The Stranglers‘ iconic keyboardist, Dave Greenfield, has died aged 74, due to coronavirus complications. After facing heart problems, he spent a prolonged time in hospital before passing away on Sunday.
Coupled with Jean-Jacques Burnel’s melodic bass, Dave Greenfield’s elaborate keyboard inputs became the driving melodic force behind The Stranglers post-punk and new wave sound.
Dave Greenfield’s baroque keyboard helped define the early new-wave sound of The Stranglers, becoming the foundations to seminal tracks such as Peaches, No More Heroes, and Golden Brown.
The distinct eerie sound of Dave Greenfield’s keyboard playing has been compared on multiple occasions to Ray Manzarek from The Doors. Playing obscure-sounding instruments such as the harpsichord and Hammond electric organ, Greenfield’s technique became iconic to The Stranglers debut album, Rattus Norvegicus.
“The only tracks by the Doors I knew were Light My Fire & Riders on the Storm,” said Greenfield. “Before I joined my main influences were probably Jon Lord [Deep Purple] and then Rick Wakeman [Yes].”
Widely considered a punk band, Greenfield regarded The Stranglers as more of a new wave band. And I tend to agree with him. If it weren’t for Greenfield, The Stranglers would have sounded like every other punk act coming out of England at the time. His musical input was layered by fast-paced intricate arpeggios, making The Stranglers stand out from the rest. Formed in 1974 as Guildford Stranglers, the band frequented the London pub scene. They were labelled as punk due to their radical ideas and aggressive attitude, but their sound moved away from the restraints of the genre. The Stranglers received critical media backlash due to the absurdity of their lyrics.
“From bad-mannered yobs to purveyors of supreme pop delicacies, the group was responsible for music that may have been ugly and might have been crude – but it was never, ever boring.”
Greenfield is credited with writing the musical score to The Stranglers most famous song. Originally discarded by the band, Golden Brown was made significant by Greenfield’s melodies, boppy intro and virtuosic instrument weavings. It became the band’s hit single in 1982, proliferating them into the mainstream.
“He was the difference between The Stranglers and every other punk band,” wrote Hugh Cornwell (former Stranglers singer)
Stranglers band members took to social media to pay tribute to Dave Greenfield, remembering their friend and band member for his musical talent, uniqueness and witty personality.
The Stranglers’ vocalist and guitarist Baz Warne said:
“We lost a true innovator, musical legend, and one of my dearest friends today. The word genius is bandied around far too easily in this day and age, but Dave Greenfield certainly was one.
“We stood together on the same side of the stage for 20 years, laughed, joked and shared our lives in the way that only bandmates can. I’ll miss him forever. Our thoughts and hearts are with his wife, Pam, and to the millions of fans who worshipped at his altar, he’ll never be equalled.”
The Stranglers played on and off for nearly fifty years, becoming one of the longest-running bands in history. They were forced to delay their farewell tour, due to the global pandemic. The end of an era has been cut short. Greenfield gave The Stranglers substance and prevented them from sounding like every other punk band coming out of England at the time. His multi-layered instrumentation and complex sound facilitated the wide use of keyboards in punk music. The Stranglers never received the send-off they deserved and neither did Dave Greenfield.
The sound and style of Dave Greenfield’s keyboard playing became integral to The Stranglers debut album. Check out Rattus Norvegicus below: