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In Memoriam
Rob Jones
Martin Gilks

The Wonder Stuff promo photoWith the American tour finally over, the band flew back to the UK at the beginning of March and took a few days off prior to their Manchester appearance - their first major UK headlining performance in over two years. During the break, both Malc and Martin Gilks decided to get their hair cut with both opting for extremely short styles.

For the first time in their career, the group arranged a sponsor for the UK tour, linking up with XD Lager. The deal allowed the drink to be sold at a cheaper rate at licensed venues and, upon purchase of any drink, a plastic cup bearing the group's and XD's logos was given to the buyer. Discount vouchers were also given out that enabled recipients to purchase the 'Construction For The Modern Idiot' album at a reduced price and also receive a promotional poster for the album. It was a move that angered some of the other group members and caused further internal tension.

Around the time of arranging their UK tour, Miles had wanted to change a lot of aspects within the band; their booking agency, publicist, parts of their management team and their lawyers - "I'd find myself sitting in the office of our studio, just sitting there like a businessman, phoning up the manager and the record company, waiting until four to phone up the American manager - I enjoyed getting into the business side again, shouting and getting shouted back at. I stuck two months of that into the end of 'On The Ropes'," says Miles.


...Truth is, The Wonder Stuff have friends rather than fans; a bevy of followers who know all Miles' obsessions in and out, who punch the air to violin solos and who cheer when the word "idiot" is projected onto the speaker stacks, who understand the dedication preceding 'Piece Of Sky' to "old friends who aren't here anymore" and who don't mind that 'Dizzy' is omitted. Hosts of hands grab out every time our favourite gobshite crosses the front of the stage: Evan Dando can only dream of being so desired.

The fierce intensity of tonight never lets up, from a barked 'Change Every Lightbulb' to the barking mad perennial closer 'Good Night Though'. The shorts might be getting longer, the hair may be receding, but the anger - always the real driving force - remains. It's a bit surprising, too: after all, haven't the bastards gone all mature on us? Where were the songs on 'Construction For The Modern Idiot' about crap girlfriends and hating your mates? Since when was Charles Bukowski on the A-level reading list? And exactly how much did those jumpers in the 'Full Of Life' video cost?

After ten minutes you stop caring about all that and remember why it was that you always loved them so much before: for the simple, clichéd reason that they've always made more sense on stage than anywhere else. New songs are infused with a brilliant verve (even affording comic moments in the form of an impromptu reading of 'A Great Drinker'); old songs sound nothing short of ace.
'Golden Green' and 'Don't Let Me Down, Gently', two of the greatest singles of the '80s, roll by in a flurry of reminiscences and bursting grins, while the departure of Fiddly marks "a collection of songs from when we all had long hair": 'No, For The 13th Time', 'A Wish Away', 'Red Berry Joy Town'... all the staples of student discotheques. "Isn't it a bit sad doing all this stuff?" asks Miles. "NO!" bellow 3,000 damp people, unanimously.

Emma Morgan, New Musical Express

Shortly before the group were due to play for their second night at Manchester's Apollo came the news that American poet Charles Bukowski had died in Los Angeles of leukaemia. Due to the current wave of publicity surrounding the Stuffies, many subsequent articles which told of Bukowski's death also mentioned Hunt's interest in the man and the inclusion of the 'A Great Drinker' tribute track on their latest album. By way of a tribute to the dead poet, the track was bought properly into the set-list with Miles dedicating the track to him at each performance. Two other tracks were also added, 'Hot Love Now!' - their next single - and a cover of The Waterboys' 'Fisherman's Blues'.

To coincide with the British dates, the 'Hot Love Now!' EP was released on March 14th. Continuing the tradition of the last two EP releases it featured two new tracks plus another track from the 'Welcome To The Cheap Seats' soundtrack, 'Room 512, All The News That's Fit To Print' . A second four track CD single was also released which was housed in a numbered box to also hold the first disc. This featured three additional tracks (again, one taken from the '...Cheap seats' soundtrack) and a remix of 'Hot Love Now!', this time with an orchestral backing. Miles originally wanted the London Philharmonic Orchestra to appear on the track when they had first recorded it and, though it's not the London Philharmonic that play on the track, this version went some way to fulfilling his ideas.

Idiot Illustrations 94 (taken from reverse of Hot Love Now! poster)

Live dates went well, though tempers were plainly short. In a repeat of the Europe '88 tour, Miles looked bored and uninterested most nights at having to play the same set of songs time and time again. The band's mammoth 2½ hour set at Leicester's Granby Halls on March 17th was recorded (and edited) for later broadcast by BBC Radio 1FM and featured 'Like A Merry Go Round' for the first time in a number of years. Dates continued across the country, playing to packed venues most nights, but Miles' dissatisfaction & unhappiness refused to go away. Arguments raged between the group members and their touring entourage. Miles was reported as being bored, uninterested and fed up with everything. At one point, Russ countered that 4,000 people had paid £10 each to see him sing most nights and he really should be a little more concerned. "I don't care," was his brother's apparent reply.

After only an hour into the show in Glasgow on the 25th of March, Miles stormed offstage at the end of 'Donation' having lost his voice, though it is rumoured that something much more serious was afoot. The group showed no signs of returning and there were ugly, violent scenes in the crowd. The following night's performance was initially postponed, then cancelled altogether. To ease relations, the band agreed to appear at Glasgow's Tramway, as part of Radio 1FM's Sound City event, on April 5th.


Following two shows at Birmingham's Aston Villa Leisure Centre, tempers reached boiling point in Gloucester on April 4th. The atmosphere within the Wonder Stuff camp had been sour for many months and however well disguised everyone's disquiet had been, it had now been bought out into the public view - something needed to be done about it. A short backstage meeting at the venue prior to the gig between the band, management, road crew and Polydor's representatives to clear the air brought events to a head. Miles said that he didn't want to tour anymore with the current album and had no intention of travelling to contracted dates in Australia, Japan and the Far East during May and June. "I kept saying 'I don't want to go to Japan with you lot' and they replied 'That's fine we don't want to go with you anyway!'," Miles later told Gary Crowley - host of ITV's The Beat programme.

Malcolm felt that the group were moving in different directions and then Martin Gilks made his intentions clear - he didn't want to play the music anymore and didn't really want to tour. Being a father to two children with a full time job was hard enough, but when that job involved travelling across the world for months at a time it made it even harder. He wanted to quit after a contracted appearance at the Phoenix festival but was prepared to continue the tour in the meantime. Echoing Malc's feelings, Martin Bell also expressed unhappiness at the band's current direction. He wanted to explore opportunities in providing soundtrack material for film and TV as a more-lucrative session musician than a full-time band member. Bell had often supplemented his income with incidental music for television soundtracks and as a result of the group's touring commitments, had been forced to refuse large amounts of work and was adamant that a less intense touring schedule should be undertaken in future - if indeed there was a future.

Miles felt that if Martin and Fiddly were planning to leave, there wouldn't really be much of a Wonder Stuff left. In the heat of the moment, someone suggested a split after the Phoenix Festival - it was agreed. Outstanding overseas tour commitments were cancelled amidst confusion and secrecy. Only one contracted appearance - July's Phoenix Festival - would be honoured following the final UK date of the Idiot Manoeuvres Tour at London's Brixton Academy on April 22nd as the Phoenix date had been agreed with the band since January, and a portion of the band's appearance fee had already been paid.

Talking about the split to Gary Crowley, Miles added: "That was it. The deal was done in half an hour. Then it was all smiles and we went down the pub." In an interview broadcast a few months later on BBC Radio 1FM, Miles continued by saying "I remember walking on stage at Gloucester thinking 'this is going to be brilliant' and I remember halfway through the first song just turning round to Fiddly, and Martin Gilks especially, and just having the biggest grin on my face thinking 'this is fantastic' and the grin was returned and the gig was probably one of the best ones of the tour because there was some honesty going around."

As Miles himself remembers feeling heartbroken by The Jam's public decision to split in 1982, it was felt that the decision should be kept secret until the Phoenix Festival itself. The road crew were informed that their services would be no longer required as of July and were told to accept any offers made to them by other bands for future tours. Promoters abroad were contacted, and the band's management in America were informed of the split. It was to be one of the worst kept secrets in the music industry. A few nights later, at their Newport gig, members of the audience calling for more of the old material to be played received the reply from Miles, "If we split, remember that it was because you want us just to play the old stuff, don't you?" Promotional appearances at various HMV record stores around the UK to coincide with the tour were cancelled at short notice and a live slot on BBC-TV's Top Of The Pops to perform 'Hot Love Now!' was abandoned - Miles apparently had the flu though some of the music press later reported that it was purely because no-one could be bothered.


Following the decision to split, the band cut their live set from two hours to around 80 minutes and played a series of shows ranging from excellent to average. Miles was obviously unconcerned about the band, visibly slurring and forgetting words at Poole's Arts Centre on April 11th - only really becoming animated when the band performed a cover of The Psychedelic Furs' 'Into You Like A Train'. At Reading's Rivermead, the group were joined onstage by support act The Gigolo Aunts' guitarist - though his presence was only really noticeable during the usually whistled section of 'A Great Drinker'. Miles also began counting down the number of shows left but by the time the tour bus arrived in Brixton for the final three shows of the tour on April 20th, he seemed in much better spirits. "Great", he was reported to say, "Only four shows to go!" For these final performances, the band exhumed early tracks 'It's Not True' and 'Poison' and were also joined on stage by Vic Reeves for 'Dizzy'.


The Wonder Stuff have called it a day. A terse press release announced that the band has decided to split up on 'very amicable terms', or as the band themselves apparently put it, "just for the fuck of it."

Their last appearance will be at The Phoenix Festival on July 15th. Rumours that the band were despairing of their label have been squashed with news that they will be working with Polydor on the release of a singles compilation later this year. Seems there is also the possibility of a live album.
The strangest rumour surrounding the Stuffies split is the unsubstantiated claim that Miles Hunt instigated the break up in order to launch a career as a motorcycle courier!

Brum Beat

The first public leak of the split came in mid-May when their American manager, Steve Rennie, announced in The Gavin Report, an American college magazine, that the group were on the verge of splitting. When pressed about the matter further, he confirmed he would be attending "the funeral" (as he described it) at the Phoenix Festival. A week later, on Thursday May 19th, the group issued a short statement confirming that they were splitting up "for the fuck of it." The statement went on to say that any rumours of the group being at odds with their record company were unfounded and that, following their final performance at the Phoenix Festival, a greatest hits compilation album would be released.


Reprint of letter sent to Lambast members shortly before Phoenix Festival appearanceFollowing on from Gilks and Malc, Miles was featured in the June issue of Loaded magazine sporting his new short hairstyle. The last photograph in the article was of his hair, neatly arranged over the back of the barber's chair. Though not his idea initially but the magazine's, a quote from the article reads "My hair was the main thing people recognised me by. If I tied it back I could walk through a Wonder Stuff gig unnoticed, so now there's no more band I've got rid of the hair as well." When asked later about the reason for having it all cut off, he also added "I spent ten years looking like a nonce and now I've decided to say hello to the '90's' followed by his plans for the immediate future of "Getting me feet up and working out how to make a living. I used to pick litter at the NEC before the band."

In an attempt to compensate for the cancellation of the group's touring commitments to Australia and Japan, Polygram issued a new pressing of the 'Construction For The Modern Idiot' CD which contained a second disc featuring six tracks recorded at their Town and Country Club appearance at Leeds on March 12th - 'Change Every Light Bulb', 'Cabin Fever', 'Piece Of Sky', 'The Size Of A Cow', 'Can't Shape Up', and 'Hush'.


Organised by The Mean Fiddler organisation, the Phoenix Festival first began in 1993 and was held in mid-July at the Long Marston Airfield, near Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire. Stretching to Britain's first ever four day festival for 1994, the line-up included Killing Joke, Paul Weller, Carter USM, Pop Will Eat Itself, Iggy Pop and many more. The Stuffies were headliners on the main stage for the Friday night, following on from Carter, The Fall, Squeeze, and Jah Wobble.

Arriving on the Thursday night, the group handed the keys over to staff from Loaded and proceeded to get drunk - a state which some managed to maintain for the entire length of the festival. Even before Miles had been featured having his haircut, the group had often had a close association with the magazine as one time contributor and now, at time of writing, editor of the magazine was fan, friend and former NME journalist James Brown. The magazine also featured regular contributions from Hunt's wife, Mary Anne Hobbs before she left to pursue a successful career on BBC Radio One primarily as a night-time DJ though occasionally providing daytime cover for holidaying or unwell regular DJ's.

Prior to The Wonder Stuff stepping on stage, errant 'entrepreneurs' could be found trawling around the festival site selling what they were claiming to be genuine locks of Miles' recently shorn hair. At three pounds for an envelope full, someone was both making a fair bit of money and also possibly misleading the public as there was rather suspicious amount of the stuff for sale around the ground.

For all its significance, the Phoenix performance must go down as being one of the best gigs of their entire career. Although Miles had said that he didn't care whether they played or not - just so long as it ended - they blasted their way through nearly two hours of great tracks leaving those watching having no doubt that, along with the suicide of Nirvana's Kurt Cobain, the demise of The Wonder Stuff would be one of the events of the year. For the last time, the audience were treated to 'Mission Drive', 'Golden Green', 'Cabin Fever' and 'Unbearable'. 'Piece Of Sky' rightfully reminded us of Bob Jones, 'It's Not True' recalled the start of the group and Miles' best ever one-liner was saved until last. Straight from the Johnny Rotten book of phrases, and in his best impression of the man, prior to final song 'Good Night Though' he asked us, "Ever feel like you've been treated?" Without a shadow of a doubt, a treat had been had by all - not only in the final hours of the group's existence - "Don't come and ask us for our autographs. We're nobodies as of twelve o'clock" - but throughout the eight years of three minute in-your-face pop songs.

After the gig, the organisers of the festival showed an interview with Miles - conducted by members of the on-site television crew - on a large screen situated just outside the stage area. Being decidedly cagey about what the future held for each of the individual members, he confirmed that he had been approached by MTV to become a presenter on the channel's Sunday evening Indie music show, 120 Minutes - taking over for a trial period from ex-chart star, Paul King.

He went on to rubbish claims in the NME that he would be working with Ange Dolittle of Eat, who had also recently announced their disbandment though he did however suggest the possibility that Malc may be working with Ange in the future and, jokingly, said that any result would definately be more dance-oriented. Of the other members, he said that Fiddly was working on soundtrack material for film and television whilst Clifford and Gilks had not yet made any plans.


The Wonder Stuff, pre-gig Phoenix '94Following their final performance the group remained at the festival, watching the other acts and basically enjoying themselves. Miles continued drinking before joining Vic Reeves' backing band, The Images Of Cream, backstage in a special Artists Jamming tent to briefly return to playing on the drums until the early hours of morning when whilst still drunk, he attempted to climb a section of the perimeter fencing around the site resulting in a visit to the on-site medical surgery with a lacerated index finger.

Two weeks later, Miles began hosting MTV's 120 Minutes with his thumb still bandaged. This was not the first time that he had been a VJ (video jockey) however as he had appeared on MTV America a number of times previously. Meanwhile, on ITV's The Beat programme, excerpts from the Phoenix show were broadcast whilst Polydor prepared for the release of a video of the Phoenix show to coincide with the 'best of' album.

At the end of August, 'Unbearable' was re-released. Using the same image as the original issue but with different colouring, the standard releases on seven inch, cassette and CD contained the album version of Unbearable, plus two previously commercially unreleased tracks taken from the 'Never Loved Elvis' demos of '89 and '90. One track was their cover of Pop Will Eat Itself's 'Inside You', featuring Bob Jones on bass (as can be found on the Cartoon Boyfriend US promo single), and the other was the excellent 'Hit By A Car' - of which an instrumental version, renamed 'Hit By A Piano', appears as a piece of background music in the 'Welcome To The Cheap Seats' video.

A second CD single was also released, this time in the same colours as the original release, which contained the four tracks off the original 'Unbearable' 12" EP.


Promotional postcard for Unbearable and If The Beatles Had Read HunterAt the end of September, The Wonder Stuff's greatest hits compilation 'If The Beatles Had Read Hunter' was released. The reasoning behind the unusual title was a theory that the Stuffies are what The Beatles may have sounded and looked like if they had been influenced by American novelist Hunter S. Thompson's, especially if they'd have read his 'Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas' novel. Some promotional cassettes of the album made the title a little clearer as they were titled 'The Singles (Had The Beatles Read Hunter)', though when and why the title was changed is unknown.

Whatever they called it, many poured scorn on the title - controversial to the end - but the album was hailed as near perfection. Once you'd clambered over the title you were confronted with every single that they'd released, delving into the archives for 'It's Not True' right up to 'Hot Love Now!', with their cover of Slade's 'Coz I Luv You' thrown in for good measure. Preferring not to use a chronological track listing, the running order was designed so that no two singles from the same album were together. However, promotional posters for the album showed a different running order for the last six tracks, in which 'Full Of Life (Happy Now)' and 'On The Ropes' followed each other - these posters are now extremely hard to find.

Climbing high in the album charts, reaching number three like it's two predecessors, it was soon joined by 'Greatest Hits Finally Live' - a video of the entire Phoenix concert.

The video's release was delayed by a couple of weeks due to a change in it's content. Promotional advertisements circulated at the Phoenix Festival had said that the release would contain a complete recording of the final gig plus the videos to all of the singles. Realising that this would have required a video running to over three hours, and considering the fact that twelve of the sixteen tracks for which videos had been made were already commercially available, the eventual release contained only the live performance.


So this was it. The swansong of one of England's finest pop bands who bowed out at Phoenix Festival just for the fuck of it.

Only The Wonder Stuff could have timed it so badly, playing a final gig at the UK's cheesiest pop festival where tickets cost £52 and you had to find a field in bloody Stratford-upon-Avon to see it. But hey! Johnny Paycheck made it worth their while and besides, they didn't want to outstay their welcome after the disappointment of 'Construction For The Modern Idiot'.

'Finally Live' is a smarter buy than the Stuffies 'If The Beatles Had Read Hunter' singles album, running in at 28 tracks and capturing some of the fun of the gig. On record you don't get the customary arrogance of Miles Hunt: "Don't anyone give me the argument about the cameras, I don't give a fuck about 'em," or the weird-beard smiles of axe hero Malc Treece.

On video you can revel in the splendour of Vic Reeves' idiot dance through 'Dizzy' and the momentous Bob Jones tribute 'Piece Of Sky', where Miles grins throughout and you're sure The Bass Thing is watching from rock 'n' roll cloud central wishing he was here.

"So I guess this is goodbye," ends Miles at encore three. Dead right, but it was fun while it lasted.

Andy Richardson, New Musical Express

And that was the end - their final planned release for Polydor Records. As the album was being reviewed, people were asking "Was this really it?". There had been disagreements before - they'd split up once before only to get back together with even more grit and determination but sadly, this time it was to be permanent. Everyone dropped out of the public eye, except for Miles who was still hosting 120 Minutes on MTV Europe and also DJ'ed at a couple of Birmingham night-clubs.