Rock fans, and especially punk rock fans, are mourning the death of legendary drummer Jet Black of the Stranglers, who has sadly died at the age of 84, passing away peacefully in his sleep at his country home in North Wales, after an extended period of ill health.
The musician, who was born Brian John Duffy, was a founding member of the hugely popular band, but had not performed since 2015. They had come together in Guildford, Surrey back in 1974, and they went on to form an integral part of the punk and new wave scene towards the end of that decade and the beginning of the next.
Ahead of his time
He was very unlike many of those in the industry at that time, in so much that he was actually a very successful businessman and was well into his thirties. His previous experience as a part time drummer in the late fifties and through the sixties had enabled him to develop a playing style, which helped them achieve their totally unique sound; leading to 23 top 40 singles and 19 top 40 albums, with favourite tracks such as: Peaches, No More Heroes, and Golden Brown, owing much to his talent.
Stick a flake in it – very rock and roll
His business interests included surprisingly, a fleet of ice cream vans and later an off-licence called The Jackpot. In the early days, the band used one of the vans as their tour bus and his shop doubled as their headquarters. He also was a furniture designer and even patented the “Jet Black Power Bass Drum Pedal”. The drummer said he never doubted the decision to shift his focus away from business and back into music, stating that once he committed to it he was never turning back.
Stepping back gradually
He stepped back from performing in 2007 after experiencing heart problems, but was back on the road for tours in 2010 and again the following year. He had vowed to carry on until he was no longer capable, but eventually retired in 2015.
Tributes from the band
His bandmates paid him heartfelt tributes after hearing of his passing. JJ Burnel said: “After years of ill health, Jet has finally been released; he was a force of nature, a real inspiration.” He continued: “The Stranglers would not have been if it wasn’t for him; a rebel with many causes.”
The band’s manager Sil Willcox, remarked that Jet was “the real deal”, before calling him an “obsessive perfectionist”, but said he would cherish the times they planned, pranked, ate, drank and laughed, on so many great nights together.
Original frontman Hugh Cornwell, who left in 1990, spoke of the two of them being immediately drawn to one another, because Jet Black had a singular sense of purpose that he was able to identify with. He added: “The Stranglers success was founded on his determination and drive… His timing was faultless.”
Baz Warne, The Stranglers’ guitarist, saw him as a mentor revealing that Jet had taken him under his wing over two decades ago and that he never really came out from under it. He said he had spoken to him just three weeks ago and he was laughing and still interested and involved. “It has been my privilege to have known and worked with him, and to have called him a friend; I’m so very sad he’s gone, I loved him”. As did so many others.
Nice to be remembered
When asked several years ago how he would like be remembered Jet replied: “I guess if we are actually remembered, then that will do.”
He leaves behind his wife Ava, and his two children Charlotte and Anthony.