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Jet Black

Jet Black
Jet Black performing with The Stranglers at the 2006 Bestival
Background information
Birth name Brian John Duffy
Also known as Jet Black
Born (1938-08-26) 26 August 1938
Origin Ilford, Essex, England
Genres Jazz, punk rock, new wave, post-punk
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Drums
Years active Early 1970s–present
Labels EMI (as per The Stranglers)
Associated acts The Stranglers

Jet Black (born Brian John Duffy, 26 August 1938,[1][2] Ilford, Essex) is an English drummer and founder member of punk rock/new wave band The Stranglers.[3]


  • Career 1
    • Early years 1.1
    • Later years 1.2
    • Views on The Stranglers 1.3
  • Customised equipment 2
  • Health and gig absences 3
    • 2012 3.1
    • 2013-2014 3.2
    • 2015 3.3
  • Honour campaign 4
  • Personal life 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8


Early years

Black was a successful businessman up until the mid-1970s, owning a fleet of ice cream vans,[4] and an off-licence in Guildford, called 'The Jackpot'.[5] This establishment was the base for the early Stranglers.[6][7] He was also the owner of one of the earliest home brewing equipment companies, at the time of a vogue in home brewing.

He became a full-time professional musician in the mid-1970s and met Hugh Cornwell of band Johnny Sox after reading an advertisement in the Melody Maker magazine.[8] Cornwell joined Black in The Stranglers in 1974.[9]

Later years

His style is usually simple and jazz-influenced,[10] although "Duchess" and "Down in the Sewer" are examples of Stranglers songs that feature more frantic drumming. In the mid-1980s, Black elected to cease playing acoustic drums in the recording studio and used a Simmons kit triggered by pick-ups, most notably on the Feline and Aural Sculpture albums. Black is still currently drumming for The Stranglers, despite his advancing years.[11][12] His name is frequently chanted by the crowd at concerts.[13]

Views on The Stranglers

Black has said he is particularly fond of The Raven album because it was "the first time The Stranglers got major critical approval in the newspapers."[14]

He wrote a short book, Much Ado About Nothing, which detailed the riots in France which were blamed on The Stranglers' presence in 1981, and also wrote a book in 2010 entitled Seven Days In Nice about the same subject.[15]

In 2014, Black said of The Stranglers: "This is the best band in the world — and we'll carry on until we can't any more. Though we are not thinking about that."[16]

Customised equipment

During a long career in music, Black, like many other drummers, became aware of certain practical limitations inherent in the basic kit design and set about addressing the issue in the form of the now patented 'Jet Black Power Bass Drum Pedal'. This has brought new freedoms of comfort and technical feasibility to drummers. The 'Jet Black Power Bass Drum Pedal' enables the bass drum to be placed anywhere and yet remain playable.[17][18]

Health and gig absences

In March 2007, it was announced on The Stranglers' website that Black was suffering from atrial fibrillation and consequently refrained from appearing with the band until he had recovered. He played a full Stranglers concert in early June and regularly played with the band again, although he was unable to travel very long distances at that time.

In mid-2008, he was absent from several Stranglers gigs.[19][20] It was shortly thereafter announced that he was suffering from chest problems and was "not rushing back to work" on the advice of his doctor. In September 2008, he returned to full rehearsals and began touring with the band on 13 October.[21]

During his absences, his temporary replacement was his full-time drum technician Ian Barnard (born 1983). Black was also replaced by Barnard in a concert in Helsinki, on 13 January 2009.


On 12 March 2012, Black was taken to hospital after "falling ill" shortly before a Stranglers concert at the O2 Academy Oxford. He was again replaced by Barnard during the gig.[22] The Stranglers announced the following day that he was taken to hospital via ambulance after feeling unwell shortly after the band's soundcheck. The illness was confirmed to be a "severe chest infection" but that Black intended to rejoin the tour when he was "fit and able".[23] He did not rejoin the tour due to a slow recovery.


The Stranglers' annual tour began in March 2013, with Black playing the second half of the opening night set, drumming on 10 songs beginning with the distinctive Genetix drum intro. Drummer Jim Macaulay played the first half of the set on a separate, smaller drum kit. He had also by this time completely refrained from travelling outside of the UK with the band.

Black did not feature at some subsequent gigs, but played half of the band's set at others where stage space would allow for the positioning of two drum kits.

Jean-Jacques Burnel said ahead of the band's Leeds gig: "He's had a few health problems in recent years, but he’s really up for the tour, although he probably won’t be at every gig, or doing the full set."[24]

His appearances during the 2014 Ruby Anniversary tour were sporadic. When present, his playing was restricted to the encore only. During the tour, he was quoted as saying: "I'll carry on until I'm incapable of doing it. I am going to have to stop one day, but I expect the band will carry on."[25] However, bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel said during the same period: "When he can [no] longer contribute – and I don't think that's long – then there will be no more Stranglers." He remarked that Black was "on oxygen" even after drumming on slower numbers like Golden Brown.[26]

He was absent from The Stranglers' festival appearances and associated warm-up gigs in the summer of 2014.


In January 2015, Stranglers guitarist Baz Warne told the Louder Than War website: "Jet will do what he can when he can. He's a massive hard worker and he's never shirked away from anything but with the best will in the world you just can't cheat old age. He told Classic Rock Magazine that he has given us his blessing to carry on without him, he's sort of ready to hand over the baton to Jim, our new drummer who's been really welcomed by the fans. I know a lot of the old fans say it's not the same without Jet, and they're absolutely right but there comes a time when you have to ask yourself a simple question; do you want to see The Stranglers without Jet or just accept that you'll never see them again?"[27]

In an interview with BBC Breakfast on 30 January, he said: "I've had a bit of trouble but I'm still playing gigs". He currently relieves The Stranglers' touring drummer Jim MacAulay mid-set, playing approximately four songs including Genetix. However, these appearances are limited to venues which have stages large enough for two drum kits.

Honour campaign

In 2008, an online petition on the British Government website campaigning for him to be included in the next list of honours attracted 477 signatures and was mentioned in the national press.[28]

Personal life

His second wife, Helena, left him following several arguments over The Stranglers rehearsing in their home during the early days of the band.[29]

He has had no contact with former Stranglers singer Hugh Cornwell since he left the band in 1990. According to Cornwell's 2004 autobiography, when he telephoned Black to announce his resignation, the latter's response was simply "OK, fine."[29] In 2014, he confirmed in a newspaper interview with the Oxford Times that he does not keep in touch with Cornwell.

He currently lives in Tetbury, Gloucestershire, where he reportedly designs and builds wooden furniture.[30]


  1. ^ "August Birthdays And Deaths, Musician Birthdates, Celebrity Deaths". Retrieved 2011-10-06. 
  2. ^ "The Stranglers". 2008-08-26. Retrieved 2011-10-06. 
  3. ^ Top of the Pops 2 - Where Are They Now?
  4. ^ Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales) - The Stranglers.(News)
  5. ^ The Stranglers prepare for Weyfest -
  6. ^ Virgin Radio - Stranglers biography
  7. ^ TRIBUTE - THE STRANGLERS: The stranglers' timeline.(Chronology) - Music Week
  8. ^ Cosmos, Tiger (2013). "The Stranglers Biography". Net Industries. Retrieved 24 April 2013. 
  9. ^ Access My Library - TRIBUTE - THE STRANGLERS: The stranglers' timeline.(Chronology)
  10. ^ BBC Music - 'Norfolk Coast' review
  11. ^ Review: The Stranglers @ Academy, Manchester - The Citizen
  12. ^ The Stranglers Liverpool O2 Academy -
  13. ^ The Stranglers - Norwich Evening News 24
  14. ^ The Raven album (2001 CD re-release) sleeve notes
  15. ^ THE STRANGLERS Much Ado About Nothing -
  16. ^ Jet set at full throttle - interview with Jet Black of The Stranglers The Oxford Times
  17. ^ Patent Storm - system for remotely playing a percussion musical instrument
  18. ^ Business fund for bright ideas - BBC News Online: Sci/Tech
  19. ^ Concert Review: The Stranglers and Blondie - The Jerusalem Post
  20. ^ Sex Pistols at Isle of Wight: More parent than punk - Daily Telegraph
  21. ^ String of hits to make gig golden - Birmingham Mail
  22. ^ Rock star hospitalised before concert - Oxford Mail newspaper
  23. ^ News about Jet - Stranglers Official Site
  24. ^ Gig preview: The Stranglers, 02 Academy, Leeds - Yorkshire Evening Post
  25. ^ The Stranglers are heading to the Midlands - Birmingham Mail
  26. ^ Mr Dojo Rising: JJ Burnel Of The Stranglers Interviewed - The Quietus
  27. ^ Stranglers Interview – Baz Warne talks to Louder Than War about their upcoming tour - Louder Than War. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  28. ^ The Economist - The internet and politics: Semi-connected
  29. ^ a b Hugh Cornwell - A Multitude of Sins - ISBN 0-00-719325-4
  30. ^ Twenty years of endless Strangling - The Independent

Further reading

  • The Great Rock Discography - 5th Edition - ISBN 1-84195-017-3
  • Guinness Rockopedia - ISBN 0-85112-072-5

External links

  • Jet Black interview for The Burning Up Times Issue 3 at
  • The Stranglers officials website
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