b. 1952, London, England. Of the four original members of the Stranglers, bass player Burnel was probably the most forthright. Born of French parents, he was staunchly pro-European. A keen biker and former skinhead, with a black belt in karate and an economics degree from Bradford University, he was employed as a van driver in Guildford, Surrey, when he first met Hugh Cornwell through the American lead singer of the band Bobbysox, with whom Cornwell was playing guitar in the early 70s. Original plans to become a karate instructor were shelved (although he later returned to this profession part-time), so that he could play bass and sing in a band with Cornwell. As the Stranglers soared to success Burnel waged a personal battle with the press who dismissed the band as either being of higher intellect than their punk cohorts, or alternatively, abject and brutal chauvinists. Several well-documented episodes led to violent resolutions at Burnel’s hands. Burnel was the first Strangler to work on a solo project, Euroman Cometh. As the title implied, this was a plea for the cause of European federalism. It was released early in 1979 with guests Brian James (guitar, ex-Damned), Lew Lewis (harmonica, ex-Eddie And The Hot Rods), with Carey Fortune (ex-Chelsea) and Pete Howells (ex-Drones) both playing the drums. A short tour to promote the album was something of a disaster. The Euroband assembled for the tour featured John Ellis (ex-Vibrators - who was also playing for the support band Rapid Eye Movement), Lewis, Howells, and Penny Tobin on keyboards. In 1980 ‘Girl From The Snow Country’ was scheduled as a solo release but was withdrawn. Despite a later bootleg, the copies that slipped out are among the most collectable of new wave releases. The next musical project outside of the Stranglers was a collaboration with Dave Greenfield on a soundtrack for the Vincent Coudanne film Ecoutez Vos Murs. Ensuing years saw Burnel becoming involved with a number of bands as either producer, guest musician or both. Typically the groups were largely non-English, including Taxi Girl (France), Ping Pong (Norway), the Revenge (Belgium) and ARB (Japan). The next major project was the formation in 1986 of a 60s covers band called the Purple Helmets. Comprising Burnel, Ellis, Alex Gifford, and Laurent Sinclair, the group was put together for a one-off gig at the Trans Musicale Avant Festival in France. So successful was the concert that the Helmets became an ongoing concern, with Greenfield replacing Sinclair and Tears For Fears drummer Manny Elias joining. Burnel’s second solo album, C’est Un Jour Parfait, was recorded almost entirely in French and released just about everywhere in Europe except Britain.
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