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MINISITES

In The Beginning...
Mar 1986 to Sept 1988
Oct 1988 to Dec 1989
Jan 1990 to Apr 1991
May 1991 to Jan 1992
Feb 1992 to Aug 1993
Sept. 1993 to Feb 1994
Mar 1994 to Nov 1994
Dec 1994 to Dec 1999
Jan 2000 to Dec 2000
Jan 2001 to Dec 2003
Jan 2004 to Dec 2004
Jan 2005 to Dec 2005
Jan 2006 to Apr 2006
May 2006 to Oct 2006
Nov 2006 to
Sept 2008
Oct 2008 to Sept 2009
Oct 2009 to Dec 2010
Jan 2011 to Dec 2011
Jan 2012 to Feb 2015

In Memoriam
Rob Jones
Martin Gilks

Within a week of Rob Jones - soon to be known as The Bass Thing - joining the group, they had written four more songs and secured their first live performance as support to Russian Roulette at JB's in Dudley on March 30th. Spurred on by the gig's success they recorded their first demos a few weeks later. The four track demo tape, 'Handful Of Songs', contained the tracks 'Red Berry Joy Town', 'A Wonderful Day', 'She's The Rain' and 'One Girl' and, as well as being distributed amongst family, friends and various people in the music industry, the cassette was also sold at some of their gigs for the princely sum of, as Miles once described it, "one round pound".

HANDFUL OF SONGS

These four songs have more power and raw energy than Sellafield! They are TRUE songs - not pretending to be anything else or hiding behind studio technology. They have a very immediate sound, and cannot be tied down to any category or thing that had gone before. This is much more than a demo tape, and if it doesn't make you want to throw all your other records away, then nothing else will. This is definitely the start of something WONDERFUL!

Mandy Sharpe, The Drumsticks Revenge

One person to receive a copy of the cassette was Balaam and The Angel's singer Mark Morris who let a friend of his, gig promoter Les Johnson, listen to it to see what he thought. Johnson loved what he heard and went to see the group at Stourbridge's Town Hall where they were supporting Pop Will Eat Itself. After discussions with the group, Johnson introduced Dave Alldridge to the group and together they became the group's management team. Around this time another Midlands gig promoter, Dave Travis, heard the band's demo tape and said that it "was simply the best I'd heard in a very long time". Travis stuck with the group and through his Click Club promotions agency helped to arrange and promote many of the group's appearances in the Midlands area.

In July, The Wonder Stuff played support to a group that Miles had once played in and his brother Russ was still a member of - Pop Da Freak. They themselves were attracting acclaim from some of the music press and their first demo tape had attracted very favourable reaction. Indeed, at this point in time, Russ may well have been more popular than Miles as Pop Da Freak were certainly attracting bigger audiences than The Wonder Stuff.

THE RAILWAY, BIRMINGHAM - 04/07/86

The crowd looked vacantly in the general direction of The Wonder Stuff as they took the stage. But, as the first few chords were unleashed, their comfortable disinterest was immediately shattered. The Wonder Stuff plunged into a short set of eight perfectly formed (pop) songs. And although delivered with a quiet air of self-assurance, they maintained a mounting intensity throughout. This group cannot be ignored it's only up to you.

The Drumsticks Revenge

Rave reviews, sterling performances and the high standard of the demo tape led to the group starting to attract the attentions of record companies. However, in September it was suggested that the group recorded a single under their own steam. The four of them agreed and went into the recording studio for the first time. However, poor production quality led to the recordings being scrapped and the project looked doomed until Bob offered to pay for more studio time out of 1,500 prize money he'd recently won on the football pools.

 

In January 1987, the EMI record company organised a series of concerts under the banner 'London ICA Rock Week' which were due to feature acts such as The Wonder Stuff, Pop Will Eat Itself, Voice Of The Beehive and The Primitives. When the groups scheduled to appear read their contracts and saw that EMI wanted the rights to release live albums based on the performances, many of them pulled out. Not so The Wonder Stuff (or The Stuffies as they had become known) who went on record as saying that there was no way they would turn down 500. Supporting The Brilliant Corners, the results of the gigs can be heard on two albums released by EMI a few months later, 'On The Dotted Line (Here)' and 'On The Dotted Line (There)', which feature 'Redbury Joy Town' (spelling as per track listing) and 'A Wish Away' respectively. The appearance fee was quickly put to good use in buying Malcolm a new guitar and effects rack.

The Wonder Stuff, 1988In February, shortly after their London performance, the group decided to release their first single. 1,000 copies of the four track 7"-only EP, 'Wonderful Day' - containing the tracks 'It's Not True', 'Like A Merry Go Round', 'A Wonderful Day' and 'Down Here' - were released on the group's own newly formed Far Out Recording Company label. Five hundred copies of the EP were distributed to various Midlands independent record stores with the remainder being used for promotional purposes. Due to its highly-sought-after appeal, the single was heavily bootlegged and copies of these - falsely labelled 'Fan Club Reissues' with different covers to the original - can often be seen for sale at some record stores and fairs.

One of the tracks, 'Like A Merry Go Round', contains the lines 'Don't eat the salad, her sister made it' which has often been the subject of some discussion of its origin. According to Miles' brother Russ, the official story is that one day when Clint and Miles were at Clint's girlfriend's house, Clint asked if there was any food he could have. His girlfriend replied that he could look in the fridge, so off Clint went finding a bowl of salad which he duly tucked into. On her way back into the room, his girlfriend then adds, "Don't eat the salad, my sister made it for lunch tomorrow". Sadly by this time, the salad had been consumed and hence the lyrics.

One of the original copies of the single reached the headquarters of Polygram Records who offered the band a publishing deal in July. With this backing, the group started to think about releasing another single. They eventually chose to record 'A Wish Away', a track that had always been well received whenever they played it live. A demo of the song was recorded on Clint Mansell's home Portastudio kit which was then used as a basis for the track when they went into the studio to record it properly. However, the differences between playing the track at home and playing it in a proper studio proved too great - the track was attempted several times before recordings were abandoned and another live favourite, 'Unbearable', was eventually decided upon and successfully recorded.

Released in September, 'Unbearable' gained immense acclaim from local music publications and, helped by the assistance of the Nine Mile/Cartel distribution network and the group's self-produced promotional video, introduced the rest of the United Kingdom to the group. The track scaled to number 9 in the independent singles charts and led to their next London gig being overrun with A&R men from various record companies, all eager to sign up the band who the music papers were touting as having released one of the best singles of the year. Even America got caught up in the hype when the track was used in a Dan Ackroyd and Steve Martin film.

Unbearable cartoonHowever, America was the furthest thing from their minds at this time. Wherever The Wonder Stuff played, a hoard of A&R people were following close behind. One of these belonged to Virgin subsidiary company, Hedd, who offered the group the chance to support Big Country if they signed to them. As Miles says though, "By this stage we knew full well that we were going to sign to Polydor, but we didn't tell them that. Hedd was run by The Cult's management and at one particular meeting, Ian Astbury stuck his head round the door and said 'Have you got a light?'. It was so obvious that he'd just been wheeled in to impress us so that we'd go 'Fucking Hell, it's Ian Astbury!!!'. Anyway, we went 'Fucking Hell, it's Ian Astbury!!!' but it didn't convince us. When they found out about Polydor we literally just left the tour, headed straight down to London and got bevvied up."

Shortly after, the opportunity came up for the band to tour with Zodiac Mindwarp and The Love Reaction. It was towards the end of the Mindwarp's initial incarnation, and on many occasions it seemed that the audience were more into The Stuffies than Zod and his band.

It was around this time that the road crew for the group gained a new addition to their ranks - Miles' brother Russ as the group's guitar technician. Around the same time, it came to the attention of the music press that wherever The Wonder Stuff went, a tea urn could always be found. Dismissing many rumours of the raucous life of a roadie, it became clear that some members of the group's behind-the-scenes team preferred the taste of tea to other alcoholic beverages. From this point on, the legendary tea urn followed the group around regardless of where in the world they were.

By the time of the Zodiac Midwarp support dates, Miles had moved out of Clint's house and was living in a flat in the Walsall area of Birmingham. The Bass Thing, however, went one step further and moved out of the area completely having suddenly got married to his girlfriend, Lee, who the group had found in their 'dressing room' one night after one of the Zodiac gigs.

 

The Wonder Stuff promotional postcard, 1987In late November, the band recorded four songs for a session to be broadcast on BBC Radio One's Janice Long show - 'Mother And I', 'Poison', 'Rue The Day' and 'Ooh She Said'. Support such as this made an impact on potential fans and raised the profile of the band considerably. In December 1987, The Wonder Stuff signed to the Polydor record label - not least influenced by the prestige of being on the same label as The Jam, one of Miles' favourite bands - amid concern from some followers and journalists who thought that the move to a major league record label would mean the end of the group's individual identity and almost unique sound. However, Malcolm summed up the atmosphere within the group nicely by saying, "When we signed it felt exactly the same as before except that we had much better gear." Miles continued by saying, "It was nice to be able to go to the studio when you wanted, whereas before you could only afford to go twice a year and that blew all your savings."

A&R man, Graham Carpenter was the man responsible for signing the group to Polydor and recalls his initial impressions of the group. "The first thing that struck me about them was that they had a good image and that they stuck in your mind. I saw them live about a dozen times when I was with WEA and every time they got a bit better. I wasn't completely convinced about the songs initially, but I could understand the image, I could see that Miles would get some great press coverage and that they were a real band. When 'Unbearable' came out, I loved that, and that clinched it for me. I'd just come to Polydor where we were looking to build up our roster of artists and signed them virtually immediately, despite the competition from Virgin and Warners."

Already, the music industry was beginning to sit and notice the group. Notably, at the start of 1988, the now-defunct magazine Record Mirror tipped the group as one of their band's to watch in this year. They were not to be disappointed.

 

The Wonder Stuff, 1988After signing to Polydor, safe in the knowledge that their immediate future was secure and that the facility was available for them to record new songs, Miles, Martin, Rob and Malcolm began commuting between Stourbridge and London for rehearsal and recording sessions. Friend of the band and road crew member, Adam Booker, had a house in London and offered Martin a place to stay whenever he was in the capital. Malc soon joined Gilksey at Adam's house and it seemingly became a drop-in centre for all and sundry.

As Miles describes, "The front room was unusable because Ad had kicked in the window on one occasion when he had forgotten his key, so it was too cold to use. The living room had Malc's telly in it... The whole house was a wreck except for Malc's room which was immaculate - a complete safe haven, like something out of Alice In Wonderland. After gigs there'd be punters everywhere, loads of booze and fags, and Malc wouldn't let anyone near his room.

Eager to get recording, with ex-Vibrator Pat Collier handling the production, the group were in the studio for a total of 36 days during the following three months - usually consisting of a fortnight of live dates followed by a fortnight in the studio in an attempt to get the best out of the available recording time. Prior to the release of their third single, they undertook a UK tour in March playing in Bristol, Birmingham, Nottingham and Liverpool, as well as entering BBC Radio One's Maida Vale studio in London to record a session for Mark Goodier's Evening Session programme which featured 'A Wonderful Day', 'Red Berry Joy Town' and 'It's Yer Money I'm After, Baby'.

Give Give Give Me More More More promotional postcardNo sooner had they finished in the recording studio than Polydor and the group went straight into an argument over what would be the next single. Polydor wanted to release 'A Wish Away' but the group, aware of its potential, eventually persuaded the label to release 'Give Give Give Me More More More' - they felt that the commercial potential of 'A Wish Away' could be used to reach the charts, and thought the release of 'Give Give Give Me More More More' would raise the band's profile further before their first 'hit'. Released in April 1988, the single contained the group's first attempt at sampling - the sound of the till ringing at the start is taken from Wizzard's 'I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday', one of several Wizzard tracks on which Miles' uncle (Bill Hunt) had played on. Released as a two track 7" (backed with 'Song Without An End'), the four track 12" boasted two additional tracks not on the forthcoming album and was also pressed as a 33rpm 12" for their first US release.

The track itself reached number 75 in the UK Singles charts but could well have got even higher had the video for the song not been banned by ITV's The Chart Show for being "too aggressive for tea-time viewing". To complement the single's release (and also in an attempt to cash in on the latest electronics industry gimmicks) a CD Video single was released which featured the audio versions of the single's tracks, 'Give Give Give Me More More More', 'A Song Without An End', 'Meaner Than Mean' and 'Sell The Free World' plus the promo video of the title track. Despite their hype, CD Video players remained quite scarce so these were not a big selling product for the group and now regularly command resale prices in the region of 20-25.

As anticipated, the success of 'Give Give Give Me More More More' bought more followers into the Wonder Stuff camp and this led to the band's appearance at London's Marquee in May being sold out within 17 minutes of the tickets going on sale. Shortly after, the group were due to play Wolverhampton's Polytechnic but the venue refused to sell tickets to people who were not members of the National Union of Students and the gig was eventually cancelled to the annoyance of the group and the fans who were stuck outside the venue unable to get in.

 

The Wonder Stuff, 1988After spending some time in June recording a few more tracks for their debut album, 'A Wish Away' was finally released. Though the group had thought of this as being the song most likely to be successful from their first long-player, its ascent up the charts stalled at No. 43, probably not helped by a truly appalling video that even the band themselves detest.

However, hot on the heels of 'A Wish Away' came the release of their first album. 'The Eight Legged Groove Machine' received enormous acclaim from the reviewers and reached the Top 20 in the UK album charts, riding a wave of publicity, enthusiasm and benefiting from a relentless touring schedule. Fourteen tracks of finely crafted three-minute pop songs, the album featured re-recorded versions of 'Unbearable' and 'Like A Merry Go Round' plus popular live favourites such as 'Red Berry Joy Town', 'Grin', 'Poison' and 'Ruby Horse'. There was also an short unlisted track added at the end of side two, 'Times Will Change', which followed the acoustic vein of a couple of the other tracks on the album, 'Some Sad Someone' and 'Rue The Day'.

THE EIGHT LEGGED GROOVE MACHINE

With the obvious exception of Judas Priest, Wolverhampton has done very little by way of providing the public with moments of lasting sonic satisfaction. To redress the balance, The Wonder Stuff - four grimy youths of no fixed hairstyle - have released their first LP. And a powerfully refreshing shower of songs it is too. Their's is the sound The Smiths might have arrived at had they taken the hormone tablets: a lean and handsome guitar thrash, smothered in dreamy harmonies and topped with tart, witty words. 'Give Give Give Me More More More' and 'A Wish Away' have already sniffed at the feet of the charts, but the briefest of acquaintances with 'The Eight Legged Groove Machine' reveals a whole rake of songs from the same and high-risk-catchiness category. From the cheeky, bouncing 'It's Yer Money...' with its grabbing refrain "Forget your heart/It's your bank I wanna break" via the reflective, McCartneyesque 'Rue The Day' to 'Unbearable's' vitriolic surge, the Stuffs exude an exhilarating arrogance tempered with a smirking reverence for pop like it used to be. * * * *

Adrian Deevoy, Q Magazine

The last track on side one was 'The Animals And Me', a track that was fraught with problems during its recording and saw one of the first major inter-group arguments. The recording sessions were nearly finished, but Miles, influenced by music he'd been listening to during the period of recording such as The Shamen and Pop Will Eat Itself, began to dislike what they'd put down on tape. Miles explains the changes made to the track, "I wanted to fuck around with it, so I asked Martin if we could programme drum machines instead of him drumming, and he loved that. We got a lot of distortion pedals and I re-wrote all of Bob's basslines. I spent a night with Pat Collier in the studio and whacked out what became 'The Animals And Me' just to show to the band. I loved it. I think I was the only person who did anything much on that track. Gilks tarted up the drum programme more and Malc had this idea for the tube, the thing Peter Frampton used on 'Show Me The Way'. Malc said, 'What's the point in my trying to mimic the guitar when you've already got it on tape?' But Bob went home and sulked. He hated it. He made a cassette of the album without that song on and when we got it pressed on vinyl, he scratched the track on his record." Such was Rob's hatred of the song that he refused to play it live in the finished arrangement with the result being that whenever the group did perform the track, he lifted the bassline from Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel's 'White Lines (Don't Do It)' track.

 

Following on from the success of 'The Eight Legged Groove Machine', Polydor released 'It's Yer Money I'm After, Baby' as the fourth (and final) single from the debut LP. This was another example of the group triumphing over record company logic as the track was released as part of a four track EP. Miles had often made scathing remarks about the number of formats issued for each single and felt that this way buyers need only buy one format to get all the tracks - a policy that they would return later in their career. Additional tracks on the EP included a new version of 'Ooh, She Said', now boasting a new ending with harmonised backing vocals, and 'Astley In The Noose' - an attack at chart-topping pop star Rick Astley. Despite the fact that the four tracks were duplicated across the 7", 12" and CD single formats, a number of interesting releases of the single were also available - a two track 7" was used to promote the single and the EP was released in Sweden on 7" with only three tracks. Whatever the format, something went right for the group and the single charted - at number forty.

I've known this young band since they were in their early thirties and I can honestly say that they have released this record. It all started with an advert that appeared in the Melody Maker three days before Elvis Presley's tragic death - 'Pre-Raphaelite god wants three fellow hairies to form fab pop band'. Nearly a decade later it was pointed out that neither Miles, Martin, Malcolm or The Bass Thing had seen this advert, and on the strength of this remarkable coincidence, decided to form 'The Wonder Stuff'. Right from their first gig at a Tokyo bordello, watched only by myself, some bored geisha girls and five senior officers of the United States Navy, I could tell they had style, they had class, they had socks down their trousers. Since then I have seen them at their best, I have seen them at their worst, I have seen them dressed as medieval Estonian hotel staff (I should have guessed there was something funny about that mushroom curry). And now they have released this truly wonderful record. I think it was in Geneva that James Joyce whispered to me, "You can fool some of the people all of the time, but 8 out of 10 cats prefer to drag dead birds into the house just when you've started on the broccoli quiche".

from 'The Wonder Stuff - The Authorised Biography'
by Charles McCartan
(from the inner sleeve of 'It's Yer Money I'm After, Baby' single)