Farewell to Dave Greenfield, awesome punk anomaly


The punk groups of 77 who were bothered by a keyboard and the dull type flanked behind counted on a finger of honor. The Stranglers were thus this brilliant exception, with in the role of the plaiter of garlands a wisely styled type, son of musician born in Brighton in 1948, who had used several guitars in his youth and had converted to organs for love of Jon Lord by Deep Purple and Rick Wakeman by Yes. More dog in a game of bowling than David Paul Greenfield, at the time when progressive rock is more frowned upon than a gonorrhea, we will not find.

Fan club for bikers and skinheads

However, recruited on classified ad in 75 by a Guildford trio already well mismatched (a 40-year-old drummer, a half French karateka bassist and an ex-folk singer), Greenfield immediately followed suit in their raw but dilated rock, innervated by psychedelic influences and highly greedy in melodic energy. Hugh Cornwell hears Ray Manzarek, the tempestuous keyboard of the Doors, from this boy who has lost too much time in the prog, and here is Greenfield embarked on a crazy farandole where his shivering Hammond will do wonders on the first albums.

Pieces of bravery like Get a Grip (On Yourself), No More Heroes or their resumption of Walk On By of the duo Bacharach / David give the whole spectral dimension of a virtuoso game that the roughness of the group does not manage – and does not seek – to contain. More subtle than their bikers and skinheads fan club suggests, building an incendiary reputation that they cultivate for the gloriole, the Stranglers are a traveling paradox of which Greenfield is the pivotal element. When it expands its chromatic range with synths, it’s all the boiling sound of the group which loses a few degrees but gains in strangeness, and a title of 79 gives a fairly fair definition of their clutter: Baroque Bordello.

Bushy adventures

It is also by going to find his inspiration in the baroque repertoire that Greenfield one day offers the group, then in a commercial and legal impasse, a waltz entirely played on the harpsichord which becomes one of the biggest European hits of the year 82: Golden brown. It’s still largely to Dave the understatement that we owe some of the sound architectures that give majesty to the Feline, Aural sculpture or Dreamtime (with the group’s other best-known hit, Always The Sun), during the 80s where their relaxed style relies heavily on its beautiful arpeggios.

Going also for all the bushy adventures, Greenfield had released a funny record of synth-pop experiences in breakaway with the bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel (Fire & Water, in 83) and delivered all its science of rock garage sixties within the Purple Helmets, a group of rehearsals mounted with Burnel and John Ellis of the Vibrators. At 71, before being struck down by the Covid-19 after a hospitalization for heart problems, Dave Greenfield was above all still a member of the indestructible Stranglers (without Cornwell, who resigned thirty years ago), whose “Farewell tour” had himself been disturbed by the virus. If he resumes one day, they will find it difficult to find a lining for him.

Christophe Conte


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