whistle at women, that 'Toiler on the Sea' was only about some boat trip he and his gf took to Morocco.
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38 of 45 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars No more heroes any more 12 Dec 2004
By A Customer
I was initially very excited to get hold of this book, having been a big time Stranglers fan back in 1977/78 and was looking forward to an inside view of the band. When I read in the intro that Hugh had insisted on writing the whole thing himself and debated every word late into the night with his editor because "every word mattered", I wondered if Hugh would fall into the trap other musicians have where they are convinced that because they can write a half decent lyric they must be a poet or writer (e.g. Henry Rollins), or because they can strut around on stage, then that makes them an actor or "artiste" (e.g. David Bowie).
As I read on, this was clearly the case with this book, which follows a rambling structure, jumping about all over the place before finally dribbling to a halt in its closing pages with a series of Hugh's musing and fragmented memories on this, that & the other. As I read through Hugh's (or perhaps I should call him High) interminable boasts of drug taking excess, his constant name dropping and numerous star struck anecdotes (whilst at the same time claiming to eschew celebrity) and his damning with faint praise of his fellow Stranglers - effectively dismissing them as a bunch of underachievers who without his 'genius' would have been nowhere, my opinion of Hugh gradually shrank.
His sense of pompous self importance grows as you read on, with him expressing mock surprise that the rest of the Stranglers carried on after he left and more or less said "close the door after you then" when he told them. A less self centred personality would have seen that they were relieved to have seen the back of him.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Not that well writen
Published 1 month ago by Guitarlass
4.0 out of 5 stars enjoyable
Hugh tells it like it was... he shows remorse and understanding in a tite-nite group of older than your norm band of musicians with a genre defining sound that wasn't quite... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Mr. J. Gibson
1.0 out of 5 stars Ain't nothing to it...
After reading some bad reviews of this, I didn't buy it, but instead I read it in Fopp on a couple of visits. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Il Papa
5.0 out of 5 stars well I did not know that.
well actually i knew a lot of it I was a big stranglers fan from around 77 and read everything I could kept scrapbooks bought everything as it came out etc. Read more
Published 14 months ago by M. Hoole
2.0 out of 5 stars Okay
Not bad, but felt as though it was about to interesting and then he withdrew from telling more. Let down.
Published 14 months ago by T Harries
5.0 out of 5 stars Topnotch
A very informative read . A must for stranglers fans. The truth behind the split and an insight to Hugh Cornwells early years
Published 15 months ago by rilla
5.0 out of 5 stars Cracking good read!
If you're a fan, you'll love this. If you're not, yer still might. I loved it. Fills in a lot of gaps. Really interesting bloke who's still making good music.
Published 15 months ago by Roger John Zander-Caulfield
3.0 out of 5 stars A mess of style over substance
As a massive fan of the band and also a regular attender at gigs by both the original and the current line up, I found this book to be something of a mess. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Iain Summers
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic read.
a fantastic read about a great man. Shame he left the group but the book entails all the twists and turns surrounding this and an insight into the man, Sometime rude and arrogant,... Read more
Published on 25 Oct 2011 by Mr. Gordon Mackenzie
5.0 out of 5 stars Forgotten Icons
The iternal question: Were the Stranglers a punk band? After all, how could a group with extensive musical proficiency, the ability to sing three part harmonies and one of the most... Read more
Published on 14 Oct 2011 by Mark Fernandes
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