He’s the snarling bassist in The Stranglers, punk’s most malevolent survivors, famed for beating up rival bands, fans and each other. But Jean-Jacques Burnel has revealed that he is now a Daily Telegraph-reading advocate for Britain’s constitutional monarchy.
Ahead of the band’s surprise debut at the Proms next week, Burnel, 61, who was once jailed for affray in Nice and spent a year experimenting with heroin, now regrets his anti-establishment past.
Burnel disowned "Garden of Eden", a song he wrote in the 80s about the Queen and her “useless children”.
“Now I argue the case for constitutional monarchy, which I never thought I’d do,” the musician, who owns properties in the South of France and Chiswick, west London, told Radio Times.
He added: “Take the p***s out of me as much as you like. It’s no longer the Stranglers against the world. It’s the Stranglers with a few friends.”
Burnel has become a Telegraph reader. “I started when they had the b******s to expose MPs expenses. That hit a chord because they disrupted their own natural electorate,” he said.
“I’m not anti-establishment per se. That’s a cliché. I’m anti a few things, like trying to impose democracy on the rest of the world. It’s not always about sex or taking drugs in hotel rooms. We’ve been written off a few times, but talent will out. I have a thick skin.”
Their musical proficiency and advanced age marked out The Stranglers, who formed in 1974, as outsiders when the punk movement exploded.
Burnel’s melodic basslines powered hits including "No More Heroes", "Peaches" and "Golden Brown", believed to be about heroin addiction.
Notorious for their black-clad belligerence, Burnel, a karate black belt who once engaged The Clash and The Sex Pistols in a street brawl, would incite riots at gigs by striking audience members with the head of his bass. He once disrobed a French journalist, who had displeased the band and gaffer taped him to the Eiffel Tower - “I only took him up to the first floor, though,” Burnel said.
The Stranglers, who carried on despite the departure of original frontman Hugh Cornwell in 1990, will headline a special, late-night BBC 6 Music Prom at the Royal Albert Hall, next Monday, featuring Laura Marling and the London Sinfonietta.
Burnel said: “I’m flattered, but not really surprised we’re at the Proms because we’re the last man standing from our generation.”
He added: “Isn’t it ironic, though, that the iconic BBC, which people call the Establishment, can be more adventurous than any other broadcaster? They take risks and that’s pretty cool. Some people say they’re dumbing down by inviting us, but I hate all this PC b******s and being afraid to cause controversy.”
The Stranglers, who sold 40 million records, have been under-rated, Burnel believes. “The Rolling Stones were fantastic for the first ten years, but haven’t done much since.”