The original frontman of punk band The Stranglers is returning to Upper Street 45 years, nearly to the day, after a classic gig that became a live album. 

On November 22, 1977 the band played a set featuring singles including No More Heroes and Peaches, which was later released as Live At the Hope and Anchor.  

Founder member Hugh Cornwell played with the band until 1990, in its classic line-up alongside bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel, drummer Jet Black and keyboardist Dave Greenfield. 

On November 24, Cornwell will perform at Islington Assembly Hall.

The former William Ellis School student, who grew up near Tufnell Park, has just released his 10th solo album, Moments of Madness. 

Ham & High: The Stranglers in 1980 (l-r): Dave Greenfield, Hugh Cornwell, Jean-Jacques Burnel and Jet BlackThe Stranglers in 1980 (l-r): Dave Greenfield, Hugh Cornwell, Jean-Jacques Burnel and Jet Black (Image: PA)

He also recorded 10 albums with the Stranglers, and although they formed in Guildford, north London was instrumental in putting them on the map. 

"The Hope and Anchor stands out miles above the rest because we got a residency there,” said Cornwell. 

“Our managers were a very canny couple of guys and they swung us a residency. It was on a really quiet day of the week, a Tuesday or a Wednesday, when nobody ever went out to the pub. The first time we played, we set up and there was nobody there.”

Cornwell agreed with landlord Fred Grainger that they would begin when someone arrived (“We can't really start playing when there's nobody there can we?”). 

He says they bought a drink for the first person to come down the stairs - and played to him alone.

"But the second week there was six people, and the third week there was 50 people, and the fourth week there was 150 people. And then by the fifth or sixth week, it was rammed and there were people who couldn't get in."

Ham & High: Islington's Hope and AnchorIslington's Hope and Anchor (Image: André Langlois)

The band played across London, and Cornwell recalls playing a pub in Hackney and being struck by coins thrown from the crowd.

"You cheapskates!" he berated them, picking up a 50p and a 10p, prompting a deluge of thrown money.

"And at the end of the evening, there was about 150 quid on the stage in change," he said. "It was more than we'd got paid for the gig."

As commitments in London increased, Cornwell stayed with friends in Brompton, west London, not far from where Sex Pistols and The Clash were based.

"Funnily enough, in the building next door a girl rock journalist was living with Brian James, the guitarist of The Damned," says Cornwell. "Me and Brian used to trade gossip and have chats doing our smalls together - in separate machines, obviously - in the laundrette on the ground floor." 

Ham & High: Hugh Cornwell, Moments of MadnessHugh Cornwell, Moments of Madness (Image: Hugh Cornwell)

On this tour, Cornwell will play tracks from Moments of Madness, as well as selections from his solo catalogue.

The new album is lean, punchy and full of purpose, recorded when he found himself in lockdown in Wiltshire.

There is a feeling of isolation to the record, such as over the garage riff of opener Coming Out of the Wilderness ("crave a new neighbourhood").

Or in the punk dub of Moments of Madness: "Got a lot of time on my hands and my feet, running from the cold and the dark to the heat. Moments of madness."

But it has the feel of a record he would have made anyway, pandemic or not.

When I Was a Young Man is a standout: "Now I’m not a young man, don’t want to be a young man. There’s no attraction I can see. I’ll stick to making plans."

Ham & High: Hugh Cornwell on stageHugh Cornwell on stage (Image: Bertrand Fevre)

The second half of the live set will be made up of songs by his old band.

"I tell you, the Stranglers catalogue, when I was involved, is so rich with great songs, looking back at it now, I think it could quite easily be compared with the Beatles' catalogues, or the the Stones' catalogues," he says.

For the tour they will have about 30 songs rehearsed, and decide on stage which to play, making each gig different.

Stranglers fans are as fanatical a following as any, and Cornwell has set chins wagging by promising two songs in the set that have never been played by any iteration of the band.

"I'm not going to say what they are," he teases. "People will hear when they come to our show."

Hugh Cornwell's Moments of Madness is out now. The UK tour begins on November 4 and comes to Islington Assembly Hall on November 24. Visit 

Ham & High: Hugh CornwellHugh Cornwell (Image: Bertrand Fevre)