"The History Of The Wonder Stuff (Part 1)"

From Lambast #3

It all started when a 16 year-old Miles Hunt places an advert in a local newspaper, and arranged to meet Malcolm Treece and Chris Fradgeley in Dudley: "I was a drummer in those days and I'd never worked with anybody outside of the kids in our village, so meeting these two characters in a pub car park was quite an ordeal. On the way, my old man said that he would stick around for ten minutes while we jammed, and if I didn't like it I was to give him a nod and He'd make an excuse so we could leave. When we were unloading the gear I said to Chris 'Has Malc got any effects?', at which point Malc turned round with this bloody great big hoard full of flangers and effects everywhere! When I saw all that I think I hust had to be in. As it was we went inside and j ammed around and after five minutes my dad could see it was good so he gave ME the nod and left."

Malcolm might have had some great effects pedals, but he didn't have a singer - enter one Clint Mansell (later of Pop Will Eat Itself); with the inclusion of Clint's friend Adam on keyboards, the line up of 'From Eden' (the mother of all bands) was complete. Drawing on a common ground of mostly Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground, 'From Eden' burst onto an unsuspecting local circuit at The Broadway on Stourbridge on 21st July, 1982. Clint recalls "We hadn't got a clue, although the music was quite good f or the time, sort of pre-gothic, like The Psychedelic Furs with a Banshees guitar. We used to really dress up for gigs, almost glammy, sort of fun." The band rehearsed hard and had some degree of local success, mainly due to Clint, who was one of the pop world's greatest socialites. As Miles recalls "Clint would be out EVERY night dressed up to the nine pins and he just knew everybody. Because of this we got some local radio sessions and a support slot with The Membranes, which John Robb (of The Membranes) still laughs about today. Clint had some classic lines like 'Hello JB's, Home of the stars.' All very cynical of course. He was a good frontman...brilliant. Unfortunately I didn't lije some of the stuff we were doing so I was kicked out." Clint remembers that "after the split Miles said he was going to have all his hair cut, get a proper job and never play music again." The new line-up was more rocky, and managed a few gigs before differences set in. Malc continues: "It came to the stage where me and Chris wanted to do something a bit more serious and they wanted to do stuff a bit more Peely. I ended up leaving with Chris (the bass player). We were into stuff like Byran Adams and King. Clint and Ad were into bands like The Three Johns and The Shop Assistants. It was no good." Clint agrres: "There was no animosity - it just wasn't working. It they're into Bon Jovi and you're into UK Subs the you have a problem.

'From Eden' split up and the two halves went their separate ways. Clint, Ad, and Graham went off to form a new band called 'Wild And Wandering', later called Pop Will Eat Itself, which steadily began to attract attention. Miles remebers the notable difference with this new band: "Wild And Wandering seemed to have a much time then we ever did. They were changing their style all the time and just larking about. The rest of us were just buggering it all off really. Everything that was going right for them was down to their personalities - it was so much fun to go see them because of the characters involved."

"At this time I was living with Clint, and one night he came home with this wild tape they'd made of 15 songs, all about a minute long, - 'Psychopath in My Soup', 'Sick Little Girl', all that early stuff. Then they made their own record ('Poppies Say Grrr!!!) which got great reactions all over the place. All the time there was this really great vibe coming off them that they were always having a brilliant time. Then suddenly, instead of being locally successful, they were doing national stuff and people like Robby Gillespie (of Primal Scream) were phoning them up. They were really into it; for example, one day they heard John Peel was going to be at a gig at Birmingham Polytechnic, so they went there in the afternoon, found him out and said 'Here's our record.' Peel took it back to London and played it on his show that night. Me and Malc were just loving all this. We watched it all and thought 'This is easy isn't it?' We weren't doing anything though. I'd watched Clint playing guitar and singing and I'd always played guitar and wrote my own songs, so when I heard Malc was looking for a singer, I thought I'd give it a go." "We'd done a few things" continues Malc, "but all pretty bad. We had various line-ups with various names like The Hunger, These Ashes. Nothing any good. Then Miles phones me up and asks to have a go at singing. We'd heard there was a drummer called Martin Gilks who had left The Mighty Lemon Drops so he joined as well. Now all we needed was a bass player.

For a while Rich Poppie filled in on bass, but it wasn't long before a friend, Rob Jones, was recriuted, albeit a fairly informal arrangement, and The Wonder Stuff was born. Miles was enthusiastic but cautious about the leaving the relative safety of his drum kit: "I didn't know how I was going to react to another drummer, and I wasn't very confident of my guitar playing. Anyway, I had a couple of tunes with a few words and choruses, one of which was 'The Potato Song,' where we used to sing 'Our lives are like potatoes' - I don't remember if those were the actual words but people would always listen and ask 'Is He saying potato??' From the start it stood out from all the other bands we'd been in - we had loads of melodies and space for everything. With 'From Eden' we'd rarely had that - we'd just get riffs and bang along to it and say 'Clint do something with it.'"

Rehearsing initially in Miles' kitchen, The Wonder Stuff soon had a small set knocked into shape. Malcolm remembers hearing one song in particular for the first time: "I was with Bob and we were really late for this rehearsal. When I got there all I could hear was this bloody racket going 'P-P-P-Poison, P-P-P- Poison...' I thought 'This is great,' I couldn't hear any tune or anything like that but it sounded bloody great. We rehearsed these songs three nights in the week before our first gig, as well as an hour in the afternoon before the show - we went down to JB's in Dudley, and supported a band called 'Russian Roulette' with an half hour set including 'Red Berry Joy Town', 'She's The Rain', and 'Wonderful Day'".

"I was really excited about this new band," continues Miles "so I gave a tape to Mark Morris from Balaam and The Angel, who were the biggest band in the area at the time. He introduced me to Les Johnson, a local promoter, who had a listen to our tape, loved it and came to see us support the Poppies at Stourbridge Town Hall. He became involved, along with Dave Alldridge (who had also been at the Stourbridge gig) and things immediately began to pick up. They said 'Go and record what you think is a good singleand we'll talk about what we can do.' So we did these four tracks - the first attempt was absolutely awful and it got worse. The whole recording was absolutely rubbish. Les and Dave simply couldn't afford to pay for another session, so Bob said he'd put the money up because he'd just had a win on the pools. We knew of The Barn Studio in Warwickshire, which the Poppies had used for 'Oh Grebo I Think I Love You.' So we went down there and recorded our first single, 'Wonderful Day E.P.' Even with this vested interest, it still was not clear as to wether Bob Jones would stick around for as long as he did - he was continually on the move.

There was a thousand copies of the first single pressed - 500 were sold in shops in the Midlands and the remainder were given away, including a number which went to a few choice journalists. Polygram were interested enought to offer the band a publishing deal on the basis of this release, in the summer of 1987. With this more substantial backing, the band now had to choose their second single, as Miles recalls: "We'd decided 'A Wish Away' would be a good second single - we recorded a version on Clint's little Portastudio at home, which gave it a real Byrds feel. Unfortunately, it proved almost impossible to reproduce this in the studio - when we came round to the album version for example, it took five attempts, which is very unusualfor us as we often bang stuff down in one take. That original portastudio version used to sound brilliant in the back of Martin's Dad's Marina van; in the main studio we got lost amongst footsteps and echoes and loads of effects - it was awful." Martin appears to have fonder, or at least more vivid memories: "I can't forget Bob's dirty videos on the studio monitor. Five in the morning and there's this bird on a tartan rug - bloody awful and they got worse to the point where you couldn't watch them. We'd be going 'Bob this is terrible' and he'd be going 'Great, just like home.'" Enough of that.

It was during this time that the band began to enjoy the jet-set life of the true pop star, as Martin continues: "That Marina van was great. One night Dave phones up and says 'If you can get to Northhampton by 3 o'clock you've got a gig supporting The Fall.' We were at Dave's house in Birmingham, the gear was at Stourbridge, and I had to get this van from Wolverhampton then over to Northampton, all by 8 o'clock. We were doing quite well until the distributor cap broke - it was held on by one piece of wire. It took us about three hours in the end so when we turned up at 9 o'clock we thought there was no chance of them letting us go on." Malcolm took care of the band introductions: "I walked into the foyer and says 'I'm looking for John Lennon' and this geezer says 'Well I'm John Lennard, will that do? Get on quick.' Miles carries on "This guy sorted out our guitars for us, slaps a four pack into our hands and says 'Get on!!' Malc had to borrow a guitar strap so his guitar was up round his chin. When we went on the curtains were closed so we were like messing about with the gear and making a complete racket. Suddenly the curtain goes back and everyone thinks its The Fall so they go 'YEAH!!!', then they see us and go 'Oh dear.'"

Early relations with Polygram, the publishing company, were infamously strained at times. Martin remembers how Miles instantly hit it off with the executives: "I remember him sitting there at the first meeting with all the Armani suits, and he's going on about posters saying how we don't ever want to fly posters because they just don't work. So they said 'Well, what do you want to do?' and he replied 'Well, I know what we don't want to do - be like that band 'Cactus World F**kin News,' and we proceeded to slag them off until this executive guy says 'I signed Cactus World News.' In another instance, they nearly lost the whole deal itself, as Martin recalls: "We were at the Marquee, after a gig, drunk. Dave Alldridge, the manager who always kept us in order was in France; Les Johnson, the other manager was usually as out of order as us. This guy from Polygram was going on to me about signing us, even though we hadn't actually signed at that point. So I said "So would the deal still be on if I poured this pint of beer over you?" To which he replied 'THE DEAL WOULD BE OFF!!'" So of course I chucked this whole pint of beer over him, as you do. He went absolutely mad. Later on we went over and said 'You ain't pissed off are you?' and this guys says 'Pissed off, I'M ABSOLUTELY BLOODY FURIOUS!!!' We humiliated him in front of half the record industry, and he threatened to drop the whole deal. He never did though..

Having finally decided on "Unbearable" as the second single, in December 1987, things really started to accelerate. The band were still watching and learning from Pop Will Eat Itself, but soon events began to speed up even more, to the extent that they leapfrogged past the stage of doing hundreds of small town gigs in the back of vans. An A&R chase was beginning to develop and followed the band around the country. The Hedd Label, a subsidiary of Virgin, offered them a tour with Big Country in return for signing to them. Miles continues "By this stage we knew full well that we were going to sign to Polydor, but we didn't tell them that. Hedd was run by The Cult's Management, and at one particular meeting Ian Astbury stuck his head round the door and said 'Have you got a light?' It was so obvious that he'd just been wheeled in to impress us so that's we'd go 'F**king hell it's Ian Astbury!!!'. Anyway we went 'F**king hell it's Ian Astbury!!!'. But it didn't convince us. When they found out about Polydor, we literally just left the tour, straight down to London and got bevvied up." The tour itself was enjoyed: Martin particularily liked the gig at Newcastle Mayfair: "It was a classic. The crowd went absolutely mental for the first time for us ever. We presumed they thought we were Big Country but they knew what was going on."

There was also a tour with Zodiac Mindwarp and The Love Reaction, which won the band a strong fan base, as Malc recalls: "The tour was pretty dire; Zodiac were really metal and not that funny anymore. A lot of people preferred us. The first date was at Leicester and their roadie wlecomed us by tapping this great big baseball bat, saying 'So YOU'RE The Wonder Stuff then...' Zod just raised his one eyebrow and never said a word to us." Miles continues "We picked up a lot of fans from the bands who were getting too big stay close to their following for various reasons, whereas we, as the support band were just doing it all at full tilt, so maybe we were a little more interesting - 'Zodiac doesn't hang out with kids anymore but The Wonder Stuff do,' that sort of thing. Eventually of course the same thing happens to us, for example with the Ned's, and then with them and so on." Martin remembers their policy of choosing support bands: "That's when we decided to be democratic about the support bands, so we all got to choose two bands each. Bob chose 'Head Of David' for one, who were absolutely dreadful. We were thinking 'What the hell's this lot' - he undoubtedly enjoyed their gig more than ours."

"The Eight Legged Groove Machine - immaculately crafted, unmistakably British pop songs, all of the requisite three minute length." - MELODY MAKER
It was on the back of such growing support that The Wonder Stuff signed to Polydor in December 1987. There was money for new gear, distribution and promotion, as well as a far greater availability of studio time. However, Malcolm remembers being distinctly underwhelmed be the lack of dramatic change: "When we signed it felt exactly the same as before except that we had much better gear." Miles continues: "We played a gig in Manchester with a band called 'No Man's Land,' and they turned up with seventeen flightcases, all numbered in the hallway; they were supporting us, and we were no great shakes in early '88. We were still throwing all our stuff in the back of the Transit van with a mattress...and Bob. It was nice to be able to go to the studio when you wanted, whereas before you could only afford to go twice a year and that blew all your savings."

Nevertheless signing did bring some new experiences, as Martin remembers: "Recording 'The Eight Legged Groove Machine' was like going to work. every day you'd get on the tube and go 'OOOHHHH!!!, that advert's changed since yesterday.' Also, I remember whilst we were recording, we went to see the Sugarcubes and we're thinking 'They're brilliant and our album's shit. Just a crap collection of songs rather than an album.'" Studio availability was not the only eye-opener for Malc. "We couldn't believe that bands had separate rooms on tour. They all seemed to think we were like The Monkees, gunking up in one room. All sharing the bathroom, choking because Martin and Bob would smoke until four in the morning.. Everyone started arguing because Malc spent too much time in the bathroom, and ended up moaning at Bob because he never spent any time in there at all!!" It was also at this time that the band realised that most of their label mates seemed to consist of virtually everybody that had spent the last eighteen months slagging off in public. Bob Jones remained unperturbed, and even with new acquaintances, perpetuated The Wonder Stuff's reputation for poor personnel management, as Miles recalls: "Wayne Hussey was in this hotel bar and he says to his friend I think that's one of the guys out of The Wonder Stuff..' pointing at Bob, who proceeds to walk right up to him and scream 'F**K off!!!' in his face. Wayne just turned to his mate and said 'Yeah, that's him.'

The band were still rehearsing in Stourbridge at this stage, despite some of them now living in London. Adam Booker, a close friend (and now the band's drum technician) was oblivious to the dangers that lay ahead for him. Martin continues: "I was looking for someplace to stay and Les said there was a spare room at Ad's place." As offered to help and remembers how his house was taken over: "I was invited out for this meal and half way through the night someone says 'I've got nowhere to live...' I ended up housing Martin and eventually Bob. Everyone moved in and my missus moved out. 110 Clive Road. Anybody stayed there. It was a pit." Miles continues "The front room had Malc's telly in it - a constant source of annoyance to Malc. I once had the unfortunate experience of sleeping three in a bed with Ad. The whole house was a wreck except for Malc's room which was immaculate - a complete safe haven, like something out of Alice in Wonderland. After gigs there'd be punters everywhere, loads of booze and fags, and Malc wouldn't let anyone near his room. I was in this lovely house in Walsall with my girlfriend, but all I wanted to do was get legless with the guys so I'd always stay there instead. I preferred to kip on the floor with the beer cans. At this point we had very little to do with the Poppies because they were doing the world by then whilst we were still doing Redditch."

This was not strictly true. The album covered eighteen dates including the London Astoria, Birmingham Powerhouse, and Newcastle Riverside. Again, much experience was to be had for the band, as Miles remembers: "I hadn't discovered that when you go on tour you should get fit for it and not go on the beers everyday and smoke until four in the morning. I just felt ill all the time. But there was a great night in Aberdeen in November '88. I was asleep having a dream about a fire alarm going off, when my girlfriend wakes me up because there is a real fire in the hotel. So we put our gear on, stuffed some Jack Daniels into our pockets to keep up warm and legged it down the stairs. I got Dave, our manager, out of bed and he;s half way down the stairs when he says 'Oh no, I've forgotten my fags!' so he runs back up to get them, leaving the entire float of cash from the tour behind. All the fire engines were there by now but our group was one person short. It was a guy called Puncher who was missing, a real character - all he'd brought on tour with him was the clot hes he was standing in and a Sainsbury's carrier bag full of party hats. We were really getting worried because he didn't drink so there was no way that he was too drunk to hear the alarm. Then all of a sudden he comes down the stairs in a pair of shorts and a plastic party fireman's hat going 'It's alright everybody, calm down, I've put the fire out.' the fireman had found him in his party hat fighting this bloody fire with a little extinguisher. They thought he was completely mad. He probably was. He didn't actually do a great deal on tour, he was mostly there for entertainment value. He occasionally helped out with security or handed out lollipops to the kids down the front."

Unfortunately, the infamous and much-documented European tour was not so much fun, and the band couldn't wait to abort. As Miles says: "It was too much - we were playing the old songs over and over again when we really wanted to be demo-ing new stuff, preferably at home. We were never into it. Unfortunately though, Ad had hitched for three days solid to meet us in Germany, through snow, wind and rain. He finally gets there and we said 'Sorry Ad, but we're going home tomorrow.' He was not pleased." This was followed by an American tour where the band found that they had to work had to win over audiences again. Nevertheless the efforts appeared to be worthwhile: "On our first New York gig, there was hardy any promotion and no bar - so that wiped out the floating voters and we still managed to pull 600 punters. I'd call that a success." "We became famous for holidays rather than gigs - we always did about ten dates and then spent the rest of the time in a jacuzzi." Malc remembers the tour for the unusual bus driver: "He was a wanted man in three states and didn't have a license. He used to drive for eighteen hours in a row, no problem, because all he did was snort sulphates and listen to Kiss on the radio."

"HUP!' was proof that this was still a band to be reckoned with..." - NME.
The band came back from America to a #500 a week record company flat in London, for the purpose of recording the second album, 'HUP!' Miles and Bob nearly missed the first studio session altogether, because they'd met a group of people in New York and stayed out there: "Everyone was worried that we'd stay there period. We eventually got on the plane the day of the recording for 'HUP!', and got back around 6.30 in the morning at Mart's house. We were supposed to be in the London flat for a month but we ended up there for nearly a year. The Poppies were working in London at the timeso they stayed there as well. Fiddly Bell was in the process of joining. It was brilliant. Clubbing evey night, loads of people round all the time, having a great time. Three phonelines, with certain American girlfriends phoneing home all the time, having a great time so the bills were massive. You could go to Paramount City or any nightclub and bring the entire club and more back for a party. We were supposed to be doing 'HUP!' It fizzled out in the end and became quite a depressing place to live. It got too much really." Even now Bob was still a law unto himself: "Bob's room was at the end of this really long corridor - 'Bob Jones and the Temple Of Doom.' He'd stay in there with his video for days on end. Then this smeel started to eminate from his room and we were saying 'Bob, wash some bloody clothes will you?' It turned out that there was a sewer under his room which had leaked all under the carpet. So we all ended up in the front room me, Clint and Ad Poppie and Bob - we bought these quilts from Marks and Spencers which were thirteen Tog, so we'd just get under there and watch videos and drink beer."

.....And record and album. 'HUP!' was released in October 1989, and was followed by a national tour which Miles details as "shitty really, because Bob hated it and was always in a bad mood. For Fiddly Beel the tour was more enjoyable: "I quite enjoyed it because the venues we played were a great size, like Hull City Hall. That was the last time we did a full tour of England and I think it was great for that fact. Also I ran into Billy Joe Spears after a really crap gig in Liverpool!"

The band went to Wales to demosome new ideas. Malc recalls how they kept the locals awake at three in the morning: "We hired these bikes, got tanked up and went to the top of this bloody great big hill in the dark with no lights. Then we'd bomb down until you couldn't pedal any faster - about 50mph. the trick was not to miss the bend at the bottom, or else you'd be in the water. On this bend, there was a white line, so the rule was 'when you see the white line turn left for God's sake.' On a more serious note, howeverthing were not improving with The Bass Thing however, and in December of 1989, whilst they were in Wales, he announced he was to leave The Wonder Stuff. This major development ironically came at a time when the band were celebrating a three night sell-out of the 3,000 seater Aston Villa Leisure Centre in their home town. Miles remember those dates with mixed feelings: "They were very odd gigs in a way. There we were giving each other Christmas presents in soundcheck, these were our best datesand all the time in the back of our minds we were thinking that is probably the end of it all. Bob left straight after the third night and that was that. We all stayed at our parents for Christmas, and then I met up with Malc back down at the London flat. We both said that it didn't seem worth carrying on. Even thoughwe had some new material, we'd never lost a member before and that was very strange. Fortunately, we decided to carry on.

"The end of The Wonder Stuff, long live The Wonder Stuff"

"The History Of The Wonder Stuff, (Part II)"

From Lambast #4:

-Written by Martin Roach

1989 had seemed to be a great year for The Wonder Stuff: two top 30 singles, a top 5 album in `Hup!' and the band's biggest gigs to date, at The Aston Villa Leisure Centre and Brixton Academy. Away from the public eye however, the very existence of the band itself was under threat. The departure of The Bass Thing, after a period fraught with tension and problems, left the band with the unenviable prospect of having to audition hundreds of new hopefuls - "we really didn't want to do that so we seriously considered ending it." Fortunately, Miles' brother Russ came up with the answer and recommended ex- Libertines bassist Paul Clifford. Paul continues: "I was at University in Liverpool, and Miles' brother phoned me up and said `How do you fancy coming down to rehearse with The Wonder Stuff?' So I did and they turned round and asked me if I wanted to go to Europe on tour supporting The Mission." Miles explains "Everything had been on hold for a while after Bob left, and then here was Wayne Hussey saying `Come on holiday with us, we'll have a great laugh,' meaning `Do you want to come on tour with us?' As a warm-up for Paul and for ourselves we arranged some dates at Junction 10 in Walsall - we thought they would be a nice, quiet little warm up for Paul but they were basically in front of every single friend he's ever had, a real baptism of fire!" Nevertheless, despite a few problems like when the drum machine being used for `Inertia' went absolutely haywire with the heat, these gigs were extremely well received and clearly eased one fan's uncertainties about the transition when he was overheard saying `The Bass Thing's had a pretty short haircut...' Paul continues "We went to Europe and that was ideal for me to settle in because, apart from the fact that The Mission were great to tour with, absolutely nobody liked us over there and since we were supporting there was no real pressure. In most cases nobody realised that Bob wasn't there."

The dates with The Mission then continued in America and Canada, where the roles of musical Agony Aunt were somewhat reversed, as Miles remembers: "The unfortunate thing was that there was Wayne and his lot picking us up to get into gigging again, and then we get to Toronto and while we're waiting in the airport The Mission's tour manager walks in and announces that the guitarist has just left and gone home. They had a spare guitarist who had been helping them out for a few numbers, so they got away with it - Malc was dragged in for a couple of numbers at one stage - suddenly there we were doing exactly the same thing as they had done to us, trying to pick THEM up. It was on that tour that I listened to the chart countdowns on Radio One over the phone and then wondered why I had enormous hotel phone bills every time."

Towards the end of the tour the sound engineers of the two bands started to "have a few words" culminating in Malcolm walking on stage in Dallas "and there was Si, our sound man, sitting on top of this bloody great big tower in a huge cowboy hat, annoying the hell out of their sound man." More serious problems with illness caused the band to cancel the last few dates on the east coast. Miles continues: "That annoyed quite a few people so we went back to the east coast to do the gigs that we had missed, with a band called `Too Much Joy'. They went to Florida and played the Two Live Crew set (which was banned at the time) just to get arrested and get some press - they wanted to be kick-ass bad but they were really more like The Housemartins but without the songs or the characters. So we kicked them off the tour; then we met this band in a McDonalds in Boston, who gave us a tape. I listened to it at soundcheck and thought it was all right so backstage after the gig we were all drunk and said `Why don't you come on tour with us?' We didn't realise how much trouble this caused for loads of agents and other people but they were well into it. They were called `Public Works' and they had this mate with a Spacecruiser, so they followed us all the way down the east coast and right across to L.A. The last gig was in San Francisco after which we shot off to the airport and flew home. These poor blokes had to drive for three days and three thousand miles to get anywhere near home - we got back days before they did."

Although 1990 was a quiet year for releases, with only `Circlesquare' in May, as Miles explains this was a very deceptive view: "Publicly it was quiet but we were really into it, and were gigging like mad. We'd been talking about doing a video and had a Super 8 camera with us on a lot of the dates (footage which appeared in the hugely successful `Welcome To The Cheap Seats.') and we had all these ideas for the new material which we were really keen to start demo-ing." Fiddly continues: "We came back from America to get started on `Never Loved Elvis' and went to The Round House Studio in Camden to demo some new ideas. There was that terrible night when we lost to Germany in the World Cup. We had all the monitors switched on to the football and everything stopped. Recording was completely arranged around who was playing that particular night. It was around the November when we met Mick Glossop," who was to produce the band's third, and most successful album. Despite the lone release the band graduated to bigger venues such as the Aston Villa Leisure Centre, Preston Guildhall, Glasgow Barrowlands, and Brixton Academy. The press response was as enthusiastic as ever: "(The Wonder Stuff)..play decent, simple pop tunes, which like themselves have a rough exterior but deep down possess a heart of gold... it's time to stop underestimating The Wonder Stuff. They're pop stars with compassion, alternative role models who could, if they wanted, branch out in a big way." Another reviewer saw them thus: "The Wonder Stuff are now looking very much like a band for whom anything is possible."

Towards the end of 1990 the band had a few problems on the domestic front - the planned `Day Of Conscience' gig along with The Mission never materialised and they fell out with The Mean Fiddler over the much-maligned New Year's Eve date with The Wonder Stuff as headliners. This all served to create a degree of bad feeling, as Miles explains: "By now we were all really keen to sort out some big gigs. Glastonbury didn't happen and Reading was out because The Mean Fiddler promoted it, so we decided to arrange our own festival. The Bescot Stadium gig in Walsall was the result and it was fantastic; the reasons we were given for bands not wanting to appear on the bill were hilarious. Julian Cope said he couldn't do it because he `couldn't get the vibes right in the daylight' and Big Audio Dynamite said it was too much of a rock bill (even though Spirit Of The West, the Canadian folk band were on the bill), and that they wanted to play dance bills."

Clearly playing in front of 20,000 fans in your home town was not enough to satisfy Malcolm on its own "The amazing thing was that we met Dave Hill out of Slade and he was asking US how we get our guitar effects - that was incredible!" At that Bescot gig there was also an appearance by Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer whom Miles had met in the April of 1991. "I was at a play and I saw Vic so I said `Hello.' He eventually came over and said `We saw you play in Liverpool last year.' So I said `We never played in Liverpool last year..' and he says `You did, I was there...you are Pop Will Eat Itself aren't you?" "Vic Quite liked the idea of being a pop star so he asked us if we were interested in doing something - he wanted to do a follow up to `Born Free' but something a bit rockier, and came up with `Ring Of Fire' by Johnny Cash. We were a little reluctant too say the least and somebody eventually came up with `Dizzy' which I'd never even heard of, nor Malc. I wanted to do a Hawkwind cover but that would have vanished without a trace! Every time we do stuff on stage with them two it's chaos - I always end up just laughing uncontrollably. The radio mikes never work, so they lose their place and just start making up words, then everyone's losing it. It's mad."

The album dates for `Never Loved Elvis' were hit by `the rain curse' which opened the heavens every time they play an outdoors gig. The British leg was brief, and was followed by more dates in America, supported by The Milltown Brothers, whose keyboard player, Barney introduced himself by throwing up all over their dressing room beers. Not for the first time did members for the crew flaunt the United States legal system, as Miles remembers: "We did a gig where Russ and Jez got arrested for bumping a car out of the way of the exit from the venue. We came out and there's loads of police around - Adam Booker was saying `Don't go left, whatever you do, keep away from the left', so of course we come straight out and go left to see what's going on. Anyway, they were taken away and put in the cells for a night. Being considerate types we left them there in Philadelphia, and Les our manager took care of them." Fiddly continues "They were made to watch a video telling them how to be good American citizens, and how bumping cars is such a dangerous thing to do, so we set it up that they also had to write a 5,000 word essay on what they learnt and how they were going to be reformed characters from now on - they swallowed a lot."

Despite having played in front of 20,000 in Walsall and many thousands elsewhere, this tour was not devoid of it's `smaller' venues. "It was one these dates there we were supposed to play a big all-girls school in Boston, when we got there it was a cafe. It was some tiny student bar with room for fifty people in it, and more Dunkin' Donut machines than punters. We walked straight in and straight out again!"

These British and American gigs were followed by a series of dates in Australia and Japan, towards the end of 1991. In the case of Australia their reputation went before them, as Miles recalls: "As with all our lot when we arrived in Australia the Poppies had been there three times before us and done a great promotion job on us - they were great gigs as a result. Japan was a different experience altogether though, and one I generally didn't like." Fiddly continues: "For the first couple of nights nobody moved or laughed or anything, it was really strange. Then we discovered our `No. 1 fan' as we dubbed him, down the front every night shouting at us in Japanese. When the rest of the crowd saw him having a good time they realised it was alright to do the same - after that it was okay but it can be so formal over there." Miles thinks this is because "they're just nervous of five big hairy gits like us. Once the ice was broken it was a lot better." `No. 1 fan turned up at one gig in a polka dot suit he'd made to match Paul's, and was overwhelmed when Malc gave him his pass for all his efforts. He tried to keep up with the tour convoy "We had these minibusses and he would chase after us for about four miles down the road. Every night he'd wave at me before the gig and I thought he was saying `good drugs, good drugs' so I'm saying `I don't want your drugs, piss off.' Anyway three nights later I realised he was actually saying `Good luck, good luck.' He was amazing. The whole thing was a total culture shock really. Did you know Mount Fuji's covered in council houses! It's unbelievable."

The overseas dates were finished at the start of December, after which the band returned home to some gigs in the UK, looking forward to the Christmas break. As Miles recalls, however, their plans for an early finish were doomed: "All this time we were doing these Christmas gigs in Britain there was this Christmas gig coming up for a radio station called KRockFM in America. Ian McCulloch and The Banshees were also on the bill and the idea was that it was a totally acoustic set, despite being in front of 7,000 people. All you could have was a bass - everything else had to be acoustic. We really didn't want to do it, so we decided that I would do it on my own. I'd done some stuff with the Ned's like that in America so I wasn't too worried about it. Anyway, we did these dates in Britain, finishing with the Town and Country on the 21st December and the rest of the band all got absolutely legless because they thought it was the last date of the year. Anyway, about three o'clock, our American manager comes in and says `They've found out Miles is doing this gig on his own and they won't have it. You've all got to go to the airport in the morning at 6 o'clock and do the gig.' We managed to drag ourselves out of bed with stinking hang-overs and get down to the airport, where we were delayed for hours. When we finally got there we only had a couple of hours to spare, so we sat in this small hotel room trying to work out an acoustic set of some description. At the gig itself it turned out people were using loads of electric gear, and all we had were two acoustics. Halfway through the gig, Billy Idol came in with his walking stick and all his entourage, women everywhere, with a spot light on him - the whole place just stood up for him. It was so funny. Anyway we got most of the press `cos we were drunk and it went down really well."

It was at this gig that the band first met Siouxsie and The Banshees and ended up touring with them in the January of 1992. Although they now see it as one of the best tours they've ever done, the start was fairly nerve-wracking: "On the second gig the Banshees manager came in and said `Siouxsie's got a really bad throat, we've got to pull the gig.' So we had to decide whether to go on in front of thousands of disgruntled Banshees fans who would probably hate us or leg it - champions that we are did the gig and it was a corker!" Miles continues: "Even though we only did forty minutes, which can be pretty difficult if you're trying to play three albums worth, it was a great tour, possibly my favourite ever. The attitude of everyone on the tour was spot on. At first they thought we were worth staying away from because of what they'd heard of our antics, and we thought `They're Siouxsie and the Banshees - we can't possibly talk to them.' The on one journey Fiddly and Martin were so drunk they got on the Banshees tour bus by mistake, introduced themselves and that was that. Parties from then on, piling into dressing rooms and stuff like that. They were really nice to us.

In the spring of 1992 the fourth single from the album `Welecome To The Cheap Seats' reached No. 8 and earned a Top of the Pops appearance. The band's previous appearance, for `Dizzy' had been chaotic: "We were in America with the Milltown Brothers when Island Records (who had done `Dizzy') insisted that we do Top of the Pops. So we had to fly back straight after a really sweaty gig, via Memphis, which when you're album's called `Never Loved Elvis' is not a good idea. For the Top of the Pops appearance we'd only just got our body chemistry sorted out. The next time we did the show for `Cheap Seats' I went to Camden Palace the night before and the bouncer decided to punch me for some reason. Les wanted to pile in so we were holding him back, it was a right mess. So consequently I turned up for the show with a big fat lip and my jaw swollen and out of joint. Kirsty MacColl went and got some champagne and we got absolutely legless - I had to wear this daft make-up to cover up my battle scars."

The summer of 1992 was spent doing Festivals and warm-up dates. Paul particularly enjoyed the Feile in Ireland: "The Feile was a really good day - there are no noise restrictions like Reading and there was a great line-up, plus the Poppies were there. They seem to put more effort into it as well." Miles continues: "We also did a benefit gig for The Milltown Brother's guitar technician Spike, who was unfortunately killed in a road accident on tour. We played alongside The Milltown Brothers, and Crazyhead. Malc was pretty ill at the time, so we had to get Loz out of Kingmaker to fill in - we gave him a week to learn all the songs and he did great. It was really weird for us though, to be alongside him on stage instead of Malc. Also the rest of Kingmaker were down in the front hurling abuse at him. Brilliant."

Reading `92 is viewed with mixed feelings: as Malcolm says "we got away with it, but that's not what you go to do. Going on so late with no soundcheck, the pressure of headlining, and having to entertain the crowd for an hour and a half, it's very difficult. At some stages you could tell the crowd were losing the sound." Miles nevertheless enjoyed the gig which he thought was absolutely fantastic. I was happy with the gig, but maybe that was because I was drunk.

Entering the winter of 1992, the band have just moved into the Far Out Recording Company's own studio which "is great because we can keep demoing stuff straight away and keep trying things - it's a much better environment to work in really, a lot easier." AS for the new material, the band are very enthusiastic, as Miles explains: "Nobody's really expected much from The Wonder Stuff, unlike the big bands that are hyped up so much by the press. It's not the fault of these bands that they are talked about all the time and that this ruins listening to them or watching them - it's the fault of the narrow-minded, unimaginative media and it sucks. We do what we do - some of our business people talk about us being massive - that fact is that we'll do what we've always done, write a collection of songs and record them - the whole point of the band had always been primarily to entertain ourselves. If it becomes successful from that than great; I've never really seen us as part of the whole rock picture in any way and I like it that way; if we can continue in this fashion at the level we've achieved now that would be ideal. It would be nice in nine years if our tenth album was a multi-million seller but in the meantime this is just our little thing going on here, and hopefully people will find it entertaining."

-Transcribed w/o permission.
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