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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

Prior to the album's release at the end of May, another single, 'Caught In My Shadow', was released. The track was written during January 1990 at a time when Miles wasn't sure if the group still had a future. The video was filmed outside Birmingham Cathedral during a short unpublicised secret 'unplugged' gig in April 1991. Originally, the group had wanted to just "turn up outside the cathedral and see who notices" but permission had to be sought from the local council, the local police had to be consulted and it all started getting complicated so the plan for an impromptu appearance was dropped. Another alternative suggestion for the video involved a camera being strapped to the front of a car and then driven around the city - an idea inspired by The Cure's 'Jumping Someone Else's Train' video which showed the London-Brighton train journey at high speed. Another (thankfully dismissed) idea was to follow the group as they walked around Birmingham.

Despite attempts to keep the appearance quiet, news of the event was broadcast on local radio the night before, guaranteeing a turnout of a few hundred fans who were treated to several playbacks of the new single as well as an acoustic 'greatest hits' set.

...Picture yourself out in Brum on a Saturday with pigeons in trees and snow laden skies...

Because that was the scene on April 20th in the middle of Pigeon Park, just outside Birmingham's cathedral. Around 11 o'clock, a fairly large crowd had gathered, and about them milled several film cameramen. An impromptu gig by St. Cliff the Evangelist perhaps? No, far too many Ned's Atomic Dustbin T-shirts on view for that. A "Help The Aged" rally possibly? No, not enough Inspiral Carpets T-shirts for that. So what then?

The answer was much simpler and even more interesting. Those legendary pop stars The Wonder Stuff were in town shooting the video for their next chart-topping single, 'Caught In My Shadow'. Following Miles' recent assertions in the press that should the band ever lose their popularity, they would turn their attentions to busking at tube stations, the Stuffies decided that it was probably wise to get some practise in, just in case. And so, there they were, surrounded by a crowd of 200 fans busking their way through some of the greatest pop hits of the day, such as 'A Wish Away', 'Don't Let Me Down, Gently', 'It's Yer Money I'm After, Baby' and 'Unbearable', ably assisted by some vociferous backing vocals from the crowd, some even managing a reasonable approximation of the right key for the right song. As the snow began to fall, there were even a few seasonal choruses of 'Jingle Bells' to keep us all warm. Bemused Saturday shoppers passed by throughout the filming, one looking at the state of the crowd before declaring it "weirdo music".
After about an hour and a couple of run throughs of 'Caught In My Shadow', the temperature plummeted and the band buggered off to their bus for coffee, but Birmingham's hardy citizens remained firmly in place, busily passing the time by inspecting the genitalia of brass monkeys and issuing witty, pithy comments like "Fuckin' hell it's cold". All was soon well however as the Stuffies returned to conduct some more community singing and run through 'Caught In My Shadow' a couple more times, as cameramen clambered on top of every available monument to get a good shot, one even filming from the roof, caught between two gargoyles with more than a passing resemblance to Shaun Ryder. Finally the director pronounced himself happy, consigning the band to half an hour of signing T-shirts, records & cider bottles.
When everyone had packed up and gone home, I suddenly realised that despite all that honest busking endeavour, nobody had given them any money. They'll just have to stick to making weirdo music I suppose.

Les Johnson, Sharing The Love

Climbing to No. 18 in the charts, the single also featured a live version of Lennon's 'Gimme Some Truth' as one of it's bonus tracks. Often appearing in the set-list of many of their 1989/90 gigs, Miles commonly namechecked a number of his journalist friends during the track although this version, recorded at Pontefract's Minsthorpe High School in 1990, is without those references as well as very little swearing (as was almost the whole of the performance at the school) due to the age range of the audience.

 

The Wonder Stuff - horny devilsFollowing on the heels of 'Caught In My Shadow' came the release of the group's third album, 'Never Loved Elvis'. Straying away from the rough sounds of 'The Eight Legged Groove Machine' although continuing the acoustic, and sometimes country, theme of some of the 'Hup' tracks, the album saw Mick Glossop at the production helm in place of the usual Pat Collier. Whereas Martin Bell had only played a small part on the second album, 'Never Loved Elvis' was dominated with his accordion, fiddle and banjo playing leading many to draw comparisons to one of Miles' favourite groups, The Waterboys. Rocketing into the album charts at No. 3, the album was to become the most popular and best-selling album of their career and is possibly one of the best albums of the early nineties.

The majority of the album was written around the time of The Bass Thing leaving, and many of the lyrics reflect this state of affairs - such as in 'Maybe' where Miles is evaluating his options for the future. The first single, 'The Size of A Cow', was actually written and originally recorded in August 1989, but had been discarded for possible future release as it could never be played live with no-one able to play the piano section. When Martin Bell joined the group full-time and told them that he could play the instrument, the track was revived.

 

Some of the tracks also reflected the changes in Miles' life between 1989 and 1990, such as Rob's departure from the band and Miles' marriage to Mary-Anne which he also referenced in the liner notes to the 'Sleep Alone' track - "Clifford laughed at me every time I jumped to answer the phone. Ha fuckin' ha. He didn't know what I knew."  The phonecalls in question were primarily from Mary-Anne.

The album also featured a new version of 'Play', fifteen months after it's original scheduled appearance on the 'Luna Thug' EP, which differed from the original recording with additional fiddle and a different bass part due to the line-up changes.

NEVER LOVED ELVIS

Third album decision time. Undoubtedly a direct No. 1 hit but is it peak plateau or superbooster? Succeeding in simultaneously standing still and surging forward, this isn't 'Sgt. Pepper' '91 but it could be their 'Dark Side Of The Moon'. Lyrically there's no new insights, still ploughing the fertile row of sneer 'n' cynicism with razor blades slicing through the familiar targets of hypocrisy, the biz, the nation, prejudice and a pocketful of fuck you.

Musically though, there's new corners, old lampposts (wasn't 'Size Of A Cow' really The Small Faces with a fiddle?), mezzanines, rooftop gardens and dark cellars; split level redecorating jobs and straight from the lab steamers. Already noted 'Mission Drive' opens proceedings then it's a swarm of angry violin into 'Play', driven on desperation, racing down a tunnel, dogs at its heels. 'False Start' is. Distort mindflip. And for real with 'Welcome To The Cheap Seats', carousel, vertigo in the hall of mirrors, disorientated; "in another world he can wear a dress". Middle eight musical box ballet. A classic single. Radio will probably think it's about transvestism.

Have a 'Cow'. Then 'Sleep Alone'. Almost wistful. Bloody bitter romantic. Immeasurably sad. A heart not all anger, Miles. Bastard. 'Donation', already given. 'Inertia' phases between heads. Spoiled for choice. Not the strongest. Keeps on moving to a definite 'Maybe'. The waltz of indecision. If in doubt, do nothing.

Harmonica, more fiddle and a namecheck for Michael Stipe. 'Grotesque' met Bo Diddley. Spleen machine, misogynistic. Not a Valentine card. 'Here Comes Everyone', The Waterboys in a twister. 'Caught' in my single. And final 'Flying Five' reborn '38 Line Poem', a tour-de-force finale from naked to robes of splendour and tape snag end. Nobody's perfect. They're just asking like everybody else. Who's Elvis?

Mike Davies, Brum Beat

Asked about how he felt about 'Never Loved Elvis' compared to their previous long-players, Miles responded, "I love this album. I listen to it every day, which I didn't do with the others. I play 'Sleep Alone' every morning when I get up." "I think 'Elvis' has a sound and a collection of songs that we'll stay with for a while. It's going to be a long time before I'm tired of playing them live. I'm happy to play every song in our set now, even 'Give Give Give...' and 'Unbearable'. It feels good to fall back into the old stuff."

Not everything went as planned with the recording of the album though. Usually, the group insisted on being "very sober and studious" whilst recording but when it came to laying down the vocals for 'Donation', things were a little different. "I was absolutely blind drunk," says Miles. "I wanted to sound hateful when I sang it. The night the Gulf War kicked off, I was paralytic. I watched the TV for half an hour, and all that CNN stuff coming in, and I felt an overwhelming sense of hate and fear and Blue Nun. I thought, 'This is an opportunity to get the vocal down on 'Donation'. I'd never done that before, except for 'Radio Ass Kiss'. I was absolutely slayed for that."

 

An unpublicised warm-up gig for their forthcoming mini-festival tour took place on June 20th at Nottingham University with support from The Paris Angels and Kingmaker, which premiered the band's 'Never Loved Elvis' set and was also notable for a major bust-up between the two support bands when some equipment was allegedly stolen.

Paul Clifford and Miles Hunt, Bescot press conference 1991On June 22nd 1991, The Wonder Stuff began their Sharing The Love mini-festival tour at Walsall FC's Bescot Stadium. The first - and to date only - concert ever to be held at the football ground, Les Johnson refuted claims of the group achieving stadium rock status by saying in Select magazine that "if they are a stadium rock band, then they're in the fourth division."

Subtitled as The Big Day Out gig, it featured support from Kingmaker, Swervedriver, Spirit Of The West and New Fast Automatic Daffodils. Julian Cope and Big Audio Dynamite had been approached initially but declined, feeling that the event was too much of a rock gig - Julian Cope went on record as saying he couldn't get the right 'vibes' in daylight. However, it was the Stuffies that the crowd had come to see and they weren't disappointed, despite the atrocious weather conditions that caused several equipment failures and inevitable delays - it was a changeover of over 90 minutes between the New Fast Automatic Daffodils and the Stuffies themselves. As a result of the conditions, the set-list was constantly changing with 'Unbearable' replacing 'Sleep Alone' when the Bell's fiddle became waterlogged and a lengthy pause at the end of 'Cartoon Boyfriend' when Paul's bass rig went down.

The Wonder Stuff, Walsall 1991During the encores, the group were joined on stage by comedian Vic Reeves and his comedy partner Bob Mortimer for a version of Free's 'A Little Bit Of Love' and one of Reeves' own compositions 'Oh... Mr. Songwriter', which was marred only by Vic forgetting to switch his microphone on. A long lasting friendship was established between the band and the comedy duo, with suggestions being made for a collaborative single in the future as Vic was embarking on a moderately successful career as a pop singer - having already charted with a cover of the film theme, 'Born Free', which he had debuted on his Big Night Out television show.

Although an excellent performance as it stood, a lot more had been planned for the event but had to be abandoned due to the weather conditions. Mobiles of cars and clouds - as per the 'Never Loved Elvis' sleeve - were due to have been hung but had to be left at the back of the stage area as the wind might have sent them careering stage-wards. Another treat left unseen was a 3,000 25 foot inflatable Elvis Presley - after it was noticed that it bore more resemblance to snooker star Ray Reardon than to the King himself.

 

It was at this point that the band further augmented their line-up with the addition of Peter Whittaker on keyboards, reproducing Martin Bell's instrumentation on tracks such as 'The Size Of A Cow' and 'Don't Let Me Down, Gently' thus allowing Bell to concentrate on other instruments. Though never an official member of the group, Whittaker was an integral part of their touring ensemble from this point onwards and it was rumoured at one time that he was going to become a full-time group member

Following two UK dates at Brighton's Centre venue (at which a new track, 'Sing The Absurd' was premiered - having been recorded just two weeks after sessions for the 'Never Loved Elvis' album had finished) and Glasgow's SECC, the band then returned to America in an attempt to further their popularity. In addition to playing gigs with the whole group, Miles also performed a couple of solo acoustic concerts in New Jersey and Los Angeles as part of a month long promotional tour of America with Martin Gilks, where he played a selection of tracks from the Stuffies' back catalogue along with cover versions of some of his favourite tracks such as The Jam's 'That's Entertainment' and the Indigo Girls' 'Closer To Fine'.

Returning to the UK, the band played at Manchester's Cities In The Park Festival on August 3rd, an appearance that was very nearly cancelled after Miles came down with a bout of 'flu. However, the performance went ahead with a subdued Miles neglecting to say much between songs and generally trying to rest his throat. This must have had some effect though as the following day they managed a successful performance at Ireland's Feile Festival.

 

Another tour of the States was lined up and to promote it, a special double CD titled 'Greatest Hits And More More More', was issued in Canada to promote the 'Never Loved Elvis' album. Released in a slipcase sleeve with a picture of Elvis Presley on the front and crossed-out track listings for a fictitious Elvis compilation album on the back, it coupled the album with a additional compilation CD which collected together seventeen album and single tracks released between 1988 and 1990. Now an extremely rare item to find, both inlay booklets contain messages on the covers that are best viewed with a light shining on them - one has "Never Loved Elvis" written all over it whilst the other reads "Never Liked Compilations".

Miles, Martin & Malc - Long Island, September 1991It was during their Never Goin' Back To Memphis tour in September and October that some members of the Stuffies road crew got themselves in trouble with the American Police. After the concert in Philadelphia, the road crew found that somebody had parked a car behind the venue thus blocking in the equipment truck. After some discussion, it was agreed upon to "bounce the bastard onto the sidewalk". Coming out from the venue, manager Les Johnson found members of the Philadelphia Police Force arresting three people - roadies Jez and Russ plus Dennis, a friend of Jez's. Instructing the group and the rest of the crew to continue on with their journey (next stop, New York) Johnson began proceedings to release the suspects from their holding cells. After an enormous amount of driving between police stations, courts and more police stations, Les discovered that the owner of the car was now claiming that items amounting to around $2,000 had also been stolen from his car by the three offenders. Nearly twelve hours later, the three were released on bail, quickly travelling to New York for the next gig.

According to reports, Rob Jones made an appearance at the venue to watch the group during their sound-check though it is not known how long he stayed or whether he actually spoke to anyone in the group (unlikely given that he had had no contact with anyone from the group since he left at the end of 1989).

 

On their return to face the charges bought against them, Jez, Russ and Dennis were sentenced to watching a videos on how to be good citizens and about the dangers of bumping cars. Unknown to the trio at the time, the group had also arranged for each to be made to write a 5,000 word essay on what they had learnt and how they were going to become better citizens in the future.

 

Vic Reeves and The Wonder Stuff promotional photo, 1991Around the middle of October, the band found themselves at the top of the UK singles charts in the UK with 'Dizzy' - a collaboration between themselves as backing band and Vic Reeves on lead vocals. A rendition of Johnny Cash's 'Ring Of Fire' had originally been considered for recording, which the Stuffies went off and learnt - complete with Mexican cowboy brass - only to find that Vic actually preferred Tom Jones' R&B version of the track. After this idea and Miles' suggestion to do a Hawkwind cover were dropped, they eventually settled on the Tommy Roe track, 'Dizzy'. Backed with a Vic Reeves-only track, 'Oh... Mr. Hairdresser', the 12" single included a poster showing Vic surrounded by the group.

Number one in the UK singles chart meant the call was made once more for the obligatory appearance on Top Of The Pops. It had become the band's good luck charm to drink a big glass of Tequila before going on-stage on these (and similar) occasions so, fifteen minutes before their performance was due to be recorded, they (the Stuffies plus Vic and Bob) knocked back a large Tequila - on top of the voluminous amounts of alcohol they had already consumed during the day. Shortly before they were all due to go onstage, they were told that there would be a 20 minute delay so more Tequila was called for. By the time they were eventually called to 'perform' the track in front of the cameras, everyone was very much worse for wear. The single knocked U2's 'The Fly' off the top spot in it's first week of sale and stayed there for two weeks, being removed by Michael Jackson's 'Black Or White' after two weeks.

 

Following the US tour and promotional appearances, the group performed a handful of dates in Australia. To coincide with the tour, a special single was released on cassette and CD which featured 'Caught In My Shadow', the demo version of 'Play' (as recorded at Rockfield Studios in 1989 for inclusion on the 'Luna Thug' release), the Paranoia Mix of 'Circlesquare' plus live versions of 'Unbearable' and 'Who Wants To Be The Disco King'. Following this, the band also played their first - and only - tour of Japan.

Returning from Japan towards the end of 1991, they played a few more UK gigs. The tour opened at Manchester's huge Greater Manchester Exhibition Centre (G-Mex), taking in two dates at Leicester's Granby Halls and two dates - later expanded to four - at London's Brixton Academy. Support on the tour was again provided by Eat and at one of the dates at the Brixton Academy, Miles had a bet with Eat's lead singer, Ange Doolittle, that he wouldn't go on stage and perform totally naked. To the amusement of the audience, Miles lost the bet - Ange sang the entire show naked which left Miles (uncommonly) speechless!

 

Other London dates included a secret Christmas Celebration show at the Town & Country Club on December 19th. The show was recorded by the group with the intention of releasing it as apart of a live album in the future.  However, the bootleggers beat the group to it and the results can be heard on the 'Winter Warmer' double album - a double LP that has possibly the worst sound quality of all of the Stuffies' bootlegs. However, the album's makers must have realised that not many people would want to buy an album that sounds as bad as it does because they added three excellent - and well recorded - tracks at the end of the second record which made the album a more worthwhile purchase. Originally recorded for Mark Goodier's Evening Session programme on BBC Radio One in 1991, 'Caught In My Shadow', 'Unbearable' and 'Sing The Absurd' - it's first time of release on record - are all acoustic renditions.  A 'proper' release of the show remains in the vaults...

Following their Town and Country Club performance, the group returned to America to play an acoustic set for the K-ROQ radio station. Originally it had been planned for the whole group to perform but just hours before the group were due on stage, Paul was taken ill with chest problems and had to be taken to hospital. Gilksey then decided that he would rather not play either so Miles, Malc and Fiddly performed an acoustic set.

 

Miles Hunt, 12/91In the Christmas issue of New Musical Express, some of the year's musical stars were asked to dress up as their favourite artists. Whilst most people chose something 'sensible', Miles decided that his favourite star of the moment was Dee-lite's Lady Miss Kier and consequently appeared in the issue wearing a skintight catsuit and make-up!

The following night, on December 20th, BBC Radio One broadcast a 60 minute In Concert Special featuring the Stuffies recorded at their Manchester's gig nine days previously. This broadcast later turned up as a bootleg CD called 'Inertia', of which an alternative version was bootlegged in Australia which featured the entire 55minute as one long track. A couple of years later, a re-edited version of the recording surfaced again as an official BBC Records release, 'Live In Manchester'.

 

As the New Year began, the group began to toy with the idea of building their own rehearsal studio and, with the demos for the 'Never Loved Elvis' costing in the region of 40,000, Polydor were only too happy to offer the money required. The elusive search for a suitable venue had only just begun when Martin Bell found what they felt to be the ideal location in North London.

 

Amid plans for their new studio, the group released their fourth single from the 'Never Loved Elvis' album in January 1992. Originally intended to have a cover of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's 'Will The Circle Be Unbroken' as it's main track coupled with a re-recording of 'Welcome To The Cheap Seats' (featuring Kirsty MacColl's vocals in more prominence than they had been on the album version of the track), two new tracks were also to be featured. One was a cover of The Jam's 'That's Entertainment' (recorded in the same studios and using the same recording desk as the original track) and the other was a new track, 'Me, My Mom, My Dad and My Brother' written by Miles in tribute to his family. However, after consideration by the group and their record company, the eventual release had 'Welcome To The Cheap Seats' as it's main title track with 'Will The Circle...' being moved to the third track. The decision to swap the tracks around had been made to better promote the forthcoming release of the group's second long-playing video, 'Welcome To The Cheap Seats'. For CD buyers a second disc was released, initially in a box to also hold the first disc, which featured acoustic versions of the title track, 'Caught In My Shadow', 'Circlesquare' and 'Can't Shape Up, Again'.

Paul, Gilks, Kirsty, Malc, Miles, Fiddly - Cheap Seats video snapshotAnother highly charting single, another Top Of The Pops appearance, another disaster. The night prior to the recording of the show, Miles went to Camden's Palace night-club and got 'attacked' by a bouncer. Showing up at the Top Of The Pops studio with a swollen lip and jaw, everyone (Kirsty included) proceeded to get immensely drunk. Indeed, such was the state of Miles due to both his drunken state and the use of makeup to cover his injuries, that for the recording of the track his appearance bore more resemblance to that of a vampire than of his usual self.