The band spent years denying persistent accusations that the lyrics are about heroin use and trade, claiming that different listeners will hear different things in the lyrics. Hugh Cornwell finally copped to the drug reference in 2001, when he said, "It's about heroin and also about a girl." This girl was Cornwell's Mediterranean girlfriend at the time - who had golden brown skin.
Playing down the drug angle was not for fear of repercussions, but because they didn't want the song reduced to merely a drug song.
The song originated when keyboardist Dave Greenfield experimented with a musical passage. While Greenfield perfected the synthesizer/harpsichord backing texture, Hugh Cornwell wrote 10 minutes worth of lyrics. He cut them down to fit the song.
No one considered the song more than just an album track, until radio stations in England started playing the song. Drummer Jet Black had always thought of it as a hit song and pushed for its release as a single. It became their biggest hit and one of their most popular songs with the fans.
Stranglers bass guitarist Jean Jacques Burnel
says in an interview with the online music magazine Reminiscin'
: "We were written off by then. There was a new record company at the time that had taken us over because they have swallowed up our previous record company. They said punk was over and we were finished, and then we forced them to release that record. They said it didn't sound like The Stranglers and that you couldn't dance to it, etc. They released it before Christmas thinking it would kinda die a death, but it developed its own legs. As a result it won an Ivor Novello award that year."
The Stranglers lineup between 1975-1990 was Hugh Cornwell (Guitar/Vocals), JJ Burnel (Bass/Vocals), Dave Greenfield (Keyboards/Vocals) and Jet Black (Drums). In 1990 Cornwell left and the band continued with a new singer and a new guitarist.
This song features a '60s type harpsichord riff with an unusual time signature. The intro (and the parts like it) sound like three bars of 3/4, then one of 4/4, with the rest just straight 3/4 like a waltz.
This was The Stranglers highest charting single in the UK, and EMI's highest selling single for many years.
This song peaked at #2 in the UK, behind The Jam's "Town Called Malice
/Precious." The Stranglers' record label, EMI, objected to the Jam's single being available in both a studio-recorded 7-inch version and a live 12-inch version. They argued that the Jam's fans were buying both versions of the single, stopping "Golden Brown" from reaching #1.
This song was featured in the 2000 film Snatch.
The album title La Folie is French for "Madness."