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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

Early in 2012, a plan was put to the rest of the group to cover a selection of tracks originally performed by acts from the Midlands area.  The idea had come about after Miles had decided to learn to play The Move's 'Blackberry Way' - a track he felt was a staple in any Midlands-based musician's repertoire.  This then led his to look at the way in which music from the area was viewed when compared to other music areas such as London, Manchester, Sheffield, Glasgow etc. and he felt that not enough had been done previously to celebrate the work of local acts.

Initially, the plan was to record a handful of tracks which the group would release as limited edition EP's to further interest in the group whilst they worked on the follow-up to the 2006 release, 'Suspended By Stars'.  To capture the essence of the recordings, Miles wanted to release the tracks on 7" vinyl alongside the obligatory digital downloads, as part of a project they had titled 'From The Midlands With Love'.  As well as the EP releases, there was also talk of a festival featuring acts, new and old, with their roots in the Midlands.

The first EP from the project, released in April, saw the group tackling 'Blackberry Way' alongside The Beat's 'Save It For Later'.  Through his work with Coventry-based Ska group The Beat, Fuzz had approached original Beat vocalist Rankin' Roger to perform backing vocals on the track and he also appeared in the promotional video produced for the track.

To further promote the project, Miles and Erica undertook a whistle-stop tour of record stores in Bristol, Cheltenham, Worcester and Birmingham as part of Record Store Day 2012 where they performed tracks from the 'From The Midlands With Love' project alongside older Wonder Stuff material.

 

In June, the group began looking to recruit a new member to take over guitar duties following Malc Treece's departure in 2011 and thus, in early July, it was announced that the group's sound technician, Stevie Wyatt, had been offered the role and was being thrown in at the deep end with the release of the second EP in the 'From The Midlands With Love' project, this time featuring Slade's 'Far, Far Away' and Dexy's Midnight Runners' 'There, There My Dear'.  As with the previous release, videos were recorded for both tracks and a 7" vinyl edition was issued alongside the download version.

 

As news of the new single was announced, it was also confirmed that in addition to recording tracks for 'From The Midlands With Love', and with Stevie now properly onboard, the group were working on tracks for their new album, to be titled 'Oh No It's... The Wonder Stuff', with a full release scheduled for the end of the year.  As a result, no live dates or appearances were planned for the group until the end of the year when the would again be performing at a number of O2 venues around the country as part of a Sleigh The UK 2012 tour again featuring Jesus Jones and Pop Will Eat Itself.  In readiness for the four shows in London, Leeds, Liverpool and Birmingham, the group also undertook two warm-up shows in Derby and Bath.

 

To tie-in with the live shows in December and to introduce some of their new material to their fans, the group released a limited edition of the new album exclusively via their website although the official release of the album would not be until April 2013.  Designed in a hardback-book styled packaging, the 11-track album was quickly hailed as one of their finest albums to date - rated 8/10 by Uncut Magazine, 3* by Q Magazine, 4* by Record Collector and "one of the most impressive comeback records of our time" by the Sabotage Times website.

At the same time, the group also released the final EP in the 'From The Midlands With Love' series with the group covering Duran Duran's 'Planet Earth' and Beverly Knight's 'Get Up!'.

Within hours of the final notes being played on the Sleigh The UK 2012 dates, the O2 Academy organisation announced that the three groups would be repeating the shows the following December.  Dates were also being pencilled in for a UK tour during April to promote the release of the new album.

 

January 2013 saw the first official news of the group's new album, along with news of the first single to be taken from the album and also new tourdates - 2013 was shaping up to be a busy year for the ten-legged groove machine.

The new album would be released in March 2013.  In a move that generated a little bit of criticism for the group at the time, it was revealed that the album was going to be released as a 2-CD/21-track CD/download release - with a bonus disc being added to the original album released in December which would complete the 'From The Midlands With Love' project.  Having recorded the tracks for the three 'From The Midlands With Love' singles, the group had enjoyed working on them so much that they decided to look to record further tracks for inclusion on future releases.  Originally the plan was to include them on future singles but eventually they were because bonus tracks on the 'Oh No It's...' album.  The additional tracks saw the group covering Dodgy, The Primitives, Pop Will Eat Itself and UB40.  Upon hearing their cover of the UB's 'One In Ten', founding member Brian Travers commented that the only way the track could have been any better would have been if he had performed on it himself as well!

 

A week after the album's release, the group hit the road performing ten shows over a two-week period.  Support at all the shows was from the group's very own Erica Nockalls who had recently released her own solo album, making each night rather a busy one for her!

All of the shows started by showcasing a couple of tracks from the new album first - 'Clear Through The Years', and 'Right Side Of The Turf' before playing a handful of tracks from their earlier back catalogue.  The set would then continue to mix old and new tracks such as the album's title track 'Oh No!' and future single 'Friendly Company'.  What was noticed by many was how well the new material slotted into the live set alongside the older more familiar material.  Unlike the previous inclusion of tracks from the 'Escape From Rubbish Island' and 'Suspended By Star's albums where it seemed to be felt that there was a clear divide between the old and new tracks, this was most definately not the case with the tracks from their latest release - possibly helped by the limited edition release of the album a few months prior.

Reviews for all of the shows on the tour were excellent with hardly a bad report to be found anywhere.  It was clear that the new line-up enjoyed performing together and were comfortable with the material they were performing and this was mirrored by the audiences who mostly started bouncing and singing along from the off and didn't stop until the final chords of the set ('Ten Trenches Deep') had faded out.

 

During the rest of the year, the focus was very clearly on promoting the new album.  A number of festival appearances were booked including Willowman, Beautiful Days and Bestival and it was also announced that the group would be returning to Australia in early 2013 for a small number of live shows although the theme of these shows would be to perform their Never Loved Elvis anniversary set rather than the sets which had been performed to link in with the release of the new album.

The year ended with the group returning to a number of O2 venues around England with their, what was now becoming an annual event, Sleigh The UK Christmas shows - again with Jesus Jones and Pop Will Eat Itself also in attendance.

 

The new year began with the release of a brand new Wonder Stuff DVD, 'Oh Yeah It's... The Wonder Stuff'.  Recorded during 2012/13 and produced in a similar vein to their much-loved 'Welcome To The Cheap Seats' video many years ago, the DVD featured a mix of live tracks, promotional videos and interviews with all of the group members.  In addition, exclusive bonus acoustic tracks were also included as were all of the videos released by Erica to compliment the release of her 'Imminent Room' album.

 

In February 2014, the group travelled to Australia for a 4-day tour covering Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth.  This was the first time the group had been to the country since their shows supporting Jesus Jones in August 2011 and their first headlining tour since November 1991.  On their way back to the UK, the group performed a one-off show at the Irish Village in Dubai (having last played there a number of years previous supporting Simple Minds and Beverley Knight).

Shortly after their return to the UK, Fuzz Townshend announced that he was leaving the group.  Although it was a decision he had come to towards the end of 2013, he had agreed to honour existing commitments.  Alongside performing with The Wonder Stuff, he had also been performing with The Beat and his television career was also picking up steam due to the success of his Car SOS programme.

To the few in the know this news will come as no surprise, but I have decided to quit The Stuffies. I'd made my decision last year, but stayed to see out the Winter.

Always more of a dance and reggae guy, I had a great time playing the brilliant tracks that my 80s mates made, but I'm not one who much enjoys sticking to the rule book.

It's time to concentrate on Beat beats, the fun and challenges I'm having in the world of classic cars and to give a little more time to those I love.  Xxx

Fuzz Townshend

 

Barely two weeks had passed before it was announced that Stevie Wyatt had also decided to leave the group to concentrate on his other musical areas and was also soon to become a father.

With festival appearances already booked for the Summer months, including Cropredy, Bearded Theory and also both of the V Festival shows in Essex and Staffordshire, replacements were quickly sought and found within a matter of weeks.  Former Jesus Jones drummer Tony Arthy came onboard alongside long-time friend and fellow guitarist Dan Donnelly.  Miles and Tony had previously worked together a number of years ago during an early line-up of The Miles Hunt Club (at the time named The Miles Hunt Group) which also featured Michael Ferentino and Dominic Murphy.  The trio had recorded a number of tracks together during 2001 but these were eventually shelved in favour of the official line-up of the group which saw Andres' Karu feature on drums instead of Arthy due to his joining Jesus Jones, where he would remain until the end of 2013 when it was announced he was retiring from drumming to pursue other business areas.  A quick change of heart then...!

Prior to their scheduled appearance at the Bearded Theory Festival at the end of May, the new line-up performed their inaugural show at The Fleece in Bristol.

 

Also in May, news was officially announced about the release of Miles' first book, 'The Wonder Stuff Diaries'.  In an online press release used to promote Miles and Erica's acoustic shows, the title was listed as 'The Wonder Stuff Diaries Part One : Maybe I Should Be A Writer?' but this was never planned to be the case so the reasons behind this incorrect title are unclear.

Without the backing of a major publishing house, Miles had looked at ways of self-financing the publication and had initially looked to the popular Kickstarter approach but on further investigation decided that, alongside the IRL record label, they could achieve similar results but without having to lose out on any additional charges or commission rates.  For that reason, Miles selected a number of items from his own personal collection of Wonder Stuff memorabilia to sell off as a way of funding the project.  In addition to items such as promotional records, the infamous tartan suit and the pith hat as used in a number of press images from the later period of the group, Miles also offered a number of exclusive items such as handwritten lyric sheets, book credits and signed screenprints of the book's cover artwork.  He would also undertake a handful of solo live shows around the UK where he would read extracts from the book and also perform a small number of acoustic tracks from the period covered by the book - 1986 to 1989.

From this point onwards, Miles would often perform the reading of an extract from the book at acoustic shows performed by Erica and himself.  He also recorded a number of audio soundclips from the book which were used on a later Audio Teaser CD release and also appeared on his Soundcloud page.  A last-minute invite also saw him appearing on the Literary Stage at the Latitude Festival in July.

 

Earlier in the year, after much rumour and speculation, it had been confirmed that Eat would be reforming for a special one-night performance at the Half Moon in Putney, London.  Shortly before tickets went on sale, the group posted a picture on Twitter of the new line-up which included a familiar face to Wonder Stuff fans - Malc Treece had been recruited to take the place of former Eat guitarist Max Lavilla who had been in the group between 1990 and 1993.

Tickets for the show sold out on their first day of release and an additional date was quickly added for the following night.  Future plans for the group, and whether they include Treece as a permanent member of the group are currently unknown.

 

The Summer months saw the group (and also Miles and Erica acoustically) performing at a number of festivals and media interest in the group was picking up again.  Miles made a number of appearances on local and national radio stations talking about his forthcoming book and also announced that the group would be celebrating their 30th anniversary in 2016 with a new album and a number of tourdates.

 

With the festivals over, and only a handful of acoustic shows remaining for the rest of the year, it was announced that in the absence of what had become the annual Sleigh The UK shows at the end of December due to other commitments, Miles, Erica and Dan would be performed four acoustic shows in Newcastle, London, Birmingham and Oxford.  When tickets went on sale, the group asked attendee's to nominate tracks they would like to see the trio perform and with their entire back catalogue to plunder, the eventual setlists for the shows is still as yet unclear. 

It was also announced that the group would be appearing at the Shiiine Weekender Festival in November 2015 - a new three-day festival being held at the Butlin's holiday resort in Minehead featuring a host of acts from the 80's and 90's including, alongside The Wonder Stuff, the Inspiral Carpets, Happy Mondays, Space, Cud, The Primitives, 808 State and many more.  Interest in the festival was high, with tickets selling well as soon as they went onsale although they were only available to people booking a weekend's accommodation at the resort with prices for a basic room starting at almost 390.

 

Miles' long-awaited biography, 'The Wonder Stuff Diaries '86-'89' was released in October, with Miles conducting a brief 4-date book-reading tour of Scotland and England to promote the publication.  Buyers of tickets for the events were contacted by email a number of weeks prior to the shows and asked for their favourite ten tracks from the period covered by the book.  From all of the responses, Miles rehearsed and recorded ten tracks in acoustic form which he performed at the book readings as well as releasing them on a limited edition CD which also featured new and previously released audio clips of Miles reading extracts from the diaries.

With the majority of content taken from notes and scribblings in Miles' own diaries which he had kept since around the time of the formation of the group, he interspersed these stores with his own personal recollections.  At times honest and frank, sometimes scathing yet other times almost apologetic, the book talked not only about the formation of the group in 1986 and events/occasions until Bob left the group at the end of December 1989 but also memories from Miles' own childhood and influences that had an effect on him wanting to be in a group.

It is expected that a follow-up novel pencilled in for 2015 will cover the period 1990 to 1994, which Miles has already said is going to be much grimmer to write than its predecessor as it will cover the initial break-up of the group and also the ongoing internal wranglings within the group that took place during the period.  Whether a further book will come out bringing the history of the group up to the present day is still unclear at this point...

 

In November, Miles announced that he was going to start writing lyrics for the next album, with a scheduled release expected in 2016 to coincide with the 30th Anniversary of the group's formation and also confirmed that the album would be recorded with the current line-up.

December found Miles, Erica and Dan performing at a handful of venues around the UK for the Sleigh The UK Acoustic Tour.  The tour had been arranged for just the three of the group members as Mark was working with his other group, Deadcuts so the full group touring compliment wasn't available although Tony was in the audience for a couple of the shows.  Support for the shows was from former Bluetones frontman, Mark Morriss.

The shows featured a varied selection of tracks from the whole of the group's back catalogue, also throwing in some tracks rarely performed in recent times such as Full OF Life (Happy Now).  All three musicians performed the majority of the setlist with the exception of a couple of ELGM tracks towards the end of the nightly set for which Erica sat out.  A running joke through the shows was that as the evening's went on, Dan's choice of instrument would get smaller and smaller, going from guitar to ukelele to harmonica!

 

2015 began with Miles confirming that writing for the new album was well and truly underway with a number of tracks already penned and also that he had been working on a new track which would be used in a forthcoming television show.  It was also revealed that the group's track 'Friendly Company' was going to be featured in a future episode of the popular Channel 4 television show, 'Come Dive With Me'.  Anyone who has attended a Wonder Stuff or Miles and Erica acoustic show in recent years will have heard Miles saying about this track before performing it, saying that they would regularly receive a royalty payout whenever the series was on air as whenever anyone cooked a meal using beef the producers would play a clip of the track.  The song had originally been written with this in mind and Miles had often joked that one day maybe they would use it instead...

 

To be continued....