I was saddened to hear of the death on May 3rd of Dave Greenfield, founder member and keyboardist of The Stranglers.
Greenfield was one of the few to successfully add keyboards to the punk aesthetic, practically defining an alternative musical style entitled “New Wave.” But as I learned when I met him while writing my book Analog Synthesizers, his influences came from an even wider sphere, encompassing classical music and—keep this quiet, perhaps—Rick Wakeman.
“I had studied music theory, but I taught myself piano and had been playing in a lot of bands in the UK, and in Germany too. The advert I saw in Melody Maker was for a keyboard player and saxophonist for a ‘soft rock’ band—but the saxophonist only lasted a couple of weeks!”
Performing first with a Vox Continental and then with a Hammond organ, a Minimoog, and a Hohner Cembalet—a rare hybrid of Pianet and Clavinet with a distinctive bright, punchy sound—Greenfield developed a style that was forceful but full of intricate ornamentation. His keyboard parts on “Go Buddy Go” and “No More Heroes” remain massively influential, as does his harpsichord work on the hit single “Golden Brown.” Later he championed the budget-priced EDP Wasp synthesizer, recording many of the parts for the band’s Meninblack album with it, and the Roland JD800 with which I photographed him in 2004.
Greenfield remained with The Stranglers through changes of vocalist, the addition of a brass section, and many more innovations that maintained the band’s enthusiastic following, regularly filling major venues such as London’s Royal Albert Hall. He had been hospitalised with heart problems before contracting coronavirus, and passed away a few days after his 71st birthday.
Dave Greenfield 1949-2020