"Golden Brown" is a song by the English rock band The Stranglers. It was released as a 7" single in December 1981 in the United States and in January 1982 in the UK, on Liberty. It was the second single released from the band's sixth album La Folie.

Overview[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Originally featured on the group's album La Folie, which was released in November 1981, and later on the USA pressings of Feline, "Golden Brown" was released as a single in December 1981, and was accompanied by a video. It reached #2 in the official UK singles chart in February 1982,[2] behind "Town Called Malice" by The Jam.[3] It was the comparatively conservativeBBC Radio 2, at that time a middle-of-the-road (MOR) music radio station, which decided to make the record the single of the week, a surprising step considering the band were almost as notorious as Sex Pistols only a few years before. The band claimed that the song's lyrics were akin to an aural Rorschach test and that people only heard in it what they wanted to hear, although this did not prevent persistent allegations that the lyrics alluded to heroin (although in an interview with Channel 4, drummer Jet Black quipped it was a song about Marmite).

The single was a hit around the world, scaling the Top 10 as far away as Australia. Its commercial success was probably the single factor that secured The Stranglers their continuing life in pop mainstream for the remainder of the 1980s.

It was also featured in the films Snatch[1] and He Died with a Felafel in His Hand, and is included on both soundtrack albums.

Meaning[edit source | editbeta]Edit

There has been much controversy surrounding the lyrics. In his 2001 book The Stranglers Song By SongHugh Cornwell clearly states "'Golden Brown' works on two levels. It's about heroinand also about a girl". Essentially the lyrics describe how "both provided me with pleasurable times".[4]

Musical composition[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Written in the key of B-flat minor, the song is a lyrical harpsichord-led ballad alternating between 6/8 and 7/8. The song's characteristic opening phrase consists of alternating 6/8 and 7/8 bars. The music was largely written by keyboardist Dave Greenfield and drummer Jet Black, with lyrics by singer/guitarist Hugh Cornwell.[5]

The BBC newsreader Bill Turnbull attempted to waltz to the song in the 2005 series of Strictly Come Dancing. In February 2012 when interviewing Stranglers bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel onBBC Breakfast, Turnbull described the attempted dance as "a disaster", Burnel responded that the alternating of rhythm patterns each bar made "Golden Brown" impossible to dance to; in contrast, a song written entirely in 6/8 is not unusual in waltzing.

Music video[edit source | editbeta]Edit

[1][2]Two shots from Golden Brown: the band performing the song in Leighton House and as explorers.

The video for "Golden Brown", directed by Lindsey Clennell, depicts the band members both as explorers in an Arabian country (sequences include images of the Pyramids as well as the explorers studying a map of Egypt) in the 1920s and performers for a fictional "Radio Cairo". In addition to the Pyramids, the video is intercut with stock footage of a madrassa in Uzbekistan, the Shah Mosque in IsfahanIran and Great SphinxFeluccas sailing, Bedouins riding and camel racing in the United Arab Emirates. The performance scenes were filmed in the Leighton House Museum inHolland ParkLondon.

Chart performance[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Chart (1981-1982) Peak


Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[6] 7
France (SNEP)[7] 73
Germany (Media Control AG)[8] 63
Irish Singles Chart[9] 3
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[10] 8
Netherlands (Mega Single Top 100)[11] 10
UK (Official Charts Company)[2] 2
Chart (1991) Peak


UK (Official Charts Company)[2] 68
Irish Singles Chart[9] 25

In 2012 it was judged the UK's fifth-favourite single to have missed the Number 1 slot.[12]

Cover versions[edit source | editbeta]Edit

  • In 1996, British hip hop group Kaleef had a UK Top 40 hit with their re-working of this song.[13]
  • In 1997, soul singer Omar revived the song and took it back into the UK Top 40.[14]
  • In 1997, Emer Kenny included the song in her self-titled album.[15]
  • In 2007, British singer Jamelia sampled the song with her single "No More".
  • In 2008, the British band Cult with no name recorded a piano-based cover of the song on their album "Careful what you wish for".
  • In 2010, the song was one of the 'contemporary classics' featured by the Jamaican band The Jolly Boys on their "Great expectation" album.
  • In 2012, Mariachi Mexteca remade the song with Hugh Cornwell playing guitar and singing.[16]
  • In 2012, Comedian and Writer Khyan Mansley covered the song on his second channel, titling the video as Golden Strangled

Track listing[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Songs, lyrics, and music by The Stranglers.

  • 7" (BP 407)
  1. "Golden Brown" – 3:28
  2. "Love 30" – 3:57
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