Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Goodbye, Dave Greenfield

Brian Walsby art

By Reject Girl

“There’s a dude with a mustache in that band. They have lengthy keyboard parts in the songs and CAN’T be punk rock!”

These were the words out of my teenage mouth upon listening to the first Stranglers album, "Rattus Norvegicus." You see, everything had to pass through my strict punk rock formula filter when I was 16, while I was probably trying to scam a shoulder-tapped beer or trying to sneak into some show with the most bogus fake ID ever. A band that had prog elements like keyboard solos wasn’t going to convince ME.  No fucking way.

Thankfully, as my listening evolved (and I stopped being so lame, question mark), I recognized the greatness of The Stranglers. How amazing and original their songs and albums were. "Go Buddy Go" and "Something Better Change" (JJ kind of had the more punk rock voice, honestly), did that for me at first, which features prominent keys.

How about the finish of each song? Yours courtesy of the focus of this article, the late Dave Greenfield of The Stranglers. I’m so glad I heeded the words of people who were there and heard their music first in the '70s and early '80s. And just how killer the songs were. Every album was so different and they never followed any kind of a formula. It was always just THEM. Perfect tone, exceptional musicians and those keyboard parts.

What’s so funny is that someone in one of the most well-known punk bands, who was a main pillar of that band, was heavily influenced by prog music. It was not a Jethro Tull marathon, thankfully, that he gave us. Just Greenfield’s brilliance and massive influence on all those records and live performances. There are so many on youtube where you can just see him go off. He and Jean Jacques once taped an obnoxious French journalist to the Eiffel Tower, rumor has it. Dave WAS punk rock as hell. The man shined.

Greenfield passed away of complications from COVID-19 on May 3, 2020 at the age of 71. Another victim of this horrific pandemic. He had been in the hospital for heart-related problems, tested positive for, and was diagnosed with COVID a week before he died, and leaving his wife, Pam, behind.

Almost a year ago, I saw Dave with The Stranglers at Punk Rock Bowling in Las Vegas.  He was SO good, playing all of those keyboard parts and opening their way-too-short set with “Five Minutes.” Hearing his intro to "Five Minutes" from across the event center grounds, I remember running over from the beer line. Jean-Jacques Burnel was of course on bass and some vocals, still the imposing black-belt holder and NOT someone you’d want to fight. Vocals and guitar were done by Baz Warne, who has been with the band since 2006, filling the shoes of Hugh Cornwell. Jet Black, original drummer, hasn’t toured with them for years and is in his 80s now. Cornwell left the band in 1990. The band was excellent that day, and I was reminded of how I hoped that they would do some kind of tour after PRB, maybe hit San Francisco and play a full show, not a festival in the middle of the afternoon. So many people would’ve bought tickets, just like the shows they’d playing in Europe over the past couple of decades, never going stateside. What a shame for us here.

I don’t think anyone expected to lose Greenfield less than a year later. It just sucks so much. I’ve been listening to lots of Stranglers again over the past week. Greenfield needs to be celebrated. Let the party begin.

Born March 29, 1949 in Brighton, England, David Paul Greenfield joined The Stranglers in 1975. He spent his early years playing in bands in Britain and Germany, while working as a piano tuner and working in his dad’s printing business. He played the hell out of a Hohner Cembalet, Hammond L-100 electric organ and Minimoog synthesizer on their early records. Dave wrote a harpsichord arrangement while the band was recording "The Gospel According to the Meninblack," which the other guys hated. This ended up being the basis of their biggest hit, "Golden Brown." 

He sang lead vocal on one of my fave songs, "Dead Ringer," and also "Peasant in the Big Shitty" from "No More Heroes," their second album. Dave had this crazy talent, a composer who could just make any of those songs go in any direction, keep time or just produce weird, otherworldly sounds, like in "Rokit to the Moon." The beginning to "Hanging Around," as Jean Jacques’ bass comes in and slaughters you. I doubt many of you reading this need to be convinced. Dave Greenfield ruled. Apparently when his bandmates began doing heroin, Dave did it once and the next day was like, no way, never again, and quit right then and there. They didn’t get along at times, but Dave was a mainstay. He couldn’t leave and take his sounds with him. The entire Stranglers catalog owes so much to Greenfield.

Dave will be so missed. His bandmates spoke fondly of him after his untimely passing and I’m certain cannot go on without him. Who would want them to do so? Those guys played together for over 45 years, despite lineup changes and especially the departure of Hugh. What would "Get a Grip on Yourself" or "Tank" sound like without him? Unimaginable. How about "Dagenham Dave?"  Who else can emulate that? No one.

"Rattus Norvegicus" inked right on the ribcage next, in memoriam. Thanks, Dave.

Healing to all with this terrible disease. May we lose no more.

Reject Girl has been a dj at KFJC 89.7 fm in Los Altos Hills, California, since 1996. She loves punk rock.

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