Golden Brown 45 Golden Brown

For some weirdy reason, one of my favourite ever songs (to which my long suffering mother will attest), “Golden Brown” by The Stranglers, came into my head this afternoon…..and refused to budge.

So, I had to play it.

But it still wouldn’t budge.

So then I had to relate this “probleme ancien” which I’d had back in the day, to our receptionist, in a bid to finally offload, all these years later.

You see when “Golden Brown” was released, fado fado, on 10th January 1982, I was still very young and well, a bit wet behind the ears (actually I was so wet I was soaking!).  I wasn’t very good at, well, lyrical interpretation!

1982 was not only pre-internet, it was also pre-computer!  These were the glory days of  ye olde black “let your fingers do the talking” phone, ye “fuzzy come snow or sunshine” pipe TV, and, ye radio a la batteries.  Communication was via pen and paper.  To get stuff, you had to move…to find out something, you had to go through pages and pages of information, like telephone and reference books.  There was no google to instantaneously answer my questions.  The only means I had of figuring stuff out, was through magazines, and my pocket money only stretched so far.

Anyway, after joyously discovering the romantic middle-eastern sub-tones of “Golden Brown” via the radio, I promptly despatched my trusty vinyl dealer to procure me the single from Golden Discs asap, chop-chop.  This dealer took the form of Mammy Mc Cloat, always good for a trip to town on a Monday and therefore always on hand to buy the latest release hot off the shelves (singles back then were normally released on a Sunday – which worked out perfectly for the Monday city centre run!).

Woo – there it was all shiny and unmarked, sitting on my turntable; around and, around and, around, and on, and on.  You get the picture.  This was de rigueur with every new single that came into my possession – for the first 48 hours, it was nothing but. So, there I was, myself and Jean-Jacques (Burnel – Bass player – mini-crush) in a reverie of Harpsichord 3/4 then 6/8 time, all Egyptian mystique, pyramids and eastern promise (yes, I’m going all Fry’s Turkish Delight for a moment, but you get the gist).

But there were two weeny problems:-

First up, the meaning of the song – who or what was Golden Brown, “the ..temptress”!  Was she some magical Delilah type, wooing The Stranglers across the Egyptian desert sands?  I just had to find out.  I asked in my class, no-one knew. Quelle surprise.  I asked the lads down the road, who just looked blankly at me with “WHA’?” written upon their faces.  No point in asking my mother. Damn.  So I asked the one last person on my go-to list who I thought might help.  I asked my teacher.  She was young(ish), she’d know.

“Miss, do you know what “Golden Brown” is about?  She looked at me very calmly, and said, “Whiskey”.  Huh?  Whiskey??.  And then when I thought about it, well it made sense.  Whiskey is warm, it’s a golden brown colour, it makes people happy, “never a frown, with Golden Brown”.   Okay then, first problem sorted.

The second problem was a little more difficult, in that I had no means available to me of checking my facts.  You see, I was very unsure about the second line of the song, it just didn’t seem to fit into the context:

“Golden Brown texture like sun

Lays me down with my, um, Rancheros”?

You see I knew it couldn’t be Rancheros, cos’ they were,  well, bacon flavoured crispy snacky things!!


Why would the Stranglers be singing about Rancheros?  And yet, I couldn’t get anything else to fit.  it would just have to do.  I had no way of verifying the lyrics.  And it rhymed.  So that was okay then, once it rhymed, it was sort of, well, okay-ish!

And so that was the “Golden Brown” of Derval’s world for many years.  A song about Whiskey and Rancheros!  Oh my innocent heart.

It wasn’t for a very long time, that I finally found out the true meaning of the song, from an interview with lead singer Hugh Cornwell, and just in case, there is any doubt, here you go:-

There has been much controversy surrounding the lyrics. In his 2001 book The Stranglers Song By Song, Hugh Cornwell clearly states “‘Golden Brown’ works on two levels. It’s about heroin and also about a girl”. Essentially the lyrics describe how “both provided me with pleasurable times”.

To end my ranchero-rambling, I leave you with, the full lyrics of “Golden Brown” by The Stranglers, together with the official video.  “… with my mind she runs…never a frown with golden brown”

Golden brown texture like sun
Lays me down with my mind she runs
Throughout the night
No need to fight
Never a frown with golden brown

Every time just like the last
On her ship tied to the mast
To distant lands
Takes both my hands
Never a frown with golden brown

Golden brown finer temptress
Through the ages she’s heading

From far away
Stays for a day
Never a frown with golden brown

Never a frown
With golden brown
Never a frown
With golden brown


3 thoughts on “Musical Mini Blog – A “Golden Brown” Sweetness of Youth

  1. Intersting. I was not listenng to hat kindi of music at that time, nor much of any really, but a cautionary tale of innocence led astray by a sometime lyrric and a catchy tune, I would guess.


    1. Well Evelyn, I was a bit of a clueless young wan to be fair but probably too young to even think that this might be about drugs!! I was a big new wave fan, rather than the hard core punk thing. The softer side of The Stranglers really appealed to me. But yes, I agree, it’s so easy for young people to be led astray by a melody and a catch riff. Role Models these boys were not! 🙂


  2. Ha ha that made me laugh! 😀 I also loved this song, but like you was too young to fully understand the lyrics… and now to find out it was about drugs. I’m so disappointed. Rancheros made so much more sense 😉 thanks for the giggle x


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