This Day in ’80: Hugh Cornwell Gets Sentenced

Monday, January 7, 2019
This Day in Music

39 years ago today, Hugh Cornwell – best known as the former lead singer of The Stranglers – received the unfortunate news that he’d soon be spending some time behind bars.


In late 1979, Cornwell was fronting The Stranglers, a band beloved to music fans all over the UK. Indeed, they were so beloved that their fans would “donate” drugs to their cause, so to speak, by throwing bags onstage during their concerts. While it’s fair to say that Cornwell was not entirely unfamiliar with the world of illicit pharmaceuticals, it’s equally arguable that, were it not for those fans, he wouldn’t have found himself in a position where – during a police check at Hammersmith Broadway in which his driver was found in possession of cocaine – he was found in possession of heroin, cocaine, and marijuana, for which he received a two-month sentence.


As he recounted in later interviews, the experience was one which – although he wasn’t stuck sharing cell space with murderers and rapists (he described them more as “people who hadn’t paid their parking tickets or had defied court orders to stay away from their estranged wives”) – served as a learning experience, and a highly unpleasant one at that.


“Have you ever seen people washing the walls of their homes?” asked Cornwell. “People don't do that. In prison you have to wash the walls. And the hallways and corridors. And you think, 'But no one washes walls.' You do in prison, mate. You do here."


Thankfully, Cornwell ended up only having to serve six weeks before being released, but that was plenty.