A MAJOR part of the rebirth of Hugh Cornwell involved him looking anew at the songs that made him one of the UK’s finest songwriting talents.

Tracks of the calibre of Hanging Around, No More Heroes, Golden Brown and Duchess were part of the British pop fabric in the 1970s and 80s.

They had stood the test of time but had to be pared down to fit Hugh’s preferred touring combination of a power trio.

It was Cornwell’s task to imagine the songs without the ubiquitous keyboard and take a step into the unknown, into the same uncharted waters in which he himself swam 30 odd years ago.

The 65-year-old takes his band to Manchester Academy next month with the express intention of presenting the classics in a different light so they sound as new as tracks from his recent, acclaimed album, Totem and Taboo.

He admits: “It’s all about keeping the music fresh.

“I tour without keyboards so I have to reinterpret those parts for bass guitar or lead. Sometimes I even sing the keyboard part.

“I have to be inventive but the songs are so strong that it still works “It’s fun to be doing it and I’ve been working with a trio for about 15 years now.”

It was fear of repeating himself that led Hugh to call it a day with The Stranglers in 1990 after more than 20 hit singles and 10 best-selling albums.

“I couldn’t see myself going through the motions with The Stranglers into the future,” he says.

“I’m proud of the part I played in their catalogue and the songs still stand up but when I do them now I just have to be more inventive.

“I realise I have to play some Strangers songs in my set so I have to be ingenious as to how I do it.

“People say they’ve never heard them like that but it’s testament to the power of the songs that we pull it off.”

Touring with Hazel O’Connor this time around, Hugh features in the second half of the show before the headliners share the stage for the classic Hanging Around to close the show.

Hugh says: “Hazel and I were an item at one stage, at the beginning of the 80s.

“We then kept bumping into each other since and we always had a nice feeling for each other so when a promoter suggested we tour together, we thought why not?”

Factor in rave notices for Totem and Taboo and Hugh’s profile is as high as it’s been at any stage since his Strangers days.

“I’m very happy with the new album and it’s continuing to get great comments,” he says.

“It’s as good as anything I’ve done and I’m going to Iceland to perform before Christmas and then going back to Japan, where I haven’t played since about 1979.

“As long as the audience figures are going up and not down, that to me is success.”

Hugh Cornwell and Hazel O’Connor are at the Manchester Academy on December 6. Telephone 0844 412 4642.