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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

Success in Britain, culminating in two dates at the London Astoria in October 1988 which were filmed and recorded for possible future release, was soon followed by interest from Europe which dictated that the group should stage their first overseas tour. Twenty dates were lined up but the band, fed up with playing the same songs that they'd now been playing for nearly two years in tiny clubs (sometimes to tiny audiences) cancelled the tour after only nine performances and returned to England much to the annoyance of their fans, the tour's promoters, Polydor and roadie Adam Booker who had hitched from England to meet the group only to be told on his arrival that they were returning home the following day.

In later interviews, Miles recalled the feelings surrounding the controversial decision: "...Basically we'd written half of [the next] album before we even got near Europe and we wanted to be in a rehearsal room bashing the ideas down." "It was an awful thing. We felt like we were in a prison. We couldn't stand it. We had a meeting in a hotel room in Munich, everybody was so unhappy, and I think it was me that said 'Well, we're in control, let's go home.' We packed our bags, told the tour manager, told the crew, got on the bus and went home." "The record company were really pissed off, and so was the German promoter. He lost a few grand, some of which we still owe him... So now we'll use him as the promoter every time we go to Germany and just never get paid. I think that's a fun way of doing it."

On their return to England they went straight into the rehearsal studios to demo songs that they had written prior to and during the aborted tour. All of the group seemed to be in a happier frame of mind because now they could try their hand at new material and get out of playing the same dozen or so songs each gig. Several new songs were recorded including an acoustic track entitled 'Don't Let Me Down, Gently', 'Unfaithful' and 'Cartoon Boyfriend' but upon listening to them, the group decided that the tracks were lacking in something. Malc made the first attempts at filling the gap by adding a mandolin to the tracks but it became obvious that still more was needed. The solution was suggested to them by session producer (again) Pat Collier - a fiddle. He introduced the group to Martin Bell, a multi-talented session musician whose forte seemed to cover nearly every musical instrument ever made. This opened the way for a new playing freedom within the group, no longer bound by having to turn out records that consisted solely of voice, guitar and drums, as well as freeing both Miles and Malcolm to try different guitar arrangements.


The Wonder Stuff, early 1989Armed with a batch of fresh songs and a large amount of rediscovered vigour, the group headed off for their first American tour in January '89. It was a trip that eased a few troubled minds for some of those who were closely involved with the ill-fated European dates and one that, unusually, on the whole they enjoyed. They met up with record company executives, took part in interviews and generally put a lot of effort in for which they, mostly, gained some reward. Whilst in New York, with hardly any promotion involved, around 600 people came to see them play. On their return to the UK they approached Polydor Records with a request - from the rehearsals of late '88, they wanted to release a new song. It would not be a sampler for any new album, purely a track that they liked and felt was right for release at the time.

The track, 'Who Wants To Be The Disco King?' was based around Miles' snipe at the Kylie's & Rick Astley's of the pop world. The lines 'I've entered a world full of ugly girls, with kisses and curls and a hold on the world. How sick has it become?' originally appeared in one of his diaries penned shortly after an interview for the Smash Hits magazine. With the record label agreeing to the group's demands only track listings and artwork needed to be decided upon.

However, the original version of the track lasted for over five minutes and Polydor felt this to be too long for airplay so they bought in producer Ray Schulman, who had previously worked with Echo And The Bunnymen, to remix and shorten the track. Initially, the idea was that the track would be coupled with the four tracks from the 'Wonderful Day' EP on the B-side. A quick check with the rules of the BPI (British Phonographic Institute) revealed that the proposed five track single would be discounted from the charts - being classified as a mini-album, as their rules at the time stipulated that singles were to contain a maximum of four tracks. This resulted in the idea being shelved in favour of including three live tracks, recorded at London's Astoria Theatre, on the B-side. Although no copies of the release with the 'Wonderful Day' tracks were pressed, a one-track promotional copy of the twelve inch features the original five minute version of the track, subtitled 'King Of Disco Megamix'.


I was checking out the latest Ohio Players waxing when a Cortina Estate pulled up outside. The 'No Barbers Need Call' and Walsall license plates were the giveaway that The Wonder Stuff had slipped into the country, avoiding the screaming multitude that had gathered in a Heathrow telephone box waiting daily for the telemessage that would announce their arrival.
"Check the threads, honky," yelled the Bassist Groove Thang. "Git your ass DOWN!" said Malcolm mildly. "ALLLLright," declared Martin. "There are three men in my life and they all eat shredded wheat," mumbled Miles, throwing caution and his breakfast to the winds. They slinked their way across the room in their cream and brown solateos, blue oxford bags and pointed collar black shirts singing, acapella, "well you can tell by the way I walk I'm a Mindy man, no time for Mork," before tripping over a Brass Construction 12". None of which really answers my questions. Who does want to be the cisco kid?

A fable for children by Charles McCartan
(from the inner sleeve of 'Who Wants To Be The Disco King?' single)

The single was released at the end of February and charted in it's first week at number 28. In an attempt to further the progress of the single, Polydor issued a special dayglo coloured sleeve to record shops for them to place the inner sleeve and record from the standard issue seven inch into and, hopefully, persuade fans to buy the release again. The band were initially unaware of Polydor's plans and when they found out they forced the label into quickly withdrawing the limited edition sleeves though not before a large number had gone on sale in the UK. Slightly differing from the normal '...Disco King?' release, the dayglo sleeves can normally be found on sale containing a purple labelled pressing of the record with it's title stamped on the label in a plain black inner sleeve. This was also the way promotional copies of the single were issued (without the dayglo sleeve though).


To coincide with the release of the new single, a short UK tour was undertaken which featured support from Jesus Jones, Mega City Four and new Midlands discoveries, Ned's Atomic Dustbin. Though hopes that new material and a successful single would enable these gigs to be some of the best yet, it was not to be. Internal tensions were high within the band with frequent arguments and disagreements between Rob and other members of the group. The direction of the group was changing and developing from when the foursome had first started working together and it seemed that the two most outspoken and vocal members of the group, Miles and Rob, wanted different things.

One public airing of the tension came on the first night of their sell-out show at London's Town & Country Club when Miles stormed off stage midway through the last track of the set, followed shortly by a fuming Rob leaving Malc and Martin to bring the track abruptly to an end. This set the scene for a showdown between Rob and Miles at London's Columbia Hotel with the Bass Thing threatening to kill Miles if he ever got his hands on him. The night, thankfully, passed without incident but both Rob and Miles sat down the next morning to talk about how they were feeling and to try to clear the air. As a result of the argument, Miles penned a track about the event called 'Room 410', named after the room he was stopping in at the hotel. Wonder Stuff graffiti could still be found on the door of the room for years afterwards in homage to the track which later appeared on the group's second album.


After the previous nights events, it was thought that their second night's appearance at the Town and Country Club couldn't be any worse. Sadly this wasn't the case - the they managed to remain onstage for the entire performance, someone in the audience threw a plastic drinking cup at Miles which cut his head open slightly putting Miles in an understandably foul mood. As a consequence he sulked for the rest of the show and refusing to engage in any between-song banter withthe audience.


These are troubled yet exciting times for The Wonder Stuff. Their mass potential is beginning to be recognised by you good people out there, but the band are already impatiently ahead of you. The Midlands' most lovable sons have gained promotion from division two of the pop league almost effortlessly, and tonight, in front of a second consecutive sardine audience in the capital, they can do little wrong, and yet all's not well in the Groove Machine.
The Wonder Stuff demand more from this pop circus than your average guitar gang and yet their adoring audience are still more than happy to lap up hit after hit, be they indie or minor major without so much as a thought of the future. After all, the best pop music possesses more than its fair share of inbuilt obsolescence, but Miles, Malc, Martin and Bob refuse to be passed over in favour of the next biggest thing, and they also possess the musicality and vision to pull this ambition off.
Not helped by a tragically accurate glass which splits open Miles' head before the young motor mouth has shifted to second gear, it's always going to be a struggle to communicate with an adoring yet potentially volatile audience. Miles chooses not to chastise and this leads to an even more disconcerting aloofness that spoils the evening.
The Stuffies are struggling to shrug off their fiercely loyal but distinctly pedestrian rock audience. It's a struggle both they and their audience will eventually resolve, but Miles may have to don the odd crash helmet along the way.

Andy Strickland, Record Mirror


Following their UK tour came a 12-date American tour. The aim of the tour was to combine live dates to bring themselves to a wider audience with the now-obligatory promotional work for radio stations and music publications.

It was also hoped that the break away from the UK would help the band to regroup and settle the tensions that had developed during the past few months yet it was only a couple of days into the tour before Miles and Rob hit problems again. Rob had stayed with a friend he had met at the aftershow party following the group's appearance at New York's Ritz and the group had to leave for their next town, Boston, without him as he wanted his friend, Jessica, to accompany him on the rest of the tour.

Eventually Rob and Jessica were flown to Boston to join the group although Jessica returned to New York the following day promising to return for their appearance in Los Angeles. Whilst in LA, a radio announcer for the K-ROQ radio station promoted their forthcoming live appearance with the line, "They're mean, they're crazy and... they're here in Los Angeles. The Wonder Stuff have arrived so lock up your daughters!"

The group also managed to catch some other acts who were performing in the area at the same time - New Order gave them tickets to see one of their shows whilst they were in LA and The Wonder Stuff's American manager, Steve Rennie, organised a trip to the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre - The Grateful Dead were playing. En-route, Miles reminisced: "Me and Martin were down by the pool yesterday and I said, 'This all started in Cradley Heath in the West Midlands one afternoon because we had nothing better to do. Here we are in LA, in a Jacuzzi!'" Not overly enthralled by the Dead's performance though, Martin Gilks was heard to observe that "you can see bands like this in pubs in Dudley on any Sunday afternoon".


After finishing the tour in San Francisco, the group took part in more promotional work, including a feature on MTV, before returning home to the UK. Miles and Rob only spent a couple of days at home before returning to America - Rob went back to spend more time with Jessica following his decision to split with first-wife, Lee, and Miles went to visit friends in upstate New York. Rob would eventually start spending more and more time in New York, frequently flying back and forth to fulfil work commitments in the UK and then returning to America, the country he now considered to be his home. His character and appearance was always felt to be 'different to the norm' in the UK yet living in New York he was treated like a celebrity and not shunned for his style and clothing  as he felt in the UK (Rob said it was residual effects of the past Thatcher reign).


Bob Jones and Miles Hunt, 1989Meanwhile, Polydor were making preparations for recording sessions for the second album to begin although both Rob and Miles nearly missed the planned start date of the sessions as they were still both in America, not returning until almost the very last minute.

Thankfully, the sessions kicked off without a hitch and proved to be very fruitful producing a new electric version of demo track, 'Don't Let Me Down, Gently' in one take with James Taylor (of the legendary James Taylor Quartet) assisting on Hammond Organ. At the end of the first day, the group were handed the keys to a luxurious flat for them to use whilst the recording sessions were taking place.


Malc, Rob and Miles moved into the new flat in Regents Park whilst Martin settled into a new house with his wife, Penny. They had met several months previously as Penny worked for the group's press office and, whilst Penny had been initially shy of the long-haired Midlander, he took her out to see The Fields Of The Nephilim at London's Town & Country Club and their relationship blossomed from there! "It was great," Martin once said, "I was the first person in the band to get one of the record company into bed."

The flat was to be used by the band for three months though, after a bit of haggling, that was eventually extended by a further eight months with the occupants paying a share of the rent. However, continued disagreements within the group led to Rob moving out to share a flat with Jessica whom he had asked to come over to the UK to spend more time with him.

At one stage, whilst they were in London to record their new album, Pop Will Eat Itself even stayed there - with just one long-suffering and fed up housemaid to 'look after them'.


Miles' and Rob's trips to America had improved relations between the two of them and whenever they had a free weekend, they would both return to the US - Rob to see his girlfriend and Miles, in his words, "to be gross and enjoy myself, sit in the sun all day, get drunk and drive friends' motorbikes and not care. And I bought my first tartan waistcoat there!"

Recording sessions for the second album continued and festival time approached with the main highlight being their performance at the much revamped Reading Festival in August. The previous year's festival had ended in acrimony when headliners Meatloaf and Bonnie Tyler fled from the stage when bottles and cans of warm urine were thrown at them. The 1989 festival, organised by London's Mean Fiddler organisation, boasted a more indie-orientated line-up featuring The Pixies, New Order and The Wonder Stuff.

As a warm-up for the festival, the Stuffies played support to festival headliners The Mission at Sheffield's Polytechnic Arena in a secret show organised by The Mission's fan club. At the festival itself, The Mission were the headline act on the same night that the Stuffies appeared and backstage meetings marked the beginnings of a long-lasting friendship between the two groups. The other highlight of the Summer festivals was Glastonbury and it was for this that the group learnt and debuted a 'new' song, a cover of The Youngbloods' 'Get Together'.


Following their Reading appearance, September saw the first release from their forthcoming second album. 'Don't Let Me Down, Gently', written after Miles had read 'Profession Of Violence' - a biography of the Kray Twins - reached number 19 in the UK Singles chart. The high chart position dictated that the group should make their first ever appearance on Top Of The Pops. The occasion also marked the first appearance on National television for Ned's Atomic Dustbin when Malc wore one of the Ned's early "radioactive logo" T-shirts for the broadcast. The shirt was designed by Helga - Miles' then girlfriend - who maintained a healthy relationship with the Ned's and subsequently went on to design all the bands record sleeves and much of their promotional artwork whilst Tank, Martin Gilks' brother, managed the group until their split in 1995.

On the back of the single success came the release of their second album, 'Hup'. To promote the album, a four track CD was distributed which featured 'Don't Let Me Down, Gently', 'Piece Of Sky', 'Golden Green' and the Columbia Hotel incident inspired 'Room 410'. The latter track, along with another track on the album '30 Years In The Bathroom', featured samples from the 1966 film, Midnight Cowboy. Whilst in America, Rob had found and recorded a number of samples for use on the album though when a representative of the United Artists film company heard the track, they refused to allow the group to use all of the samples and the album had to quickly be repressed containing a shorter version of the track. A promotional CD is the only available release featuring the longer version of 'Room 410' and the group have been forbidden from ever releasing the unedited version in the future.


The Wonder Stuff, it seems, are happy making their slightly mad, slightly unsightly music and getting on people's nerves whenever they can. Which is just what they do on 'Hup'. But like it or not, the 'Stuff have come up with a rather impressive range of tunes. Of course there's plenty of grungy filthy-hair-ahoy guitars and milk-curdling singing but there's more to it than that - like the pretty wonderful 'Unfaithful', a ballad which young Miles sings with a voice as smooth as velvet. Others are really quite rock and roll, like 'Them Big Oak Trees' and 'Let's Be Other People' and then some are just horrendous dins like 'Goodnight' which shouldn't be allowed but which will probably have them rocking in the aisles anyway."

Alex K

The album - with artwork adapted from Georges Melies' 1902 film, Trip To The Moon - featured further instrumental assistance from James Taylor plus large contributions from Martin Bell. Like it's predecessor, there was no set formula here with the opening track '30 Years In The Bathroom' leading into a poppy attack on the methods of getting records played on the airwaves in 'Radio Ass Kiss' before entering the country hoe-down stomp of 'Golden Green'. Follow-up track 'Let's Be Other People' was inspired by Leonard Cohen's book, Beautiful Losers, before the Jane's Addiction-inspired 'Piece Of Sky' and 'Can't Shape Up' completed the first side of the album. First single 'Don't Let Me Down, Gently' led into the next single for America, 'Cartoon Boyfriend', which featured Miles at his cynical best. One of Rob's finest moments appeared next in the track 'Good Night Though', full of powerful basslines and possibly one of his favourite tracks as it leant itself to a new tattoo for the bassist in the form of the lyric "It was a good night though" - a line which although doesn't feature in the recorded version of the track, was commonly used to introduce the track whenever they played it live. A direct descendent of the first album's 'Rue The Day' came as 'Unfaithful' before 'Them, Big Oak Trees' and the album's closing track, the shortened 'Room 410'.


To promote the album a UK tour, supported by Eat and Ned's Atomic Dustbin (debuting a new line-up without their original female vocalist), opened at Glasgow's Barrowlands. The tour began in the aftermath of a series of arguments involving Rob, Jessica and other members of the group. Rob and Jessica had wanted to travel between venues on Rob's motorbike rather than being on the tour bus with the rest of the group which had not been well received. As a result, Jessica returned to New York so that the group could concentrate on the forthcoming live dates although Rob missed her greatly and, in an attempt to get the group the see how much he missed her, he started drinking before going onstage, acting hostile to people within the touring community and generally trying to be very unpleasant.

Midway through the tour, Polydor released the second single from the album, a double A-side featuring 'Golden Green' coupled with a studio recording of the track they rehearsed for and played at the Glastonbury Festival, Chet Powers' 'Get Together' - originally a hit in the 60's for both the Dave Clark 5 and PJ Proby. For the 12" and CD single releases, a version of John Lennon's 'Gimme Some Truth' was added. Using a slightly different arrangement to the original version, the bassline especially differs as Rob preferred to elaborate on Public Image Limited's 'Public Image' track. The single reached number 33 in the charts and led to another Top Of The Pops appearance.


After a meeting in the second half of the tour, Miles, Malc and Martin all agreed that, sensing he was unhappy, maybe it was Rob's time to move on and gave him the ultimatum that either he stepped into line and pulled his weight within the group or he could leave the group to concentrate on his personal life. At a gig in Liverpool, he was too drunk to even stand up properly which resulted in Miles having on-stage words with him. This made matters even worse and for long periods of time hardly a word was shared between the two of them. The tour ended at London's Brixton Academy which was recorded and filmed for potential future release.


Martin Bell, 1989Rob remained with the group to complete the tour and, even agreed to join them at Rockfield Studios in South Wales to try out new tracks for their third album. It was at this time that Martin Bell was bought onboard as a full time member of the group - a move intended to dissolve (or distract from) the tensions surrounding Rob although by this time he had cut back on his drinking and seemed to be more interested in being part of The Wonder Stuff than he had been for several months.

However, although he seemed happier and more willing to work than in previous months, there was still an impression that he was dissatisfied with the direction the band were taking. Miles: "One day we were sitting at the big oak table having our customary cigar and sherry after dinner when Bob told us he was leaving. It came as a surprise in that week particularly, because things felt good again. But what he wanted to do was move to New York and reinvent himself. We finished the demos for 'The Size Of A Cow', 'Maybe', 'Grotesque', 'Play', and 'Inertia' in a really good mood because at least we all knew where we stood."

In an interview for the NME before news of his departure had been released, Rob was quoted as having said, "At this moment in my life I'd rather not be in a band, I'm sick of it. There's always arguments of some description, although nothing really drastic, things just happen. The main problem is that you can't get away from it. It would be nice just to walk away and have some time without anybody ringing up about photo sessions, interviews, recording, TV - it's never-ending."


The Wonder Stuff demoing at Rockfield Studios, 1989The news of Rob's departure came as somewhat of a shock to Polydor who were preparing to release a new single at the start of the New Year. The four track EP, 'Luna Thug', was to planned to have 'Piece Of Sky' as it's main track coupled with two new tracks, 'Play' and 'Our New Song' plus an acoustic version of the 'Can't Shape Up' track off the 'Hup' album retitled 'Can't Shape Up, Again'. The three additional tracks were all recorded during the Rockfield sessions but Rob's announcement led to Polydor cancelling the release although there is a rumour that an acetate pressing of the release was later given away in a competition on UK television or radio.

Although no records were ever officially pressed for the release, the release process was already underway for the sleeve's artwork which echoed the designs of the 'Hup' album sleeve by featuring stills taken from Georges Melies' film. The designs show that, alongside the standard cassette and CD single formats, Polydor had been considering releasing the seven and twelve inch singles in both standard and gatefold sleeves.


The Bass Thing, 1989News had still not been made public about Rob's departure when the group announced a series of end-of-year gigs. Privately, a decision for the group to split up - at least temporarily - had been made, and the tour would close with two Hometown Hoedown dates at Birmingham's Aston Villa Leisure Centre. As the dates were to close an era for the band, old favourites such as 'Song Without An End', 'Poison', 'Grin' and 'Goodbye Fatman' - from the 'A Wish Away' single - were bought back into the live set.

Support was provided by The Metal Gurus, a pseudonym of The Mission who played a set of glam rock covers on the first evening wearing drag outfits with Balaam And The Angel supporting for the second night. A third date was announced following the rapid sell-out of the first two evenings which saw long-time friends and peers Pop Will Eat Itself booked as support. These plans were thrown into doubt though when Poppies' vocalist Graham Crabbe broke his leg during the Poppies' Australian tour resulting in a rush to have a special splint designed for him by London doctors to allow the support slot to be maintained.


Miles recalls the third night of their Hometown Hoedown dates: "The final night was sad. I remember leaving the bar of the Holiday Inn in Birmingham and using one of my mates as a crutch. I was quite tearful, and so was Bob. He stayed up until 6am, got a lift to Heathrow Airport and went to America." The crutch was Bryan Taylor and he recalls the atmosphere of that night: "It was very odd. I remember Miles turning to me in the lift and saying to me 'I always knew that bastard would make me cry'."